‘Tis the Season for Unique Gifts

 

Great gifts feel good to give and to receive. What better way to spark joy than to find a clever, curious, and/or beautiful gift for your favorite person (or even yourself). Stand out this holiday season by giving unique gifts. We’ve assembled items in our roundup below that you’ll wish you would receive.

Little Geniuses

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Aww worthy gifts that the little ones are sure to love.

1. Baby Elements Onesie, $14.95
2. Fiona Walker England Unicorn Head, $165.00
3. The Community Cloth Handknit Hat, $36.00
4. The Human Infant Project Book, $24.99
5. Uncle Goose Braille Alphabet Blocks, $42.00
6. Baby Armadillo Plush, $19.95
7. 20” Triceratops, $125.00

Neckline Subtleties

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Dainty necklaces are the perfect everyday necklace and versatile enough for layering. Sometimes a little sparkle goes a long way.
1. Ginette N Y Malachite Diamond 18kt Rose Gold Charm Necklace, $1050.00
2. Zoe Chicco Diamond Curved Bar Necklace, $650.00
3. Melissa Joy Manning Herkimer Quartz 14kt Gold Necklace, $300.00
4. Rebecca Lankford Love White Sapphire Rose Gold Necklace, $340.00
5. Dinny Hall Bamboo Oval Pendant, 22kt Gold Vermeil, $240.00

Quirky Under $150

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Practical home décor items that give that whimsical touch to any home.

1. Radiant Relics Cushion – X-Ray Skull Profile, $40.00
2. Periodic Barware, $9.95
3. Gummy Bear Red, Anatomically Correct – Limited Edition, $44.95
4. Alligator Bookends, $80.00
5. Duck Mirror, $99.99
6. Unicorn Skull Bell Jar Ring Holder, $80.00
7. Ice Dwarf Art Glass, $135.00
8. Heart of Gold – Metallic Plush, $24.95
9. Light Up Newton’s Cradle, $39.95

 

Make a Statement

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A dazzling piece can make a huge statement long after it is unwrapped.

1. Alexis Bittar Tribal City Crystal Encrusted Figurine Cuff, $495.00
2. Vilawain Iridescent Broken Chandelier Bead Necklace, $950.00
3. Eddie Borgo Europa Black Lace Agate Statement Earrings, $450.00
4. Rebecca Lankford For H.M.N.S Rose Quartz Butterfly Ring, $890.00
5. Julie Cohn Designs Eclipse Sapphire Ponyhair Bracelet, $395.00

 

Natural Habitat in Color

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Timeless natural specimens are the eye catching gifts you’re looking for. Truly one of a kind natural works of art.

1. Variety In Motion Butterfly Display, $660.00
2. Bottle Stopper, Natural Stone $29.95 each
3. Amethyst Specimen, $495.00
4. Lapis Gemstone Box, $3,995.00
5. Dugway Druzy Agate Geode Bookends, $295.00
6. Citrine Specimen, Brazil, $695.00

As usual feel good about shopping knowing that 100 percent of museum store proceeds benefits HMNS’s educational programs!

Looking for even more gift guidance? Peruse our 2016 Holiday Shopping Guide “The Thrill of the Hunt”, check out our Pinterest where we have additional mini guides. Don’t forget our social media; Instagram and Twitter where we feature our products daily.

Happy Shopping!

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What’s “Up” This Month – Celestial Happenings This December

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Our resident astronomer James Wooten is back, and he’s here to tell you what to look up for this month! From meteor showers to solar events, December is shaping up to be an exciting end of the year. And  of course he will give you the update on when and where to find your favorite constellations and planets. You can impress your date this December with your stellar knowledge of the night sky! (By the way, Saturday night star gazing at the George Observatory is a great place to take a date) So sit back and put your astronomer hat on, because here’s the low-down on the high up!

 

Moon Phases in December 2016:

Moon Phases

1st Quarter: December 7, 3:03am Full: December 13, 6:06pm 3rd Quarter: December 20, 7:56pm New: December 29, 12:53am

 

What are the Planets Up to this Month?

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Venus is a little higher in the evening sky this month. Look low in the west southwest in evening twilight. Venus noticeably approaches Mars more than in previous months. 

Mars is now in the southwest at dusk. Mars continues to fade each night as Earth leaves it farther and farther behind.

Mercury is visible just after sunset this month. Face west in twilight, and look low in the sky over the point where the Sun set, especially around the 11th.  Mercury isn’t as brilliant as Venus, but it easily outshines the stars near it in the sky, so it’s not too hard to find. 

Jupiter is much higher in the morning sky this month. Look in the south southeast at dawn now, and more towards due south by month’s end.  

Saturn  is behind the Sun and out of sight this month.

