Take Science Home For The Holidays

San Francisco’s Exploratorium is the world’s first hands-on science museum. Like the Exploratorium itself, the Exploratorium Store is full of fascinating things to look at, play with, and learn from. Some of the over 2,500 items on display include products related to the museum's exhibits and programs. All proceeds from the Exploratorium Store support the activities of the Exploratorium. And all Exploratorium members receive a 15 percent discount on purchases. This holiday season, stop by often — in person or on the Web — and take the Exploratorium home with you. Some quintessentially Exploratorium gift ideas include:

Rainbow Maker

It doesn’t get any more California than this — and it’s good science, too. Hang a high-quality Swarovski crystal on your window, and refract the light of the sun. Keep it rotating with a small solar panel and rainbow-colored gears, which are built right in. The result is hundreds of rainbows and patterns of scattered sunlight moving gently and peacefully all over your room, with the movement powered by the sunlight you are busy refracting — all without any batteries! And as an added bonus, it’s good feng shui! Attaches to window using the physics of suction.


Laugh with amusement as, seemingly from nowhere, you are able to mess up a person’s hair, or ruffle their shirt, dress or office papers from a distance. Requiring no batteries or electricity, AirZooka operates simply by pulling and releasing a built-in elastic air launcher — like a sling shot on steroids that shoots only air. And here’s the best part: because it shoots a ball of air, you’ll never run out of ammo! Blast that harmless ball of air up to 20 feet.

Giant Microbes

Caution: cuteness can be infectious. Each one of these colorful plush toys is an anatomically correct microbe representing a different ailment at 1 million times its actual size. A set of four comes with Common Cold (Rhinovirus), Sore Throat (Streptococcus Pyogenes), Stomach Ache (Shigella Dysenteriae) and Flu (Orthomyxoviridus). These huggable microbes come in cuddly colors like turquoise, mint green, beige fringed in gold, and rose, and each microbe includes both a teaching tag and a set of glassy eyes.


Named Europe’s Game of the Year in 2002, Blokus develops logic, strategy, tactical thinking and spatial perception. Players take turns placing their colored pieces on a board, starting from a different corner. Each new piece must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but only at the corner. Block your opponents while expanding your own territory. The winner is the player for whom the total area of remaining pieces is the lowest! (the mathematical aspect of the game.) Good for younger kids, as well as adults, Blokus seems to turn even the nicest people into Machiavelli.

River Crossing

Maze enthusiasts and puzzle nuts will love this perilous plank puzzle, where the object is to help the hiker cross the river without getting his feet wet (not to mention eaten by hungry crocks, snakes and piranhas). Just move the magnetized planks between tree stumps, and work your way across the river, basing your movements on challenge cards that range from beginner to expert.