Use Science to “Hack” Your Big Idea this Weekend at HMNS!

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Calling all particle physicists, designers, open source ninjas, molecular biologists, students, programmers, and rocket scientists to join forces at Science Hack Day Houston 2016, hosted by the Houston Museum of Natural Science!

Science Hack Day Houston is an overnight marathon event from April 2 to 3, open to anyone excited about making things through science. Join us to make, “hack” or invent cool things in an inspiring environment. All it takes is dedication and an insatiable curiosity. No experience necessary, but there is a catch — you and your team must race the clock to complete an experimental prototype within 30 consecutive hours.

Check out the full event schedule for more details, then use the map on the HMNS web site to find us. We suggest the HMNS Garage for all-weekend, overnight parking. We will give participants a coupon with a discount for this garage. For free three-hour parking, you can park at the Garden Center Lot or the Houston Zoo lots. Don’t forget public transit! A ticket on the MetroRail costs $1.25, and the museum is an eight-minute walk from the Hermann Park/Rice University station.

Science Hack Day is a hack-a-thon with a twist — anyone interested in science can share their thoughts, find a team, and form multidisciplinary teams of between two and five individuals to learn something new, have fun, and create a mind-blowing prototype within 30 hours. The idea is to mash up ideas, mediums, industries and people to spark inspiration for future collaborations. When participants arrive, there will be a few speakers and an hour of brainstorming and proposing hack ideas. You can pitch ideas, or join up with projects you’re interested in. After that, teams are free to get to work on their hacks. On Sunday afternoon, everyone will reconvene to check out the hacks and award prizes to the favorites. Registration is free for individuals and teams.

The Hacks: Have a great project in mind? Science Hack Day is a great place to work with eager Houstonians with all sorts of skills and hobbies to bring your ideas to life. It’s okay if you don’t arrive with hack ideas; we need all the creative minds we can find to help contribute in whatever way they can.

What to Bring: 

  1. Bring your laptop and charger and/or anything you would like to hack. We will have some gadgets you can borrow to hack.
  2. Do not bring food or beverages. We will provide all meals. Please take a look at the schedule. If you have dietary restrictions, please contact the SHDH committee.
  3. Bring a sweater – the museum can get very cold.
  4. You must bring a guardian if you are underage.

For the (Optional) Sleepover:

  1. Bring a sleeping bag, a cover and a sleeping pad. The floor at the museum is hard and cold, so prepare for those conditions.
  2. Bring a sleeping mask. Most lights will be on through the night.
  3. Bring some toiletries. It feels nice to change out your contacts and brush your teeth.
  4. Bring a change of clothes to feel fresh for the next day. You’ll feel better.

For more information please go to ScienceHackDayHouston.com.

Attention Movie Lovers: Now you too can spend a “Night at the Museum” with overnights at HMNS!

Editor’s note: This post was written by Julia Russell, HMNS Overnight Program Coordinator and Curator of Education Collections.

Movies have the power to entertain and transport us, and yes, maybe even teach us a thing or two. We laugh, we cry, we… go to museums?

Over the past decade, movies have increasingly inspired moviegoers to follow their intellectual curiosity out of the theater and into the museum. With the release of movies like Lincoln, National Treasure, Night at the Museum, and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, museums across the country have seen a fairly dramatic increase in attendance over the past 10 years.

The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois had a 7.7% increase in visitorship following the release of Spielberg’s Oscar-winning movie Lincoln. The National Archives saw an increase of 200,000 visitors after National Treasure hit theaters in 2004. Though, I would bet that a good number of those visitors were probably trying to get ahold of the Declaration of Independence. (There’s a treasure map on the back, you know! Or maybe there’s not…) The American Museum of Natural History in New York City had a 20% increase in attendance after the release of the first Night at the Museum movie in 2006 as did the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. after the second Museum movie came out in 2009.

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These movies have reignited an interest in history, science, and culture in the American public. They’ve also resulted in museum staff hearing questions like “Okay, so when does everything in this museum come to life?” on a daily basis. Audiences across the country are leaving movie theaters wanting to know more about the political savviness of Abraham Lincoln, the secrets of the Declaration of Independence, the ferocity of Tyrannosaurus rex, and the wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt. And where are they turning for the answers? Their local museums, historic houses, aquariums, and zoos! Zoos and aquariums certainly aren’t immune to the “movie bump” that’s happening across the country. Dolphin Tale increased visitorship to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium almost tenfold after its release in 2011!

