Since the Exploratorium opened at its waterfront location more than a year ago, we’ve been engaged in a unique experiment with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle lent us a beautiful ocean buoy, outfitted with instruments to measure carbon in the ocean and atmosphere. For the last 15 months, it’s been bobbing in all its white and red glory in the lagoon between Piers 15 and 17, occasionally surrounded by mist from the fog bridge art piece.
We’ve reached a milestone with the experiment, the first time we’ve pulled the buoy out of the water for maintenance. It’s a complex choreography of forklift, mobile crane and a balky metal watercraft dubbed “the angry bathtub” to lift the one ton buoy from the water onto our outdoor plaza. Read more.
It’s Thursday, so that means we have to throwback. Here’s an early Exploratorium exhibition, “Limbic System” by artist Tad Bridenthal. Visitors crawled into an infinitely reflecting, dodecahedron sculpture. Each of the twelve sides and twenty vertices featured colored lights and mirrors. We think it was up around 1971. The last shot is of the exterior.
Behind the scenes at the Exploratorium staff offices, you’ll find curious artifacts like this. This guy has travelled with us from the vaults of our old location to Pier 15. Rumor has it that it’s an original NASA early-Apollo era demo suit!
The first 500 digits of π are ready for you to carry in our infamous Pi Day parade kicking off at 1:45pm PDT today! The parade will reach our Pi shrine at 3.14 1:59pm PDT ;). Directly following, free pi(e) for our Free Day guests for as long as 1,500 slices goes… To the irrational, transcendental, and infinite number, Happy Pi Day, from us to you.
"In the mid seventies, the Exploratorium had an early connection (via phone line) to Wordrow Wilson High School and their HP2000c computer. We had a teletype machine in the box the kids are sitting on and we used to demo the computer (programming in BASIC) to people on the [museum] floor. Frank [Oppenheimer] hated it. I loved it…" -Ron Hipschman, the Exploratorium’s original Web Master at its inception in 1993
Pier 7 photo taken from inside the Exploratorium’s Rickshaw Obscura, a bicycle-mounted exhibit that can often be seen cruising around the perimeter of the Exploratorium campus. Flag down an Explainer and take a spin inside during your next visit.
Happy Darwin Day! Today would have been Charles Darwin’s 205th birthday.
Naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) first noticed the evidence for natural selection while visiting the Galapagos Islands in 1835. On these isolated islands, Darwin found finches that resembled those living on the South American continent, some 1,300 kilometers away. But the Galapagos finches, he realized, showed a range of beak sizes that corresponded to the food sources available where they lived.
Darwin concluded that these birds originated from a single species that migrated from the mainland millions of years ago. Since birds faced distinct challenges depending on where they settled, finches with different traits survived in different locations. Through the process of natural selection, the bird populations eventually split into many species, which still retaining common characteristics.
Since his publication of On the Origin of Species, the principles of evolutionary biology have become integral to fields as diverse as medicine, agriculture, genetic engineering, and epidemiology. Outside the life sciences, evolutionary concepts have informed economics, cultural studies, urban planning, and even forms of popular culture like video game design. The very idea of evolutionary change over time has become ingrained across the public imagination. Thanks, and happy birthday Charles!
Today our new book The Art of Tinkering, produced from The Tinkering Studio, is released to the public! Request it at your local book store or buy it online. Here’s a taste of what’s inside…
Did you know that playdough can be sculpted into circuits? Its saltiness makes it conductive—and you can use it to play with battery packs, LEDs, buzzers, motors, and more. Cook up some conductive dough and experiment with squishy circuits in this week’s #tinkeringtuesday activity.
Conductive Dough Recipe:
Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup flour, ¼ cup salt, 3 tablespoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and some drops of food coloring in a pot over medium heat. Stir continuously as the mixture boils and thickens, and keep on stirring until it forms a ball in the pot’s center. Let it cool slightly and knead it on a floured surface until it’s nice and smooth. Store it in an airtight container; it will stay malleable for weeks.
Grab two lumps of conductive dough, and poke one leg of an LED into each one. Take the two leads of a battery pack and stick the positive one into the lump with the LED’s positive leg, and the negative one into the lump with the LED’s negative leg. See the light go on? That’s your first squishy circuit.
You always need a gap between your negative and positive dough lumps, so next try placing some insulating dough between them to divert electricity from the battery pack into your LED. This allows for more solid construction without any shorts. Insulating dough will also help you move on to more complex builds.
Insulating Dough Recipe:
Mix 1 cup flour, ½ cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a bowl. Then add up to ½ cup distilled water in tiny increments (about 1 tablespoon at a time) until the dough forms a cohesive lump. Knead in a little more flour until it’s easy to mold with your hands. Store in an airtight container.
Join the Exploratorium and the California King Tides Initiative in a walk to witness the last king tides in January, 2014! Meet us tomorrow, January 29, at 9am at the Exploratorium’s Wave Organ, the awesome wave-activated acoustic sculpture located at the end of a jetty in the San Francisco Bay (83 Marina Green Dr, SF, CA 94123). Walk with us from the Wave Organ to the Exploratorium at Pier 15 as we view and photograph a 7.0 ft high tide at several points along the banks of San Francisco. The walk is 3 miles from the Wave Organ, OR for a shorter 2-mile walk, meet us at the Aquatic Park Pier at 10am.
We may experience some flooded roads and pathways (nothing dangerous in the weather forecast, but be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring a jacket!). We expect this walk to be about 2.5-3 hours. This is a one-way walk so plan accordingly. Convenient public transportation exists at the end of our walk from the Exploratorium at Pier 15. We look forward to experiencing this exciting event with you all.