Looking back…

In case you were wondering about notable science events that occurred the week of July 11th…

On July 11th, 1811, the Italian scientist Amedeo Avogadro published his theory on the molecular content of gases, also known as Avogadro’s law. His theory states that “Equal volumes of ideal or perfect gases, at the same temperature and pressure, contain the same number of particles, or molecules.” For those of you who have taken chemistry before, the number of molecules in one mole – a figure your teachers always make you memorize – (6.022 x 1023 particles per mole) is known as Avogadro’s number.

Proyector
Creative Commons License photo credit: Roberto Garcia-S

On July 11th, 1895, the brothers Lumiere showed their new invention, which played short movies, to a group of scientists. The first time an audience paid to view one of their films was in December of that same year. Each of the original 10 films they made were 17 meters long, and lasted 46 seconds. Supposedly, their first movie of a train had the audience screaming as they thought a real train was crashing into the theater. Their first movie may have only been 46 seconds long, but I bet the previews still took 20 minutes.

On July 14th, 1965, the space probe Mariner 4 made a flyby and took the first close-up photos of Mars. After a seven month flight the probe flew by the planet, and sent back 22 television images covering about 1% of the planet’s surface. Fortunately, they remembered to remove the lens cap beforehand.

IMG_2593
Creative Commons License photo credit:
we must reinvent love

On July 15th, 1799, French Captain Pierre-Francois Bouchard found the Rosetta Stone in the Egyptian village known as Rosetta. The stone tells the same story in three different languages (Egyptian hieroglyphics, Egyptian Demotic, and classical Greek.) The discovery of the stone allowed later scientists to decipher the lanugage of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Rosetta Stone is currently on display in The British Museum in London.

On July 16th, 1945, the world entered the “Atomic Age” as the United States successfully detonated a plutonium-based nuclear weapon during a test at the Trinity Site near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Less than a month later, the first atomic bomb Little Boy was dropped by the plane Enola Gay on Hiroshima, instantly killing an estimated 800,000 people.

The following video illustrates the power of an atomic bomb during a test – this was not a bomb used in combat.

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Science Doesn’t Sleep (5.7.08)

Oh No! Werewolf!
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kevin Lawver

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

It was a crazy time for werewolves. A new NASA study indicates that Earth used to have multiple moons.

Female movie scientist to audience: “Yes, a stillettos-and-miniskirt combo is completely practical for my field work in paleoanthropology.” Inkling examines women scientists in film.

Even if you’ll never make it to the Moon – your name can go. NASA is looking for a few good monikers to send into space.

Some fat may be good for you – even if it’s on you. A study of mice shows that subcutaneous fat actually has health benefits.

Tropical insects – which tend to be the wildest-looking – may be the next casualty of global warming. Studies indicate their habitats are already verging on too hot for their survival.

Finally! Nanotech gives us an objective way to measure the hotness of chiles

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.