Darwin2009: An “Aha!” moment worth celebrating

Archimedes
Archimedes: the original
“Aha!” moment.
 photo credit:
kimberlyfaye (away)

Behind many momentous scientific discoveries there seems to have been what we call an “aha moment.” Consider Sir Isaac Newton and the apple which is said to have hit him, causing Newton to hit on the notion of gravity. Consider Archimedes in his bathtub and his “Eureka” moment, which is just Greek for the German “Aha!”

Insights like these are different from those derived from problem solving. It seems that in this case, there is a sudden realization that we can explain something in a way we have never thought of before. In some cases the insight might have come almost immediately, in other cases it took years, if not decades for that lightning bolt to strike.

Consider Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin
Creative Commons License photo credit:
CATR *Recomiendo ver
fotos con su tamaño original

Darwin was invited to be part of the second voyage of the HMS Beagle. It appears it was a last minute invitation (Here I could segue into what constitutes a ‘what if” moment, but I won’t.)  During his five-year long trip, Darwin spent most of his time on land, a good thing for a person prone to sickness, and a good thing for us too, as he was able to collect a lot of samples and make copious notes. This trip, which took him around the world, lasted from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836. Even though he was able to collect lots of data, it also appears that he was not until he was back home and reviewing his materials that the “aha!” moment came. When studying rare Galapagos mockingbirds, Darwin started considering the notion that that species changed over time. In other words, Darwin started to think of what we call “evolution.” (The mocking birds are currently part of an exhibit at the Natural History Museum in London.)

It was not until 1859 after further research and after much prodding from third parties, that Darwin finally published his famous tome “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.”  It has been a bestseller ever since.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book. These two dates are celebrated across the world, although in the United States, Darwin will have to share birthday cake with a fellow called Lincoln, who happened to have the same birth day. In Houston, activities surrounding Darwin, his work and influence will be coordinated through the Houston Darwin 2009 organization.

A host of Houston-based institutions participate, including the Houston Museum of Natural Science. We have several events lined up, including a Darwin Day Festival on February 7 and a lecture series, starting in March 2009. Come help us celebrate one of history’s most famous Aha moments.

Mambo at Mixers!

Bell and Howell Regent 8mm
Creative Commons License photo credit: aka Kath

I know that for a lot of my friends and co-workers this tends to be their busiest time of year and everyone is craving those lost summer days when they were able to forget about their troubles and play outside, lay on the beach, or catch the latest flick at the movie theater.

It just so happens that we have the best movie theatre in town -because our movie theatre is bigger than your house. I’m talking about 6 stories of in-your-face action with surround sound so sharp you’ll feel it vibrating your chair. 

We wouldn’t take pride in our movie theatre without bringing you the latest flicks, either. And I’m not talking about Hollywood starlets, fake explosions, and trailers so long that you realize that it’s been a full hour since you sat down and the movie still hasn’t begun. When you get to HMNS you have several 3D movies to choose from. Trailers? What are those? We get straight down to business in IMAX by showing you the film and nothing more. All that’s left is what movie to pick!

Here’s a little preview…

Dinosaurs 3D: Giants of Patagonia is an amazing film that follows a real explorer on the frontier of the field of paleontology. A true adventurer, Rodolfo Coria won’t let anything stand in the way of his curiosity while he pieces together the mysterious lives of creatures who have long been extinct. Watch as he reveals the dynamic between the two largest dinosaurs who have ever lived – Argentinosaurus and Giganotosaurus – and what life was like in Patagonia when giants roamed the Earth.

Galapagos 3D explores the volcanic archaepelago of the Galapagos Islands of Darwin fame. One of the most unique environments on the Earth, this area has a wealth of fantastical creatures you would never believe unless you saw them. Dive deep with researchers to discover these incredulous life forms with technology that Darwin could only dream about.

Grand Canyon 3D: River at Risk is an action packed adventure as two father/daughter teams tame the rapids of the mighty Colorado. Portraying the importance of the river and all that it provides to those around it from start to finish, this film is the perfect marriage of education and entertainment.

Mixers, Elixirs, & IMAX provides you with an opportunity to see any one of these films. Did you come in to see an IMAX film for $10? Why not pay $15 for your Mixers, Elixirs, & IMAX ticket? You get hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, a DJ, a live band, and dancing all night.

So if you’re really looking to unwind, get your weekend started off right. Kick back with a cocktail, money in your pocket, and your favorite dancing shoes at Mixers Elixirs, & IMAX. This week get down with the band who put the capital “S” in Soul. The Mambo Jazz Kings are bringing down the house this Friday at the Houston Museum of Natural Science from 6 to 10 p.m.