Exploratorium After Dark

This adult-only event series is a hit in the City.

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In the ongoing, adult-only, first-Thursday "After Dark" series at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, "Resolution" was examined in January with colored LEDs, pinhole camera obscuras, and taste tests.
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The biggest draw was the appearance of Cubatron L4, a bunch of plastic balls filled with color lights and sequenced microprocessors that delight onlookers for hours.
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Spectators could watch Cubatron cycle through its effects from below while laying down underneath the 4,000 flashing, pulsing, colored LED lights.
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One of my favorite things about this art piece is that it looks completely different from afar, almost like you are watching a giant television screen. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get far enough away Thursday night to see this, which was fine.
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Magic glasses are available to enhance the view from below. (Look at how clean the floor, and these people are!)
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The glasses are highly recommended for at least a minute or two. They certainly enhance the experience and usually bring a smile to the face of the wearer.
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As you can see, the special film on the lens multiplies the image considerably and ramps up the psychedelic factor.
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Shaz Hosein and Emmanuel Hosein
A look through the glasses.
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Cubatron artist and inventor Mark Lottor was on hand to answer any and all questions about the piece.
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Lottor brought a computer to show how multiple effects could be layered and mixed together with the all-new software he recently finished creating.
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Lottor first started in 2004 with Cubatron Jr. which can now be seen in the lobby of the W Hotel in Dallas, TX.
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Lottor answered endless questions from people like Eric Moeller who was thrilled to finally get to quiz the Cubatron creator. "I just think it is the coolest thing! It's amazing!," Moeller said.
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Lottor first used ping pong balls, but found them to be highly flammable, turn yellow over time, and not be able to hold up to rain. Lottor has since used custom plastic balls only.
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Still photos are great, but to really see what is going on, you must watch a video. If you've never seen Cubatron in real life, a youtube search should be in your future.
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Each ball has six LED lights inside, two red, two blue, and two green. A microprocessor is also snuggled inside with the six lights that can control each light in each ball independently.
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If you look closely, you can see four cubes here. Each cube is made up of 100 strands of 10 balls each containing 1,000 balls total. This display had 4,000 balls with 24,000 individually synced LED lights.
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Neverwas Haul mastermind Shannon O'Hare (left) and wife Kathy O'Hare took what looked like the best seat in the house: a couch along the wall with a perfect view of the Cubatron.
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Cubatron artist and inventor Mark Lottor (left) said this year "I'm probably going to be focused on developing the software for the next year." His new software makes it possible to control the cube "live" on the fly.
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2010 large-scale Burning Man artist Marco Cochrane talks to Lottor about lighting Bliss Dance, a 40-foot tall nude female figure standing on one leg.
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"I started doing Cubatron-ish Christmas trees [that are] 50 feet and 110 feet tall," Lottor said. He sold one of each to customers on the East Coast and plans to sell some more come the end of 2010.
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Glasses on or off, the Cubatron rules!
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Colin Bouring wore an outfit he made called the "Anemone Suit" that looked a bit like a mobile Cubatron. Jennifer Bergeron (right) and Karly Smith seem to like it.
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The Cubatron wasn't the only thing to look at... Antares Pham tries out a pinhole camera obscura.
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Brenda Viglienzoni (left) and Bernadette Bridgewater came with a group called "Events & Adventures Club" to the Exploratorium for the night, where they also checked out the pinhole cameras.
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Ryoko Matsumoto pokes holes in the aluminum foil at the end of the camera in the form of an eggplant.
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When looking at the light, the image poked in the foil is doubled and flipped upside down.
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Scope on a Rope was a fun spot where you could point a glowing gun at something and see it magnified up on the screen.
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In another section of the museum, taste tests were held to see if people are super-tasters or not.
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Chemicals on filter papers would taste terrible if you were a "super-taster," semi-bad if you were a "taster" or like nothing at all if you were a "non-taster."
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Jessica Faulk said, "It was bitter. It took a moment for me, I don't know if it was the worst ever so I don't think I'm a super-taster, but we are going to go back and take the second test to see."
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After a pallet-cleansing sampling of Skittles, people prepared themselves for the second test.
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Asher Feldman swabs his decks.
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Yale Professor Linda Bartoshuk (not pictured) came up with this experiment, where people die their tongues and then count their taste buds.
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Deidre O'Neill checks her tongue in the mirror to count the number of taste buds inside the white circle.
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Scientific staffer Karen Kalumuck shows what you should be looking for. Super tasters might have as much as 50 taste buds in the circle, while non-tasters could have as few as five.
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Carla Catalina uses a flashlight on her tongue to help count her taste buds.
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Another one-night-only exhibit at the January "After Dark" was this "Animanemone."
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Dorian Kim touches the "first large working prototype from the stepper array challenge." Each of these plastic tubes spin around in an expanding wave pattern like a sea anemone reacting to the tide.
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The spinning tubes
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"People have decided it is interactive even though it is not so we want to get it to that point," said Bruce Shapiro, one of the designers with aritst Alan Kilian.
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The main even was certainly the Cubatron. To find out more check out this site: http://www.3waylabs.com/projects/
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Next month's After Dark topic is "Sexplorations." I can only imagine what types of experiments and displays will be showcased at that one. You may want to get your tickets early for Thursday, February 4, 2010...
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