Take a ride on the wild side at the LHS


Through January 2, 2011, the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) is hosting Scream Machines: The Science of Roller Coasters. The exhibit incorporates hands-on designing of mini-coasters, as well as human-sized demos that explore the physiology of coaster-induced thrill, including a hydraulically-powered cart and a spinning, tummy butterfly-inducing room. Six Flags, you have competition (and the LHS has the better view).

A model of double-stranded DNA (which bears an odd resemblance to a roller coaster) outside the LHS

Of course, if Scream Machines is too much for you (and I don’t blame you… the spinning room absolutely “met” my expectations), Forces That Shape the Bay is a sunny, stationary alternative–and you get to play with water and sand tables and stand on earthquake simulations and… well, you get the picture. There’s plenty to do here for the kids, and for the kid-like adult (such as myself).

Other LHS highlights include the KidsLab with humongous, colorful building blocks, and Ingenuity in Action with example constructions that even my graduate student engineer friends failed to outdo. Curious about nano? Explore everything nano-small in the nanoZone, including Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images of everyday surfaces! If that’s not enough to entertain you, there’s also Science on a Sphere, a suspended globe with real earthquake tracking, and a life-sized fin whale replica on the entryway terrace.

You may remember my rave review of their Saturday night stargazing program. Other special events include an all-digital planetarium with shows daily, birthday parties for your science-curious little ones (by reservation only), and a preschooler workshop at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center every second Saturday of the month. Oh yeah, and much, much more.

So, think you can handle Scream Machines? The LHS is open daily 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $12 for adults, $9 for student/senior/disabled, and $3 for children ages 3-6. Under age 3 are free. And, as usual, Cal students are admitted free!

(Have a great Scream Machines story for the rest of us? Leave a comment! It’s okay, I promise we’ll laugh with you.)