Celebrate The International Year Of Chemistry!

Today’s post is by Amy Potts, Director of Adult Education at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. 

Declared by the United Nations, the International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011) is a worldwide celebration of the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind with the goal of increasing public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs, interest in chemistry among young people and enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry.

Under the unifying theme Chemistry—our life, our future, IYC 2011 initiated a range of interactive, entertaining and educational activities for all ages across the globe. Various events have been produced to demonstrate the value of chemistry in addressing the major issues of human society:  health, communications, food, water and energy.

Carbon Nanotube
Creative Commons License photo credit: ghutchis

As society has progressed, the demand for energy and the access to it has increased. 

For the most part, the world relies on the burning of fossil fuel for the production of energy. The way in which this is done must change in order to produce a supply that meets the demand in the future.  As modern technology makes more and more possible, the sociological discourse becomes more and more complex, while at the same time the circumstances become more and more urgent.

To address these issues, the T. T. Chao Symposium on Innovation, an annual event hosted in Houston by the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), will comprise the energy component of the United States IYC 2011 program. The Symposium is made up of three events October 25-26, 2011 hosted at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) and the BioScience Research Collaborative.

October 25th, Nobel Prize-winner Yuan Lee (chemistry 1986) will hold a conversation with CHF president Tom Tritton.  This conversation will explore Dr. Lee’s lifetime of accomplishment and probe into his current passion for energy alternatives.

This “History Live” conversation will be held at HMNS. 

It will be open to the public and recorded for subsequent use by a broader audience. Get tickets and information.

The following morning, Wednesday, October 26, again at HMNS, Dr. Yuan Lee will be joined by Dr. Nate Lewis of Cal Tech and Dr. Emil Jacobs of Exxon Mobil in a panel to engage about 300 high school students from across the Houston area in a Student – Laureate Forum on Energy Alternatives.  The panel will be moderated by New York Times journalist Andrew Revkin.  Schools participating in the forum are Harmony School of Science High School, Hastings High School, Lamar High School, St. John’s School, Strake Jesuit High School, and Willowridge High School.

On Wednesday evening, October 26, the venue will shift to the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) at Rice University where Dr. Jacobs of ExxonMobil and Dr. Craig Venter of Synthetic Genomics will discuss their alliance to research and develop biofuels from photosynthetic algae. This will be another History Live conversation with Tom Tritton. BRC is an innovative space where scientists and educators from Rice University and other Texas Medical Center institutions work together to perform leading research that encompasses a wide range of disciplines from chemistry to bioengineering and focuses largely on improving human wellness through science. Get tickets and information.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was selected by CHF as a venue for the Chao Symposium because of the Museum’s focus on science education, close relationships to the schools in the Houston area, and the excellence of the Welch Chemistry Hall and Wiess Energy Hall in demonstrating the importance of chemistry and energy in the world. HMNS is a proud participant in the IYC2011 celebration and is also co-sponsoring a lecture series with Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies starting October 18 and the popular family event Chemotion with the American Chemical Society on November 15.

Join us for these International Year of Chemistry Events at HMNS

Distinguished Lectures

Smart Water: New Technologies to Conserve Natural Resources
David Horsup, Ph.D., Chemical Engineer
Tuesday, October 18, 6:30 p.m.

Nobel Laureate Looks to Energy Alternatives
Yuan Lee, Ph.D.
Tuesday, October 25, 6:30 p.m.

Scientific Discoveries Improving Healthcare
Daniel D. Carson, Ph.D., Cindy Farach-Carson, Ph.D., John T. McDevitt, Ph.D.,
Tuesday, November 1, 6:30 p.m.

Family Festival
Tuesday, November 15, 6 – 8 p.m.
Free Admission

Cultural Feast
Shaken or Stirred? The Chemistry and History of the Cocktail
Hosted at Brennan’s
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rice NASAversary!

Waxing Gibbous Moon 69 Percent 26Nov2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikebaird

Today’s post is from Dr. David Alexander, Rice Professor of Physics and Astronomy and creator of the Space Frontiers Lecture series. 

This has not been a good year for the space enthusiasts of Houston with the cancelation of the Constellation program, the end of an era with the last space shuttle flight, and the decision not to have one of the orbiters spend its retirement in Houston.

However, the people of Houston are known for rising to any challenge and the opportunity to enter a new phase of space exploration with the development of the multi-passenger crew vehicle, the continued operation of the International Space Station, and the push to maintain an American presence in space only emphasizes the importance of Houston and NASA to the nation.

Houston has been at the forefront of the human space adventure for five decades and this is a record worth celebrating.  Come join us in acknowledging the people whose dedication, excellence, and ingenuity put humans on the Moon (and brought them back again), created the “world’s greatest flying machine” in the Space Shuttle, and stimulated the imaginations of generations of would-be space explorers.

Welcome to a new and exciting year in the history of Rice University.

