The LaB 5555 launch had a serious bite: Read patron reactions and add your own!

LaB 5555 launched Friday with the help of some 700 patrons who gathered to geek responsibly and boogie among bones for a paleontological party dubbed “Skin & Bones.” Each LaB 5555, held monthly from here on out, will feature a scientific theme with one hour of educational pre-party time, live music, local food truck fare, cash bars and more. For a full schedule, click here.


bloggy wog

Camels of the Silk Road – Free Family Event! [Guest Post]

Editor’s Note: Secrets of the Silk Road opens in just two weeks! Join us opening weekend for a special, free family program: Camels of the Silk Road, from 12 – 4 pm. Camel connoisseur Doug Baum is bringing 6 camels to the Museum for a fascinating educational program. There will also be camel crafts for kids! Doug has given us a little preview of what’s to come on opening weekend in a guest post below.

Try applying for a bank loan, having to explain, “I’m a camel rancher.” Next time you’re on a flight and your seatmate makes small talk, asking about your job, answer with, “I guide camel treks in the Middle East.” Or, try convincing your father-in-law you’ll be able to take care of his daughter as you grow your camel business!

Now I’m tasked with introducing myself to you, the followers of the Houston Museum of Natural Science blog.

I’m Doug Baum, owner of Texas Camel Corps, a business (admittedly unconventional) dedicated to cultural, historical and environmental education using camels. My family will be bringing six of them to HMNS for an afternoon of programs on opening weekend of the Secrets of the Silk Road exhibition Saturday August 28, from noon to four o’clock. Programs will focus on the camel’s role in cultures along the historic paths as well as environmental adaptations the camel uses to survive in extreme climates.

This is really exciting for me, but it’s not the camels’ nor my first trip down the Silk Road. In 2002, when famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma helped organize the Smithsonian’s Annual Folklife Festival celebrating the Silk Road, I was honored to present programs on the National Mall for two weeks. Closer to home, our camels visit Texas schools, libraries, faith-based institutions and museums throughout the year.

Now I know those hardened camel men, as well as the camels working the oriental trade routes, had it tough: the varied conditions of plains, deserts and mountains are nothing to sneeze at, not to mention disease and banditry along the way. But as I plan my camels’ next journey down the Silk Road, the logistics I have to consider carry their own challenges. Hauling six camels from our farm in Central Texas to Houston may not be like going from Xi’an to the shores of the Mediterranean, but I bet my pre-trip checklist isn’t that different. Water, check. Foodstuff, check. Camels, OOPS! I should introduce my camels. They’re really the stars of the show.

Along for the ride will be Irenie, Gobi, Richard, Marianne, Ibrahim, and Xi’an (yes, really!). Gobi and Xi’an are appropriately-named Bactrian camels, the two humped variety native to Central Asia, while the other four are Arabians, the more common and numerous one-humped species found from North Africa through the Middle East and into India. I’ve decided to bring both species, as well as a variety of camel-related artifacts representative of the different societies living along the length of the Silk Road, to demonstrate just how widespread and varied the cultures along the routes were.

But back to the camels. Each has its own personality and my family and I will be happy to help you get to know them. You may hear stories from my 10-year old son, Pecos, about why Irenie is his favorite. Teenaged daughters Vanessa and Delany will likely tell you they prefer Ibrahim, our beautiful white camel, and that this is actually Ibrahim’s second trip to Houston. A few years ago, he traveled into an underground service entry, up steps, through corridors and onto a freight elevator before greeting travel convention goers outside the doors of a hotel ballroom!

Maybe those Silk Road camel men didn’t have it so tough after all.

Our family looks forward to meeting you when our humble caravan rolls into Houston. In the meantime, come visit us online, on Facebook, our blog, and our web site.

Girls Exploring Math and Science at HMNS this Saturday!!

It’s National Engineers Week and what that means for us is that it’s almost time for GEMS 2009 here at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

The Girls Exploring Math and Science event has been hosted at the Houston Museum of Natural Science since 2006 and we’re all geared up for this year to be so much fun. We have Girl Scouts hosting booths on hands-on topics ranging from catapults and gravity to probability and electricity!

Our Community partnership with the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council has drawn in more and more girl scouts from across the council each year to come up with exciting topics to study and share with the GEMS visitors on Saturday during the event. We have also invited other groups from the community to host booths in the Grand Hall of the Museum and share their love of Math and Science through hands on activities and information about their organizations.

The 2009 Community booths will include the Society of Women Engineers, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine and the John C. Freeman Weather Museum among other great organizations with lots to share to our visitors!

So bring your family and join us for a fun event learning about Science, Engineering, Math and Technology here at the Girls Exploring Math and Science event on Saturday, February 21, 2009 from 9am – 12pm.

Come early so that you can beat the Saturday crowd, see all of the great booths and really enjoy the event!

(I would also definitely suggest buying your tickets online at so you can just jump right in on Saturday and avoid the box office line!)

For the Love of Chocolate

Creative Commons License photo credit: Frank_BB

In light of the upcoming Valentine’s Day festivities, I thought we should all take a moment to learn something new about a traditional Valentine’s Day gift. I’m talking about chocolate, of course! Did you know…

Chocolate syrup was used as the blood in the famous shower scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “Psycho.”

A quote for you (I think this soldier liked chocolate a little bit): “Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.” – Geronimo Piperni, quoted by Antonio Lavedán, a surgeon in the Spanish army, 1796.

A chocolate history legend states that the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl brought cacao to earth and was thrown out of paradise for giving it to man; it was believed that only the gods were fit to drink chocolate!

In the 1500s, when chocolate first made its way in to Spain, it was considered a health food and a medicine! Many doctors of the time prescribed it for curing fevers, cooling the body, aiding in digestion, and alleviating pain.

DANGER! Chocolate is poisonous to dogs (and other domestic animals); the Theobromine found in chocolate is a stimulant, especially affecting the heart muscles, and can be too much for small animals. So be careful if you have pets.

The melting point of chocolate is just below normal body temperature, so it literally melts in your mouth! Mmmmm…tasty.

Smarties: Inverted Double Spiral (-1,2)
Creative Commons License photo credit: gadl

In 1940, M&M’s were invented by the MARS Company for soldiers going to WWII.

The biggest bar of chocolate ever made was made in Italy in 2000 and weighed over 5,000 pounds. The largest slab of fudge weighed over 2,000 pounds and was made in Canada.

Currently, 40% of the world’s almonds and 20% of the world’s peanuts are used by chocolate manufacturers. One pod from a cacao tree (the plant from which chocolate is derived) contains about 30-50 almond-sized seeds. This is enough to make about 7 milk chocolate bars.

And, finally, 63% of Americans buy chocolate for themselves when buying it for someone else. So go splurge on your sweetie! But don’t forget to grab a treat for yourself, while you’re at it.

This Valentine’s Day, be sure to pick up some chocolate for your special someone, and don’t worry if you don’t have any extraordinary plans. Come on down to Love Bugs, the Museum’s Valentine’s Day bash!

And if, perchance, you are spending this February 14th alone, you should still go out and grab your favorite chocolaty treat; studies show that chocolate has anti-depressant qualities and mood-boosting goodness.