After Dark: Glowing Science

Thursday, December 2, 2021 • 6:00 p.m. PT

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Adults Only (18+)

Note: Free for members and donors—only a membership card and ID required for entry. The Tactile Dome is currently closed.

Watch science come to light at After Dark. Light is all around us, bringing energy and color to our world in a whole spectrum of ways. At this After Dark, encounter bioluminescent creatures, musical LASERs, and glowing bacteria. Learn about the science of what makes things glow—and experience demos from artists and makers who harness light to transformative effect. And don't miss the collection of luminous sculptures spread throughout our museum galleries as part of Glow: Discover the Art of Light. 

Just for tonight:

Glowcopters 
With Viv Altmann 

6:30–8:30 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3

Make yourself a glowcopter and take it home. Glowcopters are  simple, spinning light-up aerial toys that are sure to bring you a small bit of joy!

Laser Susans 
With Dina Herring and Caroline Hermans

6:30–9:30 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3, Light Lab

Got two turntables and a laser pen? Explore the magic of phosphorescence as we spin the light fantastic. Create kinetic light sculptures using UV lasers and pendulums. 

Multimedia Shadow Puppetry 
With Facing West Shadows

6:30–9:30 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3

Drawing from the traditions of shadow-puppet theater, psychedelic light shows, and mixed-media installation, members of Facing West Shadows offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the visual layers and handcrafted details that merge as they craft their shadow-play-based artworks and performances. Try your hand at the process as they invite you to experiment and play with elements of their setup.

Glowing Insects and Arachnids
With Ralph Washington, Jr.

6:30–9:30 p.m.
Gallery 4, Bio area

Nocturnal arthropods cannot rely on the Sun for visual communication, so they must produce their own light. Fireflies use light for courtship, cave-dwelling fungus gnats use light to attract and feed on mayflies, and glowworm beetles and millipedes use it to deter predators. Many arthropods are also manipulated by light. Join entomologist Ralph Washington Jr. for  some hands-on activities to illuminate your understanding of how gleams and glows affect the lives of arthropods.

Luminous Experiments
With the Stanford Optical Society

6:30–9:30 p.m.

Join the Stanford Optical Society for some hands-on light play and learning—play the invisible strings of a laser harp, experience the ways light and water can interact, and try their new Schlieren imaging demo. It’ll have you seeing air in a whole new light!

Neon-Bending Demo
With Meryl Pataky 

7:00, 8:00, and 9:00 p.m.

Neon signs serve as beautiful, glowing beacons that activate our city streets. Did you know that every single one is made by hand? Join artist Meryl Pataky at this neon-bending demo, where she’ll share the steps of the process and the unique tools used in neon-bending. 

What Can the Moon Teach Us?
With Ken Finn
7:30 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1, Kanbar Forum

Fifty-two years ago, humans got up close and personal with the moon. However, our planet's only natural satellite has always been part of the human condition. Come learn about the phases of the moon and what on Earth responds to this ever-changing yet repeating cycle as Exploratorium educator Ken Finn makes these gradual cyclic changes more understandable. 

Glow Science 
With Ron Hipschman

8:30 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1, Kanbar Forum

Why do things give off light? There are many ways to make light, and all of them involve exciting atoms and molecules in some way. Join Exploratorium physicist Ron Hipschman to investigate some of the more colorful ways to make things glow. Using electricity, heat, and light, he’ll conduct a variety of demonstrations to illuminate the electromagnetic spectrum. Participants will receive a pair of diffraction grating glasses to take home. 

Light Demos 
With the Explainers

6:00–10:00 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3 Explainer Station

Explore all things light! Make a working lightbulb model and play games comparing different unknown light sources. 

Indoor Bar Inside Gallery 3 Classroom
Bechtel Gallery 3
6:00–9:30 p.m. 

Glowing Bacteria
6:00–10:00 p.m.
Gallery 4, Bio area

Glowing bacteria are an unsolved mystery. Why do they glow? Check out this hands-on exhibit that invites you to adjust airflow into a tank filled with bacteria, resulting in beautiful glowing patterns of light. 

You may also encounter some glowing scorpion molts nearby!


Food and drinks will be available to purchase in our Seaglass Restaurant and at the outdoor bar in Gallery 5 to enjoy in those designated spaces during After Dark. Please note that there is no drinking or eating allowed elsewhere in the museum at this time.

Curious about what to expect during your visit? Check out our current safety protocols and guidelines.