Travel Realizations

Celebrating Experiences

Exploratorium in San Francisco – When the Destination is Science!

The Exploratorium in San Francisco provides a fertile platform for curious minds. It opens the door to varied frontiers of knowledge for both children and adults. It encourages everyone to wonder – What? How? Why? Abstract concepts of science are displayed in an easy to understand format and are highly interactive. No wonder, the Exploratorium is one of the top attractions in San Francisco. The strict barriers between art and science blur in the different exhibits and present a creative space to think further, increase our ability to understand the world around us, and inspire us to strive for the unknown. Here, the journey to every exhibit starts with wonder and ends with wonder. While exploring the Exploratorium in San Francisco, I felt that despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness because we seek. If you are in San Francisco then keep aside a day to explore Exploratorium – a destination that reveals our world to us through science, art, and human perception.

The Exploratorium in San Francisco provides a fertile platform for curious minds. It encourages everyone to wonder – What? How? Why? #SanFrancisco #Museum Click To Tweet

Interesting exhibits in the Exploratorium

Inside the Exploratorium, I walked from one exhibit to another propelled by wonder. I saw my 4-year-old daughter was trying to understand things; she was asking tons of questions and also questioning our answers. She was trying to express and explain with her imagination and reasons. This is a kind of place that encourages observation, interaction, and our imagination to explore science. Interactions encourage inquiry here and inquiry leads to experience something new. All the exhibits in the Exploratorium showed how ideas can be tested hands-on and the results observed and inferred. Here is a list of exhibits that I found interesting and hopefully will encourage you to see them in-person. So get some coffee, sit comfortably and let’s explore together one of the top 10 science museums in the United States.

Get some coffee, sit comfortably and let's explore together one of the top 10 science museums in the United States. #SanFrancisco #Explore #Museum Click To Tweet
Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations , The views of the San Francisco bay from the Exploratorium are spectacular.
The views of the San Francisco bay from the Exploratorium are spectacular!

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While exploring the Exploratorium in San Francisco, I felt that despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness because we seek. #SanFrancisco #Museum Click To Tweet

Which Embryo is Human?

I was intrigued when I saw each of the small windows of the exhibit and couldn’t identify the human embryo. All the embryos looked so similar! I simply couldn’t differentiate between a chicken embryo, a dog embryo or an embryo of a zebra fish. I learned that the genes which guide early development are nearly the same. Since all vertebrates (animals with backbones) evolved from a common ancestor, the genetic information that guides their development is nearly the same. That’s why scientists can learn about human development by studying other organisms – including zebrafish. I believe even common things in our environment can instill wonder in us; we just have to look carefully. The incredible detail of a tiny flower or insect or the full moon up in the sky – isn’t it? In fact, later on, I and my daughter loved reading an Exploratorium book – Nature’s Design. It inspires kids to look at nature in an interesting way. Buy this book to encourage the love of nature in your kids.

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations , Which embryo is human
Which embryo is human?

A Sip of Conflict

Do you dare drink from a water fountain perched on an actual but unused toilet? Porcelain is just porcelain, right? Or will you choose to drink water from the fountain beside the toilet? Please do a quick thought experiment. Which one do you choose? I chose not to drink from the toilet but I loved this simple psychology exhibit which shows the depths of human irrationality. I felt it myself. The internal struggle between my gut-level reaction and reason.

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations, A Sip of Conflict
A sip of conflict indeed!

Social Interaction

Since I have lived in different countries – India, Switzerland, and now in America, that have completely different socio-economic setups, I adored this exhibit and read the chart keenly. Co-operation and competition between two human beings is largely influenced by the available resources and the ease of accessibility. I loved seeing different exhibits based on social sharing. Now since we are facing a climate crisis, ecosystem collapse and international conflicts, studying social behavior has and will become all the more important.

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations, Social Interaction
Social Interaction – Especially important when we live two parallel lives; digital and real.

