Pi Day at the Exploratorium

We visited the Exploratorium on March 14, taking advantage of free admission on Pi Day. The Exploratorium is a San Francisco museum that fosters learning about science through hands-on exhibits. March 14 is 3.14 using dot notation, and 3.14 is a short approximation for pi, a mathematical constant that equals the ratio of a circles circumference to its diameter. So March 14 is pi day. Cute idea, and the free admission persuaded us to attend.

Shown below, the museum organized a parade celebrating pi, showing pi to 500 digits. The blue sign with “pi day” leads the parade, followed by photo of Einstein, who was born on 3.14. Then two adults holding a 3 and probably a decimal point, facing away from us. The next digits are 14159 26535 89793 2. It’s tough to get people interested in an abstract number like pi. The 500 parade people got a slice of pi(e), along with the next 1,000 people. These was also a pizza pie demo. The Exploratorium people certainly tried hard!

pi day parade
pi day parade

The Exploratorium is on the San Francisco bay. The patio has a great view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Yerba Buena Island, and Treasure Island on the far left.

Bay Bridge
Bay Bridge

My favorite exhibit is the camera obscura, an ancient type of optical instrument that projects an image of the surrounding landscape onto a surface inside a small chamber. The white structure below is a camera obscura, a small, light-proof chamber that you walk into.

camera obscura
camera obscura

Here’s the image projected inside the camera obscura — the bay, bay bridge, and ferry — the view from the patio. Of course, the ferry moved in the projected image.

image from camera obscura
image from camera obscura

As you can see, the camera obscura projects an image of the outside world onto a surface inside. In Vermeer’s Camera, the theory is that Johannes Vermeer used a camera obscura to aid his painting. He could trace the projected image to start his painting.

When you can see a scientific concept in front of you, it’s much more real and understandable than reading a book. That’s the idea behind the hands-on exhibits of the Exploratorium. 


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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