Crime Lab Detective Now Open at HMNS at Sugar Land

Today’s post is by Adrienne Barker, Director of the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land. 

Saturday September 3rd marked the opening of the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Sugar Land‘s latest exhibtion – Crime Lab Detective. One of my colleagues and I, Kathy Treibs, visited it on Labor Day to check it out.

Crime Lab Detective [HMNS at Sugar Land]
Crime Lab Detective is on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land
now through May 6, 2012!

The exhibit is set in the home of the Johnsons who discover they’ve had a break in while on vacation.  As you enter the exhibit you see where the crime occurred and can take a look at the broken window, disturbed dirt outside and broken items inside.

Stopping at the first kiosk we saw a news report on the crime. 

After picking up a Crime Lab Detective Notebook, we headed to a second kiosk where we saw recordings of interrogations of suspects.  From there we were off to solve the crime!

Crime Lab Detective [HMNS at Sugar Land]

We walked through six different stations focused on various aspects of the crime.  From a teacher’s standpoint, Kathy discovered that students will have many opportunities to examine different types of scientific evidence and use problem solving skills to identify the criminal.  It will easily lead to many post-visit activities in science and career exploration for all grade levels.

We agreed that the crime is more difficult to solve than one might expect and a fun challenge to adults who don’t use these skills everyday.

Crime Lab Detective [HMNS at Sugar Land]

Catch our future messages as we take a closer look at fingerprinting, blood analysis, DNA, handwriting samples, and trace evidence including fibers and soil.  This is a great exhibit for everyone, especially those who like the challenge of criminology and solving the mystery.

Dec. Flickr Photo of the Month: Museum of Natural Science

Let’s face it – the holidays can be kind of crazy. So crazy, in fact, that December’s Flickr photo of the month was somehow overlooked until today. With apologies to wheelcipher, this month’s featured photographer:

The Hall of the Americas – a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science that features the history and cultures of North and South America - houses some of the most dramatic artifacts in the entire museum. Is it any wonder we were blown away by an image from this hall for the second month in a row?

Here’s what wheelcipher had to say about his stunning image:

The shot was “lucky.” I was trying to make the most of some less-than-ideal lighting conditions and playing with some of the exposure settings on my new Sony Alpha A100 camera. The fact that the picture came out so good was 99% luck. It was one of the best ones of the day.

Museum of Natural Science
Museum of Natural Science by wheelcipher. You can see more of his photos on his blog.

So, what’s this Photo of the Month feature all about? Our science museum is lucky enough to have talented and enthusiastic people who visit us every day – wandering our halls, grounds and satellite facilities, capturing images of the wonders on display here that rival the beauty of the subjects themselves. Thankfully, many share their photos with us and everyone else in our HMNS Flickr group – and we’re posting our favorites here, on the Museum’s blog, once a month. (You can check out all our previous picks here or here.)

Many thanks to  wheelcipher for allowing us to share his beautiful photograph. We hope this and all the other amazing photography in our group on Flickr will inspire you to bring a camera along next time you’re here – and show us what you see.

Nov. Flickr Photo of the Month – Hemis-face

Once you’ve worked at the Museum for several years, you begin to think you’re familiar with everything, from the smallest object in the most remote exhibit hall to the most visible – giant dinosaurs. And it’s wonderful – objects are like old friends you pass every day in the halls.

So for me, one of the best things about HMNS pool on Flickr is that the amazing photographers who wander our halls are constantly showing me things in a new light. In the case of this month’s pick, Hemis-face by KenU Diggit?, I was completely blown away by something in one of our permanent exhibits that (even after almost five years here) I had actually never seen before. From the composition of the photograph to the contrast in the piece itself, this is a stunning image. Here, KenU Diggit? reveals his technique:

During my short time as a photography hobbyist, fresh perspectives, sharp contrasts, and textures affect how I compose every photograph. The process is simple: find something to shoot, try an interesting approach to the subject, and capture the picture when my “gut feeling” says so.

I have an affinity for macro photography; I love to take pictures as close as I can get to the subject. Little details and subtle textures are more easily captured this way. I was drawn to the wisps of hair and the wear upon the mask. The simple black background give the object the full attention of the viewer.

“Closeness” emotes intimacy. This is the reason why I chose to capture just a portion of the mask. The asymmetry adds an edge and a fresh angle of viewing. I also chose to focus on the eye of the mask. Due to this, the slightly blurred foreground of the mouth and brow creates a sense of depth and draws the viewer closer to the object, as if the mask were only inches away from their own face. For a second, one could mistaken this for real human expression than just a simple mask. As you look it, it looks at you. Don’t be rude; say “Hello” back.

Hemis-face
Hemis-face by KenU Diggit?

KenU Diggit? shot this in the John P McGovern Hall of the Americas, a permanent exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science that features thousands of years of Native American history – from parkas made from seal intestines by the Inuit in Alaska to amazing feather art of the Amazon. This particular object is a Windmaker mask, circa 1875 – 1900. I hope you’ll visit us – and see if you can find it, too.

So, what’s this Photo of the Month feature all about? Our science museum is lucky enough to have talented and enthusiastic people who visit us every day – wandering our halls, grounds and satellite facilities, capturing images of the wonders on display here that rival the beauty of the subjects themselves. Thankfully, many share their photos with us and everyone else in our HMNS Flickr group – and we’re posting our favorites here, on the Museum’s blog, once a month. (You can check out all our previous picks here or here.)

Many thanks to  KenU Diggit? for allowing us to share his stunning beautiful photograph. We hope this and all the other amazing photography in our group on Flickr will inspire you to bring a camera along next time you’re here – and show us what you see.

Live from the fossil field!

Dr. Bakker’s drawing of a Dimetrodon fighting a Xenacanth
illustrates E.C. Olson’s theory of what really went on in the
Permian – and how Xenacanth might have defended itself against
the biggest predator the world had ever seen.
(c) Dr. Robert T. Bakker

Our paleontology team – led by Dr. Robert Bakker – is back in Seymour, TX this week, digging for Dimetrodon at a site they’ve now been working for several years. (You can read more of what’s been found already in our daily blog from the field in 2007).

They’ve found Dimetrodon – the T. rex of its day – all over the site. They’ve brought back jacket after jacket of fin spines, vertebra columns, even skulls of this species, for study. But – and this is the mystery – not a whole lot of herbivores. So – what was Dimetrodon eating?

The theory put forth by E.C. Olson is that they were eating Xenacanth (freshwater sharks) that swam in the shallow seas present in the area during the Permian. And the team has found evidence to that effect – in the form of chewed up shark skull in the area. But they’re still after the smoking gun that would prove Olson’s theory definitively.

Twelve or so of our best diggers have made this their mission this week – and one of them will be checking in with us every day. Today, Kat Havens – one of our regular bloggers here – fills us in on what was found. Listen closely – it’s pretty cool.


Check back soon – more news from the field tomorrow!