Get a LIFE: Happy (almost) 60th anniversary to the magazine that launched a thousand dino geeks

Some people like to tell me, “Dr. Bob, get a life!”

I did, 60 years ago. Here I am re-reading my battered copy of the magazine that got me hooked on paleontology.

Celebrating Life!
Happy anniversary to the LIFE magazine that created … me!

Sept. 7, 1953 was the publication date of the greatest, most momentous article on fossils and the history of life. LIFE issued its glorious “The World We Live In” series with a cover story about the prehistoric safari. Stegosaurus and Brontosaurus loomed large on the opening page. There were trilobites too, full-page photos, and scenes from the Texas Red Beds. Then came Triassic dinos, Jurassic dinos, Cretaceous dinos, and the ocean-going reptiles who filled the warm tropical seas of the Mesozoic. There were evolutionary opportunists, the conquering furballs of the Paleocene Epoch, who rushed with Darwinian speed to fill the voids left by dinosaur extinction. Prominent furry mammals included the the famous “Saber-toothed Vegans”, six-horned Uintatheres, followed by Killer Warthogs like our mounted skeleton of Archaeotherium. Finally, the LIFE story reached a crescendo with the Ice Age behemoths: mastodons, mammoths and saber-toothed cats.

But what hooked my fourth-grade mind wasnʼt merely the monster parade of weird and wondrous beasts. It was the story. LIFE writer Lincoln Barnett explained how chromosomes and habitats cooperated in manufacturing new species. How we could see desert lizards evolving right now in Americaʼs Southwest. And how Birds of Paradise exemplified the power of sexual selection to transform bodies and behavior.

The fossil history became even more wonderful because we could understand what shaped the successive waves of creatures who swept across land and sea, dominated the ecosystems, and then suffered catastrophic die-offs to make room for the next surge of evolution. Barnettʼs prose was graceful and riveting (he wrote an award-winning biography of Einstein for kids). Many other budding scientists owe their careers to Barnett and to Life.

We should never underestimate the extraordinary power of fine science journalism. As a 9-year-old, I read and re-read that LIFE magazine in my Granddadʼs solarium. Then I said to myself, “Wow, thatʼs the best story I ever read. Best story I could imagine.” At dinner, I announced to my startled parents, “Iʼm gonna grow up to be a paleontologist and dig up the history of the world!”

After a polite pause, Mom remarked “Thatʼs nice dear … itʼs a phase and youʼll outgrow it.”

(She still says that.)

Celebrating Life!
Hereʼs an unapologetic plug to buy this issue of LIFE. We see here a scene
from the middle of the narrative. A Late Jurassic Allosaurus is feeding on
the rump of a brontosaur. The painting is by Rudy Zallinger and was based
on the skeletons at New York — the museum there dug a brontosaur with
severe tooth marks on the bones, bites that matched the jaws of an
allosaur dug from the same strata not far away.

Do check your used book stores for this issue of LIFE. They are out there, but delicate since the paper is hi-acid. The paleo-issue was bound together with other special LIFE numbers on nature as a hard-cover, “The World We Live In.” There was a kidsʼ edition of the book, too, and a Golden Book version of the fossil story.

Release your inner child — and maybe a fishie — at HMNS Sugar Land’s third birthday this Thursday

There is something fishy going on at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land.

Literally.

HMNS Sugar Land is celebrating a very special third birthday this Thursday, and with it, they’re unveiling a very watery gift for guests: a brand new, 2,000 gallon aquarium!

Who wants to Go Fish! in Sugar Land?

Something fishy is going on at HMNS Sugar Land . . .

Patrons will get a peek at the just-expanded paleontology hall and release their inner kiddo with an adults-only party that’s fit for a 3-year old. Dig into a buffet full of childhood comfort food and bid on live auction items — like the chance to release the aquarium’s very first fish!

All proceeds benefit HMNS Sugar Land and its programming. Call Kristina Thompson at 281-313-2277, ext. 123 for ticket information.

What: HMNS Sugar Land Third Birthday Party
Where: HMNS at Sugar Land, 13016 University Blvd., Sugar Land, TX 77479
When: Thursday, Nov. 8, 6 to 9 p.m.
Cost: $50; advance purchase required

HMNS: Here’s to 101! [12 Days of HMNS]

Today is the Twelfth Day of HMNS! In the spirit of the classic holiday carol, we’re taking 12 days to feature 12 different videos that preview or go behind-the-scenes of a holiday museum activity, here on the blog (or, you can get a sneak peek at all the videos on 12days.hmns.org – we won’t tell).

2009 was the Museum’s centennial – our 100th year of science education in Houston. We’re very proud of our history – and excited about the amazing changes that are coming to the Museum as we expand our facility over the next few years.

Throughout the year, we produced a video series of interviews with our staff who have been here the longest – the record is 39 years! This video is a collection of our favorite moments with them, as well as their ideas for where the Museum is headed for our next century of science. Enjoy!

Need to catch up?

The First Day of HMNS – Explore: Snow Science
The Second Day of HMNS – Preview: The Chronicles of Narnia Exhibition
The Third Day of HMNS – Preview: Disney’s A Christmas Carol
The Fourth Day of HMNS – Investigate: The Star of Bethlehem
The Fifth Day of HMNS – Shop: The Perfect Gift
The Sixth Day of HMNS – Marvel: Faberge
The Seventh Day of HMNS – Glimpse: Spirits & Headhunters
The Eighth Day of HMNS – Behind the Scenes: HMNS Greenhouses
The Ninth Day of HMNS – Revealed: Gem Vault
The Tenth Day of HMNS – Discover: HMNS at Sugar Land
The Eleventh Day of HMNS – Magic: The Science of Wonder

Get into the holiday spirit! Visit our 12 Days of HMNS web site to see the videos and get more information about each event, exhibit and film: 12days.hmns.org

Today is our last day of videos, and we hope you’ve enjoyed the series. It’s also Christmas day – and if you’re looking for something to do – we’ve got you covered. Both HMNS and HMNS at Sugar Land are open today – we hope to see you!

Happy Holidays!