By Mark Nichol
    You won't get very far before running into a cycle at the Exploratorium this fall, but don't worry about dodging manic bicyclists when you visit. We're not talking about bikes here (although the revolving action of a bicycle's wheels is one obvious example of cyclical motion).

    The Exploratorium celebrates recurrence in the natural world with the special exhibition Cycles: Nature Repeats Itself, which opens September 17 and runs through January 5, 1997. Cycles features exhibits about physiology, population dynamics in ecosystems, geology, meteorology, astronomy, and physics. Geysers erupt, pendulums swing, an assortment of things squeak, and computer simulations of other physical phenomena also illustrate the intricate patterns of cycles in nature.

    What role do cycles have in our lives? Here are some examples to get you started:

    • Every minute of every hour of every day and so on for the duration of your life, your heart pulses, pumping blood throughout your body at the rate of about once per second.
    • Every twenty-four hours or so, the earth spins on its axis, driving the recurring habits of our lives--and those of all other living things.
    • Every year at about this time, while much of the country dutifully marches into autumn, San Francisco's capricious weather atones for our fog-shrouded "summertime" with a glorious Indian summer that lasts well into the fall season.
    And oh, yes, about that bicycle--the exhibit Bike Cycle invites visitors to determine the proper sequence in which to press four buttons that operate automated hamstrings and quadriceps, thereby propelling the stationary bicycle's wheels into fruitless motion. We can't have a bicycle--especially a riderless one--careening through the museum, now can we?

    "What's New" asked Exploratorium senior scientist Dr. Thomas Humphrey to talk about cycles and the museum's exhibition. The following conversation is in the RealAudio format.

    28.8 Version 14.4 Version

    If you need the RealAudio player, click here to download it.
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