Come to the Dark Side: Distinguished Lecture Explores Dark Matter

The ordinary atoms that make up the known universe — from our bodies and the air we breathe to the planets and stars — constitute only 5 percent of all matter and energy in the cosmos. The rest is known as dark matter and dark energy, because their precise identities are unknown. 

Dr. Katherine Freese, one of today’s foremost pioneers in the study of dark matter, is a key player in the epic quest to solve one of the most compelling enigmas of modern science: What is the universe made of?

This dynamo researcher, speaker and author will be at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on September 4 for a lecture on her work on the front lines of dark matter research.

Blending cutting-edge science with her own behind-the-scenes insights as a leading researcher in the field, acclaimed theoretical physicist Katherine Freese will recount the hunt for dark matter, from the discoveries of visionary scientists like Fritz Zwicky — the Swiss astronomer who coined the term “dark matter” in 1933 — to the deluge of data today from underground laboratories, satellites in space and the Large Hadron Collider.

Theorists contend that dark matter consists of fundamental particles known as WIMPs —or weakly interacting massive particles. Billions of them pass through our bodies every second without us even realizing it, yet their gravitational pull is capable of whirling stars and gas at breakneck speeds around the centers of galaxies and bending light from distant objects.

Many cosmologists believe we are on the verge of solving the mystery! Freese will help even the non-science majors be able to fathom this epochal moment in humankind’s quest to understand the universe.

Katherine Freese of the University of Michigan splits her time between Ann Arbor and New York City, and is also member of the International Advisory Board for the Oskar Klein Center for Cosmoparticle Physics in Stockholm, Sweden.

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter
Katherine Freese, Ph.D., University of Michigan
Wednesday, September 3, 6:30 p.m.

Following the lecture, Dr. Freese will sign copies of her new book The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter, which provides the foundation needed to fully fathom humankind’s quest to understand the universe.

Book signing is in partnership with River Oaks Bookstore.

And, save the date for our next Dark Matter program…
Film Screening – Particle Fever
Thursday, October 9, 6:00 p.m.

10,000 scientists from over 100 countries who have joined forces in pursuit of explaining the origin of all matter. Join Dr. Paul Padley, professor at Rice University and member of the Hadron Collider team, for this is a one-night-only event at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

For advance tickets to both events, call 713.639.4629 or visit www.hmns.org/lectures

Home Front: Lecture examines Texas history in WWII

By Guest Blogger Mike Vance, Houston Arts and Media

To picture the home front during World War II is to summon memories of drives for war bonds and scrap metal and rationing of sugar, meat and shoes. To be sure, it was a time that included all of those sacrifices and more. It was also, however, the beginning of a shift that would change Texas from rural to urban as half a million Texans moved to cities to fill industrial jobs.

Those industries were thriving from the war effort. Manufacturing in Texas quadrupled during WWII. Pipelines, refineries and petrochemicals blossomed on the upper Gulf Coast, and factories in the Metroplex churned out aircraft. Synthetic rubber was manufactured in the state, wood pulp operations were revived and Liberty ships were born on the Houston Ship Channel.

The state was home to a myriad of military bases. Tens of thousands of Americans were inducted or discharged in Texas. Training took place from one end of the state to the other, especially for the Army Air Corps, be it aviation mechanics in Wichita Falls, pilots in San Antonio or aerial gunners in Harlingen.

Scattered around Texas was the largest number of German prisoner of war camps in the United States. While much of the farm labor pool was away in the service, these captured Germans picked fruit and tended the fields and livestock.

All along the coast were anti-aircraft guns, concrete bunkers and even reconnaissance blimps. German U-boats did indeed ply Gulf waters, looking for Allied shipping.

Yet, the stories of Texas during the War don’t end with the effort to defeat the Axis powers. The early 1940s brought stirrings of social change. Women, still not allowed to serve on a jury, were suddenly doing essential work in factories or petrochemical labs.

Race relations showed signs of change, too. 1944 also saw a landmark Supreme Court case that ended the all-white democratic primaries in the state. When veterans of African or Mexican descent returned to their home state, they were much less inclined to silently accept the second-class status to which they had been relegated prior to the war.

Home Front: Texas in WWII is the fascinating, multi-layered story of soldiers, sailors and civilians selflessly working to fulfill a patriotic duty. It’s also politicians, civil rights, and young love. It is a story 70 years old that resonates loudly with the making of modern Texas.

Historian Mike Vance of Houston Arts and Media will give an overview of Home Front: Texas in WWII at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on August 26 in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre.

Home Front: Texas in WWII
Tuesday, August 26, 6:30 p.m.
Mike Vance, Historian
Tickets $18, HMNS Members $12
Purchase tickets: online by phone 713-639-4629 or at the HMNS Box Office.

Distinguished Lecture: Quilting history with Pam Holland’s replica of the Bayeux Tapestry

Editor’s Note: The Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered textile 230 feet long, visually recounts the conquest of England by the Normans in 1066. Professional quilter Pam Holland of Australia has nearly completed a full-scale quilted replica of the Bayeux Tapestry. In the process of her work and research, she has become one of the leading experts on the original piece, which is on display in Normandy, France. The replica quilted panel on display in the HMNS Magna Carta exhibition is an example of Holland’s work. This blog post is written by Holland.

