Vincent Cheung

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Exploratorium. Yes, I get excited about science.

Stickers from the Exploratorium

After arriving home just after 8 am on Sunday, showering, and grabbing a bite to eat, my family came and picked me up to head right back into San Francisco. We hit Twin Peaks and looked over the city through thick fog, Lombard for the "crookedest street" in the world, Chinatown, and then the Golden Gate Bridge in fog.

I then met up with Mark, Emine (his gf), Brian, Janna, Sean, Adam, and Mark at the Exploratorium. I think it has the coolest demos of any science museum I've ever been to. Many of which I had never seen before and I actually learnt things! It wasn't so much a museum as there were no big plaques explaining things, just demos and then little plaques explaining the demo, what is happening, and briefly, why. It was very much a learn by doing thing, which was really cool. It was basically like a warehouse and then just all these stations littered all over the place with few, if any, dividers.

Here are my highlights:
  • Sound by bone conduction
    • THE coolest demo ever! You hear b/c your ear drum, a bone, vibrates. In this demo, you put a straw onto a wooden or metal rod that is vibrating, bite it, plug your ears, and you can listen to music!!!! SO COOL!!!

  • Car differentials
    • I actually learnt something here! I didn't know that that was how the motors in cars worked and it was so important to prevent skidding! Ingenius design. I was quite impressed. It was cool how you could stop one "wheel" and the other would speed up and trying to stop both simultaneously was futile.

  • Sailing
    • I always kinda wondered how boats got the sails to catch the wind to move the boat in arbitrary directions. This demo had a bunch of fans and some little cars with sails. Pretty fun.

  • Rotating discs
    • I must have been here for like 10 min! There was a large rotating disc at the bottom of the display and then all these smaller discs and tubes and you were supposed to get these to stand up and "run around" the large disc on the bottom. Choas. So much fun.

  • Google Maps!
    • Some woman apparently asked Emine why all those people were so excited about the map on a computer screen ;). It had waypoints to various things in the Bay Area. Forget what the website was, but it was a Google Maps mashup.

  • String machine
    • Insanely amusing. It was just a motor that shot rope out. The rope was tied in a loop. You could rotate the direction of the motor and you could get the rope to go straight up. Impossible to describe, but trust me that it was mesmerising. Though on the other hand, I am easily amused.

  • Echo tube
    • Really long tube, awesome echos. When you clapped, the echo back was like a gun shot!

  • Ice and polarization
    • This was a two for one deal! Cold glass and then you spray water over it and you could see the ice crystals form over it. Except, that you couldn't see the ice crystals without the polarizing lens! You could also see it through the reflection off the polished stone wall (think about that for a second ;)).

  • Weird plant
    • There was a bizzare plant where sprouts grew along the edge of the leaves. It was crazy. It looked like the plant had teeth. You could see the roots on the little sprouts. Never seen anything like it before.

  • DNA assembly
    • Not uber-cool or anything, but I had never seen a display like it before. You basically go through the whole transcription and translation process, but with building blocks! There's double stranded DNA and as you turn the crank, it splits the double stranded helix and then you assemble the mRNA and then translate it into the appropriate amino acids.

  • Nano assembly
    • They were assembling a nano transistor with all these plastic tubes and balls (atoms). It is going to be a massive display. I helped build a row. The best was when one of the demonstrators was explaining it to me. She was like, we're building a transistor, which are things in a computer, and they're binary. I was like, ya, I know what a transistor is, just let me build.

  • Usability study
    • I got pulled aside to do like a 10 min. evaluation of an up and coming web site for one of the upcomming exhibits. I didn't even get a massage coupon!

The Tactile Dome deserves it's own section. You had to buy this separately and book time for it. It's a dome like the size of a large bedroom. Inside, it's completely dark and there's stuff all along the walls, floors, and ceilings and you have to go mostly on your hands and knees and feel around.

Everyone was afraid for Adam and what would happen to him when I was in a dark enclosed area with him. We could only go in 1s, 2s, or 3s. People naturally paired up b/c of the 2 couples, leaving Mike, Brian, Adam, and me. In the end, Adam decided to go with me. The man doth protests too much, me thinks. He likes it and he knows that he has WAY more fun with me.

It was a BLAST inside. So much fun. The best part was that the girl controlling entry into the dome (we couldn't all go in at once, only a few groups in at a time) had an intercom to listen to what we were saying, and of course, Adam and I were loud, obnoxious, and rambunctious, allowing our inner 5 year old selves out. We took our sweet time, as the groups of Janna and Sean as well as Brian and Mike passed us. But hey, you gotta enjoy it and touch EVERYTHING.

We only made it half way the second time as they had a brown out and had to evacuate us, though we suspect that they just wanted us out of there. I felt so gross after coming out of that as I had touched SO many surfaces and things. I now have like 6 strange bites on my hands, wrists, and one on my knee. They are round and protrude quite substantially. I'm quite sure that they are not mosquito bites, b/c I don't react to mosquito bites like this (I should know, coming from Winnipeg). I suspect that it was from the dome. Not totally sure though. I've been asking around to see if anyone else has similar bites (family perhaps b/c of hiking, Amy and John perhaps b/c of Sat., and these guys if it was b/c of the dome). The one on the knee is the most perplexing as I had jeans on the whole weekend.

Oh well, if I have some sort of contagious disease, I'm taking all y'all down with me!

Yes, I am a science geek. I don't make any attempt to hide it, but you know, you're using a computer, are on the Internet, and read all the way down to here, so you're a nerd. Go get a life and stop reading blogs.

My backpack


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