Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.13.08)

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Creative Commons License photo credit: nicolasnova

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

The Internet is only 5,000 days old. That is an astonishingly brief period of time to go from writing letters to Twittering your Facebook status. So, what’s in store for the next 5,000?

What if you could edit video as easily as a photo – without being a staffer at Industrial Light & Magic? A program called Unwrap Mosaics is in the works to help you do just that – easily.

It’s like our very own Loch Ness Monster – a Texas sheriff’s deputy caught something very weird on film. Chupacabra, perhaps?

~ My Python (DE NIRO) ~
Creative Commons License photo credit: KhayaL

Don’t worry – the Burmese pythons are going to stay in Florida (rather than expanding their habitat to over 32 states, as originally predicted.) The bad news? They could destroy the ecosystem of the Everglades.

Return of the Jedi: student researchers at Drexel University have developed a video game that you control with your mind.

CERN fired up the Large Hadron Collider – and we’re still here. Find out how it went at Daily Galaxy.

25 thoughts on “Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.13.08)

  1. Great article, Erin. It is just amazing that this amazing everyday tool we take for granted is only 5,000 days old, hard to imagine.

    Oh yes, you responded to my question earlier in the week about the museum’s various exhibits, and you said that art museums provided very little contextual information such as the history behind the objects. However, would you please just take a quick glance at the first few paragraphs of this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_history.

    Here are the main points from the article that I wanted to point out: The art historian uses historical method to answer the questions: How did the artist come to create the work? Who were the patrons? Who were his or her teachers? Who was the audience? Who were his or her disciples? What historical forces shaped the artist’s oeuvre and How did he or she and the creation, in turn, affect the course of artistic, political, and social events?

    Contextualism
    The approach whereby a work of art is examined in the context of its time; in a manner which respects its creator’s motivations and imperatives; with consideration of the desires and prejudices of its patrons and sponsors; with a comparative analysis of themes and approaches of the creator’s colleagues and teachers; and consideration of religious iconography and temporal symbolism. In short, this approach examines the work of art in the context of the world within which it was created.

    Thank you for your time.

  2. Hi Dave,

    For some reason, this comment landed in our SPAM filter and I just found it. Please see my additional response to your earlier comment here.

    It’s an interesting debate you bring up – and one that we do consider often. As I read it, even the definition you cite focuses most heavily on the art object, the artists, the process of art and the art viewers. What about the history of the object after it was created, the technology involved in the materials used, how the art affected the development of technology, or the techniques of the people who recovered it (for ancient art) among other considerations? These are questions a science exhibit would try to answer.

    But – why does it have to be one or the other? Consider Leonardo da Vinci. The man was a genius of staggering proportions, and his life brought the world both stunning works of art and amazing feats of engineering. The da Vinci exhibit we currently display features models of his designs for everything from war machines to a colossal horse sculpture. It focuses on his scientific accomplishments (like the fact that he was one of the world’s first paleontologists) but also displays his design sketches, which are certainly art but which also give visitors key insight into his extraordinary mind. He was an artist and a scientist – and both aspects of his personality were richer and more ingenious simply because he could see things both ways.

    Seeing an exhibit in an art museum is a fascinating and inspiring experience – often for different reasons than visiting a science museum evokes the same responses and emotions. But the two topics are not distinct, and you will find elements of science in an art museum, just as you will find elements of art in a science museum.

    However, art and science museums can and do approach the same topics – just from different perspectives. As I wrote in the comment on the original post – we are lucky to have so many museums in Houston which bring art, science and culture to us every day, showing us how these amazing human pursuits often intermingle with astonishing results. No matter which museum displays a certain exhibition, I am always very glad simply to have had the opportunity to see it.

    If anyone else would like to throw their two cents in, I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts – please visit the post this conversation started on, so we can see all the perspectives in one place.

  3. Thanks for your answer, Erin.

    I was also wondering what are some your favorite museums. I assume that you have visited many across the country and the world!

  4. I just had a chance to visit LACMA a couple of weeks ago and right now, it’s at the top of the list! Gorgeous art, of course – but the stunning architecture it is housed in really adds to the experience. The
    American Museum in New York has fascinating, pioneering science exhibitions – and they are also a part of the history of museums in the United States (Teddy Roosevelt led expeditions that added to their natural history collection, for example) so that adds a nice dimension as well. What about you? What are some of your favorite museums?