Last year, I was approached by the Houston Museum of Natural Science to display a sample piece of my “Bayeux Tapestry – To Quilt” project in their upcoming Magna Carta exhibition. I was thrilled, as you can imagine, while a little taken aback at the same time. However, during the Houston Quilt Festival, we met and I agreed they could have it for the duration of the exhibition.

I made the arrangement thinking I wouldn’t get to Houston to see it on display, but an opportunity came my way and I found myself in Houston this past March, only a short while after Magna Carta had opened! Blessings. And my, what an experience it was to see the exhibit.

The entrance to the exhibition is imposing and continues through several distinct spaces. The first room covers really interesting information about the day-to-day lives of people who lived in Medieval England.

Of course, I was drawn to the section with products used to dye fabric and thread. There was so much information I could barely take it all in. I’ve been studying these subjects for years, and here it was, all in one place: dyeing, weaving, daily chores and tasks. I was amazed.

I walked down a corridor and into the next room.

It was beautiful; it looked forever like a cathedral. The light was low. Facsimiles of stained glass windows and the sounds of Gregorian chanting adding to the ambiance.

And there, in the center, was my quilt. I almost burst. I just thought it would be pinned to the wall. Never did I imagine my piece would have its own beautiful display.

Bayeux Magna

The more I looked at it, the more I thought, “It’s fitting.” I have a small inkling now of how the entire quilt will look on display — all 263 feet of it.

My spirit soared. I’m so thrilled. I was absolutely delighted to play a small part in this collection.

Serendipitously, I am making my way back to Houston on Tuesday, July 22, and will give a lecture at HMNS on the Bayeux Tapestry in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre at 6:30 p.m. I couldn’t be more excited!

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
The Bayeux Tapestry: The Story-Telling Textile of the Norman Conquest
Pam Holland, Author and Artist
Tuesday, July 22, 6:30 p.m.
Sponsored by the Favrot Fund
The Museum’s Magna Carta programs are sponsored by the British Council.
Click here for advance tickets.

The Magna Carta exhibit is on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science until August 17, 2014. Click here for tickets and information.

See below for details of Pam Holland’s quilted replica of the Bayeux Tapestry:

WHOOP! Aggie volcano beneath the sea confirmed largest on Earth

In 1993, oceanographer William Sager began studying the massive underwater mountain mass about 1,000 miles off the coast of Japan in a mountain range known as the Shatsky Rise. At that time, Sager was with the Texas A&M College of Geosciences. He nicknamed the large mountain mass “Tamu Massif” —“Tamu” for the abbreviation of Texas A&M and “Massif” for the French word frequently used to describe a large mountain mass. 

Tamu Massif

Ten years later Dr. William Sager, now with the University of Houston’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department, announced that Tamu Massif was actually one single volcano on September 5, 2013.

Since they are submerged beneath the oceans in remote locations and therefore difficult to study, far less is known about volcanoes beneath the sea than those that tower above us on land. The origins of underwater volcanoes are murky; their structures and how they erupt and evolve is unclear. 

Multichannel seismic profiles and rock samples taken from Integrated Ocean Drilling Program core sites were used to interpret the structure of Tamu Massif, the oldest and largest edifice of the Shatsky Rise oceanic plateau in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. 

Tamu Massif is seen to be a single, immense volcano, constructed from massive lava flows that emanated from the volcano center to form a broad, shield-like mound the size of New Mexico. The volcano has anomalously low slopes, probably due to high effusion rates and low viscosity of the erupting lava (i.e. being underneath all that water makes it difficult for the lava to flow).

The largest single volcano on Earth, Tamu Massif is comparable in size to the largest known volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons on Mars. Data from Tamu Massif document a class of oceanic volcanoes that is distinguished by its size and shape from the thousands of common seamounts found throughout the oceans. 

Next year, William Sager and his team will return to Tamu Massif to collect more data bearing on its shape and formation.

Olympus Mons above, Hawaiian islands below, to scale.

Dr. William Sager will give a vivid presentation on Tamu Massif at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Tuesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. to complement Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters, now on display at HMNS.

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
Tamu Massif, The World’s Biggest Volcano Is Hiding Beneath the Sea
William W. Sager, Ph.D.
Tuesday, June 24, 6:30 p.m.
Click here or call 713-639-4629 for advance tickets.

Massif Blog 2Tamu Massif, the world’s largest volcano, was discovered in 2013 in the northwestern Pacific Ocean by a team of researchers lead by Dr. William Sager. Constructed from massive lava flows that emanated from the volcano’s center, Tamu Massif is comparable in size to the largest known volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons on Mars. Dr. Sager will explain how he is unlocking the murky secrets of oceanic plateau structure, how they erupt and evolve using multichannel seismic profiles and core samples from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, and why this new data is important to you. Professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Houston, Dr. William W. Sager leads research vessels to sea to collect geological data. 

Massif Blog 3