The 2011 incoming class is the 100th to walk through Rice’s historic Sallyport and the next year will see us work towards our centennial celebrations in October 2012.  Another major anniversary for Rice and the Greater Houston area is marked this September as we celebrate 50 years of the NASA Johnson Space Center and we are proud to note that Rice was there at the beginning.  September 14 marks the 50th anniversary of NASA Administrator James E. Webb’s decision, conveyed in person to President Kennedy, to build the NASA Manned Space Center in Houston (later to be named the Johnson Space Center) on land that was deeded to the government by Rice.  The public announcement of the location was made on September 19, 1961 and the manned space program made its home in Houston.

To celebrate a remarkable 50 years in human history, Rice and partners are hosting the Rice NASAversary, a week-long set of events from September 9 to 16.

To open the Rice NASAversary celebrations Rice will host Space City 2020, a space strategy workshop bringing together local academic, business, and government leaders to promote space technology and exploration. The culmination of the workshop will be a banquet with keynote speaker Dr. France Cordova, president of Purdue University and former NASA Chief Scientist.  The banquet is open to the public.

We celebrate our 50 years of connection to JSC on Wednesday, September 14, with the first in this year’s Space Frontiers Lecture Series

We are honored to host Mr. Norm Augustine, Chairman of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee.  Among many honors and awards, Mr. Augustine has been named one of the “Fifty Great Americans,” has received the National Medal of Technology from the President of the United States, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Distinguished Public Service Award and is five-time recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal from the U. S. Department of Defense.  The “Augustine Report”, the 155-page output from the United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee, is a comprehensive and critical assessment of the US human space flight program and what is needed to maintain American leadership in space.

Mr. Augustine’s talk, entitled The Greatest Obstacle to Human Space Travel, will be held at the McMurtry auditorium in Duncan Hall at 7pm on September 14 (reception at 6:30pm).

Final Frontier: Free Lecture Series at Rice University

From Dr. David Alexander, Rice Professor of Physics and Astronomy and creator of the Space Frontiers Lecture series:

Yuri Gagarin

This month celebrates a number of notable anniversaries associated with space exploration.  Tuesday, April 12 marked the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight to become the first human to travel in space.  Coincidentally, that same day marked the 30th anniversary of the launch of the first Space Shuttle.  Two historic landmarks in our quest to expand the boundaries of our home planet.  For those of you who are interested, April 12 also marked the 134th anniversary of the first use of a catcher’s face mask in baseball as well as being the date on which the American Civil War began.

In the 50 years since that first flight over 520 humans have ventured out of the Earth’s atmosphere, some for a few days, some for several months, some even went to the moon (and back!).  In fact, there has been an American stationed in space every day for over 10 years!  Needless to say conditions on the moon or on board the space shuttle or International Space Station are quite different from here on Earth with the most striking difference being the microgravity environment in which the astronauts or cosmonauts have to live.

Over the last five decades we have learned a lot about what being in space does to the human body from a wide array of phenomena such as bone loss, muscle atrophy, and radiation exposure.  How does space travel affect humans?  How do we mitigate these effects? How do we prepare for longer and longer space shifts? Experimental stations on the moon and Mars could mean hardy astronauts being away from home for years at a time.

On April 21st, in the final Space Frontiers Lecture of the 2010-2011 academic year, Rice University will host Dr. Bobby Alford, who will discuss the medical and biological aspects of space travel.

Dr. Alford is CEO and Chairman of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, a Distinguished Service Professor at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is also Professor of Otolaryngology.  Dr Alford has also served with distinction on the White House “Blue Ribbon” Advisory Committee for the Redesign of the Space Station, The Aerospace Medicine Advisory Committee (Chairman), The Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications Committee (Chairman), and the Life Sciences Advisory Committee.

International Space Station

Please bring your bones and muscles to the 1g atmosphere of the McMurtry auditorium on April 21!  See spacefrontiers.rice.edu for details.

Final Frontier: Free Lecture Series at Rice University

From Dr. David Alexander, Rice Professor of Physics and Astronomy and creator of the Space Frontiers Lecture series:

As the International Space Station nears completion, humanity can proudly state that it has a permanent presence in space.  But what’s next?  Do we head for the Moon? Mars?

President Obama’s plan is to focus first on manned missions to nearby Earth asteroids by 2020 and then on to Mars by the 2030’s.  In addition, there is an increasing emphasis on the role played by commercial space enterprises in achieving these goals.  Long flights or a sustained mission to other bodies in the solar system presents a number of hazards to the astronauts who undertake these missions.  One way to minimize the dangers is to minimize the time it takes to travel to these distant outposts.

An exciting array of technologies are being developed which will revolutionize space flight and make such journeys possible. Are you ready for the Ceres truckstop,  the Sea of Tranquility McDonalds or the Mons Olympus theme park?

Concept art from NASA showing astronauts entering a Lunar outpost.

For the third in our series of lectures on the exploration of space, we welcome Dr. Franklin Chang Diaz, a national hero and the first Latino-American in the NASA astronaut program.  Dr. Chang Diaz is an inspirational figure whose current career is focused on developing an advanced propulsion system that will open up the solar system for exploration.

Join us at Rice and find out for yourselves!

Fast Missions to Mars and Beyond: Developing the VASIMR Engine with local astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz. The lecture  is Thursday, March 10 at 7 p.m. in McMurtry Auditorium at Rice’s Duncan Hall, with a wine and cheese reception beginning at 6:30 p.m.