MT’s scrapbook: Supposedly scientific

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The moniker “National Science Centre” conjures illusions of grandeur and seriousness – unfortunately, the reality is quite sadly different. At best, it’s a bunch of very amateur, run down (and often non-functional) experiments clearly of a mid-90s aspirational country vintage designed to appeal to kids below the age of 10; at worst, it’s something that reflects the state of public education in this country when many attending grown adults find exhibits of this nature fascinating in 2018 – to be honest, the average dentist’s waiting room has more advanced toys. I took my daughter here for want of something to do on a Sunday afternoon, but in the end she found the enormous panel of electrical switches more entertaining. We left confused: not knowing whether to laugh, cry, or come to the conclusion the visitors were probably the most interesting experiments to observe. MT

The Scrapbook series is shot on an Olympus PEN F, with unedited JPEGs straight from camera bar resizing (and of course some choice settings).

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Prints from this series are available on request here


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved


  1. If you are ever in the San Fransisco with your kid, I highly recommend the Exploritorium, it is a well constructed and thought out science museum, plenty of experiments and interactive exhibits. It was originally founded by Frank Oppenheimer (brother of J Robert Oppenheimer) who was also a physicist, it is wonderful.

  2. Living in the United States, I can relate to dubious science exhibits. Here we have Christians who fervently believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that early men (“cave men”) lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. It would all be really funny if they didn’t vote . . .

    • Funny or better? 😛

      • Jim Clay says:

        Both funny and better. Some polling indicates that about 40% of the American populace believes the Earth is 6000 years old. Is it any wonder that the current U.S. president denies the existence of anthropogenic climate change?

        • Not just 6000 years old, but flat, too! 😛

          • Sorry for typos – voice recognition failed a few times I see.

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            Sorry to butt in, but I really think this is where this thread ought to have finished. This is a photography blog. From here on, it’s just an argument, and that’s pointless, because people who argue obsess over their opinions and nothing is gained by watching them argue back and forth. “Opinion-itis” is an incurable disease.

        • Welllll…. this is probably not the best for him for such a debate but you really should speak with an intelligent person who holds use opposite of you rather than a cartoonist view. As regards global warming, I am trained in science and I am not sure it is the science. Science means simply the application of the scientific method to answer a question. The scientific method is First making an observation, next make a hypothesis to explain to the observation, then make a prediction as to what the outcome should be and then test The hypothesis. Finally, although this is not a necessary requirement in science, the raw data should be released so that skeptics can try to tear apart your hypothesis. The more that skeptics try to tear it apart and fails, the stronger is your conclusion.

          Whatever “climate science“ might be, it is certainly not science. Predictions are made only rarely and reliably prove not to come true. The so-called scientists guard the raw data jealously and if you not allow others to review it. Global warming science or climate science or whatever they call it nowadays is more a kin to religion and that it is to science. And appeal to authority, saying that since all scientists believe such and such it must be true, is also not science. That is how religion is performed. Science is, it simply, the application of the scientific method it any field of study. And that is certainly not what is performed in global warming science.

          • So let’s say that 99 scientists agree on something. And 3 do not. And it turns out that 2 of the 3 are in employment with fossil fuel interests. And the 3rd guy is a physicist and is not very familiar with Climatology, or perhaps he has a Bachelor of Science degree in construction technology. I guess he is a scientist too.

            And the stakes are very high. If the 99 are right, we need to do something. Mass extinctions, mass migrations, crop failures, famines.

            Are we supposed to listen to the 3? No. Even if the odds that the 99 are right is 50/50, we would still act. If the odds are 50/50 that your house will catch fire tonight while you sleep, would you just go to bed and say to yourself “it’s not a sure thing that my house will burn down in my sleep, no need to act”. You would not. If there was a 20% chance that your house would catch fire, you would not.

            See how this works?

            I hate to feed the troll, but this stuff needs to be challenged every time it shows up.

            • Not a troll. I’m a physician with extensive training in statistics. And I explained how science works. Climate science does not follow the scientific method. It’s as simple as that. They rarely make predictions and when they do make predictions they are reliably wrong. Their data are frequently falsified (“corrected” which means altered) and they do not provide their raw data for others to evaluate. It is simply not science. Unfortunately many have been indoctrinated but don’t have a good solid understanding of how science works and so are fooled. And no, appeal to authority (is a group of people say such and such and they have degrees so they must be right) is in no way related to science. Simply, if you follow the scientific method you are doing science. If you do not you are practicing religion.