Shoe Tester

When I saw this innovative shoe testing machine, I instantly loved it. Look at a cool video of the shoe tester machine below. Shoes mounted on the edge of the radial spokes are pressed with a control force on a mobile abrasive belt that simulates the ground surface.

Van De Graaff Generator

I and my daughter waited in line for our turns to experience how our hair stands on end when we put our hands on the sphere of the Van De Graaff Generator. Our trip to the Exploratorium in San Francisco gifted us may fun filled learning moments like this one. It is perfectly safe for children and my daughter had a great time! This is one of many reasons why the Exploratorium is a top place to visit with kids in San Francisco.

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations, Van De Graaff Generator
The Van De Graaff generator – A hair raising spectacle!

When something is new to us, we treat it as an experience. We feel that our senses are awake and clear. We are alive.

Jasper johns

Live Chicken Embryos

What happens to the chicken embryo inside the yolk? I remember thinking about it when I started reading about cells and embryos in school. I never asked this question to anyone and I got the answer inside the Exploratorium decades later. What’s more, I also got to see a live chicken embryo! I learned that in only one week a chicken embryo develops a brain, eyes, and a beating heart. The life of a chicken embryo begins inside the hen, before the egg is laid. A rooster deposits sperm into the hen’s reproductive tract. A sperm unites with a yolk cell, forming an embryo. The hard eggshell then grows around the yolk. It takes just 21 days for an egg to go from just laid to newly hatched chick.

What happens to the chicken embryo inside the yolk? I remember thinking about it when I started reading about embryos in school. I never asked this to anyone and I got the answer inside the Exploratorium decades later. #Museum Click To Tweet
Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations, Live Chicken Embryos
Chicken Embryo after Day 5

The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, life would not be worth living.

Henri Poincare, 1914

Coffee Break

While walking from one exhibit to another, the aroma that filled the small coffee bar inside the Exploratorium wafted through the exhibits and wisped its way towards me. I spontaneously realized that its time for a coffee break ,or as the people from Sweden say that its time for fika – a time for a little something sweet, a coffee and conversation. 

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations, coffee break

Tidal Memory

After the coffee break, I saw the exhibit Tidal Memory – another interesting display of twenty-four columns that record twenty-four hours of tidewater levels. These columns show San Francisco Bay tide heights for the current day. Data from the NOAA tide station near Golden Gate bridge is used for this display. As each hour ends, another column is locked off, preserving the tide height for that particular hour. Visitors are invited into the realm of rising and falling tidal pattern and contemplate their significance.

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations, Tidal Memory

What’s the Time Now on Jupiter?

No, these clocks are not showing us the time in New York, London, Tokyo or Paris but the time on all the planets and our moon. Space-time gets a new spin. Time is ticking everywhere but differently and following a different rhythm all together. For example, jumbo Jupiter whisks around in just under 10 hours, but less-than-mercurial Mercury slogs through 4,223 hours to complete its day—turning so slowly that the day there lasts almost as long as the year, with the strange result that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. The world of cosmology is one of my favorite subjects which never ceases to amaze me. I have a goal. I need to understand space, time, black holes, and about the beginning of the universe. These concepts always amaze me and I can leave everything to learn them. From the day I visited Cern in Switzerland, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, and learned about the discovery of the Higgs Boson, I have been hooked to the world of cosmology.

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations , Timepieces from all the planets in our solar system.
Timepieces from all the planets in our solar system.

A slice of history

I met Frank Oppenheimer inside the Exploratorium, courtesy, a life-size cutout. Frank was a professor, a high school science teacher, a cattle rancher, and an experimental physicist. Also, he worked beside his brother, J. Robert Oppenheimer (known to some as the “father” of the atomic bomb), on the Manhattan Project of the 1940s. Frank believed more in hands-on tools than textbooks. While teaching at a university, he developed a “library of experiments” and encouraged his students to explore scientific phenomena at their own pace, following their own curiosity. Frank replicated this model to create the Exploratorium to enable the public from various works of life learn about natural phenomena, and also gain confidence in their ability to understand the world around them. 

