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30 August 2023 - Kira Bialek

Interactive Science in Bremen


Bremen truly lives up to its title as the "City of Science"

Girl looking through a microscope
Even the kids do research like the grown-ups in Bremen. © WFB

Science plays a leading role in Bremen, Germany's smallest Federal State: in the laboratories of the university, in more than 50 institutes such as the Alfred-Wegener Institute, Bremens massive aviation and aerospace technology centre, and the verdant Botanika botanic gardens. Even if science often happens behind closed doors in laboratories, there are many places in Bremen where locals and visitors alike can experience it up-close and literally get to grips with the subject.

Thanks to the unique way in which science is interwoven with the life of the city, the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (German Association for the Promotion of Science and Humanities) named the city of Bremen, together with the Bremerhaven 2005 festival, as the first "City of Science". In addition, the University of Bremen is the only institute in all the North German Federal States to have been recognised as one of Germany's Universities of Excellence between 2012 and 2019. It is still being promoted as part of the German Federal and National Strategy for Excellence. In Bremen, science takes place in dialog with its citizens and is also made accessible to them. The multitude of scientific endeavours and research institutes in the city illustrate how this works.

Worlds of knowledge

Young and old alike are welcome to make their own discoveries at three extra-curricular learning facilities in Bremen:

Universum Bremen Science Center

Universum Science Center Bremen
With its special whale shape, the Universum in Bremen stands out and attracts science enthusiasts to its interior. © Universum Bremen

Even if it's not directly involved with space travel or the solar system, the "hands-on" Universum Bremen Science Center offers an almost infinite variety of interactive scientific topics. Visitors can take a voyage of discovery through the world of science and carry out their own investigations. With more than 300 exhibits, ranging from a sand magnet to a visual display of how a human heart works to a plasma ball, visitors can experience scientific phenomena up close, with all their senses. This is where you can experience what it's like to stop lightning bolts with your bare hands, live through an earthquake or even defy gravity. The oyster-shaped Science Center makes every aspect of human biology, nature and technology accessible to all. In the "Milky Way" children's area, even the smallest visitors get the chance to investigate science, just like the grown-ups.

Übersee Museum (Overseas Museum)

Children in the Übersee-Museum
On their trip around the world in the Übersee-Museum, the children even get to marvel at re-enacted animals, like the lions in Africa here. © Matthias Haase/Übersee-Museum Bremen

Come and use all your senses to experience distant lands and their fascinating cultures and marvel at unique exhibits from the far-flung corners of the world in this natural history and ethnographic museum. The Übersee-Museum is where you'll find the world's wealth of diversity under one roof. Take a trip around the globe and discover the cultures and natural environments of Asia, Africa and America at first hand. With its unique exhibits, animal dioramas and living plants, this museum is an enthralling experience for visitors of any age. An ever-changing programme of exciting special exhibitions is another good reason for a visit. After its renovation, the Oceania permanent exhibition will showcase the culture and fauna of the Pacific islands. A variety of events and accompanying programmes ensure there's always something new to see and do.

Join a Qigong course and learn Chinese meditation techniques or discover tropical plants and animals in their natural habitats: there's something here to please everyone. The "Übermaxx" display room gives visitors access to the majority of the more than one million exhibits housed in the museum. The myriad of different treasures on view here range from silverware used by the North German Lloyd shipping company to a fish-skin anorak and even a flightless parrot.

botanika – Bremen’s great world of discovery

Tea-Pavilion in the botanika
At the edge of the Himalaya House, hidden among many native plants, is a tea pavilion from the Himalayas. © botanika

Immerse yourself in a world of Asiatic landscapes and explore the origins of the diversity of species and plant ecology: you'll find the botanika Bremen botanic gardens at the centre of the city's rhododendron park. Its complex of greenhouses is not only home to an impressive variety of plants, including an almost infinite number of rhododendron species, but also the different habitats and climatic zones of Asia such as the Borneo rainforest or the Himalayan highlands. Carefully chosen exhibits and display items, such as an enormous prayer wheel, give visitors greater insight into the fascinating details of local Buddhist and Hindu cultures. The botanika is also where you'll meet a real celebrity, the Peace Buddha for Europe. This emblem of peace and understanding between peoples was a gift from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In 2021, the tropical house was added to the botanika botanic garden. It really does live up to its promise: everyone takes off their coats and jackets almost immediately, when they step into the steamy atmosphere inside. At the entrance, visitors are greeted by myriad indigenous species free-flying butterflies, which then accompany them through the tropical landscapes containing both native plants, such as the titan arum, and families of gibbons. The discovery centre makes learning about scientific topics and the phenomena of the worlds of flora and fauna accessible to everyone and encourages visitors to find out things for themselves. botanika in Bremen has something to interest everyone and is the ideal place for a school visit, a family day out or even just to get a bit of a "holiday feeling" to break up your everyday routine.

