When I was a homeschooled pre-teen in California, one of my favorite field trips was to the Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley’s science outreach center. They had cool exhibits like mechanical “Lost World” dinosaurs, fun-house mirrors, and a sort of creepy-crawly petting zoo. The Hall also maintained fantastically large sets of classic toys like wooden marble mazes and Kapla blocks. Outside were a life-sized whale and a huge DNA model, both of which could be climbed on.
To, me the Lawrence Hall of Science was imbued with an almost spiritual quality. I thought of it more or less as a temple of learning. It had been built to honor Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Berkeley’s first Nobel laureate, who worked on the WWII Manhattan project. I can still remember the awe and reverence I felt when I walked into the shrine-like room at the center of the building, which housed Lawrence’s Nobel prize and other relics of his work.
But one of my favorite areas in the Lawrence Hall of Science was the book shop, which housed such wonders as astronaut ice cream, various miraculous flying contraptions, model animals and vehicles, fossils, and loads of fascinating books, including some (such as Family Math) published by the Hall itself.
On one occasion, we visited the Hall and spent a delightful hour or so in a room full of bubble-makers. I believe it was there that we were introduced to the amazing Klutz Press Bubble Thing, and availed ourselves of one at the book shop on the way out. The Bubble Thing is just a plastic handle with a crocheted loop hanging down from it. But it is work of genius. After all, is not the world immeasurably enriched by the ability to blow ten-foot bubbles?
It has been a dozen years at least since I last thought about The Bubble Thing. However, soon after our arrival here at Grammy’s, I noticed she had a copy of the Klutz book, with a never-before-used Bubble Thing attached. Yesterday, nudged into action by the fact that we’re covering related material in our science book, I got it out, put it together, and then whipped up a bucket-sized batch of the special bubble solution in the Klutz book (Dawn dish soap, cornstarch, baking powder, and water).
Just like the first time around, I found myself doubting the possibility that our Bubble Thing could really make bubbles like the ones pictured in the book. But it’s all true, and as amazing as I remember it. Here’s to the ineffable joy of a film of fragile water stretched round a tenuous globe of air.