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July 20, 2008

Hands-on science center blows your 'Mind'

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the gallery of the Palace of Fine Arts, an elegant edifice that is gateway to the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco harbors a much-applauded hands-on science center: the Exploratorium.

Founded in 1969 by Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, this interactive museum provides the opportunity to combine an educational adventure with rib-tickling entertainment.

Nature, microscopic science, outer space and the human body share center stage. More than 600 exhibits invite visitors to touch, hear, feel, visualize and create.

Guests can examine visual perception in the "Seeing" exhibit, study the characteristics common to all living things in "Traits of Life," explore the world of electricity, heat and all things relating to matter and enter the realm of audio perception through exhibits all geared toward the wonderful world sound.

The newest addition is "Mind," which arrived late last year and remains through December. With more than 40 new exhibits inhabiting 5,000 square feet of space, "Mind" invites visitors to explore the way their mind works by seeing if they can detect a lie in "Poker Face." You can also find out if you are a risk taker by standing beneath a hanging piano or see if you can be a great conversationalist with a computer.

Also new and available throughout the summer is the Superstition Obstacle Course. This interactive exhibit lets visitors test their superstitions by breaking mirrors, forgoing the chance to "knock on wood" and throwing caution to the wind by walking under ladders.

Remember high school science and how the best days were when hands-on experiments were slated? Well, at the Exploratorium, its hands-on science every day, for everyone to enjoy.

WHERE: 3601 Lyon St. at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco's Marina District, off Highway 101 near the Golden Gate Bridge

WHEN: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

COST: Adults (18-64) $14; students (18+ with ID), seniors (65+) and youth (13-17) $11; children (4-12) $9; children 3 and under are free. Admission is free to all on the first Wednesday of each month.

GETTING THERE: Take Interstate 580 over the Altamont Pass and continue through Oakland to the Bay Bridge. Cross the Bay Bridge and follow the signs to the Ninth Street exit. Stay in the right lane. Turn right onto Ninth and move to the left lane. Cross Market Street and immediately veer left onto Hayes Street. Turn right onto Van Ness Avenue. Turn left onto Lombard (look for signs to the Golden Gate Bridge) and move into the right lane. At Lyon Street, turn right. At the T intersection, turn left onto Palace Drive. Follow it around the Palace of Fine Arts to the entrance of the parking lot, on your left.

DRIVE TIME: 1 hour, 45 minutes from Modesto (MapQuest)

MORE INFORMATION: 415-561-0360 or online at

To comment, click on the link with this story at Bee assistant librarian Karen Aiello can be reached at or 578-2392.

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