On the Seventh Day of HMNS…look inside the human body

It’s that time again - delicious cookies, pies, chocolates and treats of all types are constantly swirling past, in a holiday smorgasbord of epic proportions. It’s delicious – but we all know we’ll be waking up a few pounds heavier on Jan. 2. So – what does all the holiday excess do to your body? For that matter, what effect does all the holiday stress have on your brain?

Find out in BODY WORLDS 2 & The Brain – our Three Pound Gem, now on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. You can see exactly where all those holiday goodies go after you’re through enjoying them – and learn how your body functions in general, as well as examine the latest neuroscience research into the brain.

Check out this video for a sneak peek into the exhibit:


BODY WORLDS 2 is just one of the fun and fascinating family events at the Houston Museum of Natural Science during the holiday season. In a take-off of everyone’s favorite holiday classic, The 12 Days of Christmas, we’ve got 12 ideas for fabulous family fun this holiday and we’ll be sharing the possibilities here every day until Christmas Eve. Best of all, most are activities that last past the holiday season – some, year round. You can also check them all out now at the spiffy new 12 Days of HMNS web site.

Check out the first six days of HMNS:
On the first day of HMNS, explore The Birth of Christianity.
On the second day of HMNS, shop for Sci-tastic gifts.
On the third day of HMNS, meet Prancer the reindeer.
On the fourth day of HMNS, discover the making of The Star of Bethlehem.
On the fifth day, move it, move it with Madagascar 2 in the Wortham IMAX Theatre.
On the sixth day, hunt dinosaurs with Dr. Bob Bakker.

On the Fourth Day of HMNS…Discover The Star of Bethlehem

Discover The Star of Bethlehem this holiday.

There’s always a lot happening at the Houston Museum of Natural Science – especially during the holiday season. We’ve put together 12 ideas for fabulous family fun for you, which we’re sharing here every day until Christmas Eve. You can also check them all out now at the spiffy new 12 Days of HMNS web site. For the fourth day of HMNS, go behind-the-scenes of the film The Star of Bethlehem, a holiday tradition in the Burke Baker Planetarium. (Of course, each day’s idea can be done on any day this holiday – and in some cases, all year.)

Many are familiar with the Biblical Star of Bethlehem – the bright star that the wise men followed to reach the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. But – what was the historical, astronomical event that initiated this story? What was the Star of Bethlehem? What did the wise men see?

These are questions that have puzzled biblical scholars and scientists alike. And every year, audiences can explore the latest archaeo-astronomy research into this fascinating topic. In the video below, go behind-the-scenes with Adam, one of our Planetarium astronomers, as he updates the film for this year.

Check out the first three days of HMNS:
On the first day of HMNS, discover The Birth of Christianity.
On the second day of HMNS, shop for Sci-tastic gifts.
On the third day of HMNS, meet Prancer the reindeer.

Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.25.08)

plastic containers
Creative Commons License photo credit: fungusakafungus

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

Sounds like synergy: researchers at the University of Hawaii are making biodegradable plastic - from the waste products of corn ethanol production.

You would think “causes lung cancer” would be enough to make smoking “uncool.” But apparently, PSAs aren’t enough – you have to associate an unhealthy behavior with a group that’s already considered “not cool.”

New research indicates that Saturn’s moon Titan could harbor life, in the form of extremophiles that have taken advantage of the water brought to the surface by ice volcanoes (!). (via)

Think a human cell is tiny? Researchers at MIT are working on a “virus-based micro-battery” that’s half the size.

Travel across America with Lewis & Clark, or sail with the intrepid Captain Cook – in a new, interactive map of some of history’s most famous journeys.

We give carpoolers a special lane – do hybrid owners deserve priority parking?

Scientists have developed a long-term storage technology that’s being used to create a modern Rosetta Stone.

Archaeologists in Mexico may have found a Mayan path to the underworld – but which came first, the legend, or the path?

Skin cancer has its own distinct smell.

Live From the Poles: North Lake and the Journey Home

Our guest blogger today is Chris Linder, a Research Associate at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. He is the project manager and field photographer for the National Science Foundation-sponsored Live from the Poles project. He’s been sending us weekly updates about their progress.

