NHS@70 Interactive Marble Run

Don’t you love a marble run? Well, Random Quark can’t resist one and was blown away by the prospect of creating seven runs to celebrate the NHS’ 70th birthday.

This one was to be more than just diverting: it had to tell a story. The marbles should descend each cascade in the seven-metre-long series simulating the average cost of treating a different patient in a given age-group.

RQ worked with artist Jesse Wolpert using data from the Nuffield Trust regarding how much it cost to treat patients, on average, from one to 100. RQ extrapolated the money into seconds.

For example, a 90-year-old costs £10,000 a year to treat which is 50 seconds in the language of the marble run. Meanwhile, a twenty-year-old’s marble only took 10 seconds to go the length because they are fitter and healthier.

To give the marble runs a fun and quirky authenticity, RQ rummaged around suppliers for appropriate pieces of medical equipment such as latex gloves, syringes and bed pans.

We had great fun puzzling out how to make some of the marbles stay in motion over long periods in such a small space. We pulled various tricks to delay the ball here and there while always making sure to keep the viewer on her toes!

The process was very hands-on since there was no way we could know how long a marble would take to finish the run – it was a process of trial and error.


Visitors to a display of the marble runs at BMA House were treated to an enthralling display of marble physics while gaining experiential information about how much it costs to keep the NHS running.