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Richard O. Brown

Richard O. Brown

Richard O. Brown, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist. He has degrees in neurobiology from Caltech and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, and he was on UC San Diego’s research faculty in the Center for Brain and Cognition before joining the Exploratorium in 1998. Richard’s specialty is perception and psychophysics, and in particular the science and art of human color perception. He is also an internationally recognized expert on visual illusions and demonstrations and has taught visual perception at both UCSD and the San Francisco Art Institute. At the Exploratorium, he was the primary developer or co-developer of almost 100 new exhibits on topics including seeing, listening, attention, biology, AIDS and immunology, the human body, the outdoors, and the mind. He is devoted to applying knowledge from neuroscience and psychology to the problems of human behavior in the climate change crisis.

What’s going on?

A strobe light and a giant phosphorescent screen offer endless posing possibilities in this popular and long-lived exhibit favorite. 

The shadow-catching phosphorescent material on this wall is the same as you’ve probably seen in various “glow-in-the-dark” products. Energy from incoming light gets absorbed in this material in the form of excited electrons, that is, electrons raised to a higher energy state. As these electrons gradually de-excite, they release their energy as a visible glow.

Glow in the dark products, a role of tape and a bird toy Glow-in-the-dark products contain phosphorescent compounds—usually either zinc sulfide or strontium aluminate—that absorb the energy of incoming light and then release it over time. Photo © Lưu Ly.

Related Exhibits

What’s going on?

A strobe light and a giant phosphorescent screen offer endless posing possibilities in this popular and long-lived exhibit favorite. 

The shadow-catching phosphorescent material on this wall is the same as you’ve probably seen in various “glow-in-the-dark” products. Energy from incoming light gets absorbed in this material in the form of excited electrons, that is, electrons raised to a higher energy state. As these electrons gradually de-excite, they release their energy as a visible glow.

Glow in the dark products, a role of tape and a bird toy Glow-in-the-dark products contain phosphorescent compounds—usually either zinc sulfide or strontium aluminate—that absorb the energy of incoming light and then release it over time. Photo © Lưu Ly.

Related Exhibits