Understanding is a lot like sex; it’s got a practical purpose, but that’s not why people do it normally.

Frank Oppenheimer
Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations , FRANK OPPENHEIMER
Can you read the board up there on your right? It says – Here is being created, The Exploratorium, A Community museum dedicated to awareness.

The best way to learn is to teach.

Frank Oppenheimer

Outside the Exploratorium

At the entrance of the Exploratorium at Pier 15, two sculptures especially drew my attention. After coming out from the Exploratorium, I was in a mood to explore more. I went inside the souvenir shop, bought a few books for my daughter and I found out about these two sculptures.

Archimedes

Archimedes is a listening vessel installed on the Exploratorium’s Plaza. Archimedes has two 8-foot diameter dish-like chairs that are located 80 feet apart. The parabolic curve of each dish collects and concentrates sound waves and reflects them to the participants sitting inside them. When both dishes are occupied, you can even hear a whisper uttered from one dish sitting in the opposite dish. Ambient sounds are amplified when you experience a dish solo.

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations , Archimedes
I did the experiment with my daughter! It was fun.

BuckyBall

Inspired by the shape first explored by futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller Buckyball is a towering 25-foot illuminated sculpture featuring two nested geodesic spheres. Composed of 4,500 LED nodes arranged along a series of pentagons and hexagons, Buckyball is animated by special software to display over 16 million colors. The lights dynamically shift and fade in both sequential and random orders, generating vibrant hues that pour life into Exploratorium’s public space all day. You can experience the Exploratorium every Thursday. Step into a world of science, art, and human perception at night with over 650 hands-on exhibits designed to boggle the mind. Book your tickets here.

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations, BuckyBall
Buckyball is animated by custom software programmed by Villareal to display over 16 million distinct colors.

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It is in our innermost nature to revel in joy after discovering or learning even a small new thing. I often feel I am a “science” tourist because I love visiting places that preserve, nurture, and carry forward the forefront of human knowledge. These places are like a rejuvenating tonic that excites me. I hope you have the same feeling after reading about them and might inspire your next trip! Choose an article from below and swiftly get transported to a world of intrigue, knowledge, and joy. Below is a space devoted to the pursuit of joy that comes after knowing the unknown.

I often feel I am a "science" tourist because I love visiting places that preserve, nurture, and carry forward the forefront of human knowledge. These places are like a rejuvenating tonic that excites me. #Wanderlust Click To Tweet

Travel Realizations

I wish I were a child and could still choose what I will be! When I saw the embryo of the chicken, I felt I could have studied biology. When I saw the celestial clock, I thought it would have been nice if I were a physicist. When I was exploring various human phenomena related to human emotions I thought, I could have studied psychology. I almost became a child inside. But eventually, reality impinges on us and here I am writing about my visit to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. I call myself a journalist who loves to travel, has a blog and finds a way through the cobweb of the internet to reach people. A journalist, a blogger, and a digital marketer all play an important part in maintaining Travel Realizations. I am thankful for my profession because I get to know, research, and write about various things. And the process is enriching and satisfying. Exploratorium truly showed me different avenues to the unknown. If you are not in San Francisco then visit this museum online. If you are in San Francisco explore it in-person. Book your tickets in advance, skip the line, and spend the day following your own curiosity. Be an active explorer. Until my next post with yet another destination, adieu!

Exploratorium in San Francisco - when the destination is science, Travel Realizations
It starts and end with wonder – no wonder!

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Disclosure:  I wrote this post as part of a campaign with Exploratorium. Opinions on this blog, as you can tell, are always mine.

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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.

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4 Comments

  1. This sounds like a fascinating place to visit! My science-mad teen boy would have a great time exploring here 🙂

  2. The Holidaymaker / Renee

    What interesting options for museums. It’s a great list and perfect for those rainy afternoons when you are looking for something to do in the city!

  3. Great read about the Exploratorium San Francisco, made me enthusiastic to visit when I’m in San Francisco again.

  4. The live chicken embryos are really cool! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that in a museum! Saving this for later!

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