On the Ninth Day of HMNS…Peer into the Vault

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is known all over the world for our spectacular collection of minerals – the Dragon, the Alma Queen, the little pink snowball (OK, that one isn’t particularly famous as far as I know – it just happens to be my favorite.) It’s an incredibly vibrant display of the wonders nature is capable of.

In 2006, we upped the ante with the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault. Meant to augment the already stellar collection of natural mineral crystals, the Gem Vault presents cut minerals – gemstones – some of which are simply enormous examples of the finest gems from around the world while others are set in spectacular jewelry. All are presented in an actual vault environment, lit so that they appear to be floating mid-air.

In short – it’s magnificent, and not to be missed. In the video below, HMNS President and Curator of Gems and Minerals Joel A. Bartsch takes us through the Vault – from the inspiration for creating this marvelous exhibit to the fascinating stories behind the pieces on display.

The Smith Gem Vault is just one of the fun and fascinating options for families at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. In a take-off of everyone’s favorite holiday classic, The 12 Days of Christmas, we’ve got 12 ideas for fabulous family fun this holiday and we’ll be sharing the possibilities here every day until Christmas Eve. Best of all, most are activities that last past the holiday season – some, year round. You can also check them all out now at the spiffy new 12 Days of HMNS web site.

Check out the first eight days of HMNS:
On the first day of HMNS, explore The Birth of Christianity.
On the second day of HMNS, shop for Sci-tastic gifts.
On the third day of HMNS, meet Prancer the reindeer.
On the fourth day of HMNS, discover the making of The Star of Bethlehem.
On the fifth day, move it, move it with Madagascar 2 in the Wortham IMAX Theatre.
On the sixth day, hunt dinosaurs with Dr. Bob Bakker.
On the seventh day, look inside the human body in BODY WORLDS 2.
On the eighth day, meet the HMNS Entomologists.

Science Doesn’t Sleep (9.8.08)

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Bacteria loves milk.
Creative Commons License photo credit: IRRI Images

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

A NASA administrator insists he backs the upcoming retirement of the space shuttle (leaving the U.S. unable to send astronauts to the International Space Station)  – despite a leaked e-mail to the contrary. Oh – and, the BBC reports that Chinese astronauts (called yuhangyuan) will perform their first-ever spacewalk.

Got bacteria? New research indicates that you shouldn’t be washing your antibiotics down with milk.

Bad news for mathletes: using your brain might be making you fat.

NPR asks: Can physicists be funny? (The answer is YES.) Scientists at CERN are going through improv comedy training to help reassure the public that they’re not about to create a giant black hole that will swallow the Earth.

Arctic permafrost holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere – making it a potential environmental threat. Good thing it’s not melting at a disturbingly fast pace.

Does the President need to be tech-savvy?