Thank you, onliners!

HMNS.ORG today.

So, the next time we do a survey of our online visitors, it should include the question “What do you call a group of people who interact online?” The closest I could find was onliners, though this really refers to something much more specific. I also liked “online hero” – because it seemed like an apt description for the awesome people who took the time to help us out by answering some questions about their online activities.

Clearly there is a gap in dictionary.com - this needs to be rectified. Ideas, anyone?

In the meantime, I’m happy to announce that the randomly selected winner of the iPod Touch is Brandi Roberson. Congratulations, Brandi!

Since so many of you (almost 2,000!) took the time to answer our questions about what you like to do online, I thought I would share some of the trends with you here.

The most interesting answers came in response to the open-ended final question, “What – if any – new features would you like to see added to www.hmns.org?” They included gems like “More Robots!” (um…ok?)and “Gravity!” (more details, please) as well as tons of great ideas – like an online gift shop, webcams, virtual tours, member-specific content, the ability to review exhibitions, RSS feeds, social networking, increased interaction in general and much more.

Other interesting tidbits: you’re young (over half between 25 – 44) and you really like the Internet (99% use it either “constantly” or daily” – though I suppose it might be more surprising if you didn’t). You like Facebook waaaay more than MySpace (by a margin of 35%) and 1.6% are still stuck with dial up. You’re creative – 35% are creating content on Flickr, YouTube or Twitter.

15% of you stop by our web site for more information about an exhibit after you visit the Museum in person – a scenario we generally have not considered with regards to the information available online. I can assure you we are considering that now – along with all of the other needs and preferences you shared – as we work on improving our online programs. Thank you!

If you missed the survey, or if you have any further ideas you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. We would love to hear from you!

Looking Back…Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Tomorrow is the first day of 2009. So what an appropriate time to look back and see what we have accomplished in science over the past years on this day.

On New Years Day, 1801, the dwarf planet Ceres was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi. This dwarf planet is actually located inside our solar system, it is part of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Astronomer Johann Elert Bode had suggested nearly forty years earlier that their might be large planets or land masses between Mars and Jupiter based off a theory (that is no longer used) proposed in 1766 by Johann Daniel Titus. It was this same theory that led to the discovery of Uranus in 1781. Because of the theory and the unknown location of a planet between Mars and Jupiter, 24 astronomers combined their efforts and began a methodical search for the planet. 

Hubble's Largest Galaxy Portrait Offers a new High-Def view
Creative Commons License photo credit: Venom82

On New Years day, 1925, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble announced the discovery of galaxies outside of our own milky way. Hubble also later showed that the universe is still expanding.

On New Years Day, 1985, the Internet domain name system was created. The domain name system translates human names for sites into the numerical or binary identifiers associated with network equipment. A simple explanation is that the Internet domain name system acts as a “phone book” for the Internet by translating a human-friendly host name into an IP address.

untitled
Creative Commons License photo credit: mackenzienicole

On New Year’s Day, 1995 the existence of freak waves was proven. The Draupner oil platform in the north sea was usually hit by large waves measuring about 39 feet in height. However, on Jan 1st of that year a freak wave that was 89 ft tall crashed down on the platform. Freak waves had been thought to exist before based off of stories of sailors, but it had never previously been recorded.




Looking Back…Christmas Edition

In the past when I have written these “Looking Back” posts, they have always been science-oriented. However, not much science has apparently happened in recorded history on this day, perhaps because so many people take this day off to spend it with their family and loved ones. So I thought I would share a few historical events that occurred on Christmas Day that spread the message of hope and peace (and one science event because I really just can’t resist.)

World Wide Web
Creative Commons License photo credit: Bull3t

On Christmas Day of 1990 (you get your science fact first today) developers executed the first successful trial run of the system that would later become the World Wide Web, including an early web browser, the first web server, and the first web pages, which described the project. The web went public on August 6, 1991 – less than a year later. Less than 20 years later, we have billions of websites on every topic imaginable, and most youths can’t imagine their lives without the internet superhighway.

And now for the history…

On Christmas Day, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the President of the Soviet Union. The very next day Ukraine left the Soviet Union, and the Union “collapsed.” This ended the Cold War that had existed between the US and the Soviet Union since the mid 1940s.

On Christmas Day, 1977, Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin met with Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, to discuss a peace treaty between their two countries. The two neighboring states had been fighting on and off since the formation of Israel in 1948. On March 26, 1979 the two countries announced a peace treaty that still exists today. The two leaders also received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ninetta mia crepare di maggio ci vuole tanto troppo coraggio
Creative Commons License photo credit: khyes

On Christmas Day, 1914, German and British troops on the Western Front of World War I called a temporary cease-fire. Against the orders of their superiors, all artillery fire stopped along the line. The truce had started in some places the night before, as German troops began decorating their trenches and singing Christmas carols in German. The Scottish troops across the battlefield responded by singing carols in English. Soon, troops began to leave the trenches and to socialize in the area between the two sides, exchanging drinks and cigars. In one area, the troops met outside the trenches and began a game of soccer (it is rumored the Germans won 3-2.) In some places along the lines the fighting resumed the next day, but in others the truce lasted until after the New Year. Although the war saw three more Christmases, no widespread cease-fires were ever called again.

Happy holidays!

Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.27.08)

MEC's green roof among others
Creative Commons License photo credit: 416style

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

There’s a reason that cowboys don’t make good anthropologists – and it has to do with Hobbits.

It’s aliiiiiiive! A green roof can reduce your heating bills and protect your waterproofing – plus, it’s pretty! Check out a how-to here.

Some ancient documents are taking their message high-tech: the Israel Antiquities Authority is putting all of the Dead Sea Scrolls – all 15,000 fragments – online.

Construction in London has unearthed thousands of human skeletons – and the oldest are soon going on display.

Recently developed: a wheelchair that walks for you by means of a “robotic exo-skeleton.” Check out the video here.

How fast can we go? Usain Bolt’s astonishing, record-setting Olympic races have forced scientists to reconsider.