Sunday, 6 November 2011

Art and Aerospace in Birmingham

This weekend we find ourselves in the Ramada Encore in Birmingham. We're at the NEC  to see ‘Art Materials Live’ where Sarah has a painting in the 'Simply the Best' exhibition.

It isn’t all art, though, because on the way down we stopped off at RAF Cosford for another look around the aerospace museum. I love this place, it is one of the few museums I know that really work. I don’t always get museums. Are they educational? Are they a celebration of the past? Or are they simply a place to store old stuff in a way that allows people to come and look? I suspect the creators and curators of many museums don’t have this question fully worked out for themselves. My experience is that most museums are places to take the kids on wet Sundays, where they can take out their frustrations by trying to break the interactive exhibits.
Apart from all the fabulous planes on display at Cosford, I loved the interactive exhibit that is aimed at 16 year-olds doing their GCSEs. Unfortunately, according to the volunteer guide we spoke to, the 16 year-olds are not all that interested, so the exhibit has fallen into the hands of the under-eight equipment-smashers. Yesterday, though, only two of the exhibits were under repair after the ministrations of wet-Sunday-infants, so I had great fun fiddling with such things as air-speed indicators and wing sections that you can feed ping-pong balls into to see for yourselves how the ball is sucked up onto the upper surface when the wind-fan is blowing. It’s brilliant stuff, but I still don’t quite see how such a phenomenon can lift a jumbo jet, 400 people and all their luggage 30,00 feet into the air.
The best bit of this section, though, was a series of rods that you can bend and lift. They are the length of a broom handle – in fact one of them was a broom handle – and others of steel, aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre. These were much the same as far as torsional strength is concerned. It is only when you get to lift them that you see the difference. Okay, I knew carbon fibre was light, but I have never appreciated just how light. It just shows, it’s okay being told something, but there is real power in getting to try things out for yourself. That’s the kind of  knowledge that sticks.

Just as an aside – I didn’t sleep too well last night. The bed was glorious but we shared a hotel floor with Irish buffoons who seemed to find novelty in knocking on each other’s doors all night, all night, then slamming them with a sound like the closing of the gates of hell. They were big, liquored-up Irish buffoons so I didn’t go out and fight them. But neither did I sleep. All was quiet by 7am. I was so tempted to hit the fire alarm button on my way to breakfast. But I wanted my breakfast. I do like hotel breakfasts.

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