After Dark: Spin

Thursday, September 1, 2016 • 6:00–10:00 p.m.

Exploratorium, Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street)

$15 General; $10 Members; Free for Lab Members; $10 Add-On Ticket for the Tactile Dome Available for Purchase Onsite

Adults Only (18+)

Note: Some programs have limited seating and will be made available to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wheels do it. Electrons do it. Even plants and planets do it. Explore a universal motion at Spin.

Learn how physicist Carl Haber digitally maps old recordings to recover lost sounds, and hear how the spinning tendencies of electrons shape the entire physical world from physicist Robert Cahn. Find out what plants know about numbers through the spiralling sculptures of John Edmark, and untangle the secrets of silk-producing insects and spiders with entomologist Ralph Washington, Jr.

Give big-top tricks a whirl with Circus Center and get your fibers in a twist with Spindles and Flyers. Pedal artist Natalie Trujillo's bicycle-powered treadle lathe to help carve a wooden top, or make one of your own—as well as rotocopters, thaumatropes, and homopolar motors. Looping films round out the evening with dizzying scenes and mesmerizing abstractions.


Unwinding the Groove: Recovering Historical Sound Recordings
With Carl Haber
7:30 p.m.   |  Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery

Sound was first recorded around 1860, and first reproduced in 1877. Until about 1950, when magnetic tape use became common, most recordings were made on media such as wax, foil, shellac, lacquer, and plastic. Some older recordings contain material of great historical value, but are damaged, decaying, or now too delicate to play.

Learn how techniques based on optics and image processing have helped recover some of the earliest recordings. Explore how digital surface profiles of recordings are created and analyzed without any mechanical contact—and how mathematics can emulate a stylus’ spin to reconstruct lost sounds.

Phyllotactic Spirals and the Art of John Edmark
With Paul Dancstep

8:00 p.m.  |  Kanbar Forum

What do plants know about numbers? A certain spiral pattern commonly seen in sunflowers, pinecones, and many species of cacti contains some surprising numerical properties. In this brisk talk, Paul Dancstep investigates this pattern through several kinetic sculptures by artist John Edmark. These mesmerizing artworks provide a number of insights into the mathematical lives of plants.

Spinners and Spinnerets
With Ralph Washington, Jr.
6:30–9:30 p.m.  |  East Gallery Corridor

Silk is an amazing biological material. Stronger than steel cable, silk is stored as a fluid and secreted from both ends of the alimentary canal. From caterpillars making cocoons to bolas spiders lassoing moths, arthropods use silk to protect themselves from predators, and predators in turn use it to capture their prey. Join entomologist Ralph Washington, Jr. to imagine what life would be like with your own internal reservoir of superstrong silly string.

Spin and the Quantum Rules for Apartment Rentals
With Robert Cahn
8:30 p.m.  |  Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery

Almost all elementary particles act as if they are spinning. Scientists once believed that this spin would always be 0, 1, 2... measured in the units of quantum mechanics. Yet the spin of electrons turned out to be ½. Moreover, particles with spin ½ can’t really share space with each other. This fact shapes the entire physical world.

What’s in a spin ½? Picture the locations available to electrons as apartment rentals. The rules for renting determine the structure of atoms and molecules. If electrons had spin 0, sharing would not just be allowed, but desired. All electrons would end up sharing the same apartment, with dire consequences.

Phi-Based Sculptures
By John Edmark

6:00­–10:00 p.m.  |  Kanbar Forum

“If change is the only constant in nature, it is written in the language of geometry.” —John Edmark

Encounter the surprising structures hidden within pinecones, artichokes, pineapples, and other natural phenomena through the kinetic sculptures and transformable objects of John Edmark. Interact with both artist and spiral-based artworks to understand the subtle connections between logarithmic spirals, the Fibonacci series, and the golden ratio.

