Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.11.08)

Galaxie d Andromède
Creative Commons License photo credit: índio

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

Tonight is the best time to view the annual Perseid Meteor Shower - check it out at the George Observatory, open all night, starting at 9 p.m. In the hours just before dawn, it’s possible to see a meteor every minute.

Your mother was right (about the solar system) – we are special.

In an effort to understand their contribution to global warming, 21 US cities will measure and disclose their carbon emissions as part of a global effort run by the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Proof that magic is often science in disguise: scientists have created an Invisibility Cloak that bends light to make objects invisible. Currently, it works on a nano-scale, but could soon be enlarged.

China’s massive cutbacks in pollution-producing industries in advance of the Olympic Games was intended to help athletes compete at their best – but it’s also giving scientists an opportunity to study what happens when “a heavily populated region substantially curbs everyday industrial emissions.”

4 thoughts on “Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.11.08)

  1. Erin,

    I was wondering why some of the special exhibits such as Rome, Kazakhstan, the Vatican, Shanghai, Royal Tombs of Ur, Tibet, and the Vatican are in a “natural science” museum? Most of these exhibits should be in an art museum. Also, is there anything “natural science” in the life of Diana?

    -Dave

  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for reading the blog – and for your question. At HMNS, we believe that the concept of “natural science” encompasses a broad range of topics, all of which contribute something to our understanding of how the world works. That includes history – and while many of the exhibits you specify have a very strong artistic component, our exhibitions also present a broad variety of information about the cultures that created these works of art, through text panels, videos and interactive exhibits.

    So, while an exhibit of busts from Rome could well rest in an art museum – such art exhibits tend to focus on the pieces themselves as art objects alone, with very little contextual information. Seeing such an exhibit in a natural science museum means you will leave with a deeper understanding of the historical culture in which each piece was created, how it was created, and why – to the best of our current understanding. This contextual information comes to us through the science of anthropology.

    Princess Diana was also a historical figure – though more recent – and anthropological exhibitions are known to examine a time, place or culture through the prism of a notable individual. Given time, an exhibit of Diana’s life – that of a royal princess who had great influence on the world stage, particularly in the lives of the victims of AIDS and land mines – should seem comparable to an exhibit on the life of Ben Franklin – such as Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, which we also hosted here in 2007.

  3. To clarify my comment above – the field of art history certainly provides some context for objects of art. However, as the Wikipedia definition linked above states, that context focuses on “objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts, i.e. genre, design, format, and look.[1] Moreover, art history generally is the research of artists and their cultural and social contributions.”

    As a science museum, we have the opportunity to look at objects in an even broader context, not only examining who created the work – but who used it? Why? How? – along with almost any other question you might have. This is not to say an art museum could not do the same – just that they generally don’t.

    I think we can all agree that, as Houstonians, we are all lucky to have so many cultural options right in our backyard. (More examples here.) The Pompeii exhibit recently at the MFA was unusual in the amount of historical information it provided (at least in my experience) and it could have also been exhibited at HMNS – though I imagine we would have added more information about the technologies Romans used and the science of archaeology. However – no matter which museum exhibited the exhibition, I am very glad to have had the opportunity to see it.

  4. For anyone who is interested in following this debate or commenting on it further, you might also be interested to read the comments on this post.

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