              • This is rather like the “Science Argument” that people who don’t believe in evolution use when they say that evolution is not science and does not follow the proper mode of the scientific method as they would like to define it.

                Scientists overwhelmingly agree that evolution is the thing, just like global warming. And in the same way, there’s an army of people who invent all sorts of counter-arguments and will spin it into some odd conspiracy of elite people with fancy degrees and strange hidden agendas, out there peddling climate science religion (which sure looks like projection to me).

                That said, this is a photo blog and I like Ming’s work, I’m going back to the photos now, I promise.

            • Apropos of this discussion … from one of the world’s greatest physicists.

              It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.
              — Richard P. Feynman

              Which is the problem with “climate science.” If you don’t predict an outcome, if your hypothesis is non-falsifiable, it is not science. Climate science rarely makes predictions. And when it does, it reliably turns out to be false. When a scientist’s hypothesis fails to predict the outcome, a scientists alters his hypothesis. When climate science workers hypotheses fail to predict the outcome, they alter the data to comply with the hypothesis.

              It is simply not science. You can argue all you want, but “science” means studying any subject using the scientific method. If you do not follow the scientific method, you are not a scientist. Full stop. End of story. You can have all the PhD’s in the world but you are not a scientist.

              • Science doesn’t need to make predictions to be correct though – explaining what has happened is just as important. Perhaps the best question to ask, is ‘what is causing the current rate of climate change?’. I don’t believe there is a plausible explanation other than man’s actions.

        • And, just by coincidence, Donald Trump’s popularity has been pegged very persistently at around 40%.

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            There’s no such thing as “co-incidence” – they are merely unexplained facts

    • Brian Nicol says:

      It is unfortunate that you think that you have only the right views and people that differ do not even deserve to vote. I see this same troll attitude on camera brands and lenses. I am a Christian with a degree in engineering from a prestigious university, was a high tech exec in a multibillion dollar business unit, represented my university internationally… So I do understand science and science (not theories) has reinforced my beliefs. However, the real issue here is intolerance. I hope you give this a bit of thought.

      • Thank you! To be honest what comes out as climate science does not follow the scientific method. Additionally, raw data is hidden and not allowed to be reviewed. It bears no resemblance to real science. It is very frustrating to me that people who have no training in science are indoctrinated into not understand the difference between Global warming theory which does not follow the scientific method, and real science.

    • As regards the earth being 6000 years old, if the creator wanted to make the world in six days he certainly could have. More to the point however, for thousands of years, rabbis have debated this. I think every traditional Rabbi would agree that he certainly could have made the world in six days. With that said, for thousands of years rabbis have noted that while light was made Early, the celestial bodies were made later. The Torah uses the words and it was night and it was day, day one or day two or day three only at the beginning of the story of creation. It does not use such terminology later. The terminology of days was used before celestial bodies were created. The meaning of this is that there is no reason why we have to believe that be days to describe initially represent 24 hour periods of time. Since man was created I think every Rabbi would agree the Torah says is 6000 years. Which is actually probably not that far from what we think is the age of man in this world . As regards how much time elapsed prior to the creation of man, it could have been five days or it could’ve been 5 million years. That part is ambiguous. For thousands of years rabbis have debated this point. That a modern person thinks he is so smart and religious people are so stupid but has never seriously considered the other side is i think arrogant and Unintelligent. Again before you make fun of people you think are simpletons you should probably consider speaking with reasonably intelligent people who think differently than you do rather than make them into cartoons.

    • One final note – everyone – literally everyone – agrees that human actions alter the environment and contributed to global warming when there was global warming in the 90’s and ought’s. Everyone agrees that CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas. Everyone agrees that the degree that CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas is minimal and causes nearly no warming. Where the difference lies between alarmists and skeptics is that alarmists believe that CO2 results in a feedback mechanism that rapidly spirals out of control and will result in global catastrophe. The problem is that we are not seeing this happen in the real world. That is to say, the hypothesis is not backed up by the data. So a scientist would say if the results do not line up with the hypothesis we must alter or discard the hypothesis. But that is not what happens in global warming. In global warming they say “well we must not have found where the heat is. It must be there somewhere. The hypothesis demands it.” This is actually what they said after global warming stopped, contra to their predictions. So they started looking in the deep ocean. But a real scientist follows the hypothesis only to the extent that the data support it. When the hypothesis and the data clash, he gives up the hypothesis. In global warming they alter the data. This is not how science works. So it is difficult to take their claims seriously when they “practice” science in a way different from how science has ever been done before.

