"Cupcake, Zucchini, Bread" A Mold Growth Rate Experiment
Photo by David Barker © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

"Cupcake, Zucchini, Bread"
A Mold Growth Rate Experiment

Photo by David Barker
© Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

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. Photo by Amy Snyder© Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

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.

Photo by Amy Snyder
© Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

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! More on Natural Selection http://www.exploratorium.edu/origins/belize-london/ideas/evolution.html

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!

More on Natural Selection http://www.exploratorium.edu/origins/belize-london/ideas/evolution.html

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.

Want more details or suggestions? This activity and over 150 more from artists and tinkerers are featured for you to try yourself in The Art of Tinkering, available now at http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/the-art-of-tinkering

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.

For full details and to please RSVP, please go here: http://california.kingtides.net/2014/01/26/snap-the-tides-with-the-exploratorium-on-jan-29/

Top photo by Mark Flippoff
Bottom photo by John V. Gatewood

Learn how the Cardboard Institute of Technology (CIT) constructs disposable multiverses. #tinkeringtuesday

Working out of a huge, shared warehouse space on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, CIT builds sprawling mythologies and microworlds out of scavenged cardboard and hot glue (bought in 20 lb. boxes).

Working collaboratively as well as on their own, members of this apocalypse-embracing, power-to-the-people artists’ collective create immersive, interactive installations of all kinds—from pirate ships to galaxies—but one element that always seems to recur is what they call a shantytown: a cluster of endearing, sloppily constructed cardboard houses.

To make your own shanty, start with a strip of cardboard and score its sides to create a box shape. Use a box cutter to make holes for windows and doors.

Hot-glue your box closed. Cut another piece of cardboard into a roof shape and glue it to the walls at a sloping angle. Peel back the paper to reveal the reinforcing strips below for a corrugated metal effect. You can repurpose the topsheet by rolling it into a chimney.

Try adding wings, porches, decks, etc. Build houses of various sizes, and arrange them in a chockablock configuration for an authentic urban feel.

Want more details or suggestions? This activity and over 150 more from artists and tinkerers are featured for you to try yourself in The Art of Tinkering, available now at http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/the-art-of-tinkering

Thursday night at the Exploratorium looks good on you! Every Thursday, adults-only, cocktails, conversation, and good company.

Every first Thursday of the month is After Dark, the same as above, and a whole lot more! Not a theater, cabaret, or gallery, After Dark contains aspects of all three. Each evening showcases a different topic—from music to sex to electricity— but all include a cash bar and film screenings, plus an opportunity to play with our hundreds of hands-on exhibits. Pick a Thursday, grab a date or a friend, and come on down to Pier 15 in San Francisco.

www.exploratorium.edu/afterdark

Exploratorium Picks:2013 Year in Science Stories From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.7. HIV: Negatives and PositivesHope for an HIV cure surged after bone marrow transplants resulted in several months of undetectable viral levels in two patients’ blood then flagged when the virus subsequently rebounded. But hope springs afresh: An HIV-infected toddler who received antiretroviral drugs hours after birth still shows no signs of the virus after 2.5 years.http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=hopes-dashed-for-hiv-curehttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/health/for-first-time-baby-cured-of-hiv-doctors-say.html

Exploratorium Picks:

2013 Year in Science Stories


From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.

7. HIV: Negatives and Positives

Hope for an HIV cure surged after bone marrow transplants resulted in several months of undetectable viral levels in two patients’ blood then flagged when the virus subsequently rebounded. But hope springs afresh: An HIV-infected toddler who received antiretroviral drugs hours after birth still shows no signs of the virus after 2.5 years.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=hopes-dashed-for-hiv-cure
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/health/for-first-time-baby-cured-of-hiv-doctors-say.html

Exploratorium Picks:2013 Year in Science Stories From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.6. Comet ISON FlybyInbound from the mysterious Oort cloud near the boundary of our solar system, comet ISON promised to (possibly) light up the December sky with a dazzling day-visible display. Alas, hype and hyperbole provided most of the entertainment, as the actual performance fizzled when the comet broke into bits after performing a hairpin turn around the sun. Astronomers were nonetheless pleased by the dazzling data payload.http://www.nasa.gov/ison/

Exploratorium Picks:

2013 Year in Science Stories


From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.

6. Comet ISON Flyby

Inbound from the mysterious Oort cloud near the boundary of our solar system, comet ISON promised to (possibly) light up the December sky with a dazzling day-visible display. Alas, hype and hyperbole provided most of the entertainment, as the actual performance fizzled when the comet broke into bits after performing a hairpin turn around the sun. Astronomers were nonetheless pleased by the dazzling data payload.
http://www.nasa.gov/ison/

Exploratorium Picks:2013 Year in Science Stories From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.5. Water on MarsAfter celebrating its first anniversary on Mars, NASA’s car-sized Curiosity rover sent a gift back to Earth, discovering water in the Martian soil—along with other evidence that the Martian environment was once habitable.http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/main/

Exploratorium Picks:

2013 Year in Science Stories


From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.

