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Adults Only (18+)
Note: This evening also includes a donor-exclusive offering.
The Tactile Dome and some programs have limited capacity and are available to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.
Life comes at you fast—but sometimes it’s hard to observe, because it’s too tiny or speedy or is hidden underground, or is deep in the ocean. Discover what you’ve been missing: use scientific tools to investigate living things of all different sizes, the ecosystems they inhabit, and the processes they share. Don’t miss award-winning New York Times columnist and the author Carl Zimmer.
Lose yourself in thought-provoking programs and mind-bending experiences at adults-only After Dark Thursdays—including more than 650 interactive exhibits exploring perception, art, and science. Grab some friends, stash your stuff in our musical lockers, get a drink at one of our pop-up bars or food at Seaglass Restaurant, and start exploring. You may find that things look different after dark.
Exploring our Genetic Past and Future
With Carl Zimmer in Conversation with Jennifer Frazier
7:30 p.m. | Gallery 4
Knowledge may be power, but what about genetic information? Join celebrated science writer and New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer, in conversation with Exploratorium scientist Jennifer Frazier, for a profoundly original perspective on the role our genes play in who we become. Explore new ways of thinking about the genes we carry from generation to generation, and how genetic information can be used—or misused—to advance agendas. Zimmer’s new book, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, will be available for purchase and signing at the program.
Full-Spectrum Science: Science Fiction Turned Fact
With Ron Hipschman
8:00 p.m. | Osher Gallery 1, Kanbar Forum
Join Exploratorium scientist Ron Hipschman for colorful explorations of the physical world.
Science fiction has predicted many things. Some have come true (think touch screens, submarines, bionic limbs), others, not so much—or at least, not yet. If you’ve ever wondered where your flying car or rocket belt is, or why you don’t yet have a robot servant, find out at Full-Spectrum Science.
Creepy Crawly Science and Conversation on Screen
With the producers and scientists behind Deep Look
8:30 p.m. | Bechtel Gallery 3, Wattis Webcast Studio
Deep Look is a short video series that explores big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small. Go behind the series and hear harrowing tales from its producers and the scientists they worked with to capture some of their creepier creature videos. From face mites to leeches to ticks and more, get ready to have that creepy-crawly feeling just in time for Halloween.
Hidden Nature SF: Unmasking Historical Ecology
With Sean Baumgarten and Micaela Bazo
8:30 p.m. | Bechtel Gallery 3
The place we now call San Francisco was once a radically different landscape from its current urbanized form—home to the Ohlone and defined by vast, wind-swept sand dunes and tidal marshes teeming with life. Despite transformation over the past 250 years, hidden creeks, remnant natural areas, rising shorelines, and native wildlife still shape the city’s character and resilience. Join Sean Baumgarten and Micaela Bazo of the San Francisco Estuary Institute to learn more about historical ecology and the collaborative project Hidden Nature SF, which uses the lens of the past to prompt discussion around the potentials of the future.
Deep Look: Genetics
6:00–7:30 p.m. | Bechtel Gallery 3, Wattis Webcast Studio
From pygmy seahorses to praying mantises, uncover surprising stories of adaptation and evolution in this screening of shorts from KQED's science and nature series Deep Look. Drawn from their archive of over 100 videos giving a macro view of nature’s mysteries, you’ll see some of the unusual tactics these creatures use to pass on their genes and survive. Note: this screening is approximately 15 minutes and will run on a loop from 6:00–7:30 p.m. Want more Deep Look? Come back at 8:30 p.m. for harrowing tales from the producers and the scientists they worked with on several of their creepiest creature videos.
Tracing San Francisco’s Lost Landscape
With the San Francisco Estuary Institute
6:30–8:30 p.m. | Bechtel Gallery 3
Join the team behind Hidden Nature SF to identify and observe the ways in which our local ecologies and habitats have shifted over time. Hidden Nature SF uses interdisciplinary science and visualization techniques to synthesize historical archival data into a completely new perspective through which to view the familiar city. Let the team guide you in an activity that compares historic maps and photographs of San Francisco with more recent documentation, prompting conversation and observation around what has changed and what remains the same.
With the Lim Lab and the Cell Design Institute
6:30–9:30 p.m. | Bechtel Gallery 3
A robot swarm may sound like something out of science fiction, but a collaboration between UCSF’s Lim Lab and the Self-Organizing Systems Lab at Harvard is very real. Kilobots—simple collective robot swarms—have only basic sensing and movement abilities, but are able to communicate and self-organize in complex ways. Stop by and find out how the Lim Lab is using them to simulate and teach about molecular and cellular collective systems.
Deep Look: Creepy Crawly Specimen Stations
6:30–9:30 p.m. | Bechtel Gallery 3
Test your fear factor at creepy specimen stations hosted by the producers of KQED’s Deep Look. Learn about microscopic mites and have them pulled from your own skin, and get intimate insight into other unusual bugs and insects like tenacious ticks. Discover more at 8:30 p.m., when Deep Look presents Creepy Crawly Science and Conversation on Screen.
Take a Cellfie
With Exploratorium Staff
8:00–9:30 p.m. | Gallery 4, Bio Bar
Get ready for the ultimate close-up and take a photo of yourself with your very own cells. Learn about the tiny building blocks that make up your body by viewing your own cheek cells under a microscope. Then take your own “cell-fie” and double-expose your face with an image of your cells, showing off what you look like at two vastly different magnifications.
Join us for an exclusive donor reception celebrating the opening month of our new life sciences exhibit collection, Cells to Self: Exploring the Life Inside You. Mix and mingle with the curators and project team—they’ll be on hand to tell you the science and stories behind each exhibit.
We’ll also be joined by a special guest: New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer. Donors also have reserved seating for Zimmer’s presentation at After Dark.
Note: This event is one of many donor benefits that allow you to support and explore the Exploratorium in its 50th anniversary year. To learn more about becoming a donor and how to attend this event and those like it, please contact us.
6:00–9:45 unless noted
Various locations throughout the museum
Ticketing at 6:00 p.m., first come, first served
Osher Gallery 1
Draw hypnotically flowing patterns with a swinging table, and watch friction cause the patterns to slowly shrink along a spiral path. Pick up a ticket to reserve your spot in line for this popular activity.
Bechtel Gallery 3
Tune in to surrounding sounds by experimenting with strings and vibrations, and use electromagnets to build a basic speaker. Learn how to listen with your bones, and explore the workings of the inner ear.
Van de Graaff Generator
With the Explainers
Bechtel Gallery 3
Get ready to have your hair stand on end (literally). Experience our electrostatic generator firsthand—with high-voltage direct-current electricity turned down to low current levels, our Van de Graaff generator both will, and won’t, shock you. Please keep your hands on the sphere until our Explainers tell you to let go!
Cow Eye or Flower Dissection (alternating)
Do cows see color? How does a lens work? Examine the intricate structure of a cow eye to learn about similar structures in our own eyes, as well as some key differences.
Stigma, stamen, pistil, anther, style: Uncover the beautiful architecture of flower anatomy, and gather some surprising strategies that plants use to reproduce.
Osher Gallery 1
Everything is not as it seems—at first. Pick a card, any card, and watch the Explainers reveal some surprising aspects of human perception.