HMNS Weekly Happenings:

 

 

Mummies are coming!

Kinjo Yonemoto2

Our new special exhibit, Mummies of the World, opens Friday, September 23 for members and noon on Saturday, September 24 for the public!

GET TICKETS HERE

Described as “fascinating, intriguing, and inspiring,” by NBC, “absolutely extraordinary,” by NPR and “a must see,” by FOX TV, Mummies of the World will instill a sense of curiosity and wonder in each and every visitor.

Come face to face with the largest exhibition of real mummies and related artifacts ever assembled. The exhibit provides a window into the lives of ancient people from every region of the world including Europe, South America and Ancient Egypt, offering unprecedented insights into past cultures and civilizations. With over 1.5 million nationwide visitors experiencing Mummies of the World to date, the display at The Houston Museum of Natural Science is the regional premiere!

Embark on a journey into the extraordinary world of mummies and mummification. Through modern science, engaging interactive and multi-media exhibits featuring 3-D animation, explore how mummies are created, where they come from and who they were. Using state-of-the-art scientific methodology, discover how modern science enables researchers to study mummies through innovative and non-invasive ways, offering unprecedented insights into past cultures and civilizations.

What secrets do mummies hold about the past? What clues do they bring us for the future? A journey awaits as we unravel their mysteries.

 

 

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Lecture – Maya Ritual Secrets Revealed by Tomás Gallareta

One can find images of ritual and human sacrifice at many Maya sites. Among these are the Nunnery Quadrangle at Uxmal, the ballcourt, Castillo, Sacred Cenote and the Temple of the Warriors at Chichén Itzá. These depictions shed light on ancient Maya customs surrounding royal succession, and decisions to go to war. Dr. Tomás Gallareta Negrón will explain how Maya ritual is not dead, as shamanism still being practiced today.

This program is co-sponsored by AIA, Houston Society with support from the Mexican Consulate General of Houston and BBVA Compass.

September 20, at 6:30pm

Tickets $18, Members $12.

 

Coming Soon!

 

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Lecture – The Gettysburg Event by Brian Matthew Jordan and Ed W. Clark

Recognized as having the most casualties of any other engagement, the Battle of Gettysburg is noted as the turning point of Civil War in 1863. Traditional Civil War histories have concluded in 1865, now Dr. Brian Jordan has mined previously untapped archives—soldiers’ anguished letters and diaries, and gruesome medical reports—to trace a Union regiment’s shocking transition from the battlefield to the home front.

Instead of being welcomed home as heroes, these veterans—tending rotting wounds, battling alcoholism, campaigning for paltry pensions—tragically realized that they stood as unwelcome reminders to a new America eager to heal, forget and embrace the freewheeling bounty of the Gilded Age.

Also speaking this evening will be Ed W. Clark, Superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park, who will address the current state of affairs at Gettysburg. A book signing of Dr. Jordan’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated book “Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War” will follow the lecture.

This program is co-sponsored by the Gettysburg Foundation.

September 27, at 6:30 pm

Tickets $18, Members $1

 

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Cultural Feast – Oktoberfest: The History and Science of Beer
In 1810, King Ludwig I of Bavaria proclaimed that the last sixteen days of September, ending with the first full weekend in October, should be set aside for feasting and beer drinking. To commemorate this tradition, join HMNS at St. Arnold Brewing Co. for the history and science of beer making. Tour St. Arnold³ production facility with founder Brock Wagner and special guest Scott Birdwell of DeFalco’s Home Wine and Beer. Drink your fill of brew and enjoy Bavarian pretzels and sausage.

Hosted at St. Arnold Brewing Company. 21 and up only.

Tickets $59, Members $49

Advance ticket purchase is required by September 25. No refunds will be made 72 hours before the event, however tickets can be transferred to another individual. Please notify webmaster@hmns.org with your name, transaction number, and name of the guests using your tickets.

Density and Alchohol

Density is an important concept to understand when you are trying to figure out if something will float or sink, but it can also affect the gas in our atmosphere and even liquids in mixed drinks!

