I spent this summer in San Francisco doing an internship. I was planned on going to the Exploratorium as a tourist trip for my last weekend. I pushed back my visit quite a few times in replacement for other tourist activities, such a sightseeing.
A science trip to the Exploratorium
My day trip started at 11:00am at the BART station. By noon, I arrived at the Embarcadero station which is located in the financial district. I decided to stroll around the ferry building for a few minutes looking at the architecture. Afterwards, I walked to the Embarcadero plaza and sat down in the shade. I took out my phone to read a few blog posts. At about 1:00pm, I had some lunch and headed to the Exploratorium.
When I arrived, the first thing I did was look up the admission price. For an adult, the price was $29. That is a lot of money to spend for 2 to 3 hours of entertainment. I did expect it to be pricey, even after previously looking up the price online. I decided to look around. It was not busy. At the same time, there was enough people to make it feel lively. In the end, I decided not to go anyway. My newly freed time was now diverted to sitting on a cushion chair looking through the glass windows watching other people have fun. After that, I took out my phone and started reading my favorite blog again. So far, I am sure this story is not very interesting.
As mentioned before, the place was not crowded and there was a lot of interactive exhibits. Perhaps it was more enjoyable to sit down and enjoy the moment. In addition to visiting the Exploratorium, I had to buy some Ghirardelli chocolates before I left, so the trip was not a waste.
At the time of writing this, I was walking to the wonderful chocolate indulgence plaza. On Bay Street, the side of the road was complete full of parked cars. Most interestingly, they had blue windshields. Knowing what that means, I turned my head 90 degrees. The windshields turn white. How does this happen you ask? I am wearing anti-glare sunglasses!
It dawns on me, I saved $29 in real money, (not % off sale money), and I was able to experience an awesome science experiment. The next part of this post will include some cool, science experiments that you might experience in everyday life, and of which I happened to think about during the rest of my hike.
Simple science ideas
- Doppler Effect: Experience the Doppler Effect by listening to a passing fire truck, as what happened when I was walking to the chocolate store.
- Low pressure: on a windy day, walk to an intersection and hide behind a building. Then, walk across the street and feel the pressure difference.
- Wires: Go to a cable car and figure out how pulling a lever can make it go up a 35 degree incline.
- Solar: Get a solar calculator, the ones you used in elementary school. Turn it on and watch it turn off when you cover the front of it.
- Optics & Vision: Setup a non-dangerous obstacle course with some friends. Exchange glasses, and have fun trying to complete the course.
- Centripetal force: Go to a park and place objects on that spinning ride, watch them fly off when you spin it. Another option would be to spin it really fast, and pump some water on the center. You could even make it into a summer cool down event.
After the chocolate comes a crowd
That previous section was not probably the most useful, purely in terms of educational content, but it sure was fun to write about. Three miles in, I arrived at Ghirardelli’s. At the time, I realized it would be better to visit Lombard Street, otherwise my chocolate would fully melt. Once there, it dawned on me that this was not be best idea. It was crowded, loud, steep, and hot. Being a tourist is hard, when one tries to have quite time in a busy place. This brings up another cool science phenomena called a “crowd”.
What is interesting about a crowd is the way it behaves. When one person attempts to cross a street, other people follow. Then, when a crossing guard says it is not safe to cross, the entity backs away. Other times, people move with crowds and form a line on a path. When presented with a wider space, such as a cross walk, the crown will expand. Then, people on the outside will try to pass the slower individuals within the blob.
Even if I did not have a good time at Lombard Street, watching the crowed gave me a little grin that lasted just long enough to make it worth the trip. My final, most enjoyable science adventure is to find a busy place. Find a safe and secure area and watch how the crowds interact.