More adventures in science

The unofficial emblem of Bremen as the City of Science is the 146-metre high drop tower. It attracts visitors to take a tour of the most prominent laboratory in the Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity – ZARM (Zentrum für angewandte Raumfahrttechnologie und Mikrogravitation). This is Europe's only research laboratory in which exciting experiments in zero gravity are part of daily life and it is why scientists from all over the world come to Bremen. Fluid mechanics, space science and aerospace technology are the main areas of investigation here.

This is where experts study different phenomena, which can't be observed under normal gravitational conditions, in great detail. They conduct experiments which are directly relevant to space travel and its related technologies. The zero-gravity conditions are also ideal for really fundamental research projects because researchers can draw conclusions from processes that are, even for a brief period, not subjected to the "disruptive effect of gravity". Things that make the drop tower unique: you can hold events, or even get married at the top of the drop tower.

Simply dive into the far distance of sky full of stars. © Olbers-Planetarium

If you've ever laid down, looked up into the immensity of a star-filled sky and asked yourself what's actually going on out there, you'll find the answers in the Olbers Planetarium. All you need to do here is lie back, look up at the stars and listen. A range of presentations, shows and special programmes for families and schools provide visitors with fascinating explanations of the science behind our starry skies.

Originally built by Heinrich Focke, 60 years ago, Focke's wind tunnel is now used for scientific experiments. If you're interested, take a tour and discover the fascinating story of this pioneer of aviation.

Every Saturday at 11 o'clock, you'll find an informative presentation about a specific scientific subject at the House of Science (Haus der Wissenschaft) in Bremen. The venue puts on exhibitions, presentations and discussions to make science more accessible and understandable for school students or anyone else who is simply interested. This is where you can get that bit closer to science and dive into unusual and exciting topics such as life on the ocean floor, electric cars or even the German language.

Even the little ones can get involved in science in Bremen. Every year, the city holds its Children's University. The University of Bremen invites entire school classes to scientist-led events in which they can play an active part.

Science goes Public!

Science in your local pub? That's the idea behind the "Science goes Public!" series of presentations, held twice a year by scientists in different pubs in Bremen. Satisfy your physical and intellectual thirst at the same time, with a beer or glass of wine in hand, while listening to the informative and entertaining talks given by scientific experts.

The speakers talk about original scientific topics in an interesting and accessible way, encouraging direct conversation on an equal footing with their audience. This series has been running in Bremen since 2017. The next talks will be held in Autumn, between October 12th and November 16th.

Bremen as home to aviation and aerospace

Innovative science and the latest technologies are at home at the German Aerospace Center Bremen. © Andreas Caspari/DLR

With more than 140 businesses, 20 institutes and a workforce of 12,000, Bremen is Europe's premier location for aviation and aerospace. Bremen's expertise in this field is in global demand and is a benchmark for innovation, quality and reliability. Operations such as the Airbus Group, the German Aerospace Center – DLR (Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt), ArianeGroup and OHB SE are all based here.

Airbus Bremen is the world's leading industrial aerospace centre for space transportation, manned space flight and space robotics. It plays an essential role in major projects such as ISS, the Spacelab and Columbus space laboratories and the "Europa" and "Ariane" launcher programmes. In addition, you can't imagine what global aviation would be like without Airbus Bremen. This is where the wings for every Airbus airplane are fitted out and then sent to other Airbus plants to be finally mounted on the airplane bodies.  

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) occupies two sites in Bremen. One is at the Technology Park right next to the University and the other is at Airport City, which is home to Airbus. The DLR works closely with the scientific and industrial communities in Bremen in fields of research that include marine safety, aviation and aerospace.

An integral part of Bremen as an aviation and aerospace hub is the ECOMAT Center for Eco-efficient Materials & Technologies. This is a project commissioned by the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and built and run by Bremeninvest (WFB Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH). It is also located in the Airport City and is a milestone for practical use of lightweight construction methods. Around 500 employees from the scientific and research sectors work together here, combining their expertise and specialist knowledge in projects involving lightweight construction, innovative materials and new surface technologies. ECOMAT is a beacon of close co-operation, short communications paths and the rapid introduction of new materials for aviation and aerospace applications.
Thanks to the many interactive instruments and exhibits, visitors get a truly "hands-on" experience of this major area of scientific endeavour.

Aerospace tour

Aerospace Tour
In the Columbus module, visitors experience what it's like to live and research in space. © WFB / Jonas Ginter

Take a space flight tour at Airbus and get an insight into research and the developments in every aspect of space. Participants can look over the shoulders of the scientists to see how teams on the ground and in space communicate with each other. The tour doesn't just include visiting a model of the Columbus space laboratory but also takes in the original Spacelab, an orbiting laboratory in which scientific experiments were performed in zero-gravity. You can even find out what it's actually like out there in space. For example, milk doesn't weigh the same as it does here on Earth.

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