Layered drinks look very impressive, but it’s really simple science that makes it all possible. The layers are able to float on one another because of specific gravity. Specific gravity is the ratio between the density of a substance and a reference standard. Usually we use water as a standard for liquid, which has a specific gravity of 1.00. If oil has a specific gravity of 0.914 and we add it to water, it will float on the water because its specific gravity is less than that of water.

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Photo courtesy of Pete: https://www.flickr.com/photos/comedynose/5297942291/in/photolist-ci5BKj-95akEB-CLDYxA-CTsQVA-xmijTt

The same concept can be applied to mixed drinks. In general, liquids with a higher sugar content like grenadine, liqueurs and brandies have a higher specific gravity, which means that they would sink in water. Liquids with higher alcohol content like vodka, absinthe and Everclear™ tend to have a lower specific gravity, which means they would float on water. In actuality, alcohol and water have the tendency to mix together, but alcohol can float on water if poured very carefully over the back of a spoon onto the water. Bartenders use the concept of density and specific gravity to create layered mixed drinks!

A simple layered drink to make is a Dark ‘n Stormy. There are only two ingredients, so it’s an easy one for a beginner.

1. Start with an old fashioned glass filled with ice.
2. Pour in about 4 fluid ounces of ginger beer.
3. Carefully pour in about 2 fluid ounces of dark rum. It may be easier to slowly pour it over the back of a spoon.
4. Done!
It is easier to make layered drinks containing alcohol because alcohol has a lower specific gravity than most liquids. If you are interested in non-alcoholic layered drink, consider making this fruity beverage!
1. Choose any glass you’d like. The narrower the better because you can see the layers better.
2. Start with a splash (or 2) of grenadine at the bottom.
3. Mix 1 part orange juice and 1 part pineapple juice together in a separate glass.
4. Carefully pour the orange-pineapple juice mixture over the back of a spoon onto the grenadine.
5. Then, enjoy!

These drinks look great without a lot of work. Just science! To see density in action, visit OKRA Charity Saloon on Cocktail Chemistry Mondays (September 19th) and vote for HMNS while you are there!

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Okra and Tomatoes

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Okra, photo courtesy of Swallowtail Garden Seeds

As Julia mentioned in our last okra blog, cooking with okra can be a bit slimy. One of the tricks to combat the slime, is to cook it at high heat and really fast. Usually, this means frying okra, but there are other ways to cook it quick! Today’s recipe is okra and tomatoes. The trick, in this recipe, is to sauté the okra in a hot pan for only 3 to 4 minutes. Add some tomatoes and voilà, we have a recipe jam packed with vegetables and a kick of spice!

 

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Photo courtesy of Vodeck

Ingredients:
• 3 medium tomatoes, diced
• 1 onion, chopped
• 3 cups Okra, cut into 1 inch pieces
• 2 cloves garlic
• Pinch of cayenne pepper
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Bacon or Andouille sausage (optional)
• Vegetable oil

 

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Photo courtesy of Kim Siever

Putting it all together:
1. In a large skillet, cook the bacon (or andouille sausage) until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and place it on a paper towel lined plate.
2. Pour all but 3 tablespoons of grease into a grease jar. We will be using the remaining grease to cook our onions and garlic.
a. Vegetarian option: use vegetable oil instead of bacon or andouille sausage grease
3. Put the onions and garlic into the pan with the grease. Cook on medium-high heat until the onions are translucent. Add a pinch of cayenne to add some spice.
4. In a separate pan, add vegetable oil and heat on high for about a minute. When pan is hot, add okra pieces in a single layer. Let brown for a minute, and then stir to allow the other side to cook. Sear for about 3 to 4 minutes and remove from heat.
5. Add the okra and tomatoes to the pan with the garlic and the onions. Cook about 4 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Remove from heat, add bacon (or sausage) and enjoy!
If this type of okra isn’t for you, join us at OKRA Charity Saloon this month! The Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of four featured charities. You won’t have to eat okra (unless you want to) and you have the opportunity to vote for HMNS!