On July 21, scouts, summer campers and Ecoteens had a chance to get their most pressing climate questions answered from Ian Joughin, the leader of the Greenland Glacier Expedition that Chris has been writing about here through a live satellite link to the campsite in Greenland; later that night, adults got their turn. You can listen in, below.


The team is now back from the Greenland; here’s Chris’ last post on what they learned.

North Lake and the Journey Home

It has been a whirlwind since my last post—a hectic final week on the Greenland ice sheet studying two glacial lakes, a helicopter transfer back to the town of Ilulissat, and a long series of flights taking us home. Warm socks and down jackets are now a thing of the past—I’m typing this dispatch in 87-degree heat in Seattle (I know that’s not really hot for Texans, but it’s quite a tough adjustment for me after a month of subfreezing temperatures!)

A final aerial survey just before we left showed
that the lakes were beginning to form ice on the
surface again. As winter returns to the ice, the
lakes will freeze solid and remain frozen
until the next summer. © Chris Linder, WHOI

Our final week on the ice was dedicated to exploring two nearby lakes, one of which had recently drained (dubbed “North Lake”) and another that was partially full of water when we arrived (dubbed “North North Lake”).

North Lake made the news earlier this year when Dr. Sarah Das (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and Dr. Ian Joughin (University of Washington Applied Physics Lab/Polar Science Center) published a pair of papers in the journal Science about the spectacular draining event that they captured with their instrumentation in July 2006. That summer, a giant hole called a moulin opened up in the lake bed and drained the entire water volume (which is a lot; this lake is several kilometers long!) in an hour and a half. This year, the lake was already empty when we arrived (in fact, we had already heard from colleagues that it drained on July 10, the day we arrived at South Lake camp), so the research team had the freedom to explore the empty lake basin on foot.

The dimpled surface on these tilted blocks shows
that these were part of the former lake bed. The
cracking of the ice sheet surface caused them to break
free and float to the surface as the lake drained.
© Chris Linder, WHOI

Our visits to the North Lake basin revealed a bizarre landscape of car-sized blocks, canyons, rivers and waterfalls. The variation in the landscape on the ice sheet, particularly in the drained lake beds, is staggering. I expected it to be, well, flat, and white.

What we saw was quite different—towering blocks of pushed-up ice, rivers of freezing melt water carving their way through 60-foot deep canyons, gaping bottomless cracks and holes. The color of the ice ranges from opaque white to clear to bluebird blue. To my glaciologist companions, the landscape was also an open book. The blocks indicate where major cracks occurred (the blocks are pieces of the ice sheet that are broken loose during the cracking), and the rivers lead us to the crevasses (cracks) or holes (moulins) where the water was still pouring through the ice sheet to the bedrock. If you put your ear to the cracks, you can hear the water echoing in the depths.


Moulins, or holes in the ice sheet,
can be an otherworldly blue.
© Chris Linder, WHOI

It will still be some time before the final picture of the 2008 lake draining can be told. The scientists had only a brief amount of time to examine their instruments and prepare them for another year of data collecting before we had to pack up and fly out. In the coming months, scientists will be examining the data their instruments collected over the previous year. Dr. Mark Behn, a scientist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Geology and Geophysics department (and resident “icequakes” expert), had this comment about the data he did look at:

“Even with a 10 minute look, I can see that the quality of the data is good, which tells me the instruments are working. We can also see the timing of large cracking events that drain the lakes, which stand out as dramatic spikes on the record.”

Be sure to check the Polar Discovery website to read dispatches about our other adventures at North Lake, including the release of a harmless tracer dye into a moulin and the investigation of “North North Lake.” 

Thank you to everyone who came in to the museum on July 21 to talk with moderator Twila Moon and Dr. Ian Joughin live from the ice. Stay tuned for future Live from the Poles expeditions on the Polar Discovery website. Until then, best wishes and thanks again for reading,

Chris

Interested in learning more about Chris, his team and their journey to Greenland?
Learn about the purpose of this trip.
Travel to Greenland with him.
Read what they did their first week.