Science Doesn’t Sleep (7.14.08)

beeker in the sky with diamonds
They miss you, too.
Creative Commons License photo credit: jenlight

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

Miss the Muppets? Check out Jim Henson’s Fantastic World - a new exhibit at the Smithsonian.  

A Japanese team is developing a device that could enable you to hold a 3D image in the palm of your hand.

If you decide to “sleep on” a big decision – you’re doing yourself a favor. Sleep can have a lasting effect on brain function.

Would you wear a caterpillar watch? What if it told time by crawling around your wrist ?

Why do we need a study telling us that people catch the flu in winter? To prove it. Popular Science points out how and why science confirms the obvious.

Can’t tell transition metals from inert elements? Scientist vloggers are posting a Periodic Table of Video on YouTube – short clips that illustrate and explain each element.

IMAX – The Upgrade Experience

If you’ve visited the Museum recently, you might have noticed that we’ve upgraded the IMAX theater – to 3D. And while you might not think that’s a big deal, believe me – with IMAX, everything is big.

When I first received word that we would upgrade from 2D to 3D, I was excited – but then quickly asked, “will the new equipment fit in the booth?” Our projection booth is small compared to the newer 3D theaters, only about 30 square feet which has to hold a piece of equipment the size of a small car.

When it was time to move the new equipment in the booth – boy, was it tight. We had to rent a forklift to hoist the two-ton projector through the small opening above the grand hall.

It took more than 6 nerve-wracking hours and a lot of manpower, with the aide of the forklift, to put the new projector in place. We didn’t have much room to move around or any room for error. Good thing we are so trim in the booth. :)

Once we got the equipment in, the fun stuff began. We spent hours moving the equipment around to where it would sit permanently; most of the time was spent relocating the audio rack.

One of the most memorable things we did was to replace the old screen with a new silver coated screen. That process alone took over 60 people to carry the screen out of the semi-truck, to the side door of the theater, all in unison.

Then, we had to lay it out over all of the seats like a tablecloth – a 60 ft x 80 ft tablecloth.

The upgrade was to test everyone’s nerve and patience. The theatre was closed from December 4 through December 22, and even still, we completed the upgrade with only hours to spare – as we opened Night at the Museum the very next morning. It was our first 3D IMAX DMR film and it became a colossal hit for the museum. Check out this video of the entire process:

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As with all new installations of such complicated equipment, there are bugs to iron out. The challenges are totally new, but we’re learning every day. Sometimes it is a simple issue to deal with, but sometimes a malfunction can actually chew up film. And this isn’t just any ordinary film. It is 70mm wide and is strong enough to pull a truck. So when one frame breaks we could end up losing the entire reel of film, roughly 3,000 feet.

The 3D projector has two eyes, and a beating heart of electronics, so it can sometimes feels like a living, breathing monster with a mind of its own; I enjoy the challenges of troubleshooting any problem to make sure it stays “aliiiiiiiive!”

And, there is nothing more rewarding than hearing hundreds of kids screaming in delight and reaching out to touch the 3D dinosaur that has just roared its head into the audience. All the work and late nights pay off when you know you are not only entertaining, but also educating.

But what about you? Have you had a chance to check out the upgrade? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.