5. Water on Mars

After celebrating its first anniversary on Mars, NASA’s car-sized Curiosity rover sent a gift back to Earth, discovering water in the Martian soil—along with other evidence that the Martian environment was once habitable.
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/main/

Exploratorium Picks:2013 Year in Science Stories From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.#4. In Vitro MeatIn a year already boasting in vitro kidneys, ears, livers, and even a nascent brain, what remained but to craft a cultured burger? Costing $325,000—fries not included—the in vitro cow muscle cells were sautéed in butter to create arguably the world’s most expensive hamburger.http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/science/a-lab-grown-burger-gets-a-taste-test.html

Exploratorium Picks:

2013 Year in Science Stories


From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.

#4. In Vitro Meat

In a year already boasting in vitro kidneys, ears, livers, and even a nascent brain, what remained but to craft a cultured burger? Costing $325,000—fries not included—the in vitro cow muscle cells were sautéed in butter to create arguably the world’s most expensive hamburger.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/science/a-lab-grown-burger-gets-a-taste-test.html

Exploratorium Picks:2013 Year in Science Stories From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.3. Penises: Not for the BirdsA whopping 97% of living male birds have no penis—instead, they eject sperm through an anatomical catch-all called the cloaca. In June, researchers announced the genetic culprit: a gene called Bmp4 that shuts off penis development shortly after it begins, causing the nascent member to dissolve away.http://news.sciencemag.org/evolution/2013/06/scienceshot-birds-disappearing-penis

Photo: A.M. Herrera and M.J. Cohn / University of Florida

Exploratorium Picks:

2013 Year in Science Stories


From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.

3. Penises: Not for the Birds

A whopping 97% of living male birds have no penis—instead, they eject sperm through an anatomical catch-all called the cloaca. In June, researchers announced the genetic culprit: a gene called Bmp4 that shuts off penis development shortly after it begins, causing the nascent member to dissolve away.
http://news.sciencemag.org/evolution/2013/06/scienceshot-birds-disappearing-penis

Photo: A.M. Herrera and M.J. Cohn / University of Florida

Exploratorium Picks:2013 Year in Science Stories From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.2. Record-High Carbon DioxideIn May, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory reached a new high, surpassing 400 parts per million for the first time since data-taking began there in 1955. The last time CO2 levels reached this level was roughly 4.5 million years ago, during the Pliocene Epoch, when the earth was roughly 6° F warmer and sea level ranged between 16 to 131 feet higher. http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/news/2013/CO2400.html
Photo by Mary Miller © Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu

Exploratorium Picks:

2013 Year in Science Stories


From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.

2. Record-High Carbon Dioxide

In May, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory reached a new high, surpassing 400 parts per million for the first time since data-taking began there in 1955. The last time CO2 levels reached this level was roughly 4.5 million years ago, during the Pliocene Epoch, when the earth was roughly 6° F warmer and sea level ranged between 16 to 131 feet higher. http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/news/2013/CO2400.html

Photo by Mary Miller
© Exploratorium, www.exploratorium.edu


Exploratorium Picks: 

2013 Year in Science Stories
From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year 2013 in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.
1. Molecular Movie
IBM debuted A Boy and His Atom, the smallest movie ever made, in which the actors are made up of individual molecules of carbon monoxide.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSCX78-8-q0
Photo credit: IBM

Exploratorium Picks: 

2013 Year in Science Stories

From the “shmeaty” goodness of a test-tube hamburger to the glimmer of water on Mars, it’s been a year in science to remember—and in some cases (yep, we’re talking to you, comet ISON) to forget. Here are some of our picks for the year 2013 in science. We’ll share one of our top science stories each day of the first week of 2014. See them all at #2013SciencePicks.

1. Molecular Movie

IBM debuted A Boy and His Atom, the smallest movie ever made, in which the actors are made up of individual molecules of carbon monoxide.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSCX78-8-q0

Photo credit: IBM

Marble Machines is an essential @Tinkering Studio activity, and an excellent means to learn about gravity, momentum, and the creative potential of your recycling bin. Interested in making one at home? A trip to the hardware store should get the ball rolling. #tinkeringtuesday

You’ll need:
• two sheets Peg-Board with ¼ inch holes
• one 1½-inch-thick pine spacer and two pine feet
• wood glue
• screws and screwdriver
• masking tape
• clothespins
• ¼-inch dowels
• pine board
• cover molding (decorative trim with a slight arch)
• marbles

Scavenge your home for tubes, pipes, funnels, berry baskets, toy parts, and cooking tools—anything that can catch, support, or propel a marble. You can also add motorized components or electronics activated by strips of foil (and a metal marble) attached with alligator clips.

To set up your board, glue the spacers along the edges between the two sheets of Peg-Board. Then screw in the pine feet so that the board can stand upright. Next it’s time to stick in some pegs. Attach your bumpers, tunnels, and the like to the pegs using masking tape and clothespins, and think up a fun finale, like a marble bouncing off a bicycle bell. Test your creation frequently and tweak its connections until the ball makes it through in one go.

Want more details or suggestions? This activity and over 150 more from artists and tinkerers are featured for you to try yourself in The Art of Tinkering, available now at http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/the-art-of-tinkering