Consider, for a moment, the plight of science museums. They’re indispensable local treasures, chock-full of activities and equipment otherwise unavailable to the public, and totally badass in terms of sheer, nerdy information per square inch. And yet, for the most part, relatively few people get to experience them, especially if they don’t happen to be science geeks or grade-school teachers.
It’s tragic, especially in the case of Chabot Space and Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland), which boasts a digital planetarium, three industrial-grade telescopes, a seventy-foot IMAX-style theater, and an ever-changing stock of interactive exhibits — not to mention a rich history dating back to 1883.
Tragic is what the folks at Chabot thought, too, and hence: NightSchool, a brand-new, eighteen-and-over series of nighttime events set to go down the third Friday of every month, including Friday, November 18. The idea, according to Chabot Space and Science Center spokesman Robert Ade, was to take advantage of all of the intellectual capital within both Chabot and the East Bay at large to facilitate something “a little more intellectually stimulating than any other event with drinks and music” — to give the public a chance to roam around the open museum without having to rush, to “see the place in a different light, almost as if you’d rented it for a party.”
Events like this give the members of the public an opportunity to explore a great local resource that they may not otherwise visit; to experience a novel, relatively cheap night out that doesn’t necessarily revolve around alcohol; or, at the very least, to visit a museum without having to be surrounded by screaming kids. (They’re also a brilliantly adorable place for a first date. YOU’RE WELCOME.) At the same time, nontraditional programming allows museums to open themselves up to new audiences and new revenue streams, which is important at a time when government- and philanthropy-funded institutions are struggling. (There’s a reason Chabot is far from the first local science museum to venture into after-hours, adults-only, often alcoholic programming: The California Academy of Sciences’ weekly NightLife series regularly draws crowds more befitting an Uptown bar, and the Lawrence Hall of Science’s Geek Out series was a sadly short-lived cult hit last year.)
This month’s iteration of NightSchool — entitled “Curiosity,” after the soon-to-be-launched Mars rover of the same name — includes short classes on teloscopy and stargazing; discussions about the search for intelligent life with scientists from UC Berkeley and Chabot; a “fix-it” clinic, in which folks are invited to bring broken appliances for “tinkering experts” to inspect; a free planetarium show (probably pretty awesome about two beers in); a workshop that claims to simulate “physiological effects of space on the body and mind” (probably slightly less awesome, but still); and live music by DJ Miggy Stardust. Plus drinks, food, and more sciencey fun. In coming months, the museum plans to host a DIY-centric “Home Ec” night on December 16 and a “Recess”-themed evening on January 20. From there, Ade said, the possibilities are endless. 7 p.m., $5-$15. 510-336-7373 or ChabotSpace.org