Written by Brian Johnston
Have an enquiring mind? Here are some top museums from around the world, guaranteed to intrigue and tantalise the imagination with their explorations of the wonders of science and technology.
National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC
The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum collection, with some 136 million items. Its Air and Space Museum focuses entirely on spacecraft, aircraft, rockets, and missiles – the largest such collection anywhere. On show is everything, from the 1903 Spirit of St. Louis plane flown by flight pioneer Charles Lindbergh to artefacts from space shuttle missions and the latest Mars probes.
Washington DC, USA
Distance: 11,120 km
Flight Time: 14 hours, 35 minutes
Natural History Museum, London
One of the world’s great museums and research centres, this venerable British institution covers fossils, minerals, animals and plants, and human biology, and is perhaps most famous for its dinosaur exhibits. But as well as taking a look at past achievements in biological sciences such as evolutionary theory, the museum allows visitors to speculate about the future of research at its ultra-modern Darwin Centre, where there are behind-the-scenes tours of laboratories and storage facilities. Two studios also invite you to sit in on free and informal talks and demonstrations by scientists.
Distance: 5,219 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 35 minutes
Frequency: 6 flights a day
Science Centre NEMO, Amsterdam
Harbour-side NEMO is one of the few museums anywhere aimed squarely at kids. Find answers to questions such as why toothpaste contains sugar, why the ocean is blue, why teenagers have pimples, and the best way to boil potatoes. The focus is on science and technology of the future, with virtual-reality exhibits and computer touchscreens exploring such themes as genome research, electricity, and memory.
Distance: 4,916 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 35 minutes
Swiss Museum of Transport, Lucerne
This transport collection is Switzerland’s most visited museum, and one of the best transport museums anywhere. It traces the history of planes, trains, and automobiles from the earliest days, with particularly interesting sections on the difficulties of road and rail building in the Alps. You can use simulators to pilot planes and drive a train, engage with state-of-the-art media equipment to create your own news report, and (for younger kids) even get down and dirty while helping to construct a road. There’s also a planetarium.
Distance: 4,490 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 25 minutes
Science and Technology Museum, Shanghai
Nature, people, and science are the unifying themes of this museum, built in an ascending spiral to symbolise scientific progress. Among cutting-edge technology displays are exhibits devoted to robotics, light, and astronavigation, as well as the latest developments in health. Young kids will appreciate Techno Land, which features a walk-through brain and dancing robots.
Distance: 6,775 km
Flight Time: 8 hours, 5 minutes