The Summer Triangle sets in the west.  Watch for the Great Square of Pegasus almost overhead at dusk now and in the west by Christmas. Taurus, the Bull rises in the east.  Look for the Pleiades star cluster above reddish Aldebaran. Dazzling Orion, the Hunter rises shortly after dusk (by month’s end, it is already up at dusk). As Orion enters the evening sky, we transition from the relatively dim evening skies of autumn to the brilliant stars of winter. We are beginning to face away from the center of the galaxy, looking at stars behind us in our own part of our galaxy (the Orion Spur). 

December Constellation Map

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This star map shows the Houston sky at 8 pm CST on December 1, 7 pm CST on December 15, and dusk on December 31.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.

The Summer Triangle sets in the west. Watch for the Great Square of Pegasus almost overhead at dusk now and in the west by Christmas. Taurus, the Bull rises in the east.  Look for the Pleiades star cluster above reddish Aldebaran. Dazzling Orion, the Hunter rises shortly after dusk (by month’s end, it is already up at dusk). As Orion enters the evening sky, we transition from the relatively dim evening skies of autumn to the brilliant stars of winter. We are beginning to face away from the center of the galaxy, looking at stars behind us in our own part of our galaxy (the Orion Spur).

Celestial Happenings to Watch for this month:

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Photot courtesy of Wikimedia

Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid meteor shower peaks every year around mid-December.  This year, it’s the night of December 13-14 (although they’re active from December 4-17).  Unfortunately, this year we have a full moon on that night, which will hide most meteors. 

Winter Solstice

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By Jecowa at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

At 4:44 am on Wednesday, December 21, the Sun will appear overhead as seen from the Tropic of Capricorn, the farthest point south where this is possible. That’s because Earth’s North Pole is tilted as far as possible away from the Sun at that time. That’s why this is our winter solstice, the day when we have more night and less daylight than any other.  Below the equator, this is the summer solstice because the South Pole is tilted towards the Sun as much as possible.

You will notice, however, that sunset on New Year’s Eve is up to ten minutes later than on December 1.  Why, if the 31st is closer to the solstice?  Although the shortest day (least daylight) occurs on December 21, the earliest sunset occurs for us about December 1.  This is because the Sun’s apparent position in our sky varies like a sine wave; there is little difference in the Sun’s apparent height for about a month before and after the solstice.  Due to Earth’s tilt, the Sun does indeed take a shorter, lower path across the sky on December 21 than on December 1, but only by about 1.5 degrees (your pinky at arm’s length blocks one degree).  Meanwhile, Earth is slightly accelerating as it approaches perihelion just after the new year.  This makes both sunrise and sunset happen a little earlier each night during December.  Near the solstice, this small effect can dominate.  Since most of us sleep through sunrise and watch sunset, days will seem to lengthen from December 1-21 when they are in fact still getting shorter. 

George Observatory

Come see us Saturday nights at the George Observatory!  On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer. 

Clear Skies!

Do you have any astronomy questions or would like email updates on current events in the sky, at the planetarium, and at George Observatory?  If so, send us an email to astroinfo@hmns.org.

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Honor the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor by Learning Some Fascinating WWII History

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016 – 6:30 PM

A guarded secret for decades, learn how enriched uranium from Nazi Germany came to be used in United States’ atomic bombs. Researcher Carter Hydrick will detail the surrender of U-boat 234 and its cargo of 1,120 pounds of uranium that was concealed in nose of the U-boat in sealed cylinders lined with gold. Hydrick has tracked this shipment to the Manhattan Project and both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.

Book signing of Critical Mass following lecture.

Members $12, Tickets $18

 

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Praise for Critical Mass!

Compelling … as gripping as good fiction. Hydrick’s book is important history well written.
Tony Hillerman
New York Times Best Selling Author
Retired Journalism Professor
Decorated Hero of D-Day and the Italian Front

Certainly leads the experienced physicist to believe.
Dr. Delmar Bergen, retired
Director, Weapons Program Office
Los Alamos National Laboratory

The assertion in Critical Mass that the uranium surrendered to U.S. authorities onboard the German submarine U-234 was enriched U-235 [enriched uranium] is certainly a credible conclusion in view of the storage, containment and prevailing shipping conditions.
Dr. Gary Sandquist
Former Instructor of Nuclear Engineering
United States Military Academy, West Point

“Critical Mass brings to the surface defining new information, long hidden within archives, about the birth of the Atomic Bomb…. Should be in every library.”
D. Ray Smith
Oak Ridge Y-12 (uranium enrichment facility) Historian

“This is a fascinating book…with excellent primary source research.”
Joe Sills
Former United Nations spokesperson

