Gamers Unite: See how you’d fare in battle with Battleship Texas at HMNS 9/20 and 11/11

This post was written by guest blogger Andy Bouffard, Wargame Facilitator.

“To a wargamer, wargames are not abstract, time-wasting pastimes, like other games, but representative of the real… You can learn something from wargames; indeed, in some ways you can learn more from wargames than from reading history.” Greg Costikyan in the collection Tabletop: Analog Game Design.

The Battleship Texas exhibit, now showing at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, provides visitors with plenty of history to read, videos to watch and lots of fascinating artifacts to admire. On September 20 and November 11, 2014, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., another dimension to the Battleship Texas exhibit can be experienced — wargaming

Museum visitors will be able to do more than read about naval warfare, via the written history of USS Texas. On these days you will be encouraged to interact with two simulated battles, each illustrating a different age of maritime warfare and each using representative model ships from their respective age.

Simulation 1
Throughout much of WWII, the German battleship Tirpitz, sister to the famed Bismarck, was a threat in the icy waters of the Norwegian and Barents Sea — threatening to leave the protection of Norwegian ports and attack Russian-bound Allied convoys out of Great Britain or to break out through the Denmark Straits as Bismarck once had. Meanwhile, throughout much of 1942, USS Texas escorted convoys and patrolled the seas, protecting against the likes of a raiding Tirpitz. While Tirpitz and Texas never met, historically, we’ll explore what might-have-been had Tirpitz attacked an Allied convoy and Texas was there to stop her.

Could Texas and her escorts have been a match for Tirpitz?  Help us find out!

Simulation 2
On September 5, 1781, the British army at Yorktown, Virginia, was surrounded by the Continental Army on land and the French navy at sea. Unexpectedly, a British fleet commanded by Sir Thomas Graves arrived to challenge the French blockade of Lord Cornwallis’ army. Although caught by surprise, the French fleet under Admiral De Grasse was able to form a line of battle and prevent the British from breaking the siege of Yorktown. The battle itself could be called a draw, but it did force the British fleet to return to New York for reinforcements and refitting. It is not an understatement to say that this seemingly inconclusive battle led to the formation of the United States of America. 

Can YOU do as well as De Grasse, or maybe even better than Thomas Graves? Find out!

More on Battleship Texas, at HMNS through November 16:

The exhibition, organized by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, highlights the history of the Battleship Texas in service to the United States Navy through World War II. It showcases 60 artifacts of the only surviving U.S. Navy vessel to have seen action in both world wars. Objects on view include a never-before displayed flag from the ship and a shell that hit the vessel but did not explode, plus select pieces from the silver service presented to the battleship by the people of Texas, historical photographs and personal items from men who served aboard the Battleship. A special listening station shares crewmember memories of service aboard the Battleship during World War II.

More on Wargaming in Houston:

Inspired by the National WWII Museum’s “Heat of Battle” wargame convention, Texas BROADSIDE! is held annually aboard USS Texas and uses wargaming as a means to educate the visiting public about the history of US armed conflict.  The event features local-area gamers playing board and miniature wargames aboard the USS Texas.  These games simulate various battles on land, at sea, or in the air, from early American military history, through WWI and WWII, and on to more recent, modern day, battles.  Don’t miss Texas BROADSIDE! 2014 on USS Texas held October 10-12. All proceeds will be donated to the Battleship Texas Foundation. The event is hosted annually by the Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming club. Details can be found here.

Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming is a group for gamers who meet once a month to share in wargaming amongst friends with good food and drink and wargames camaraderie.  Details can be found at here.

 

Meet Chris Fischer from Ocearch today at HMNS!

ChrisFischer_Fullsize03042013_Ocearch_JacksonvilleFL_0207web

Today at HMNS – meet Chris Fischer, Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader for OCEARCH who will be here today at the opening of our new special exhibition Shark!

Event Details:
Friday, August 29
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Glassell Hall in front of Shark! exhibit

Tickets:
FREE for members
Non-Members: Included with purchase of a ticket to our permanent exhibit halls.

About Chris Fischer:
Chris Fischer is the Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader for OCEARCH. Since 2007, he has led 20 global expeditions to advance science and education while unlocking the many mysteries surrounding the life history of white sharks and other giants of the ocean. He has facilitated millions of dollars in collaborative ocean research, supporting the work of over 70 scientists from more than 40 international and regional institutions, through his own financial resources and with the support of partners such as title sponsor Caterpillar Inc. Additional support comes from films sponsor Costa Sunglasses, Education Development partner Landry’s Inc., philanthropists and foundations, and the general public who make contributions through Rally.org.

130820_OCEARCH_0287-web

His work with OCEARCH has been aired on the National Geographic Channel and HISTORY in over 170 countries and has been documented in over 7,500 global media stories. The work, ranging from satellite tracking to biological studies is helping generate critical data required to better understand the health of our oceans by understanding the health of its apex predators. Fischer is an award-winning member of the Explorer’s Club with 10 flagged expeditions. His collaborative open-sourced approach has generated over 50 scientific papers in process to advance ocean sustainability through data-driven public policy while simultaneously advancing public safety and education.

