Sunday, May 29, 2016

Exploratorium - Strandbeest Preiview

We were able to attend another fun and amazing members preview at the Exploratorium, San Francisco's well-loved, hands-on science museum – a show featuring Theo Jansen and his Strandbeests (beach animals). The show gives visitors an overview of all the work that goes into one of these amazing "animals": the evolution and the death of various types of beests, their musculoskeletal systems, their rudimentary cardio-vascular functions, and their still simple nervous system abilities (more advanced species can sense their environments as well as save information).

Outside, in the plaza, visitors can also push a beest, feel the systems at work (they are surprisingly heavy but easy to move).

Here, Jansen explains how the "gills" drive a cam and fill the bottles with pressurized air, and then there is a way for the Strandbeest to test the hardness off the sand, so it knows how close it is to the surf (and doesn't walk into the water).

And here is the Strandbeest in motion – if it senses that it is too close to the water's edge, it can change direction.

One imagines that if you could figure out the mechanical engineering to just make the legs, and you might be very happy with that. Over the last 25-plus years, Jansen has added ways for the beests to "live" autonomously on the beach; "breathe" air to metabolize; and "see" the shoreline and avoid waling into the sea.

Jansen explains that his dream is to have the beests live and die, evolve and grow on their own – that he can release them into the wild and have them survive. It was a true pleasure to have the chance to see the beests and meet the artist – fascinating and beautiful.

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