Hubble 3D is back for a limited time!

Amazing Astronomy
See more Hubble images.

Working for a science museum, I can tell you I’ve enjoyed a lot of IMAX movies. But Hubble 3D is on my short list for BEST EVER.

First: they took an IMAX camera to space.

Hubble 3D tells the story of the last mission to repair the Hubble Telescope – one of the most extraordinary scientific instruments ever created.

And I don’t know if you’ve noticed – but space is big. Really, really big. Bigger than we’re capable of comprehending, really. So an IMAX format works really well here.

Also: it’s in 3D

I know what you’re thinking. So is everything else. You saw Avatar in 3D and thought “meh.” But trust me – this film is the application 3D technology was searching for. In addition to blasting you into outer space on the back of the space shuttle’s rocket*, Hubble 3D takes you inside extremely high resolution Hubble images – flies you through them, really – until you really feel like you’ve experienced the Universe.

Finally: limited time!

Don’t take my word for it – Hubble 3D is one of the most popular IMAX films we’ve ever shown. Which is why it’s back, but only through Nov. 10! So check out the previews, get the film schedule and plan your trip to see this extraordinary film!

*Pretty much the most awe-inspiring experience non-astronauts can have. Until they slap an IMAX camera on this.

Museum District Day is this Saturday!

Today’s post is by Susan Schmaeling, APR. Susan is passionate about the 18 member museums in the Houston Museum District Association (HMDA). As a consultant to HMDA, she is delighted to help facilitate Museum District Day, which introduces the richness of the member museums of the Houston Museum District to thousands of visitors.  

Houston is a thriving cultural hub and at the heart of it all is the Houston Museum District. Come and explore the fourth largest museum district in the nation during Museum District Day!

15th Annual Museum District Day
Saturday, September 17, 2011
10 am – 5 pm

17 museums offer free general admission to their captivating exhibits, special programs, hands-on activities, performances and more. Pack up the car with family and friends and drive yourself to the Museum District – paid and/or free public parking is available at many of the museums.

Or take out the hassle and ride the METRORail to the Houston Museum District stop at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. You can bike it and safely lock your bike in front of The Menil Collection bookstore or on Branard Street in front of one of the distinctive grey Menil bungalows. Then hop on a free Museum District Day Bus Shuttle and take one route which stops at each and every participating museum.

Participating museums include:
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum Houston Museum of Natural Science
Byzantine Fresco Chapel The John C. Freeman Weather Museum
Children’s Museum of Houston The Jung Center
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston Lawndale Art Center
Czech Center Museum Houston The Menil Collection
The Health Museum Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Holocaust Museum Houston Rice University Art Gallery
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft Rothko Chapel
Houston Center for Photography  

Here’s a sample of the fun, free activities you and your family can participate in on Museum District Day:

Meet anchors and reporters from our title sponsor, KHOU-TV Channel 11, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm.

Take a free Tai Chi class at 3 p.m. by Henderson Smith on the lawn near the Rothko Chapel.

Enjoy a delicious lunch al fresco at the Great Good Hot Dogs Truck for about $5 per hot dog at The Menil Collection.

Contribute a part of yourself to The Jung Center’s Inside-Outside Virtual Parade collage. Free materials like photos, clippings and art images will allow you to express your true self.

Help the Blue Star Moms support our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bring a small personal care item to the Holocaust Museum Houston to be sent overseas. Write a note of thanks to the men and women who protect and serve us.

Make Sunprints at the Houston Center of Photography.

Watch the Houston Area Blacksmiths forge steel at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft‘s annual “Gathering of the Guilds.”

Make a Snap Circuit at the Inventor’s Workshop inside the Children’s Museum of Houston.

Witness performances about the life of a Buffalo Soldier every hour on the hour from 11 am to 3 pm at the Buffalo Soldiers Museum.

Watch artist Ana Serrano create her cardboard cityscape, Salon of Beauty at the Rice University Art Gallery.

Share your memories of Hurricane Carla and Tropical Storm Allison at The Weather Museum, as we remember the 50th anniversary of Carla and 10th anniversary of Allison, and learn about how storms are named as you come up with your own list of Atlantic storm names.

You will experience the richness of other cultures, be inspired and celebrate the Museum District’s diverse community.

Get details about Museum District Day!

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Please note – the Houston Zoo is not providing free general admission on Museum District Day.

Crime Lab Detective Now Open at HMNS at Sugar Land

Today’s post is by Adrienne Barker, Director of the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land. 

Saturday September 3rd marked the opening of the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Sugar Land‘s latest exhibtion – Crime Lab Detective. One of my colleagues and I, Kathy Treibs, visited it on Labor Day to check it out.

Crime Lab Detective [HMNS at Sugar Land]
Crime Lab Detective is on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land
now through May 6, 2012!

The exhibit is set in the home of the Johnsons who discover they’ve had a break in while on vacation.  As you enter the exhibit you see where the crime occurred and can take a look at the broken window, disturbed dirt outside and broken items inside.

Stopping at the first kiosk we saw a news report on the crime. 

After picking up a Crime Lab Detective Notebook, we headed to a second kiosk where we saw recordings of interrogations of suspects.  From there we were off to solve the crime!

Crime Lab Detective [HMNS at Sugar Land]

We walked through six different stations focused on various aspects of the crime.  From a teacher’s standpoint, Kathy discovered that students will have many opportunities to examine different types of scientific evidence and use problem solving skills to identify the criminal.  It will easily lead to many post-visit activities in science and career exploration for all grade levels.

