Earthquake ride and other new science adventures in Golden Gate Park
“Seismophobia’ is a term for the exaggerated fear of
earthquakes. Confronting that fear by riding out a simulated quake is
one learning adventure in the new Earth and Space Hall in San
Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Opened in October, the hall is at
the Natural History Museum of the California Academy of Sciences.
Most compelling exhibit is the “safequake’ ride. You
join a small group aboard a specially engineered shake-table for a
series of simulated tremors, culminating in a 6.5-magnitude jolt
(equivalent to the temblor that rocked Coalinga, California, in May
As you ride, you’ll hear the sounds of actual quakes.
It’s hoped that the total effect will motivate riders to take
earth-quake-preparedness action at home.
Nearby, you can monitor two working seismographs. Other exhibits
deal with plate tectonics and volcanism. The latter one helps you
recognize a caldera and lets you feel the differences between various
As you enter the 4,400-square-foot hall, stop to meet “The Old
Woman,’ second largest meteorite ever found in the United States.
In 1976, this pockmarked chunk of iron and nickel, weighing 2 1/2 tons,
was discovered by prospectors in the Old Woman Mountains of San
Bernardino County, California.
Suspended from the ceiling is a spectacular model of our solar
system. The planets, scaled so 1 inch equals 3,000 kilometers, rotate
at relative speeds. A mural depicts star life, from birth to death.
Want to know your weight on other planets? Scales with digital
readouts will tell you, for example, that if you weigh 100 pounds on
Earth, you’d weigh 16 on the Moon, but 287 on gigantic Jupiter.
At a laser disc player, you have computerassisted access to a
library of color photographs taken on recent NASA missions, including
space shuttle flights.
In the renovated Morrison Planetarium, the traditional
“Christmas Star’ show will run from November 30 through
January 1. Until November 25, the “Great American Star
Factory’ show explains how celestial effects are projected onto the
65-foot dome. The 45-minute shows run several times daily. Admission
to the planetarium is extra: $2 for adults, 75 cents for ages under 17
Museum admission, including entry to the new hall and Steinhart
Aquarium, is $2 for adults, $1 for ages 12 to 17, 75 cents for ages 6 to
11; free for members; free for all on the first Wednesday of every
month. Hours are 10 to 5 daily.
Photo: Safe-quake simulation (left) re-creates tremors for riders
on shake-table; screen shows quake-prone coastal scene. Old Woman
meteorite (below) undergoes scrutiny by young earthlings
Photo: Shiny orb of Foucault pendulum demonstrates rotation of
Earth: it drifts .005 inch per swing, knocking down one wooden peg
every 22 minutes. Ringed planets are Jupiter and Saturn