About Amy P

Amy is the Director of Adult Education at HMNS.

Oktoberfest … right now? Yep, it’s possible with SCIENCE.

You’re probably familiar with Oktoberfest, the international festival held annually in late September and early October in Munich. It’s a family affair and a place to eat and party. Bavarians celebrate their heritage by wearing elaborate native costumes — think Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but instead of cowboy hats and boots, men of every age sport lederhosen. People go for the day to see the livestock show, ride carnival rides, eat lots of unhealthy food, and drink beer. Lots and lots of beer.

BEERS

When I arrived, my first question was “Where are the beer tents?” They were actually right in front of me, but they looked nothing like tents. They are elaborate structures with brightly colored paint and moving figurines. The insides are decorated with banners, flowers and chandeliers.

The Hoffbrau House and Lowenbrau tents are very popular for the partying crowd. The ump-pa-pa bands play traditional German beer-drinking tunes and the popular songs of the day. Seemingly every 15 minutes “Ein Prosit” is played and everyone stands on their bench and raises their mugs to the unofficial Oktoberfest theme song.

Oktoberfest traditionally starts in the third weekend in September and ends the first Sunday of October. (There are many laughs when the Americans show up throughout October for the celebration.)

HMNS celebrates the history and science behind Oktoberfest and beer every year at Saint Arnold Brewery with founder Brock Wagner and his beer-making mentor Scott Birdwell of Defalco’s Home Wine & Beer Supplies. This year’s date is Sept. 25. If you want to raise your stein with us, click here for more info and to purchase tickets. The deadline for ticket purchases is Sept. 19.

From the Munich Tourist Office:

Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields were renamed Theresienwiese (“Theresa Fields”) to honor the Crown Princess, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to “Wiesn.” Horse races in the presence of the royal family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in subsequent years gave rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest.

In 1811, an added feature to the horse races was the first Agricultural Show, designed to boost Bavarian agriculture. The horse races, which were the oldest – and at one time – the most popular event of the festival are no longer held today. But the Agricultural Show is still held every three years during the Oktoberfest on the southern part of the festival grounds.

In the first few decades, the choices of amusements were sparse. In 1818, the first carousel and two swings were set up. Visitors were able to quench their thirst at small beer stands, which grew rapidly in number. In 1896 the beer stands were replaced by the first beer tents and halls set up by the enterprising landlords with the backing of the breweries. The remainder of the festival site was taken up by a fun-fair. The range of carousels offered was already increasing rapidly in the 1870′s as the fairground trade continued to grow and develop in Germany.

Today, the Oktoberfest in Munich is the largest festival in the world, with an international flavor characteristic of the 20th century. At the foot of the Bavaria Statue, adjacent to the Huge Oktoberfest grounds there are also carousels, roller coasters and all the spectacular fun for the enjoyment and excitement of visitors of all ages.

The festivities are accompanied by a program of events, including the Grand Entry of the Oktoberfest Landlords and Breweries, the Costume and Riflemen’s Procession, and a concert involving all the brass bands represented at the “Wiesn.”

The Oktoberfest celebrated its 200th Anniversary in 2011, only wars and cholera epidemics have briefly interrupted the yearly beer celebration.

You will learn more beer history at HMNS’ Oktoberfest: The History & Science of Beer on Sept. 25 at Saint Arnold. Yes, that Saint Arnold: the patron saint of brewers.

Can’t wait until Sept. 25 to learn more about this saintly man? Click here.

Do you dig historic Houston? TxDOT and Join the Houston Archeology Society August 17!

While the Texas Department of Transportation — aka TxDOT — is tasked with providing safe and reliable transportation solutions for the traveling public, the agency is also committed to preserving the environment and its history. The Dimond Knoll site (41HR796) was discovered in northwestern Harris County in the fall of 1996 by a team of archaeologists conducting an initial cultural resources survey on behalf of TxDOT for a portion of the Grand Parkway.  From the beginning of May to the end of October 2012, TxDOT sponsored extensive data-recovery investigations at the site, concluding that the site had been visited regularly by mobile foraging groups for nearly 10 millennia, with artifacts spanning the Late Paleoindian period (ca. 8000 BC) through the Late Prehistoric (ca. 1500 AD).

Image courtesy txHAS

Once archaeologists extensively examined the upper sediment deposits of the knoll through meticulous hand excavation, a larger sample of the older, deeply buried cultural deposits in the lower sediments was investigated by first stripping away the remaining sandy mantle.  These upper sediments were removed from discretely defined block areas through closely monitored machine stripping.  TxDOT, working in cooperation with the Houston Archeological Society, then moved the stripped sediments to an off-site location for screening. Through this effort, a larger sample of informative artifacts were retrieved, allowing archaeologists to achieve a more accurate understanding of prehistoric lifeways in the Houston region.

