10:00 - 17:00, Friday 7 March 2014 - Sunday 28 February 2016
Elements are the basic building materials of matter. They are what make everything that you can see or feel around you.
From Actinium to Zirconium, it’s time to get switched on to science with a journey along the periodic table! Get set for an odyssey that will take you from the rocks beneath your feet to the most distant and ancient reaches of the Universe.
From microscopic viruses to vast galaxies – and you too – all are made from elements. In this new exhibition, find out where the elements were made, how they occur naturally, what they look like, how we use them, and why they can be dangerous!
Explore The Elements
The Elements exploration starts with a look at the elements arranged in the Periodic Table beloved by scientists and chemists alike. Discover some of the amazing facts and stories behind them including six familiar elements - carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus that make up 99% of the atoms in our bodies. Among the more unusual items in the exhibition are a piece of the first successful transatlantic copper cable, from 1866, and a sparkplug tipped with radioactive polonium.
What may surprise visitors even more is the number of items on display that are linked directly to our everyday lives - and how many of the different elements, sometimes strange and unfamiliar, we rely on. Behind much of our modern lifestyle lie elements that most people have never heard of - gallium and terbium in electric lights; tantalum - the rarest non-radioactive element in the Universe - in mobile phones; indium in touch screens; and a whole smorgasbord of elements, from the familiar copper to the downright exotic hafnium, in computer hard drives. Visitors will also be able to see how poisonous elements, such as lead, mercury and arsenic were used in fashion, cosmetics, and even medicine until surprisingly recently. Also how metals more commonly used in rocket nozzles and jet engines, such as titanium and niobium, are now being turned into beautiful jewellery.
Curator of the Elements exhibition, Dr Mike Simms is excited to see the exhibition ready for visitors: "The exhibition was inspired by a book by Theodore Gray, in which the relevance of elements to all of us is beautifully described in words and pictures. My hope is that visitors young and old will be similarly inspired by this exhibition, the first of its kind anywhere in the UK, to explore these elemental 'building blocks' of everything around us.”
Of course the exhibition is not just for scientists. Everyone will find a rich and fascinating variety of objects - artistic, historical, scientific, and even weird - accompanied by clear and simple explanations. Alongside them are stories – some sad, some tragic, others funny or surprising – that will dispel any notion that chemistry is irrelevant or dull. The Elements exhibition is part of the wider STEM programme and will be accompanied by a series of events, both for schools and for other visitors within the Ulster Museum. These will include STEM Careers Days, Workshops, Science Shows and Special Lectures.
There are about 90 natural elements. They exist all across the universe, including here on Earth. A few more have been made in nuclear reactors and laboratories.
In this exhibition you can fin
d out where the elements were created, how they occur naturally, what they look like, how we use them, and why they can be dangerous …
Pictured right is the Rosette Nebula, a cloud of dust and gas 3000 light-years away. This photograph was taken in the light emitted by three elements ionized by the energetic central stars.
Green light is emitted from oxygen, blue light from sulfur and red light from hydrogen. Filaments of dark dust lace run through the nebula's gases. Image credit: T A Rector, B Wolpa, M Hanna
Events for Schools
- This is a free exhibition.
- This exhibition is located in the Nature Galleries, Level 3 in the Ulster Museum.
This project is supported by: