Who needs a gym or a diet? We’ve got your New Year’s resolutions right here

If you Google “most common New Year’s resolutions,” you get a variety of results, but generally the options seem to come down to these:

1. Lose weight
2. Exercise more
3. Spend more time with family and friends
4. Enjoy life more
5. Learn something new
6. Help others
7. Quit smoking
8. Get out of debt
9. Quit drinking
10. Get organized

I am happy to tell you that HMNS has got you covered for seven out of 10 of these common resolutions. How can this be, you ask?  Read on.

Under the auspices of “Lose weight and exercise more,” Carolyn Leap and I did an experiment the other day. Since the Museum has expanded so much in the past year, Carolyn and I were curious about just how much more Museum there was to cover. We got out our trundle wheel (which falls into the category of “totally reasonable thing to have at a science museum”) and we headed for the front door. Our plan was to measure from the front doors of the Museum through every permanent exhibit hall in the shortest route without backtracking. This meant no stopping at specific displays as well as some pretty particular route planning.

Take care of your New Year's resolutions at HMNS!

Through many patrons and a few curious toddlers, we clicked our way around the Museum, and we were quite pleased with the results! We counted 1,600 meters in our short ‘n sweet route ‘round the Museum, which translates to about a mile of exhibit space. Carolyn calculated an approximately 30 percent increase in mileage if you wanted to look at all the cases or if you doubled back through any of the halls.

November 17, 2010
Our vast new wing means that a walk through our halls is a serious calorie-burner

So that takes care of the first two most common resolutions. What about the rest?

While you are here getting all that exercise, you are bound to be spending time with family or friends anyway (No. 3) and enjoying life more (No. 4) while you learn something new (No. 5). There is actually quite a bit of research showing the link between aerobic activity and learning, so walking the halls of the Museum really will help you learn something new! Plus, studies show there are tons of benefits to having a fitness buddy, so bringing your friends and family to the Museum for a walk really is a great way to start your new year.

As to No. 6 on the list, “Help others,” Amy C. wrote a great blog not too long ago outlining some of the ways that the Museum gives back to the community and how you can help. I would also suggest taking a look at the volunteer page on our website.

Finally, resolution No. 7: Granted, this one is a bit of a stretch, BUT you can’t smoke at the Museum, so checking out the exhibits here will help keep your mind occupied and fill up your time if you’re trying to kick the habit.

Hope to see you soon!

Paleontological Pandemonium! It’s happening: Read on

Listen, we need to talk. We have something to tell you, and it’s going to change things. Are you sitting down? Okay.

OUR BRAND SPANKING NEW, HUGEMONGOUS, YEARS-IN-THE-MAKING NEW HALL OF PALEONTOLOGY OPENS JUNE 2.

Hayyy! Ohhhh! Hayyy! Paleooo!

Phew, we feel better getting that off our chests! With all of our prep work, all of our research and all of our behind-the-scenes sneaking, we’re relieved to finally get to share with you all that we’ve been working on.

Here’s a couple figures to get you started:

30,000 square feet
60 brand new mounts
30 prehistoric creatures
12 feet of Megalodon teeth
$85 million buckaroonees

But there’s more: Where other exhibitions feature stagnant skeletons mounted in formal poses, all the mounts in our new paleo hall have been designed in action poses for the ultimate interactive experience. Ever seen a Megalodon eat a prehistoric elephant? Just. You. Wait.

Make sure to follow all the action on Twitter at @hmns and Facebook at facebook.com/natural.science and join the Twitter conversation yourself at #hmnspaleo!

For a full array of great paleo hall photos, check out our Flickr feed here!

HMNS Expansion Update: September 2011

If you’ve been searching for a silver lining to the story of our area’s historic drought, here’s a very small one: the museum’s new Dan L Duncan Wing didn’t lose a single day of work this summer due to rain.

Progress on the expansion project has been made at a furious pace over the past few months. Here are some of the highlights:

Walls and roof engaged!

