Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 11/16-11/22

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! 

Jingle Tree 3

Film Screening – The Northern Lights: Nature’s Spectacle with Pal Brekke
Monday, Nov. 16
7:00 p.m.
Imagine what it must have been like for the first northern inhabitants to raise their eyes to the dazzle of the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis still casts its mysterious and colorful spell over us, and Norwegian solar physicist Dr. Pal Brekke has captured that enduring fascination in a new documentary, The Northern Lights: A Magic Experience.

Sip ‘n See Open House & Luncheon
Tuesday, Nov 17. 
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
HMNS at Sugar Land
Next up is our open house Sip n See, Tuesday, November 17, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. This fabulous strolling lunch event will allow you, your friends and associates to see the trees up close and perhaps even “pre-buy” the one you fall in love with!

Lecture – Fire Masters: Cooking and Feasting 10,000 Years Ago by Andrew McCarthy
Tuesday, Nov. 17
6:30 p.m.
The food we eat and its preparation define us as humans as few things do. Archaeologists theorize that cooking and feasting enabled the human brain to expand. Excavations on Cyprus reveal the presence of large stone ovens much larger than a single tribe required, apparently for the purpose of sharing feasts in the Neolithic period dating to 10,000 years ago. Dr. Andrew McCarthy will explore how cooking and feasting may be decisive steps toward the development of civilization. Perhaps the origin of our holiday feasts is result of humankind³ greatest prehistoric inventions.

Drink and be Merry Happy Hour and Auction Closing
Thursday, Nov. 19
5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
HMNS at Sugar Land
We’ll wrap things up with a cool Happy Hour, Thursday, November 19, an evening filled with cocktails, tree viewing, on-line bidding and a fabulous live auction. All bids close that evening at 8:00 pm!

Class – Atlatl Workshop: Stone Age Spear Slinging
Saturday, Nov. 21
9:00 a.m.
Journey into prehistory by literally chucking the past! Experimental archaeologist Dr. August Costa will introduce you to the science and prehistory of hand-cast projectiles and biomechanics of their use. Participants will build their own cane dart and learn how construct throwers. After instruction on using the Stone Age spear-throwe–the atlatl, participants will fling full-scale replicas at stationary targets. The class will culminate in a tournament competition, with a sharp grand prize.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 11/9-11/15

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! 


Lecture – The Fastest Evolving Regions of the Human Genome by Katherine Pollard
Wednesday, Nov. 11
6:30 p.m. 
Although a child can tell the difference between a chimp and a man, identifying the specific DNA mutations that make us human is one of the greatest challenges of biology. The genomic sequence is approximately 3 billion letters long, with millions of mutations and rearrangements specific to humans. Using computational algorithms to compare our DNA to that of chimpanzees, other mammals, and Neanderthal and Denisovan fossils, we learned that the human genome did not evolve especially fast. Instead, it seems that a few mutations in critical places had big effects. Most of these “Human Accelerated Regions” are not genes, and science has no clue to their function when they were discovered a decade ago. New techniques in stem cell biology, genome editing, and high-throughput molecular biology are allowing us to discover the functions of the fastest evolving regions of the human genome and dissect how individual DNA mutations altered these functions to make us human. Dr. Katherine Pollard is a Senior Investigator at the Gladstone Institutes and Professor of Biostatistics and Human Genetics at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Pollard’s lab develops statistical and computational methods for the analysis of massive biological datasets, with an emphasis on evolutionary genomics of humans and the human microbiota. She pioneered the comparative genomic approach to scan genomes of related species to identify regions that are evolving with different rates or patterns in a particular lineage. Using this technique, her lab identified the fastest evolving regions in the human genome and in the DNA of many living and ancestral species.

This lecture is sponsored by The Leakey Foundation.

World Trekkers – Thailand
Friday, Nov. 13
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Last World Trekkers of the year! Featuring traditional Muay Thai boxing performances by Houston Muay Thai, Thai themed painting with Young Picassos, photo ops, a living Buddha statue, exotic animals, arts & crafts, food trucks and more, you don’t need a plane ticket to visit Thailand this year! Our World Trekkers program is a series of cultural festivals for the whole family. Buy tickets now!

World Trekkers generously underwritten by GDF Suez Energy Resources.

Cookies with Santa and Event Kickoff
HMNS at Sugar Land
Saturday Nov. 14
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
The event kicks off with our family friendly Cookies with Santa, Saturday, November 14. It’s your first chance to view the trees and catch Santa during an early holiday visit to Sugar Land. Be sure to bring your camera to snap some candids!


13 Freaky finds at HMNS

Tentacles, bodies and skeletons, oh my! No matter how beautiful or how vital to the history of natural science and life on Earth, some things are just a little freaky. Check out this short list of our top 13 strange, weird and scary artifacts housed in the permanent halls of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

13. Stone hands


Sculptor Harold van Pelt carved this hand from a solid block of a special mineral. The sculpture is an exact replica of his wife’s hand.

12. Stone skull


Pelt also carved this, a life-sized replica of the human skull, identical to the real thing inside and out. That includes the brain case. The jaw is removable from the skull.

11. Cambrian sea creaturescreep09

They’re soft and squirmy and have strange, meat-eating mouthparts. These guys aren’t around anymore, but you can get up close and personal to these models based on fossils discovered in Cambrian rock layers. Watch a CG video of them swimming in action alongside trilobites and orthoceras in the Morian Hall of Paleontology.