Museum goers can satisfy their movie-induced curiosity by visiting a museum to see Lincoln’s original stovetop hat or dinosaur skeletons in the flesh…well, sort of, maybe it’s more like seeing dinosaurs in the fossil. These Hollywood blockbusters have also given museums a chance to provide some unique opportunities for their visitors. Many museums across the country are letting visitors get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of their institutions after hours. Lucky for you, HMNS is one of them

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The Overnight program at HMNS actually started back in 2004 even before Ben Stiller saw the treasures at the Museum of Natural History come to life for the first time. Since the start of this program, we’ve had thousands of children and adults spend a night at the museum. This program gives people an opportunity to see one of their favorite Houston landmarks in a new light (or in a new dark, actually)!

For more information about HMNS’ Overnight program and how you and your group can see HMNS after hours, click here or email overnights@hmns.org. Maybe you can spend a night at the museum and finally answer the question, “Does everything come to life at night?” You never know, our objects could speak to you in a whole new way.

Night at the Museum 2 wages war on IMAX – opening today!

One of the many duties of the Chief Projectionist is to assemble films.  Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian, like the first film, is 32 separate reels.  Each reel is carefully wound to the projection system reel unit, which can take 8 – 10 minutes at a time.  Every reel is numbered to indicate the sequence which is first and which is last.  It takes time and a lot of patience to put together an IMAX film

This particular “Hollywood” film only took 5 hours to assemble.  Once the film is complete, then one must check their work, which is a stressful moment when assembling a film.  You can say that those in the digital world do not have this duty, more like click and drop.   The art of splicing remains at HMNS, the “reel” thing. 

Night at the Museum: Battle of the SmithsonianNight at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian has more animals, more action, more characters and a lot more laughs, which HMNS is proud to present to IMAX enthusiasts. After assembling the 32 reel; 105 minute movie, I became engulfed in this enjoyable adventure.  Since the film took place in the Smithsonian, a few key artifacts from history make an appearance as well.  Artifacts such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Archie Bunker’s chair, Muhammad Ali’s boxing robe, and notable works of art play a role in the film.  Oh, and for you younger teens, the Jonas Brothers make a notable cameo too.  So you could say that this movie has it all.
 
I would hope that museum visitors will sit in this IMAX experience and become as enthralled as I did.  I would also encourage the visitors to stroll through our exhibit halls after the film if they can and see a bit of history and science, which includes an exhibition of one of the characters in the film, Genghis Khan
 
If Fox studios and director Shawn Levy plan to make a third installment of Night at the Museum, I would definitely nominate HMNS for Larry Daley’s next adventure.  
  
Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian opens today! 

Never a Dull Moment

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A coat of chain mail armor from
the Genghis Khan exhibt now on
display at HMNS. Find out more
here

As the Houston Museum of Natural Science prepares to show the sequel to the hugely popular Night at the Museum, I could not help but think how interesting a “day at the museum” sometimes can be as well. I am not just talking about the different exhibits we currently have at the museum, but also what is going on at the museum behind the scenes.

I have often thought that one of the taglines associated with the museum should be “never a dull moment.” Here is why I think that would be particularly appropriate: consider Tuesday, February 24, 2009. On that day, a crew of museum people as well as representatives from museums in Mongolia and Russia were busy putting the final touches to the Genghis Khan exhibit. That day, we also received the Mongolian ambassador to the US, H.E. Ambassador Khasbazaryn Bekhbat, who was traveling to Houston for the formal opening of the exhibit two days later. Accompanying him was the second secretary of the Mongolian embassy, Dawadash Sambuu. In the weeks leading up to the opening of the exhibit, he had been very busy working in Houston, helping with the set up of the show. Representing the Hermitage Museum, Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, flew in from St. Petersburg, Russia that day as well.

darwinAlso on February 24, the museum hosted a lecture as part of the year-long Darwin celebrations. Joining us that day was Dr. Francisco Ayala.  He came in to talk about his research into evolution. Dr. Ayala, a recipient of the National Medal of Science, recently published a book on this subject, entitled Darwin’s gift to science and religion. In a well-attended lecture in the museum’s IMAX movie theater, Dr. Ayala carefully explained his reasons why science and faith can go hand in hand. Dr. Ayala took time to meet with High School students from the Houston area, who are participating in the museum’s Young Scholars program. In a closed meeting preceding his talk, Dr. Ayala explained how he got interested in his field of study and what one needs to do in order to achieve what he did.

On February 24, the museum hosted Mongolian diplomats, a Russian museum official, and a Spanish-born geneticist. While this kind of line up does not happen every day, it does occur often enough to warrant what I wrote earlier: “never a dull moment at HMNS.”