By the end of July the expansion’s gleaming white roof had been torched into place, and the exterior sheathing and glass curtain wall had wrapped its way around the entire perimeter of the building (save for a couple of spots left open for the delivery of interior finish materials.) This condition designates a building as being “dried-in,” an important milestone that releases the contractor to move ahead with finishing climate-sensitive aspects of the project’s interior.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!
The contractor is putting the finishing touches on the glass curtain wall
at the center of the western wall of the fourth floor.

Power Up and Chill Out.

In late June, the permanent electrical service for the new wing was energized, ahead of schedule! Then, just in time for the arrival of the record streak of 100-degree days, the contractor was able to start up the building’s HVAC system. Not only does the flow of air allow the building to breathe a little, protect the interior finishes from melting or molding, and keep the workers from suffering heat exhaustion, but starting up the system this early also allows extensive testing and balancing of the mechanical equipment to ensure air flows well both in the new building and in the existing museum, which will ultimately be served by the new central plant, too.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!
View of the bright and shiny new central plant. Has kind of a Kubric feel to it, no?
The HVAC system was switched on in July.
Eventually it will heat and cool both the new wing and the existing museum.

Paleo Hall Transformed.

The vast space of the future paleontology hall, on the expansion’s main level, has been dramatically altered over the summer. Ductwork has been insulated. Sprinkler pipes, lights, and Unistrut have been hung. Drywall soffits and furr-downs have been framed, sheetrocked, taped, and floated, defining the nooks and crannies that will host the fossils and murals and dioramas the HMNS staff has been assembling and designing.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!
At the north end of the future paleontology hall, lights, drywall, and
Unistrut are still being installed via scissor lift. Beyond the large white walls seen here are the
boilers, domestic water pumps, and chillers.

The Halls are Alive…

In the expansion’s lower level, bright corridors are now defined as the walls for the new classrooms, animal room, auditorium spaces, and conference spaces are sheetrocked, primed, and ready to be painted. The ceiling grid and support beams for moveable walls to divide the larger classrooms have been installed. Just this week the contractor sawed through the 12-inch thick concrete foundation wall of the existing museum to connect the lower level of the expansion with the Jones Gallery.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!

This could be a photo of the installation of a new exhibit on grave robbing, but it isn’t.

In order to connect the lower level of the new wing to the lower level of the existing museum,
the contractor is cutting through the thick, concrete foundation wall below the Weiss Energy Hall.
This photo shows the first cut, as seen from the expansion side.

Going Up!

While getting the stairs installed was an exciting milestone from our last post, this time the exciting news about getting from floor to floor revolves around the elevators. The platforms, doors, and wall enclosures for the three new passenger elevators are all installed. The contractor is busily constructing the conveying mechanism and cabs for the passenger elevators as well. On the other side of the expansion’s core, the back-of-house service elevator is operational (for contractor use, that is), its shiny stainless steel cab protected by plywood for the next few months.

HMNS Expansion: Sept. 2011 Update!
Contractors work on the platform of one of the three new passenger elevators.
Every time they catch me taking their picture, they ask for a dollar.
So I had to be really sneaky to capture this valuable image.

The fall season may not bring much needed rain to Houston, but it does promise some exciting developments on the HMNS expansion project, as walls, floors, and ceilings receive their finish treatments and the exterior scaffolding comes down to reveal the building’s snazzy travertine and aluminum coat.

Follow HMNS Expansion Updates | See the Full Expansion Photo Set

EXPANSION VIDEO: A Year In 3 Minutes

We’ve been watching the new wing construction for over a year now – it’s incredibly exciting to contemplate what’s going to go in this grand new building when it opens in Summer 2012!

May 2011

This was taken in May 2011.
Check it out compared to last month and a year ago.

And what will be going in the new Paleo Hall? Most mounted T. rexes anywhere. Quetzalcoatlus bigger than a jet fighter. And lots more.

Even more exciting? Seeing a year’s worth of progress is just over 3 minutes. Warning: as noted by Swamplot, the speed of the time lapse combined with the daily progression of a shadow cast by the parking garage, makes the video a little “flashy.”

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Excited? Us, too! Help us put the finishing touches on the new wing! Become a member now and not only will you be one of the first to see the new paleontology hall when it opens, you’ll get three extra months of membership – and some pretty awesome member events that will give you a behind-the-scenes peek at out new dinos, all summer long.