10. Fossilized sea scorpion pincerscreep06

Sea scorpions didn’t always get this big. But when they did, their claws were brutal! Sea scorpions were the apex predator in the Cambrian seas, with a poisonous stinger and these toothy pincers. These in our collection measure about six inches long. Imagine getting pinched by those puppies!

9. A shark that could swallow an elephantcreep07

Megalodon, the largest shark to have ever existed, could swallow platybelodon, a mastodon ancestor, in a single bite. Good thing they’re extinct, or whole ships might go missing.

8. Stuffed bird specimensCreep02

Our preserved specimens of extinct, rare and modern life can be a fascinating walk through taxonomy and the diversity of life on earth. But they’re still treated skins stuffed with cotton. In these specimens, cotton holds the eyes permanently open.

7. Feeding lion


The glass eyes of this preserved lion seem to challenge all who pass. And the severed leg lets us know he means business. What can you say? Life’s hard on the savannah. Keep it real.

6. Floating model orthocerascreep05

This prehistoric mollusk was an ancestor of the modern squid and octopus. In Cambrian rock, their numerous conical shells make this one of the most successful species of the era. And this model, looming overhead, calls to mind that Lovecraftian god of the apocalypse, Cthulhu. (Click the link for Google images if you’re not cool enough to be familiar…)

5. Wall of skullscreep08Nearing the end of the fossil record we find a who’s who of hominids. Homo erectus, australopithecines and Neanderthals included. But it’s pretty disconcerting to stroll around the corner and be confronted by a skull collection of human ancestors staring you in the face.

4. The mummy of General What’s-His-Name


Better than hominid ancestors are those famously well-preserved Egyptian mummies that draw crowds from around the world. This one was a man said to have been a general of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Thutmose III, dating back to 1450 BC. Now that’s an old corpse.

3. The mummy of Neshkhons


I find it more creepy that we know who this body actually was for some reason. Don’t you? This is the mummy of the noble lady Neskhons, who lived during the 21st Dynasty of Egypt, between 1070 and 945 BC. Like many mummies, she was discovered with her most important organs preserved in canopic jars, not including the brain, of course. To ancient Egyptians, the brain was some worthless head-goop.

2. Disembodied head


This mummified head was discovered with a gold-leaf mask, its eyes painted on the outside looking up to the heavens in a symbol of reverence for the gods. The head dates back to between 200 BC and 100 AD.

1. The Aztec god of human sacrifice

creep01In pre-Columbian Mexico, the Aztec empire stretched for thousands of miles with modern-day Mexico City at its heart. Millions were sacrificed to the god Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (pronounced tlah-wheeze-call-pan-teh-coot-lee) at the top of the Templo Mayor, the great temple in the middle of the city. Sacrifices were beheaded at the top of a tall flight of steps, and the skulls rolled hundreds of feet down to the city floor. The Aztecs believed the sacrifices kept their food and water plentiful, but the scare tactics also made them the most powerful empire of their time.

Come see the freakshow before Halloween, or come in costume to Spirits and Skeletons Halloween night!


Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 10/26-11/1

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! 


Lecture – Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble
Monday, Oct. 26
2:30 p.m.
Marilyn Johnson’s will offer an entertaining look at the lives of contemporary archaeologists as they sweat under the sun for clues to the puzzle of our past. Johnson digs and drinks alongside archaeologists, chases them through the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and even Machu Picchu, and excavates their lives. Her subjects share stories we rarely read in history books, about slaves and Ice Age hunters, ordinary soldiers of the American Revolution, children of the first century, Chinese woman warriors, sunken fleets, mummies. What drives these archaeologists is not the money (meager) or the jobs (scarce) or the working conditions (dangerous), but their passion for the stories that would otherwise be buried and lost. Book signing of Lives in Ruins following lecture

Lecture – Amazonian Plant Biodiversity By Nancy Greig
Tuesday, Oct. 27
6:30 p.m.
The Amazonian basin has one of the highest diversities of plants in the world. Dr. Nancy Greig, director of the HMNS Cockrell Butterfly Center, will discuss some of the reasons for this great biodiversity with vibrant images of particularly interesting Amazonian species, including a number of plants involved in ant-plant symbioses. Following the lecture, the audience is invited to tour the Butterfly Center and Insect Zoo to view some living examples of plants and insects from the neotropical region.

Tricks, Treats & T.rex
HMNS at Sugar Land
Celebrate Halloween at HMNS Sugar Land and discover the scary side of science! Our annual Halloween Spooktacular returns for two days! Costumes encouraged both days.
Museum of Unnatural Science Haunted House – Friday, Oct. 30,  7 – 9 p.m.
Magical Pumpkin Maze – Saturday, Oct. 31, 10 a.m. – noon

Family Space Day
George Observatory
Saturday, Oct. 31
Make the George Observatory your pre-Halloween destination! Bring your trick-or-treaters to the George Observatory before the night’s festivities begin as we celebrate Family Space Day on Saturday, October 31. It wouldn’t be Halloween without costumes, so wear your scariest get-up as you sign up for our simulated spooky space flights.

Spirits & Skeletons
Saturday, Oct. 31
8:00 p.m. to Midnight
Calling all ghosts and ghouls, monsters and mummies, witches and werewolves: Houston’s favorite Halloween party — the one and only Spirits & Skeletons — is back at HMNS! With the entire museum open you can shake your stuff with a stegosaurus, grab a drink with a skink and get spellbound by bewitching gems, all to live music and your favorite hits played by DJs with fantastic food trucks parked right outside. Whether you go with scary and spooky or fab and kooky — dress up, party the night away at HMNS and we’ll put a spell on you!