Note: Some programs have limited seating and will be made available to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.
Reinvent your Thursday nights at After Dark. Experience a fascinating array of unique, adult-only programs and events that change each week. Grab dinner by the Bay, play with hundreds of hands-on exhibits, crawl through our pitch-black Tactile Dome, sip cocktails, and explore.
It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small. —Neil Armstrong
Tho my teeth are kept usually very clean, nevertheless when I view them in a magnifying glass, I find growing between them a little white matter as thick as wetted flour.… I therefore took some of this flour and wetted it with pure rainwater wherein … to my great surprise perceived that the aforesaid matter contained very small living animals, which moved themselves very extravagantly…. The number of these animals in the surf of man’s teeth, are so many that I believe they exceed the number of men in a kingdom. —Anton van Leeuwenhoek, from Burton et al’s Microbiology for the Health Sciences.
What is small? We humans love to measure ourselves against the micro- and the macrocosm. Contemplating the diminutive elicits emotions that span the distance between affection and awe. Creatures and things that are very small or very large remind us again and again of our own size and place in the universe. Tonight, encounter a rich collection of experiences that will make you feel like you took a journey alongside Alice down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland.
A Matter of Scale
With Ron Hipschman
7:00 p.m. | Kanbar Forum
Why do elephants have such huge, floppy ears? Why aren’t there insects as big as cows? What would happen if we shrank to a microscopic size? See the consequences of scaling up or down in this science fiction-oriented talk on the square-cube law.
Find and Replace: Editing DNA
With Rachel Haurwitz
7:30 p.m. | Bay Observatory Gallery
Genome editing technology is taking many bio-based fields by storm. Created by a few academic researchers studying bacteria, CRISPR uses tiny molecular ‘scissors’ to change DNA inside cells and living organisms. Find out how this innovative technology is being used to develop new drugs to cure genetic diseases, improve biological research, and improve drought tolerance in crops.
Miniature Effects in the Movies
With Lorne Peterson
8:30 p.m. | Kanbar Forum
What’s it like to make intricate worlds in miniature? Learn what it takes to create the stuff that dreams are made of. Discover the process for building spaceships, abandoned mines, dinosaurs, the Death Star, and other special effects for films from the lead modelmaker for the entire Star Wars series.
Lactation: Feeding Both Babies and Bacteria
With Bruce German
9:00 p.m. | Bay Observatory Gallery
To solve problems of food production, safety, nourishment, and sustainability, we need a much more detailed understanding of the complex interplay between human health and our food. Fortunately, biology has been solving these problems under the relentless pressure of evolutionary selection. The key to understanding food and nourishment is mammalian lactation and milk.
A complete and comprehensive diet, milk is the product of 200 million years of selection balancing maternal cost and infant benefit, and a vivid model for understanding food and health—and even sustainability. Learn how mothers recruit a unique group of bacteria to populate their babies’ intestines and provide them with a selective food source to keep both parties satisfied. Hear how insights from milk and babies are helping us to understand and guide the bacteria in and on all of us.
World’s Smallest Postal Service
With Lea Redmond
6:30–9:30 p.m. | West Gallery
Want to send a really big message in a really tiny envelope? Witness artist Lea Redmond’s miniature post office in action. Dictate your epistle to this perfectionist postmaster, and watch her inscribe your heartfelt sentiments onto tiny stationery stamped with a diminutive wax seal.
These petite, personalized letters are available for purchase, and include a magnifying glass, see-through coin case for presentation, and a glassine envelope with another (larger) wax seal.
Rolling Through the Bay
With Scott Weaver
6:30–9:30 p.m. | South Gallery
Weaver’s intricate masterwork—a love song to San Francisco made of roughly 100,000 toothpicks—carries Ping-Pong balls through multiple “tours” of the neighborhoods, historical locations, and iconic symbols of the city. Join the artist on an exhilarating ride through his ever-evolving artwork by the Bay.
With Denise King
6:30–9:30 p.m. | East Gallery Imaging Station
Who can resist the pull of microscopic creatures seen up-close? Gather around Exploratorium biologist Denise King as she isolates magnetic bacteria from bay mud collected beneath Pier 15.
3 For Life
By Marie Applegate
6:00–10:00 p.m. | Central Gallery
Remember sitting at the table when your feet didn’t touch the floor? Awaken your playful, inner child at 3 for Life, an oversized sculptural environment designed to make adults physically feel like they’re in preschool again. Based on David and Tom Kelley’s (IDEO) ideas on rebuilding creative confidence, this enormous set of table and chairs invites us to reconnect with our confident, compassionate, and authentically creative three year-old selves.
A Closer Look
With Sebastian Martin
6:30–9:30 p.m. | South Gallery, Tinkering Studio
How would you describe the terrain of everyday surfaces? Use a hand-held microscope to examine landscapes emerging from the lines on your palm, the interwoven threads of your sleeve, and other, easily overlooked minutiae.
7:00–10:00 p.m. | Central Gallery
Seeing is a cooperative effort between your eyes and your brain: While your eyes may perceive a group of dots, your brain must decide whether those dots form a meaningful pattern. Collaborate with your neighbors to design an image out of dots that will resolve into sense at a distance.
This activity was inspired by post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat, who patterned precise dabs of paint into vivid images, and by the exhibit Jacques Cousteau in Seashells, created for the Exploratorium by artist Ken Knowlton.
6:30–9:30 p.m. | East Gallery
Transform your smartphone into a microscope, and explore Lilliputian life forms in hand-held detail. Peer at a panoply of slides housing a range of samples, from human tissues to plant parts to live zebrafish embryos.
Take a Cellfie!
With Caitlin Jackson
6:30–9:30 p.m. | East Gallery Imaging Station
See your cheek cells magnified 1000 times under the microscope—and snap your very own cellfie to share. While selfies are the ultimate form of personal expression, you may be surprised by how similar we are on the cellular level. Beauty isn’t only skin-deep!
Powers of Ten (1977, 9 min.) by Charles and Ray Eames
Ongoing 6:00–10:00 p.m. | West Gallery, Mind Cinema
Powers of Ten illustrates the universe as an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mystery. It begins with a close-up shot of a man sleeping near the lakeside in Chicago, viewed from one meter away. The landscape steadily moves out until it reveals the edge of the known universe. Then, at a rate of 10-to-the-tenth meters per second, the film takes us towards Earth again, continuing back to the sleeping man’s hand and eventually down to the level of a carbon atom.
A Drop To Drink
Big Chair, Little Chair
Too Slow to Notice
Water Drop Photography
Animal Cell/Plant Cell
Bacteria that Glow
Live Chicken Embryos
Glass Settling Plates
Microscope Imaging Station
Life in a Drop Of Water
Live Plankton from the Bay
The Sea as Sculptress
Seasons of Plankton
When the Water Turns Red, It Means the Salt is Forming
Take an excursion through total darkness in our Tactile Dome. Crawl, slide, and bump your way through the pitch-dark Dome using your sense of touch as your only guide through its chambers and mazes.
Please Note: Due to the nature of this experience, certain restrictions apply. Guests who are afraid of the dark; claustrophobic; have back, neck, or knee injuries; or are in their third trimester of pregnancy should not participate. Guests wearing casts are prohibited. Also, please wear comfortable clothes.
Learn more about the Tactile Dome.