Energy Kite
With Makani Power
6:30–9:30 p.m.  |  Bechtel Central Gallery

Examine a massive energy kite, a new type of wind turbine that can generate more energy with less materials than conventional wind turbines. Discuss its elegant technology with Makani staff and watch videos of the kite being tested in the field.

Makani was founded in 2006 by Corwin Hardham, Don Montague, and Saul Griffith to harness untapped wind resources more efficiently. At the time, Makani was also part of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), designing and testing our 20 kW energy kite prototype.

Over the first five years of development, and thousands of hours of field testing, the energy kite evolved from a fabric kite powering a generator on the ground to a high-performance kite with on-board power generation. In May 2013, Makani was acquired by Google and is now working within the Google [x] team to make energy kites and widespread clean energy a commercial reality.


Plate Spinning and Diabolo Yo-Yos
With Circus Center
6:30­–9:30 p.m.  |  Bernard and Barbro Osher West Gallery

Give big-top tricks a whirl with Circus Center. Try your hand at plate spinning and diabolo yo-yo, and learn the many ways that circus performers put a spin on their acts—and find out how to master these skills yourself.

Spin on Spin on Spin 
With Natalie Trujillo

6:30–9:30 p.m.  |  South Gallery

Woodturning has existed for millennia. In ancient Egypt, woodturning required one person to cut or shape the wood and another to spin the lathe. Many mechanical marvels evolved to spin wood before electricity, and one such method is the treadle—a foot-powered lever requiring that a person be able to rub their tummy and pat their head at the same time.

Artist Natalie Trujillo grew up listening to her mother sewing on her grandma’s treadle sewing machine, and now turns wood on a treadle lathe. When she hooked up the lathe to her bike, she found that pedal beat treadle feet down. Take her treadle lathe for a spin, and help turn solid wood into a spinning top.

Homopolar Motors
With Tinkering Studio Staff

6:30–9:30 p.m.  |  South Gallery, Tinkering Studio

Design with copper wire, batteries, and magnets to create a whimsical, spinning sculpture.

Thaumatropes, Tops, and Rotocopters
With Explorables

7:00–10:00 p.m.  |  Bechtel Central Gallery

Make a thaumatrope, a Victorian-era toy that spins two pictures into a single image with the help of string and persistence of vision.

Rotocopters are a cross between spinning maple seeds and modern propellers. How far can your rotocopter fly?

Tops come in all shapes and sizes. Use a variety of building materials to experiment with different spins in this classic Exploratorium activity.

Spin a Yarn
With Spindles & Flyers Spinning Guild

6:30–9:30 p.m. | East Gallery

Follow a “sheep to shawl” demonstration by members of this local spinning guild and then take some fiber for a spin.

Chocolate Spin Art
With Recchiuti Confections

6:30–9:30 p.m.  |  East Gallery Corridor

To create an edible work of art, select a bar of dark milk or semisweet chocolate, and use fluid, tempered cocoa butter in an original children’s spin art machine. Slowly drizzle cocoa butter onto the spinning bar, layering colors to create different, intricate effects. Once the cocoa butter has dried, slide your original art bar(s) into cellophane wrappers to purchase.


Sync (2011, 9 min., looping)  
By Max Hattler
6:00–10:00 p.m.  |  Bernard and Barbro Osher West Gallery

According to animator Max Hattler, “Sync is based on the idea that there is an underlying unchanging synchronization at the center of everything; a sync that was decided at the very beginning of time. Everything follows from it, everything is ruled by it: all time, all physics, all life. And all animation."

Bronx. Three (2013, 4 min., looping)
By Stephen Shanabrook and Veronika Georgieva
6:00–10:00 p.m.  |  Bernard and Barbro Osher West Gallery, Mind Cinema

To create Bronx. Three, filmmakers Stephen Shanabrook and Veronika Georgieva put a video camera on the wheel of a car and recorded from the moving hubcap’s perspective. The result is a dizzying combination of figurative scenes and kaleidoscopic abstractions.