HMNS’ 100th year comes to a close…

And what a year it’s been!

All throughout 2009, we’ve celebrated our hundredth year in Houston with a dedicated web site, a series of 100 fun family events; a showcase of our 100 favorite/most amazing/coolest artifacts; a video series with our longest-serving staff (the record is 39 years!), and a contest (which you can still enter for a chance to win a 2010 Museum membership!)

You can also check out 100 years of Museum history here: from our very first Museum bulletin in January 2010 through historic scientific expeditions, ambitious building projects and blockbuster exhibitions, it’s been quite a trip!

But we’re even more excited about what’s coming next – in our second century of science.

In fact, we’ve just broken ground on perhaps our most ambitious project yet: an expansion that will double the amount of public exhibition space that will be available for temporary and permanent exhibitions – including what we intend to be the world’s finest Hall of Paleontology; double the number of classrooms available for educational programs; and triple the amount of available collections storage space, to ensure the conservation and care of our collections for decades to come.

President Joel A. Bartsch talks about what’s next for the Museum in this video – and how you can help.

Help us continue and expand our mission of science education for even greater numbers of children and adults. Donate to the expansion today – and join our Cause on Facebook to help spread the word!

Happy New Year!

Mighty Gorgosaurus, felled by…brain cancer? [Pete Larson]


This fabulous image of the Gorgosaur on display in
Dinosaur Mummy CSI by photine on Flickr.
(Photo used with permission)

And now, from the archives: a neat little video interview with paleontologist Pete Larson!

Pete was in town during the opening of our recent Dinosaur Mummy CSI: Cretaceous Science Investigation exhibition, which featured the mummified dinosaur fossil Leonardo. It also featured cast fossils of several other Cretaceous beasts – like Triceratops, Struthiomimus, Nodosaur – and Gorgosaurus.

As Pete explains in the video below, this particular Gorgosaurus was particularly interesting due to the number of severe injuries it sustained in life – and the fact that it live long enough for them to heal, showing scar tissue and unusual bone growth.

What Pete and his team from the Black Hills Institute uncovered when they were casting the original fossil is perhaps the most surprising – this Gorgosaur may have had brain cancer. Check it out in this video:

Famous Fossil “Ida” (Plate B) Joins Lucy on display in New York

We are very excited to have recently announced the next venue for Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia: Times Square! The world’s most famous fossil, Lucy, will soon go on display in the world’s most famous destination – when the exhibition opens June 24 at Discovery Times Square Exposition, a new, state-of-the-art facility located in the former printing presses building New York Times.

A recreation of what Ida would have
looked like in life, by paleoartist
Viktor Deak.

In addition to Lucy and the other fascinating fossils and stunning artifacts seen in the world premiere of the Lucy’s Legacy exhibit in Houston, the exhibit in New York will feature preliminary results from the research recently completed on the Lucy fossil in UT’s High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility, one of the world’s premier labs for this work, as well as an interactive experience with Viktor Deak, one of the world’s leading paleoartists. Deak created the 10-foot-tall, 78-foot-long mural representing 6 million years of evolutionary history in Ethiopia (check out an online version here) that you may have seen when Lucy’s Legacy debuted in Houston – and he’s created brand-new paleoart for the exhibit in New York. He’ll be in the exhibit frequently, where visitors can observe him at work, ask him questions and learn first-hand how he has merged his passions of science and art to communicate an understanding of our prehistoric past, as well as how he utilizes modern technology to re-create a vision of our beginnings more vivid than ever before.  

Perhaps most exciting – we announced today that the newly famed fossil Ida (Plate B) will also be on display in the Lucy’s Legacy exhibition when it opens in New York. Officially called Darwinius masillae, this 47 million-year-old fossil is almost-unbelievably well-preserved, providing a window into our primate past – when the key adaptations of opposable thumb and big toe had just evolved.

Hear Dr. Robert Bakker, visiting curator of paleontology, discuss the significance of Plate B of the Ida fossil – including preserved fur and stomach contents – in the video below.

Headed to New York this summer? Know any science buffs in the area? Be a fan of the “Lucy’s Legacy in Times Square” page on Facebook for the latest news, photos and video from the exhibition.

Chemistry in the Kitchen: The Science Behind Ice Cream

Legend has it that the Roman emperor Nero discovered ice cream. Runners brought snow from the mountains to make the first ice cream.

Making ice cream at home is easy – no mountain marathon required! Just read the instructions below and enjoy your very own homemade ice cream.

 Creative Commons LicensePhoto Credit: Jessicafm

Rock salt
Pint-size baggies – heavy duty
Gallon-size baggies – heavy duty
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons

1. Fill the large bag about ½ full of ice.  Add 6 tablespoons of rock salt to the ice.

2. Put ½ cup of milk, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of sugar into a smaller baggie and seal.  Put this inside another small baggie and seal.  This will prevent saltwater from seeping into your ice cream.

3. Place the double bagged small baggie into the larger baggie and seal.

4. Shake the baggie until you have ice cream. 

5. Remove the smaller baggie from the larger one.  Wipe off the water, then open it carefully and enjoy your ice cream! 

UPDATE: Check out our Science of Ice Cream video to learn more!