We agreed that the crime is more difficult to solve than one might expect and a fun challenge to adults who don’t use these skills everyday.

Crime Lab Detective [HMNS at Sugar Land]

Catch our future messages as we take a closer look at fingerprinting, blood analysis, DNA, handwriting samples, and trace evidence including fibers and soil.  This is a great exhibit for everyone, especially those who like the challenge of criminology and solving the mystery.

Confession of a Bookoholic

I have a confession to make. I am a bibliophile.

There, the truth is finally out. Although to any who read this blog or the ECC weekly conservation tip (or have met me) this hardly comes as a surprise. While I’m not sure you can tell my love for books simply by looking at me, I’m sure after only a handful of conversations it would become apparent.

While I do enjoy the thrill of hunting down a particular volume, waiting for a good deal on it, and then sitting down in my very comfortable reading chair, devouring the book, I also try to keep abreast of the changing tide of technology. So when I first heard about eBooks and eReaders almost a decade ago, I was quite intrigued.

Is this a phenomenon that could take over the book industry or just a passing fad?

The Colorful Library of an Interaction Designer (Juhan Sonin) / 20100423.7D.05887.P1 / SML
Creative Commons License photo credit: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML

Which one is better for the environment: traditional books or eBooks?

Humans have been writing down thoughts and ideas for almost as long as there have been humans. While some authors and song writers decry the amount of transparency that has come to the art, that won’t stop them from writing about it. Man has advanced from rock walls, to the papyrus plant, to the vellum of animals, and back to plants again. Modern paper is made from wood pulp fibers. These fibers are laid in a mat and dried and there is a sheet of paper. These pages are then folded or cut to their correct dimensions and have text printed on them. Then the book is bound.

There are a number of different binding techniques. One is to use a super flexible glue to hold the papers together. This is known as perfect binding and is used on most paperbacks. The book can also be bound by having its pages sewn together.

So how much wood does a book use?

The standard measuring unit of wood is a cord. A cord (not to be confused with a C chord) is an 8 foot by 4 foot by 4 foot pile of wood. That one cord of wood can produce around 300 hardbacks (assuming a good hardback is at least 300 pages). If each new title published this year (about 200,000) had only one copy, then it would take around 660 cords of wood. How many of those titles will sell millions of copies (I bet George R. R. Martin’s new book will.) How many titles from the previous year will be reprinted?

Each book has a carbon footprint of about 9 lbs.

That means each book written, printed, published, and sold in stores emits 9 more pounds of carbon into the atmosphere.

What about eBooks and eReaders? How much carbon do they produce? An eBook is a normal book that has been published electronically, i.e. it only exists as an electronic copy (just like everything under My Documents). eReaders come in two different types. There are those devices that are made just to have eBooks on them like the Kindle and Nook. There are other devices that allow you to read eBooks, like computers and smart phones.

An eBook does not directly produce any carbon.

It does take electricity to power the device it was typed on and electricity to email it to the publishers. After its published, it takes electricity to power the internet and my computer so I can buy it and download it. It also takes electricity to power my eReader. While an eBook does not directly produce carbon, the process of creation, distribution, and use does produce carbon. Without the eBook the internet and my computer will still be on, authors will still type their works and email them to their publishers. The only additional electricity is that used to power the eReader.

The ability to read books on your computer (or phone or other multipurpose device) does not generate any additional carbon. Because the device is multifunctional, you probably would have bought it anyway, and the addition of the ability to read on it is just another perk. The only extra carbon generation comes from the extra time you spend on the device.

But what about the eReaders? How much carbon do they generate? I know I’m not the only person wondering about this (you’re reading this aren’t you?). The Cleantech group released a study about how much carbon eReader produce.

An iPad produces around 286 lbs of carbon and a Kindle 370 lbs.

So how many books do I have to read to offset the carbon (not including the carbon produced by the electricity used for the eBooks and eReaders).

iRex iLiad
Creative Commons License photo credit: Tscherno

I have a Kindle, there are many others like it, but mine is mine. I picked it over the other devices because I fell in love with it (I tend to go with things I fall in love with over those I don’t love). For each eBook I read, I save about 9lbs of carbon. To offset the Kindle’s carbon (370) I have to read about 41 books (370/9). I have no problems doing that. In less than a year I’ve read over 100 books , short stories, and essays on my Kindle. Granted I usually go through two books a week. I am trying to make up for the one out of four Americans that reads nothing.

So eReaders can be green, but are they the greenest. Far too often I make a pilgrimage to Half Price Books. I love rooting around in the shelves seeing what treasures they might hold. In addition to being nicely priced, used books do not produce any more carbon. There is another great place I go to look for books and DVDs. All the stuff there is available for free. Have you guessed what place it is yet? It’s the library. Again, in addition to being free, the books produce no more carbon, no matter how many times you read them.

So are eBooks and eReaders green?

Yes and no. If you read a lot of books (like me), an eReader may be greener than buying all those books. eReaders might also have a good place in classrooms. While I do love my Kindle, I won’t ever get rid of all my paper books. Not only do I enjoy the tactile sensation, but not all of my books are available for download yet. I, however, am using my Kindle to solve another problem I have. I ran out of space on my bookshelves awhile ago. If I convert all my paperbacks to the Kindle (and buy books at a slower rate), I’ll free up an entire shelve on my bookcase!