Note: Some programs have limited seating and will be made available to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.
Celebrate the new year with a round of bubbly—and a plethora of spherical phenomena. Don goofy goggles to play your favorite schoolyard games with altered sight, and see what happens once you take them off. Peer at circular denizens of the biosphere, such as rotating colonies of Volvox, a genus of green algae, and learn about the unique attributes of spherical viruses. Wrap your head around atomic models, try your hand at mapping the globe, and cover your ears as we use liquid nitrogen to explode a bin full of 3,000 ping-pong balls to fete the year ahead.
Dissecting a Sphere or What's Inside a Baseball Anyway?
With Ken Finn
7:00 p.m. | Phyllis C. Wattis Webcast Studio
When you grab a baseball, you don't necessarily think of it as being bouncy. But that's exactly what happens when a baseball hits a bat: it bounces—deforming for an instant, then springing back to its original shape. See how this works by watching a super strong water balloon bounce in slow motion. And since one way to find out how something works is by looking inside it, Ken will take apart some balls to see what they’re made of.
Museum educator Ken Finn works with students, visitors, and museum staff to explore the world of phenomena presented by our exhibit collection. He has been noticing, pondering, and sharing thoughts about what’s inside the Exploratorium since 1986.
The World Ball
With Bumchin Tegshjargal and Michelle Klets
7:30, 8:00, 8:30, and 9:00 p.m. | East Gallery
Tonight’s performance features dances ranging from a fun and flirty cha-cha to a classical and timeless waltz, meant to inspire positive emotions and perhaps a desire to dance.
Bumchin Tegshjargal and Michelle Klets have been dancing together for a year, but Michelle has been doing ballroom dancing for eight years and Bumchin for five years. They are currently the USA National Youth Champions and rank 11th in the world, and travel nationally and internationally to pursue their dreams of becoming world finalists. They are available if you’d like to take dance lessons or book a performance.
Spheres in Gaming
With Michael Schiess
8:00 p.m. | Phyllis C. Wattis Webcast Studio
Learn the peculiar history of pinball, from a rainy-day alternative to croquet in eighteenth-century France to a post-World War II American arcade craze. Discover the little-known world of pinball art, and find out how the Pacific Pinball Museum is working to preserve historic examples of this popular game.
Michael Schiess is Founder and Executive Director of the Pacific Pinball Museum, begun 10 years ago as primarily an arts organization. A former exhibit designer for the Exploratorium, Michael’s experience has been invaluable in the design, vision, and everyday operations of the PPM. He is a collector of '60s, '70s, and '80s “wedgehead” machines.
The Physicist and the Sphere
With Patio Plasma
9:00 p.m. | Phyllis C. Wattis Webcast Studio
From atoms to cows to planets and stars, spheres appear when physicists model the universe. For example, scientists have recently created the most perfect spheres ever made to test Einstein's theory of general relativity, and to count the number of atoms in a mole. Open your eyes to the spheres around us, and find out why physicists love them.
Patio Plasma, aka Paul Doherty, is a Senior Scientist at the Exploratorium. He is an experimental physicist who loves to create hands-on explorations for adults and children to help them open their spherical eyes to the world around them. Paul is the co-author of many books, including the Explorabook and the Exploratorium Science Snackbook.
Ping-Pong Ball Explosion
With Julie Yu and Eric Muller
9:30 p.m. | East Gallery
Ring in the new year in a shower of delight as we use liquid nitrogen to explode a 45 gallon trash can full of 3,000 ping-pong balls. Cover your ears for the big boom, and then enjoy the sprinkling sounds of excitement
Julie Yu and Eric Muller teach in the Exploratorium Teacher Institute. Their New Year's resolution is to share their explosive and dynamic love of science (without losing an eye).
“Catch” A Virus
With Laura Satkamp and Kelsey Haas of the Gladstone Institutes
6:00–10:00 p.m. | East Gallery Corridor
Why are some human viruses spherical? How are influenza, HPV, HIV, and dengue similar to the common cold? Come “get infected” with temporary virus tattoos, play with supersize virus models, explore their shapes and scale, and learn about their impact on human health.
Laura Satkamp is a scientist in the Krogan Lab at the Gladstone Institutes whose passion is figuring out how pathogens interact with their hosts. Affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco, the Galdstone Institutes use visionary science and technology to overcome major unsolved diseases.
Kelsey Haas is a graduate student in the Krogan Lab at UCSF. She loves systems biology (looking at “all the things” in a cell at once) and is currently studying influenza infection.
6:00–10:00 p.m. | East Gallery, Microscope Imaging Station
Visit the Microscope Imaging Station to see live, verdant colonies of Volvox, a genus of around 20 species of freshwater green algae found worldwide. Volvox form spherical or oval hollow colonies that contain some 500 to 60,000 cells embedded in a gelatinous wall. The colonies are often just visible to the naked eye.
With the Berkeley Juggling Club
6:00–10:00 p.m. | Throughout museum
The Berkeley Juggling Club returns to the Exploratorium (last seen at the outdoor program Market Days: Toys in 2014) to roam the floor, juggling balls for your amusement throughout the night.
The Berkeley Juggling Club is a student organization at the University of California, Berkeley. Feel free to join them at their weekly meetings for juggling and other circus arts, such as unicycling, acrobalance, whip cracking, slack lining, and more.
Goofy Goggle Playground
With the Explainers
6:30–9:30 p.m. | Osher West Gallery, Black Box
Keep your eye on the ball: Come play classic schoolyard games—with a twist. Test your abilities with perception-altering goggles, and see what happens once you take them off.
Mapping the Globe
7:00–10:00 p.m. | Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery
Take part in a unique map-drawing project using oranges as spheres. Sector out lines of longitude on your fruit with a fine Sharpie pen, and then draw the continents in detail on your own fragrant globe to take home. This activity was created for the Exploratorium by Phyllis Morrison and adapted by Lori Lambertson of the Teacher Institute.
Run by a highly skilled, dedicated team of volunteers, Explorables workshops mix classic activities with open-ended investigations, encouraging participants to follow their hunches to aha moments of scientific insight.
By Stephen Dudek
10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
6:00–10:00 p.m. Thursday nights | Osher West Gallery
Stop and see three softly illuminated roses constructed from cut plastic, LEDs, and white fabric. Standing 5 feet in diameter, each light sculpture is drawn from the rose equation r = cos(12/7θ). The Roses will remain on view in the West Gallery through Sunday, January 10.
Stephen Dudek is a local LED artist known for large, geometric installations as well as light-up, wearable creations. A San Francisco resident who makes all his creations by hand, he pursues the intersection of electronics, engineering, soldering, and sewing.
By Christopher Schardt
10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
6:00–10:00 p.m. Thursday nights | Bechtel Central Gallery
Gaze up at two diamond-shaped canopies comprised of 7,200 LEDs alight with images of shooting stars, Hubble Space Telescope photos, the aurora borealis, and other visions of the skies accompanied by soothing classical music. These kite-shaped pieces represent a fraction of the original Firmament built for Burning Man 2015, in which a 42-foot tower suspended a 10-foot high, 52-feet in diameter dome of 21,600 individually controllable LEDs.
This incarnation will be on view in the Central Gallery from Tuesday, December 1 through Sunday, January 10.
Christopher Schardt is an Oakland-based sculptor, computer programmer, and father. His past work includes kinetic fire art, a mutant vehicle, and EL wire pieces. He is the creator of LED Lab, the most widely used LED-controller iPad app. He enjoys seeing his work facilitating other artists’ pieces as well as his own. schardt.org
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.