About Guest Contributor

From distinguished lecturers to scientific scholars to visiting curators to volunteers to leaders in their respective fields, we often invite guest authors to contribute content to our blog. You'll find a wealth of information written by these fascinating individuals as we seek to expand your level of knowledge with every post.

Swifter than eagles! Stronger than lions!*



Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971; AOL Time Warner

Nope, not the *Hsawaknow but extraordinary beasts instead, arising from where the fantastical and the wondrous collide.


Some animals are so exotic that their initial discovery is difficult to comprehend. Stories of griffins, dragons and more may seem like tall tales to us today, but most mythical beasts actually have a basis in reality. People who unearthed odd bones and stones often relied on religious and cultural stories to explain what they had uncovered.


More than two thousand years ago, gold miners sought their fortunes in the vast Gobi Desert. These miners were Scythians—nomadic people among the earliest to master mounted warfare. Relying on their accounts, Greek writers reported that in the sweltering heat of the desert, the miners battled the mighty griffin—a fierce half-eagle, half-lion hybrid that ferociously guarded extravagant treasures of gold. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature.



Joannes Jonstonus (1603-1675). Historiae Naturalis; Griffon (Tab. 62); 1657. (590 J73 vol. 2)


Classical folklorist and historian Adrienne Mayor, Ph.D. argues that the many similarities between Protoceratops dinosaur fossils and griffins indicate that the mythic creature likely originated from ancient paleontological observations.

The Greeks and Romans developed sophisticated concepts to explain the fossil evidence, concepts that were expressed in mythological stories.


griffons3Protoceratops. Mick Ellison/American Museum of Natural History



Dragons are among the most popular and enduring of the world’s mythological creatures. These fabulous creatures of classical mythology continue to live in the modern imagination. Dragon tales are known in many cultures, and they populate our books, films, and television shows, shown as playful to fearsome.

A variety of creatures’ remains have been said to belong to dragons. With their enormous size, reptilian shape and threatening teeth and claws, some dragons might easily be taken for cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex. The fossil remains of extinct animals have sometimes been taken for dragon bones—and helped perpetuate old dragon stories.



Falkor, Toothless, Drogon, Smaug


Fossils of lepidodendron (an ancient tree-like plant) have also been exhibited as dragon skins, even as recent as 1851, when pieces found were said to be of the body of a gigantic fossil serpent.

“The idea that impressive fossils played a role in how people of the past imagined monsters and giants has been influential on several surprising fronts. People now realize that in fossiliferous lands, the bizarre bones of extinct creatures could help to explain dragon imagery” writes Dr. Mayor.


griffons6Black Country Museum

… and more!

Join Dr. Adrienne Mayor of Stanford University and HMNS on October 20 for a paleomythology lecture on Mythological Beasts: Dragons, Griffins – and Dinosaurs? and a fun-filled Family Talk October 22 on The Griffin and the Dinosaur. Book signing of The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times and The Griffin and the Dinosaur: How Adrienne Mayor Discovered a Fascinating Link Between Myth and Science will follow both programs. Sponsored by AIA, Houston Society with support by KPMG.

What You Might Have Missed – Member Events

By Kim Vera, HMNS Membership Copywriter


In August and September we had plenty events to help ease your summer blues and celebrate the beginning of the fall season. Here’s a recap in case you missed out. And be on the lookout for your HMNS weekly newsletter because we are planning a lot of exciting events in the coming months.


Members Night at the George Observatory | Friday, Aug. 5

After being closed due to flooding in Brazos Bend State Park, we were finally able to head back out and enjoy a night of stargazing with snacks, kids’ activities and lots of telescopes for viewing celestial marvels in the night sky.


Sugar Land – Block Party, Too! Members’ Event| Friday, Aug. 12


Members enjoyed an evening of tower building, food, and fun during our members-only event for Block Party, Too! Families were able to roam about the Museum, taking a break every now and then to grab a bite to eat or snack on dessert under a giant Tyrannosaurus rex.


2nd Saturdays for Members | Saturday, Aug. 13 and Sept. 10


During 2nd Saturdays, Members can experience the Museum an hour before the crowds arrive. Tours were available for our Out of the Amazon: Life on the River exhibit and the Morian Hall of Paleontology. For breakfast, Doughmaker Doughnuts served gourmet donuts, a favorite being the French toast, perfectly drenched in maple syrup and powdered sugar. 2nd Saturday is the perfect wakeup call for Members and their little ones. The next 2nd Saturday is on Nov. 12th – and don’t forget your kid’s pass for an extra prize!


