After Dark: Science Fiction Turned Fact

Thursday, September 9, 2021 • 6:00–10:00 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.

While science fiction is primarily a genre of imagination, there's a tradition of sci-fi speculations slowly emerging as fact. At this After Dark program, dig into technological innovations that, though now familiar (or soon to be familiar), were once the stuff of imaginative conjecture. Learn how these technologies have, or may, have far-reaching impacts. And consider how alternatives to our current realities can grow from acts of the imagination.

Just for Tonight

Afronauts 
By Nuotama Frances Bodomo

6:00–10:00 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3, Phyllis C. Wattis Studio and Osher Gallery 1, Microcinema

Human exploration of space and the possibilities of what may be discovered has long been a central topic in science fiction, and one that is an ever-evolving concern among scientists. Nuotama Frances Bodomo’s Afronauts is set on July 16, 1969, as the world mused about the possibility of the first humans walking on the moon as America prepared to launch Apollo 11. Thousands of miles away, the Zambia Space Academy hopes to beat America to the moon. Inspired by true events, Afronauts is a work of speculative fiction that considers the history and ramifications of the space race within the context of independence movements happening across the African continent in the 1960s.

Nuotama Frances Bodomo is a Ghanaian filmmaker of Dagaaba origin. Afronauts has screened widely and was in several group exhibitions, including the Whitney Museum’s Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016, the 2018 Venice Biennale’s Dimensions of Citizenship, and the 4th edition of the Lubumbashi Biennale in 2015. Nuotama also served as staff writer and director on the Peabody Award–winning first season of Random Acts of Flyness (HBO) and co-founded the New Negress Film Society. 

Steered by the Sun: Zephyr
With CalSol

6:30–9:30 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1

A car fueled by the Sun? While they may not be commercially available (yet!) there is robust development, prototyping, and experimentation happening in the realm of solar-powered vehicles. Get a close-up view of Zephyr, a solar-powered vehicle built by CalSol. It’s fresh off of a cross-country drive from Independence, Missouri, to Las Vegas, Nevada, as part of the biennial American Solar Challenge. Zephyr boasts a long and illustrious career, with more than 7,000 miles logged and back-to-back podium finishes in Formula Sun Grand Prix 2017 and 2018, winning first and then second place. Chat with the CalSol team to learn more about how they built their impressive fleet.

CalSol, the UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team, is a nonprofit whose purpose is to design, build, test, and race fully solar-powered vehicles. Composed of over fifty undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines, CalSol provides students with hands-on experience with real-world engineering, project management, and business aptitude. They have built a multitude of solar cars in the past, racing them at competitions such as the World Solar Challenge, American Solar Challenge, and the Formula Sun Grand Prix.

Drive Along with Waymo
Bechtel Gallery 3

7:00–8:00 p.m.

Step into the virtual driver’s seat of one of Waymo’s autonomously driven vehicles and see the many places it can go. In Arizona, fully autonomous vehicles are currently on the road with the world’s first public autonomous ride-hailing service—Waymo One. By tuning into this livestream, you can follow along as one of the vehicles takes a ride around town. And, chat with some of Waymo’s product and user experience team members to learn how its autonomous driving technology works and helps get people safely from point A to B every day.

DJ Marc Stretch
From Hip Hop for Change

Phyllis C. Wattis Studio
6:30–7:45 and 8:15–9:30 p.m.

Get ready to dance your way through the night as a DJ from Hip Hop for Change sets the vibe and keeps the party moving all night! Tonight we feature Marc Stretch, one half of the Heavyweight Crates crew and the founder of the Futureshock First Friday monthly party in Oakland. He’s known for his unconventional remix style, party-rocking pedigree and has traveled the world, opening for some of the biggest names in hip-hop.

Hip Hop for Change is an Oakland-based nonprofit that uses grassroots activism to educate people about socioeconomic injustices and advocate solutions through hip-hop culture. 

Squeezing and Stretching the Earth with Waves from Space
With Desiré Whitmore

7:30 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1, Kanbar Forum

Can waves that originate from outer space stretch and compress our planet? Can the origin of these waves generate gold in space? If they do, can we utilize giant LASER systems to measure them? Sounds like science fiction, but it might just be science fact! Learn more about the amazing Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and its findings over the last six years. Join Exploratorium scientist and educator Desiré Whitmore, aka the LASERchick as she gives our live After Dark audience a glimpse into what lies ahead in the future of laser technology!

A Southern California native, Desiré Whitmore earned an AS from Antelope Valley College, a BS in chemical engineering from UCLA, and an MS and PhD in chemical and material physics from UC Irvine. Her research focused on developing very fast laser and microscope systems that could capture molecules vibrating and rotating in real time. She joined the Exploratorium’s Teacher’s Institute in 2018. 

Science Fiction Turned Fact 
With Ron Hipschman

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

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 here!

Since joining the Exploratorium in 1971, Ron Hipschman has worked as an exhibit developer, author, teacher, and webcast host. He currently works on the Exploratorium’s Environmental Initiative, implementing and maintaining a collection of environmental monitoring sensors and developing visualizations for the Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery’s super-resolution media wall. 

(Past) Future Visions
6:00–10:00 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1, Mind Cinema

Future speculation is one of humans favorite pastimes. Indulge in a slew of vintage films that showcase the many directions we once thought transportation could be headed. While some visions were spectacularly off the mark, others showcased surprisingly accurate—and specific—insight into just where we were headed. Created during an era of advertising that often looked toward Hollywood norms for inspiration, many of these predictions are nestled into delightfully bizarre musicals. Bonus! Maybe you’ll stumble in at just the right time to hear BART’s confidence-lacking theme song.


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.


After Dark: Science Fiction Turned Fact at the Exploratorium is made possible with the generous support of Waymo.