Thursday, February 3, 2011

San Francisco Exploratorium

This only counts as a short trip-just up the peninsula for an evening, but it was cool enough to count.  The Exploratorium is a Science Museum...but I had forgotten how quirky and fun it is.  It's not a Natural History museum (check out the California Academy of Sciences).  It's really about the most interesting parts of science and it's all interactive.  The whole museum is filled with demonstration stations for you to play with.  There are no long explanations-they explicitly state that they want people to play in order to discover the science themselves.

My favorites are the demonstrations of human perception, insights into how the brain function.  I've been told that some people hate this section-it freaks them out.  I can totally understand because it turns things that you 'know' upsidedown. One example is a slide show of a street scene that at first viewing looks like the same picture being shown over and over.  Then you think, why is this interesting and either look harder or read the card.  Turns out that each picture is different.  Very different.  They add or remove trees, cars, store fronts etc.  But because there is a blink in between each picture, your brain just glosses over that part and you see the same picture unless you know to look for something to change.  We think we know and trust our brain and here is it tricking us.  Wait a minute, what else is it covering up?  Really, how scary is that?!

Anyway, the whole reason for our visit was an evening devoted to the Science of Cocktails-what a smart, fun idea!  A bunch of specialty spirit makers make cocktails and the museum sets up science stations.  Like what happens if you leave a gummy bear in vodka for a few hours...or a few days.  I won't spoil it for you, go try it yourself :)

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