World Trekkers: South Korea| Friday, Aug. 26



Passports were stamped, snacks were sampled, and faces were painted! Members were whisked away on a journey to South Korea where students from dojang K-Taekwondo performed demonstrations for the crowds and displayed acts of strength, precision and discipline. After their demonstrations, children has the opportunity to test their own skills with one-on-one training exercises with students from the school. World Trekkers also featured balloon artists and face painters who transformed children into their favorite animals and superheroes and samplings of roasted seaweed, shrimp chips and a chocolate-dipped pretzel stick called Pepero. Travel with us for our last Trekkers of the year as we head off to Ireland in November! See the world with HMNS and don’t forget your World Trekkers passport!


Members First! Bill of Rights: Amending America. | Friday, Sept. 1


In September, HMNS Members enjoyed a brand new benefit, Members First, which gave an in-depth look at the Bill of Rights before the exhibit opened to the public. As a Museum bonus, a historical reenactor was stationed in the Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. Hall giving Members an insight on our humble beginnings in pursuing life, liberty, and happiness.


An Evening with the Owls- Members Events| Monday – Wednesday, Sept. 12 – 14


An Evening with the Owls allowed Members to witness owl butterflies up close in the evening when they were most active. In addition to insect owls, special guests from Wild Life Center of Texas and Sky Kings Falconry introduced guests to feathered owls, including a great horned owl, a tiny screech owl and a beautiful barn owl. Charro, our resident green iguana, even made an appearance at the event to meet and greet guests and eat some snacks provided by staff of the Cockrell Butterfly Center.


HMNS Catalysts: An Evening with the Owls | Thursday, Sept. 15


paperSwarms of owl butterflies fluttered through the air in the Cockrell Butterfly Center as HMNS Catalysts Members attempted to capture pictures of the winged beauties while they landed from head to head in the crowd. Members were greeted that evening with an open bar and the aroma of mouthwatering roasted Berkshire pork loin sliders, crudité of asparagus, and assorted cheeses and olives. Special themed crafts were also available where guests could make their very own butterfly origami and pom pom bugs with googly eyes. Members also got to experience entomophagy – consuming bugs as a source of food – by sampling bowls of chocolate-coated array of insects and crickets and larvets flavored with sour cream and onion, BBQ, and cheddar seasonings.

Mummies of the World: The Exhibition – Members First Viewing and Members Exclusive Event | Friday, Sept. 23

Mummies of the World: The Exhibition opened with Members First, which allowed members the opportunity to experience this fascinating exhibition before it opened to the public. In the evening, we held our exclusive Members’ event that featured children’s craft tables, a fun photo booth, and a tasty menu of chicken tagine and dulce de leche brownies drizzled in caramel. Once inside the exhibit, HMNS docents enhanced the exhibit experience by providing deeper insights into the process of natural and man-made mummification.

We hope you had as much fun at the members’ events as we did! And check our website often because we will be adding new events soon.

Happy National Pancake Day Breakfast For Dinner


In honor of National Pancake Day, A Fare Extraordinaire is celebrating with our favorite party trend – Breakfast for Dinner! Whether it’s a birthday celebration, a baby shower or intimate date night for two, we love incorporating breakfast food items during dinner time.

BRUNCH seems to be everyone’s favorite meal, so why not bring the brunch to dinner? Breakfast foods are fun to incorporate into any menu because it is easy to turn them into cute, petite bites. One of our favorite brunch items are our Petite Pancake Stacks.



AFE Petite Pancake Stacks
Short Stack of Three Mini Pancakes
Topped with a Banana Slice
Presented with a Custom Beaded Pick
Dusted with Confectioner’s Sugar
*Chocolate Chips Optional But Strongly Encouraged*
Pancakes are an easy way to add a filling food item to your brunch display. We also love pancakes because you can add a large variety of toppings and sauces to appeal to different palates and tastes. At AFE, we love adding chocolate chips into the mini pancakes and a banana slice as a topper….and you can never go wrong with a little bit of powdered sugar!