“Critical Mass offers the scholar of modern history and the World War Two history buff important new information about the race for the atomic bomb. Its conclusions, based on primary sources, that the Manhattan Project used atomic bomb components received from Nazi Germany in the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, appear plausible and logical. Hydrick’s well-written account provides lucid understanding of hitherto unknown and important aspects of the birth of the Nuclear Age.”
Dr. Anthony Stranges
Associate Professor of Modern Military Science and Technology
Texas A&M University

“This book is a well-researched, well-reasoned, well-written persuasive argument for a revised interpretation of an important, perhaps even critical, chapter in our modern history. It deserves a careful reading and to be taken seriously by both scholars and laymen alike.”
Dr. Douglas F. Tobler
Professor of Modern German History, Emeritus
Brigham Young University

“A coherent and well researched history of events that have been covered up for half a centuryexciting and revealing!”
Otis Maclay
Pacifica Radio Host

“The best primary source research I have seen in a long, long time.”
Gordon Fowkes, Lt. Colonel, US Army (Ret),
University of Houston Military History Symposium

Was the uranium surrendered to the United States on a German U-boat really enriched?

“The facts that the uranium captured from Nazi Germany was: 1)stowed in gold-lined containers that, 2) were cylindrical in shape, 3) each possibly carrying half a critical mass, 4) that were described as becoming ‘sensitive and dangerous’ when opened, and 5) should be handled like TNT, certainly leads the experienced physicist to believe the material was enriched uranium. I cannot fathom anyone at the time taking such careful precautions, or claiming such danger, about comparatively harmless natural uranium.”

Dr. Delmar Bergen, retired
Former Director, Nuclear Weapons Program
Los Alamos National Laboratory

How did the Germans obtain the enriched uraniumwas an alleged synthetic rubber plant actually a uranium enrichment facility?

“Based on the information Mr. Hydrick presents, and my own knowledge of two World War Two SBR rubber plants, I find it hard to believe the traditional explanation that the Germans spent four fruitless years trying to bring a rubber plant on line, the technology for which they had previously developed, proven and used. I also cannot comprehend, nor do I believe, a buna plant of that time period consumed as much power as the eighth largest city in the world (Berlinas stated by the directors of the plant).”

George M. Ladzun, retired
Former Director, Process Development, Zeon Chemicals
Former Manager of two synthetic rubber plants
Former Process Engineer for buna plant start-up, BF Goodrich

“The electrical consumption that I.G. Farben’s directors described at their buna plant at Auschwitz is very much in line with the huge electrical requirements for electro-magnetically enriching uranium.”

Dr. Delmar Bergen, retired
Former Director, Nuclear Weapons Program
Los Alamos National Laboratory

“It was not a rubber plant. You can bet your bottom dollar on that.”

Ed Landry
Former President and General Manager
Keystone Polymers, Inc.

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The World’s Oldest Vegetarian Poop?

Winding through the Paleozoic section of our Morian Hall of Paleontology, past the trilobotes, the placoderms, the Sea Scorpions and the other terrifying creatures that roamed the earth at that time, you will eventually come to what we affectionately call our “wall of poop“. It’s in the Permian section of the Hall, to the right of the big Dimetrodon model. The wall has some amphibian skulls, part of a Dimetrodon jaw, and a whole bunch of coprolites.

 

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Coprolites are fossilized feces. It may sound gross, but these coprolites are important to science! For example, we know for sure that T. rex’s ate Triceratops’ in part because we find triceratops bones in T. rex coprolites. In the same way, we have learned about the diets and lifestyles of Permian-era creatures (who lived millions of year before T. rex) in our hall by studying these coprolites.

One very interesting piece is a coprolite that was most likely produced by a herbivorous animal. This is a big deal because as far as we know, land-dwelling, herbivorous reptiles were just evolving in the Permian. They show up later in the fossil record because herbivores have more complex digestive systems than carnivores do. You know how cows have eight stomachs, have to regurgitate their food and chew it a few times so they can digest it? Well, that’s because most plants are really hard to digest. So the idea is that the first land-dwelling animals were carnivores and some of them later evolved more complex digestive systems to eat plants.

 

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The coprolite we’re discussing is believed to be herbivorous because of its shape and consistency. Compare it (above) to the pictures of those of a carnivore (top of article) and you will notice that the meat-eaters generally produce straight, smooth coprolites, while our vegetarian coprolite is coiled and lumpy. It is believed that the herbivore who produced this particular coprolite was Diadectes, a model of which is pictured below.

 

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Do you like coprolites? Are you interested in learning more about vegetarian evolution? Do you have a hilarious or, better yet, informative comment about this blog? Feel free to leave a comment by clicking the little bubble at the top of this post. We want to hear from you! 

 

Also, don’t forget to share us!

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