  5. Erin, I know there are much more on your list!

    In no particular order:

    1. British Museum
    2. Metropolitan Museum of Art
    3. Louvre
    4. Field Museum
    5. The Getty Museum
    6. Art Institute of Chicago
    7. American Museum of Natural History
    8. The Prado
    9. Victoria and Albert Museum
    10. Natural History Museum in London
    11. State Hermitage
    12. Museum of Modern Art
    …… and more

    I’ve been on a huge travelling spree over the last 5 years!

  6. Great topic peeps – I think you nailed it Erin when you said that art and science are not mutually exclusive topics, but do approach the same subjects with different perspectives. I know I was scratching my head when Pompeii was shown at the MFAH instead of HMNS, but after looking at it further realized that there were many important discoveries in Pompeii that gave us a glimpse of Roman art as well as seeing a city frozen in the height of Roman culture.

  7. Erin,

    HMNS does a great job of attracting the public with its great traveling exhibits. However, I feel that much of the museum’s popularity is really due to these exhibits and not to the permanent exhibits. In my opinion, I really am not overwhelmed by the permanent exhibits. The Gem hall is a great one though. Many in my circle of friends and other people that I know agree with me. I’ve been to the American Museum of Natural History, National Museum of Natural History, the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, and the British Museum of Natural HIstory, and these museum’s permanent exhibits blow me away.

  8. Hi Dave,

    I’m so glad you enjoy the traveling exhibits – we do our best to bring the world’s finest exhibitions to Houston, so it’s wonderful to hear that you and your friends enjoy them. You’re in good company if the mineral hall is your favorite – it’s constantly crowded. We have an active Flickr group dedicated to the museum, and many of the photos are from this exhibit. Our permanent exhibitions are renovated on a rotating schedule – so you may also enjoy the newest exhibits in the Wiess Energy Hall and Cockrell Butterfly Center. Thanks for your feedback!

  9. Are you able to provide any information on some of the fossils that are in museum collections and that are waiting to be put on display in the new wing? Also, how do you think HMNS’ permanent exhibits compare with the American Museum of Natural History, National Museum of Natural History, the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, and the British Museum of Natural History?

  10. Hi Dave,

    We’re still in the planning stages for the upcoming expansion, so we’re not ready to talk about the specifics, since they may change several times during development process. Keep reading the blog – as soon as we have details to share, we’ll post them here.

    I think every one of the museums you mentioned has its own strong points. The Dueling Dinosaurs at the LA Natural History Museum are spectacular and the building itself is beautiful. The American Museum has a wonderful new permanent exhibition on evolution and an amazing planetarium. HMNS is known the world-over for our exhibits of the world’s finest minerals and our pioneering Wiess Energy Hall. Sadly, I’ve never been to The British Museum – but we’ve had exhibits featuring their Egyptology collections that were fascinating.

  11. Is there really a distinct difference between natural science and natural history. It seems as if HMNS and other natural histories have very similar objects: fossils, gems/minerals, african wildlife…etc.

  12. Oh yeah would you please combine this post with my previous one. I remember there was a large Egypt exhibit a few years ago. Were those objects from the British Museum? Do you remember some of the highlights of that exhibition? It has been so long.

  13. How come our Egypt collection is so small, as it is just a small corner of the basement level? I have heard some visitors ridiculing it.

  14. Hi Dave,

    As I understand it, the term “natural science” covers a much broader area than “natural history,” which is the study of plants and animals. Natural science, according to the wikipedia definition linked above, is “a rational approach to the study of the universe.”

    HMNS does have several natural history exhibits – like the Hall of African Wildlife and the Malacology Hall – but we also have permanent exhibits on chemistry, energy technology, Earth science and mineralogy. The traveling exhibitions we host here also cover an extremely broad range of topics, as we’ve discussed previously.

    To answer your question about the traveling Egypt exhibit, I believe you are referring to “Mummy: The Inside Story,” which was put together by The British Museum. It featured the mummy of the Egyptian priest Nesperennub, which had been scanned with high resolution compterized tomography, so that it could be studied from the inside out, without destroying the mummy itself. It also included a wide variety of artifacts from their collections that reflected the life of an Egyptian priest, including monumental sculpture, amulets, incense burners and much more. You can read more about the exhibit is at the link above.