These mini stacks are as easy, if easier, than normal sized pancakes. Simply mix your batter and pour it into a squeeze bottle or a pastry piping bag – this will allow you to control your batter portion and standardize the size of your stack. Heat you portable pancake griddle and squeeze sandollar-sized pancake batter onto the griddle. Once the batter begins to bubble, it is ready to be flipped! When each pancake bite is complete, you can stack 3-4 pancakes on top of each other with any topping of your choosing. Skewer them with a beaded pic or bamboo skewer. 





To compliment these precious petite pancakes, we recommend creating a full brunch display. Dinner is always a heavier meal, so incorporating a full display with endless options will be sure to fill your guests for the evening. Be sure to tie on some savory items to complement the pancake sweet tooth. Some of our go-to savory “breakfast for dinner” items include: Bagels and Lox & Chicken and Waffles. Enjoy!!



Blog Post by A Fare Extraordinaire, Photography by Meredith Marceau

The Man Who Predicted Our Evolutionary Future

By Scott Solomon



“It is not what man has been, but what he will be, that should interest us” – H. G. Wells

On this day 150 years ago in Bromley, England, a child was born to a family of modest shopkeepers. Known to his family as Bertie, he broke his leg at the age of seven, an accident he would later describe as a pivotal moment in his life. To pass the time while recovering from the injury he read incessantly, fostering a love of books that would persist all his life. He would go on to become one of the most influential authors in history and help launch the modern genre of science fiction.

Herbert George Wells became an instant success with the publication of his debut book, The Time Machine, in 1895. His timing was impeccable. The idea that species change through time through a process called natural selection was still new—Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published just seven years before Wells’ birth. The implication that humans had evolved too—and that we might still be evolving—was spreading through polite Victorian society faster than cholera.




H. G. Wells was fascinated by evolution, having studied biology under T. H. Huxley, Darwin’s most outspoken supporter (whose grandson, Julian Huxley, founded the biology department at Rice University where I am now on the faculty). In The Time Machine, the protagonist travels through time to see humanity’s past as well as its future. Arriving in the year 802,701 AD, he discovers that humans have evolved into two distinct species, known as Eloi and Morlocks. The Eloi have diminished physical and intellectual abilities due to generations of disuse, and are tended like livestock by the ape-like, subterranean Morlocks. It was a grim view of how our ongoing evolution might unfold, meant as a criticism of class divisions in Victorian England.

Wells was an educated man, and his dystopian vision was an extension of the latest scientific knowledge of the day. At the time, there was very little information available for forecasting our future evolution. Yet many of Wells’ other imaginative ideas—he predicted technological advances such as lasers, cars, automatic doors, and nuclear weapons—have since come to fruition. What about our future evolution?

Today, the evidence that has accumulated from the fields of anthropology, demography, human genetics and genomics, medicine, and microbiology allow us better insight than ever before into our evolutionary future. This is the premise of my new book, Future Humans. As an evolutionary biologist, I wanted to know what science can tell us about how humans will continue to evolve based on what we know about our past and what is happening today. My research for the book spanned more than two years and included trips to England, Scotland, Quebec, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and a simulated Martian colony in the Utah desert. My sources include peer-reviewed research articles, seminars, and dozens of interviews I conducted with researchers.

My overall conclusion would not come as a huge surprise to H. G. Wells—as a species we are indeed still evolving. But we are entering a new phase in our evolutionary history—one that I believe makes the future more interesting than ever before. Our ongoing evolution will be influenced by whether we maintain our massive population size (currently 7.5 billion and growing), our global transportation network, how we respond to the constant threat of infectious disease, and our use of technology and medicine—including precision gene editing, assisted reproductive technology and contraceptives, and even online dating.

Socioeconomic divisions play a role in our ongoing evolution, too, but there is no reason to believe that we will become like the Eloi or Morlocks. In fact, if recent trends continue we are more likely to become extinct before any new human species could evolve. That is, unless the efforts currently underway to establish permanent colonies on Mars are successful and we become spread across the solar system (or beyond, to places like Proxima b). Our descendants on other planets may indeed evolve into new species adapted to local conditions, just as plants and animals so often do when they become isolated on islands.

Should that happen, Wells would be at least indirectly responsible. Modern rockets were invented by Robert H. Goddard, who was inspired to find a way to send people to other planets after reading another of Wells’ books, War of the Worlds.


Scott Solomon will be will be at HMNS on October 25th to present his fascinating lecture: Future Humans. Tickets are available for purchase HERE