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More What Ifs

11 May, 2010
The police bee hive of Policing Genes

The police bee hive of Policing Genes

Over the last few months, the What If… exhibit in the windows of the Wellcome Trust building has been turning heads with its spectacular imaginings of science futures. Two of the six projects on display have now been changed as part of several rotations taking place throughout the year.

The two new additions take a left-field look at the subjects of nuclear energy, genetic engineering and next-generation police work.

Policing Genes puts the buzz in the fuzz. Thomas Thwaites project imagines ‘gene police’ monitoring innocent-looking garden plants for those that have actually been genetically modified to produce narcotics and knock-off pharmaceuticals. It extrapolates current research efforts to harness common crops to produce vaccines and drugs, which could lower the cost of production.

The design features a ‘police bee hive’ home to bees that help collect pollen in a particular area. Researchers could then analyse the genetic make-up of the pollen. The idea was produced in collaboration with Professor Gloria Laycock and Dr Hervé Borrion from the Security Science Doctoral Research Training Centre (SECReT), at University College London.

Nuclear Dialogues by Zoe Papadopoulou (who also contributed The Cloud Project to What If…) explores the gulf between nuclear power and the everyday people using the energy it produces.

Yellow cake

Yellow cake from Nuclear Dialogues

A beautifully laid out dining table serves a delectable looking sweet – though the Geiger counter attached to it might ruin your appetite. The treat is ‘yellow cake’, containing predominantly radioactive ingredients and also a play on the colloquial name for a type of uranium powder.

The table is one part of the project, produced in partnership with Professor Francis Livens and Dr Neil Hyatt of the Nuclear FiRST Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Manchester. The project aims to provoke discussions about nuclear power and its by-products, such as excess heat and hot water, which could be used in the design of microclimates and wildlife preservation.

These and other What If… projects are now on display in the windows of the Wellcome Trust headquarters in Euston, London. Look out for further additions later in the year.

Image credits:
Policing Genes: Thomas Thwaites
Nuclear Dialogues: Zoe Papadopoulou

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