Cocktail Chemistry: A Balancing Act

Since HMNS is one of the featured charities at Okra Charity Saloon in September (read about it here), we’re doing a series of blog posts about cocktail chemistry this month. Get to know your drinks on a more molecular level. We’ll explore acids and bases, surface area, density, and fluorescence. It’s going to be elemental.

Life is all about balance. Sorry, did I say life? I meant cocktails. As any experienced bartender will tell you, concocting the perfect drink has everything to do with balance. Bartenders are charged with making sure the basic components of their drinks will play well together in the glass and dance on your taste buds. Understanding and balancing flavors is a critical part of being a cocktail chemist.
When you’re talking about the fundamentals of chemistry, you turn to the periodic table.

 

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Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periodic_table#/media/File:14LaAc_periodic_table_IIb.jpg

Every element is neatly organized and laid out according to their atomic number, electron configurations, and chemical properties. There are currently 118 elements that make up our entire universe. The periodic table of cocktail chemistry would look a little different, a little more basic (not literally). Instead of 118 elements, the world of cocktail chemistry has only four: alcohol, sugar, acidity, and bitterness. We’re going to focus on the acidity element.

Let’s revisit high school chemistry for a moment with Acids and Bases: 101. When molecules break down in water, some release hydrogen ions (H+), while others release hydroxide ions (OH-). The pH scale measures the concentration of these hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions and tells us how acidic or basic a liquid is. Acids fall between 0 and 7, and bases fall between 7 and 14. The more acidic a liquid is, the lower its pH; the more basic a liquid is, the higher its pH. When acids and bases are mixed, they react with one another in what’s called a neutralization reaction. Think back to when you made your first science fair volcano. The combination of baking soda and vinegar was an explosive, bubbling demonstration of an acid-base reaction.

When we’re talking about cocktail chemistry, we’re more concerned with the way these solutions taste. Acids are characteristically sour, while bases are bitter. Remember the whole balance thing? This is where it comes into play.

Bartenders typically rely on the citrus genus for the acidic component of a cocktail. Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit are frequently used to counteract the sugars and bitters in their concoctions. Understanding the chemical composition of these citric elements is critical.

 

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Lemons and limes are the most acidic with a pH between 2.0-2.6. Limes have slightly less sugar than lemons. This is why lemons pair well with gins and rye whiskies, while limes pair well with rum and tequila. Grapefruit and orange both have a higher sugar content and slightly lower pH than their citrus cousins. With this knowledge, you can figure how much citric acid you need to counteract the sugar in a cocktail. Since grapefruit and orange have an inherently higher sugar content, they don’t require as much sugar to counter their acidity. Not too sweet, not too sour. You can use science to make sure it’s just right.
Chemists have also found that acids help the flavors of a cocktail combine more evenly, so each sip contains the full flavors of the drink. (We’ll talk more about density and separation of liquids in one of our upcoming cocktail chemistry blog posts, but there’s no separation here!)

If you’re looking to try out a few acidic cocktails, try ordering sours, smashes, or any citric-based drink. Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Screwdriver: A classic combination of orange juice and vodka. Since orange has a high sugar content compared to its acidity, it acts as both the sugar and acid. Paired with vodka, this is a simple, refreshing drink.
2) Lemon drop martini: Lemon drops use fresh lemon juice for a strong, tart acidic component. The intense acidity is balanced with simple syrup and triple sec. These flavors pair well with vodka for a crisp, refined cocktail.

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3) Paloma: This drink balances two acidic components with both grapefruit juice and lime juice. Since limes have an extremely low sugar content, palomas contain additional sugar or simple syrup to balance their intense tartness. This combination goes perfectly with mescal or tequila. It’s topped off with club soda for a cool, bubbly finish.

 

Stop by Okra Charity Saloon to try one of these acidic cocktails during the month of September, and support your Museum! Don’t forget to check back next week when we explore the surface area of cocktails.