Museum tries to attract adults with x-rated science

The world's first adult-only science museum opened its doors to the public yesterday with a promise to lift all taboos on the most sensitive issues in science.

Death, sex, pain, pleasure, torture and suicide are just some of the subjects that the Science Museum's Dana Centre in London will tackle as part of its X-rated mission to bring the most controversial themes in science to life. Only those aged 18 and older will be allowed into the centre to allow a full-frontal assault on everything from the science of the orgasm to the nature of death.

Lindsay Sharp, the first director of the £10m centre, housed in the Science Museum's new Wellcome Wolfson Building in South Kensington, London, said: "I don't think there's any subject we'll not deal with." The centre is a collaboration between the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, after which it is named. The building was paid for by the Wellcome Trust, the Wolfson Foundation, the Dana Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation; all research charities.

Dr Sharp said that the aim was an adult-entertainment centre where scientific discussions, performance and art were in a single venue. A licensed bar in the centre gives it the legal right to control admissions. "We want to be a sort of ICA [Institute of Contemporary Arts] for science," he said. "The arts have been sexier than science for centuries."

The centre will feature myriad subjects, from stand-up comics debunking science myths to a live internet link with a team of American heart surgeons as they do a bypass.

Dr Sharp, who experienced avant-garde science exhibitions while with museums in Canada, said conventional approaches to science museumsfailed in terms of attracting older teenagers and young adults. "We lose them at 16 and we need to think of ways of getting this age group and older interested," he said. "That's why we've created the Dana Centre. It's a pub, it's a restaurant, it's a café, it's a ... studio."

Dr Sharp said the centre intended to show that science could not offer all the answers but trying to find out could be "bloody good fun". He said: "We're going to be mainly a night-time venue. But we're also likely to be a drop-in place where there's good coffee."

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