  3. Part of the Noir (or rather Monochrome) “Period”?

  4. Brian Nicol says:

    Hi Ming, I am enjoying your recent low key posts. I love the graphic nature used on appropriate subjects. The deep shadows – often rich in subtle details – add mystery and engages the viewer with questions. Thanks for sharing. I often first read your articles on my iphone but often only when I can look at them later on my large calibrated monitor can I really begin to appreciate your image.

    • Thanks Brian. Not actuall a new style for me,but rather a more refined take on a very early one…and yes, the perils of looking at stuff only on small displays…! If we only composed images for phones we’d lose out on a nuance, I think. 🙂

  5. David Burns says:

    The Science Museum in London is wonderful and I have been going there all my life, learning much in the process. All my children have similarly been there many times and enjoyed and learnt from the experience.

    However, if you watch carefully, all the ‘interactive’ displays are often quite ineffective with children who merely rush from exhibit to exhibit pressing buttons and seeing ….. nothing! I sometimes wonder if it was not better in the ‘olden days’ when there were exhibits that needed some study, thought and reading. In these days of instant gratification and superficiality, perhaps that is no longer possible. The current exhibits work better with some form of guide – perhaps an informed parent- but it seems to happen rarely in my observations.

    Great photos as usual Ming. I enjoy your courage (perhaps the wrong word) in allowing shadow areas to go very dark thus spotlighting other, critical areas of the image. The shadow areas retain enough information to act as atmosphere and support. Clever. I admit I don’t do this enough and often struggle to keep shadow detail that might be better to just be left to go really dark.

    • Ah yes – I love the flight gallery on the top floor. Not had a chance to bring my kid here yet, but there’s definitely far more material at varying levels of interest/ seriousness. Take as much or as little as you want; I can’t decide if it’s scarier that our science center is also aimed at the adult population, or that there are no levels beyond sensationalist disposable entertainment…

      Exposure: old trick from the early digital days with very limited dynamic range, learned from Alex Majoli. By leaving some deliberate ambiguity in an image, you both allow for latitude of interpretation as well as removal for the irrelevant or distracting (and saving your highlights.) Still works with much better modern sensors, but you get nicer lighlights or the ability to extend your shooting envelope a little higher up the ISO range as noise levels increase and usable dynamic range starts to shrink.

  6. Ron Wyndow says:

    Your four year old has taste.

  7. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I found myself rolling on the floor laughing at your description, Ming – especially the conclusion that the visitors to the museum were more interesting than the exhibits!

    I had a very similar experience a few years ago, in Paris, at an exhibition of “Paris in 1900”. One item was a bed used (apparently) by King Edward VII when misbehaving in France – it seems from the card on the side of this exhibit that the naughty boy was way too fat to conjugate exhibit by standing up and advancing on his quarry, lying on this beautifully brocaded affair, flat on her back with her legs wide apart. A bit like a maternity bed, really. What I found interesting was that all the french visitors simply threw a glance at it and kept walking. Moments later, I drifted past and saw the english tourists – momentarily startled, and staring at the card explaining it, before they (in turn) moved on. And coming by shortly afterwards, I saw a group of americans – absolutely stunned by it – immobile – staring – transfixed – rooted to the floor!

    The contrast was so glaringly obvious, that it was hysterically funny to watch them all.

    • I wonder if the reactions were down to things being lost in translation or simply fundamental differences in culture…

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        My impression at the time, FWIW, was it went in proportion to the different group’s levels of social maturity (or sexual repression). The french shrugged – “ces anglais!” – and moved on. The english paused to stare – then moved on. The americans simply freaked out. After noticing it, I kept a vague sort of eye on that room, as I moved around at other displays. It all simply kept happening!

  8. David Ralph says:

    If it is any comfort to you, probably not, the same is true of Science Centers here in Upstate New York. The exhibits are definitely for the entertainment of younger children, perhaps only to pique their interest more than anything. A few of your exhibits looked the same, particularly the swirling water. On a holidays, the crowds of children swell to overwhelming numbers.

    • Not really, but I suppose it’s better than watching toy unboxing videos on youtube! Too bad my four year old found the master switch panel a lot more interesting than any of the actual exhibits though…

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