Take an #HMNS UNselfie for #GivingTuesday

by Katie Conlan

With our world-class collections, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is a popular place to take selfies. Just search #HMNS on Facebook or Instagram and you’ll find a trove of smiling faces in front of dinosaurs or having close encounters with the resident butterflies! Who wouldn’t want a selfie with a Tyrannosaurus rex lurking threateningly over their shoulder?GT5But this Tuesday, we’re asking you to take an #UNselfie for HMNS, and post it to social media — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or whatever you prefer (and be sure to include #HMNS in your post). Why? To observe #GivingTuesday, a global philanthropic campaign that encourages charitable giving during the holiday season. In contrast to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is all about the unselfish act of giving back to the organizations that make a difference in your life and your community, and taking yourself out of the picture.GT1By making a charitable donation to HMNS today, no matter the amount, you will make an impact here at your museum. Contributions ensure that HMNS continues to provide exceptional programs, exhibitions, and collections to educate and inspire generations to come.GT2This #GivingTuesday, we encourage you to think about the ways in which HMNS impacts your community. When you donate to the Museum, you’re giving the gift of natural science back to the citizens of Houston and beyond. Donate now!

P.S. Help to spread the word and encourage others to give by sharing on social media using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #HMNS! Let us know why you support HMNS by taking your own #UNselfie today!

Editor’s Note: Katie is a Development Associate for the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 11/30-12/6

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week! 

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Ethan and Avery Lee (ages 4-6).

T.Rex Ethan Lee

Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our brand-new Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty. 

Block Party header 1

Block Party Now Open!
From columns to cantilevers, kids and parents can explore the world of architecture and the forces that keep our greatest structures standing… or topple them. The Coliseum, Stonehenge, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Empire State Building all use the same principles to withstand destruction from tension, compression and torsion. Get up to your elbows in interlocking bricks and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece, then see how much force it takes to break it down. Our brand-new Block Party interactive play area is designed to inspire the imaginations of all ages.

Don’t miss our recently opened exhibition Out of the Amazon: Life on the River

P.A.W.S. Reading Program
HMNS at Sugar Land
Fridays and Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.
Children of any age and reading ability can read books to trained therapy dogs. They are great listeners and it will help your child become a confident readers! Grab this opportunity and encourage your child to read or listen to a story about animals.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+

Sports Science: Football

The fourth Thursday in November is the perfect time to spend time with family, eat some home-cooked comfort food, and watch grown men throw around an inflated pig bladder.

That’s right, folks; the world’s first American football was actually an inflated pig bladder, hence the nickname “pigskin.” Don’t worry, modern footballs are made of leather or vulcanized rubber, but the shape of a football remains the same as it’s ever been, lending itself to an interesting discussion of physics.

My sophomore year of college at Washington University in St. Louis, my physics professor’s lecture the week of Thanksgiving featured two balls, a red rubber kickball and an American football. She asked us to predict how the balls would bounce. The spherical kickball was easy; the American football was not.

Football shape

The ovoid shape combined with the two sharp points at each end mean that the ball can bounce in just about any direction at any angle depending on its orientation as it is falling and what part of the football makes contact with the ground. That’s why every football coach I ever had drilled us on just falling on the ball instead of trying to catch it or scoop it up; it is extraordinarily difficult to predict just which way the ball will bounce! These bounces often manifest on plays when a bouncing ball is live, like a fumble, an onside kick or following a punt.

As the game evolved, so did the football itself. As you can imagine, inflating animal bladders can be inconsistent; now, the NFL football is standardized at about 11 inches long from tip to tip and a circumference of about 28 inches around the center. Those bladders could also be difficult to grip, so the modern football has a coarse, pebbled texture as well as white laces in the center.



Because of its shape, the football cuts through the air most easily when spinning around its longest axis, called a spiral. This spiral minimizes air resistance and allows the ball to move in a more predictable parabolic motion.

A common misconception is that the spiral motion allows the ball to travel farther, but this idea falls apart with basic physics. When a ball is initially thrown, there is a set quantity of total energy in the system. That set amount cannot be increased or decreased, just changed from one form to another according to the Law of Conservation of Energy. The spinning motion of a football in the air requires kinetic energy, so every Joule of kinetic energy required to keep the ball spinning is less energy dedicated to the football’s motion.

Instead, the spiral is important because of a concept called angular momentum. A spinning football behaves like a gyroscope; a ball will maintain roughly the same orientation while travelling. This makes the football’s movement from point to point easier to track and predict for a player.step0So when tossing around the ol’ pigskin Thanksgiving Day, make sure you grip the ball with the laces as you throw! What works best for me is to put my middle finger, ring finger and pinkie finger on alternating laces at the front of the ball (as pictured above).

When throwing a football, it is important to generate the force for the ball from your legs. If you are right-handed like me, stand sideways with your right leg behind you. Push off against the ground with your back leg and turn your body to throw as you do so. Bring the football backwards and then forwards over your shoulder, allowing the ball to roll off of your fingers straight. No need for any wrist twisting, as the ball should naturally move in a spiral. (See proper form below.)step1Step one: feet shoulder width apart, hands meet on the ball.step2Step two: weight on your back foot, bring the ball back, wrist out.step3

Step three: throw the ball, wrist in. Allow the ball to roll off of your fingers, but keep your wrist straight and stable. Release the ball over your shoulder. Remember, it’s not a baseball. step4Step four: follow through after the release.

Whether you’re facing the New Orleans Saints or the neighbors across the street, the principles of physics are crucial to your football team coming out on top. May the forces be with you! Happy Thanksgiving!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+

From HMNS to Your Family…



Holiday Hours:

The Houston Museum of Natural Science will be closed Thanksgiving Day, but will be open for extended hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. over the weekend. Regular hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. will resume Monday, Nov. 30.

If you’ve got room for seconds, come see our wild turkey specimen (Meleagris gallopavo) and other outstanding Texas species at the Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+