Yesterday was opening day for the new and improved Exploratorium over in San Francisco's Embarcadero. Right around Pier 15, the new space boasts 330,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibits, 150 of them brand new. It also hopes to become the largest net-zero energy museum in the United States — if not the world.
Science is rarely easy to understand and even harder to explain. But here at the Exploratorium, science isn’t hard – it’s fun. Why? In order to learn, you have to play.
Isidro Demry is playing with the Soap Bubble Tray exhibit. The name says it all: it’s a big tray with pools of soapy water. It’s simple, but surprisingly cool. Especially because I played with the same exhibit when I was six years old, then again when I was ten, and now, I watch as it’s used for what must be close to the last time before it leaves for a new home.
The basic definition of the number pi is that it’s doesn’t have an exact value – it’s an infinite calculation. But it is possible to know the exact number of people required to sing a fully orchestrated song about it – sixteen.
I visited San Francisco’s Exploratorium a few days before this year’s Pi Day celebration, to watch a rehearsal of the 16-person band in question. They’re called Buffon’s Needle, a reference to an 18th Century French mathematician who approximated the value of pi by throwing pine needles on the ground.