Exploratorium exhibits

We get it. Six galleries filled with more than 600 exhibits can be a bit daunting. Here's some exceptionally cool stuff to check out the first time around. K.T.

The Aeolian Harp: Artist Doug Hollis has "reimagined" a piece he first created with Oppenheimer around '75 for the roof of the Palace of Fine Arts. Now perched between Piers 15 and 17, the Harp is a wind-activated sound structure that translates the Bay's breezes into eerie music.

Animation Station: Create your own stop-motion animation sequence and upload the brilliance immediately to YouTube.

Fog Bridge: Crafted by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya, the Fog Bridge is a 150-foot-long pedestrian walkway between Piers 15 and 17 which is constantly wrapped in clouds of fog thanks to a thousand high-pressure mist nozzles. At night, the ghostly walk will be lit for an otherworldly feel.

Giant (Parabolic) Mirror: Originally built in Germany as a flight simulator, it was once housed in the Smithsonian. See yourself upside down and huge. Weirder still? Even tiny objects far away look crystal clear.

Glass Settling Plate: A high-powered microscope offers a spectacularly up-close-and-personal look at the creatures that make their home in the Bay on everything from cargo ships to pier pilings.

Musical Bench: Take a seat with a friend and make some strange music. A microcomputer sends a small electric current when you complete the circuit between the two armrests. The electrical signal then turns into musical notes. Being sweaty-palmed is desirable for once.

Remote Rains: A new exhibit that lets its visitors select and experience past storms — recreating the frequency, size, and velocity of a particular storm's raindrops — all gathered by the NOAA. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) "Umbrellas recommended."

Tinker Clock: Designed by English engineer (and cartoonist) Tim Hunkin, this towering clock — reminiscent of both the grandfather and cuckoo varieties, but somehow neither — is whimsical and wonderful. Make sure to catch it on the hour to see its motors whir into action and reveal a tinker-worthy surprise.

Visualizing the Bay: A new topographic relief map of the San Francisco Bay Area becomes an interactive projection offering visual data from earthquakes and tides to fog patterns and population distribution according to age and ethnicity. Visitors can choose between a variety of presentations that offer context and insight between the natural and built worlds of San Francisco.

Wind Table and Wind Tubes: Take flight! Construct a variety of flying machines and see how they'd fare by testing them in columns of moving air.

 
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