The TxDOT/HAS screening project has evolved into a tremendously successful public outreach effort. Dozens of HAS members have signed up for the project since its start in early February. Participants from the Brazosport and Fort Bend archaeological societies have also joined the project, as well as anthropology/archaeology students and professors from several local colleges, including the University of Houston, St. Thomas University, Houston Community College and Lone Star College. The project has also been host to school groups from Rosehill Christian Academy and the Kinkaid School. The project has generated outstanding word of mouth, encouraging the participation of many people who have wanted to be archaeologists since childhood but have never had the opportunity.  All the artifacts recovered at the screening site will be cataloged, analyzed, curated and reported, along with those recovered in the hand-excavated sample from the site.

Through its commitment to environmental preservation, TxDOT is excited to partner with the HMNS and HAS in offering this unique opportunity to actively participate in the discovery of Houston’s rich prehistoric past, making historic preservation a collective achievement. This event is planned for August 17. Space is limited and advance registration is required. Click here for more information.

Distinguished Lecture: Merge art and science in an exclusive Giant Screen showing of Chasing Ice

The Extreme Ice Survey merges art and science to give a “visual voice” to Earth’s changing ecosystems. Extreme Ice Survey imagery preserves a visual legacy, providing a unique baseline — useful in years, decades and even centuries to come — for revealing how climate change and other human activity impacts our air, water, forests and wildlife.

Chasing IceEIS field assistant Adam LeWinter on NE rim of Birthday Canyon, atop feature called “Moab.” Greenland Ice Sheet, July 2009. Black deposit in bottom of channel is cryoconite. Birthday Canyon is approximately 150 feet deep.

One aspect of Extreme Ice Survey’s work is a portfolio of single-frame photographs celebrating the beauty, art and architecture of ice. The other aspect of the survey is time-lapse photography. Currently, 27 cameras are deployed at 18 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, the Nepalese Himalaya at Mount Everest, Alaska and the U.S. Rocky Mountains. These cameras record changes in the glaciers every half hour of daylight year round, yielding approximately 8,500 frames per camera per year. The time-lapse images are then edited into stunning videos that reveal how fast climate change is transforming large regions of the planet.

You can witness the hauntingly beautiful videos that compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate in the film Chasing Ice. The vivid images of the majestic ice caps slowly melting away are set to an Academy-Award nominated soundtrack featuring Scarlett Johansson.

Chasing IceLeWinter ice climbing in Survey Canyon, Greenland

Chasing Ice features geologist, mountaineer and award-winning photographer James Balog, who is director of the Extreme Ice Survey and founder of Earth Vision Trust.

Join oceanography and climate change researcher Dr. John B. Anderson of Rice University for a one-night-only screening of Chasing Ice at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on June 18 at 6:30 p.m. This is the only digital, giant-screen showing of Chasing Ice in Houston.

WHAT: HMNS Film Screening of Chasing Ice
WHEN: Tuesday, June 18, 6:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Tickets $18, HMNS Members $12

Click here for advance tickets.

Unravel the coldest case on record: Talk Otzi the Iceman in a Distinguished Lecture on May 14

“Otzi the Iceman,” a 5,300-year-old Copper Age/Neolithic man, was found in 1991 preserved in the Similaun Pass of the Otztal Alps at 10,500 feet between Italy and Austria. Since the discovery, extensive ongoing scientific investigations indicate that he is unique because “Otzi” is practically an archaeological site in himself.

Unlike any other human remains of this age discovered to date, nearly every bit of Otzi is preserved, including his clothing, tools, gear, weapons — even his last meals. Amazing forensic science has recovered many details about his life through the material technology he carried, including a rare and precious copper axe, and vital medical and bioarchaeological data. This includes his DNA and a full genome record, where he lived in the prehistoric Val Senales, and reconstructions and possible scenarios of how he was killed.

Not only did Otzi treat his own parasites, showing prehistoric human medicine, but he used and carried more than 10 different tree and plant products that survived in his glacial context. Even his weapons demonstrate early archery using spiraling arrows, suggesting prehistoric knowledge of aerodynamic stabilizing technology. For those fascinated with forensic and C.S.I. investigation, Otzi may be the “coldest case” on record.

Dr. Patrick Hunt of the Stanford Alpine Archaeology Project has studied Otzi’s tools and paleobotanical specimens in Bolzano, Italy, where Otzi resides frozen, as well as in the Otztal Alps where he lived and was found.

Meet Dr. Hunt at a Distinguished Lecture at HMNS on May 14.  This lecture is co-sponsored by Archaeological Institute of America – Houston Society with support of Applied Diagnostics and Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Bracey.

What: Distinguished Lecture: “Frozen in Time – The Story of Otzi the Iceman”
When: Tuesday, May 14, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Houston Museum of Natural Science main campus
How Much: $12 for members, $18 for general public. Tickets available here.