    In regards to our permanent Egypt collection, I can tell you that one of the reasons we are expanding the museum is because we are running out of space. We are in the process of designing the new museum and undergoing construction (you may have noticed our new entrance) and so some exhibits may be moving, reduced in size and/or off display for certain periods of time in the next few years. We will post information here and on our web site as it is available.

    As always, we’ll do our best to make everyone’s experience here fun and educational. We hope you and all our visitors will “pardon our dust” as we’re working to make the museum even better for everyone.

  15. Erin,

    Thank you for your time in answering to my many comments. I was also wondering if HMNS has some more Egyptian artifcats in its collections? Also, could you provide me information how many specimens are in the permanent exhibits, and how many total there are in collections?

  16. Hi Dave,

    I don’t have that information readily available, but I will check into it and post here when I have more information.

  17. Hi Dave,

    You pose an interesting question. I’ve asked our curator of anthropology, Dirk Van Tuerenhout, to address it here; the following is his response:

    “Most of the world’s foremost Egyptian collections (British Museum, Louvre, the Altes Museum in Berlin, the University Museum in Philadelphia, the Metropolitan in NY, just to name a few) have a history of collecting and research for centuries. Our focus is different.

    In general, the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s anthropology holdings emphasize our hemisphere, with strong collections pertaining to New World cultures. The artifacts include ethnographic materials and archaeological artifacts. In particular, the museum is very proud of its Amazonian collections, comprised of more than 2500 fragile feather artifacts coming from the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America. This collection has been at the core of more than 15 exhibits throughout the US, Houston included.

    As we are planning for the museum expansion, we are also planning to grow the anthropology collections. This is done with an eye toward new exhibit halls which are on the drawing board. As we are currently working our way through the conceptual stages of these new halls, there is not much specific information we can share on the topic or the contents of these new permanent spaces. Stay tuned for more details.”

    I hope that answers your question – and that you’ll check back for news on new developments.

  18. I have heard someone say that HMNS will receive a 90% real T-Rex fossil, can you tell me anything about this?

  19. Hi Dave,

    We’re still in the planning stages for the upcoming expansion, so we’re not ready to talk about the specifics, since they may change several times during development process. Keep reading the blog – as soon as we have details to share, we’ll post them here.

  20. Could you estimate how far into the planning stages you are in? I was also wondering if you could provide any inofrmation on the most attended visiting exhibits through the years. Also, was HMNS ever in the running for Pompeii, or the King Tut: The Golden Age of Pharoahs exhibit? I have to say the Pompeii exhibit was the best exhibit that I have visited in a Houston museum.

  21. Hi Dave,

    In answer to your earlier query, I now have information for you about the number of items on display. The Houston Museum of Natural Science collections contain roughly 2 million individual artifacts, about 8% of which are on display at any given time.

    This is a standard percentage for museum displays – since we are so limited by space, it would be very difficult to properly display that many artifacts – and it’s unlikely that, for example, people would enjoy perusing 400,000 butterfly specimens in one sitting. Museums retain such a large collection of artifacts in order to preserve and study them – and then put the best, more representative and interesting of these collections on display for the public to enjoy.

    In regards to your other query, we’re not ready to reveal any information about the upcoming expansion. However, we will post any information we can on the blog.

    Also, I’m glad you enjoyed the Pompeii exhibit – I did, too. I’m not personally involved in decisions regarding which exhibitions are chosen for display here, but I can tell you that a range of factors are involved – from what types of exhibitions best fit the Museum’s mission to what topics our visitors will enjoy learning about to how they will fit into the schedule of exhibitions to which the Museum is already committed at any given time – among many other factors.

    Thanks for reading!

  22. Erin,

    What are some of the most visited special exhibits of the museum through the years?

  23. Erin,

    Just to get an idea of the size of the museum, could you provide me with information with the square footage?

  24. Hey Dave,

    The total museum size is currently around 240,000 square feet. This includes our exhibt space, theaters, classrooms, offices and collection space

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