012814_RS_OCEARCH_Galapagos_SantaCruz_0675_1

Chris’ ultimate goal is to explode the body of knowledge forward by enabling scientists and governments around the globe to generate groundbreaking data on the ocean’s apex predators in an open source environment. He’s also conceived a way to advance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education through a free, dynamic shark-based OCEARCH K-12 curriculum available at OCEARCH.org, home of the Global Shark Tracker – which is also available as an iPhone and Android App.

Shark Week: Of Fins and Fiction

At the risk of sounding obvious — it’s Shark Week, the Discovery Channel’s annual plug for the much maligned (but secretly awesome) top predators of the deep!

Started in 1988, as a way for the station to capitalize on the lack of summer competition for programming while aiding conservation efforts for the infamously finned and fanged fellows, the sharks and Discovery Channel have had what you may call a symbiotic relationship. Sharks get the station viewers and the viewers provide better ratings for the station while becoming better educated about sharks and the need for strong conservation efforts. Win/win/win.

Well, at least that’s how Shark Week started…

Lately, Shark Week has, well, it’s been a little disappointing — at least from a scientific standpoint. 

Most of the programming is seemingly centered on making the public at large even more afraid of sharks than they already are (even while these fears are generally not grounded in fact). They’re hyping up fears of getting eaten by one while making the shark from Jaws look comparable to a goldfish you’d take home in a plastic bag.

Here I’m talking about the megalodon, or Carcharodon megalodon

While it’s incredible that this positively massive species of shark ever existed (let alone that we now have the capabilities to find and date their fossils to between 28 and 2 million years ago) the folks with Shark Week have decided that the species wasn’t interesting enough on its own merit. Instead, they’ve now made two completely un-scientific “documentaries” about “scientists” “searching” for it (Click here for an in depth review of actual scientific theories surrounding megalodon).

You may also have heard that some restaurants have tried to capitalize on Shark week this year by serving shark meat on their menus. Really.It’s getting pretty clear at this point that the programming is seriously diluting the conservation message that Shark Week was originally meant to convey.

In a conversation on all things Shark Week with the International Business Times, Sonja Fordham, a marine biologist and founder of Shark Advocates International was asked about the positive and negative effects of Shark Week on the public’s perception of sharks. On this point she said:

“Well, it’s really hard to tell. There’s good things and bad things,Talking about sharks, providing all types of people and interest groups to get out their messages tied to this global event — one time a year we’re all focused on sharks — so that can be very positive if we capitalize on that. But then of course the negative image, the perpetuation of the fear of sharks, does not help shark conservation. It’s a pretty outdated view to see sharks as killing machines or serious threats to beach goers. That negative imagery doesn’t help in help of advancing shark conservation policies.” 

So it’s a mixed bag. But we can use the hype of Shark Week to start conversations about conservation, the need to protect sharks and ways change our perceptions of them.

It might be an uphill battle, but we’re still making progress.

If you have the desire to learn more about sharks (including the extinct megalodon) make sure you come to HMNS for our SHARK! exhibit, opening August 29.

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: The Perseids are back August 12!

Star Chart August 2014

This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on August 1, 9 pm CDT on August 15, and dusk on August 31. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. The Summer Triangle is high overhead. This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila. Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left. From the Big Dipper’s handle, ‘arc to Arcturus’ and ‘speed on to Spica’ in the southwest. Watch Mars close in on Saturn this month. The Great Square of Pegasus rises in the east, heralding the coming autumn.

This month, Mars is in the southwest at dusk this month. Mars continues to fade a little each night as Earth continues to leave it farther behind. Still, Mars rivals the brightest stars we see at night.

Saturn is also in the south southwest at dusk. Mars passes 3.4 degrees south of Saturn on August 25. 

Venus remains in the morning sky, although it now begins to approach the Sun more and more. Look east at dawn for the brightest point of light there; only the Sun and Moon outshine Venus. Venus remains a morning star for almost all of 2014.

Jupiter emerges from behind the Sun into the morning sky by late August. Venus is about 1/5 of one degree from Jupiter at dawn on August 18th. (Both are low in the east at dawn). 

The Big Dipper is left of the North Star, with its handle pointing up. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’; those stars are in the west at dusk.  Leo, the Lion, is setting in the west at dusk.

Antares, brightest star of Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the southeast, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius behind it. The Summer Triangle is high in the east. The stars of summer are here. By late evening you can look for the Great Square of Pegasus rising in the east, indicating that fall is approaching.

Coming to an observatory near you, August 12: The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks next week, late Tuesday/early Wednesday (August 12-13).  As usual, we see more meteors towards dawn because that’s when we rotate into the meteor stream. 

The George Observatory is open 7:00 p.m. August 12 until 2:00 a.m. August 12-13 for the shower. 

 

Moon Phases in August 2014

1st Quarter: August 3, 7:50 p.m. 
Full: August 10, 1:10 p.m.
Last Quarter: August 17, 7:26 a.m.
New: August 25, 9:12 a.m.

Click here to see the Burke Baker Planetarium Schedule.

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. If you’re there, listen for my announcement. 

Clear Skies!