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'Light and Sound' Exhibit Allows Visitors to Learn by Doing

Kids-oriented museum exhibit includes 10 stations with nifty, tricky effects, including holograms and lightning.


You peer through a microscope and see the magnified image of a bug.

Gotcha! It's not a bug. In fact, it's not a microscope. It's an illusion created by a hologram, part of an intriguing new exhibit on the mysteries of light and color at the Santa Paula Union Oil Museum.

On loan from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the exhibit is made up of 10 colorful stations where kids can tinker with everything from rainbows to reflections.

It opened last week and will be on display through Aug. 11, providing kids another opportunity for summer activity. The museum is free and open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Probably the most impressive part of the exhibit is the holograms, those three-dimensional images created by manipulating laser beams. Kids will see a 3-D image of King Tut, a stopwatch, old coins, an underwater scene with a menacing shark and the eeriest one of all: a man who smiles, then scowls, moving his finger to his cheek as you shift your viewing position.


Are you afflicted with achromatopsia? You can find out at a station that tests for color blindness. You look for the correct number within a circle of dots. For those who are color blind--and it's typically a male problem--it's usually the color green that gives them trouble, according to the exhibit.

For kids who like to fiddle with stuff, this exhibit is full of hands-on gizmos and doodads. They can spin disks painted with the primary colors to see how the colors combine to make new colors. One disk, painted black and white, can be spun to create flashes of blue, green, brown and violet.

The centerpiece of the show is a 6-foot periscope fitted with two big mirrors, one at the bottom and one near the top. By looking in the bottom and rotating the top mirror, kids will see a panoramic view of what's behind them.


Did you know that the word "laser" is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation? In a station called the Laser Gazer, you can use objects to bend a laser beam. In another, you can simulate lightning with a generator that flicks a spark. The giant light bulb in another station demonstrates how heat is a source of light.

For younger kids, a floor puzzle teaches the order of the colors in the rainbow. (Think of the name Roy G. Biv--red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.) They will also be intrigued by the "mouse multiplier," mirrors that show repeated images of a toy mouse.

The whole exhibit, called "Light and Color," is set up in the museum's back exhibit room. While you are there, take a look around the rest of the museum. The building--constructed in 1890 of Sespe sandstone, river rock and locally fired brick--was the original home of Union Oil, known today as Unocal.

The first floor contains a dramatic history of the petroleum industry in California. Videos, working models, games and displays tell the story of oil from the fossil era to the present.

Unocal restored the building six years ago to commemorate the company's 100th anniversary. Upstairs, the offices reflect the 1890s, and an apartment has been decorated in 1930s style because the building was used in that decade for residences. Next door, a building houses an oil drilling rig used in the late 1800s.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can take a guided tour of the museum. Make a day of it and picnic at the little park on the museum grounds.


* WHAT: "Light and Color" at the Santa Paula Union Oil Museum.

* WHERE: 1001 E. Main St., Santa Paula.

* WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.

* HOW MUCH: Free; donations accepted.

* FYI: 933-0076.

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