Archive for December, 2010

The International Year of Biodiversity Wrap-Up

The International Year of Biodiversity is almost at its end. The United Nations declared 2010 to be the year for celebrating, researching, exploring, understanding and protecting the world’s biodiversity.

Here at More to Explore, we celebrated the year with a series of posts:

The goal of the International Year of Biodiversity was not only to celebrate the life on Earth, but to protect it. And there are still far too many organisms that are threatened and endangered, and at least 100 species go extinct each day. For a beautiful and moving look at 80 of America’s endangered species, read Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species.

Even though the International Year of Biodiversity is coming to an end, don’t stop learning about the amazing breadth of life on Earth. And just so you’re ready, 2011 is the International Year of Forests. Why not begin the celebration by reading Bark: An Intimate Look at the World’s Trees?

Bark from the Octillo tree


Five Golden Rings…From an Asteroid

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Today is the Fifth Day of Christmas and, according to the song, your true love should be giving you five golden rings any moment now. However, if you’re expecting some small and shiny circles of metal, don’t be too disappointed if instead you get a bunch of birds. When the song was written, the rings in question weren’t jewelry to wear on your hands, but rather ring-necked birds, like the common pheasant. We don’t recommend you try wearing the birds as jewelry.

Ring-necked pheasant - you get five of them!

If your true love was going to skip the avian presents and give you five actual golden rings, there’s a good chance the gold used to make those rings might have come from outer space, delivered to Earth by an asteroid billions of years ago.

New research indicates that a series of enormous asteroid impacts 4.5 billion years ago are the source of Earth’s gold. The largest of the asteroids to hit the planet is estimated to have been the same size as Pluto.


Why the Other Line Will Probably Move Faster

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Do you often feel like you’re stuck in the slowest cashier line when waiting to buy or return gifts this time of year? Well, you probably are. Why? Knowing how to combine the history of telephones with a little math gives you the answer, but may not make the waiting any easier.

Here’s a terrific explanation from Prof. Bill Hammack, also known as  “Engineer Guy.”

So the next time you’re stuck in a long line, just think about Poisson Distributions and try to remain calm.

A Holiday Greeting from the International Space Station

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

A holiday message from NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency.

A beautiful message and the secret to the perfect poofy hairstyle!

Friday Quick Links

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

The story of evolution, told through the medium of walking fingers…

A mummified forest has been found in the Canadian Arctic, where trees haven’t grown for millions of years.

A fascinating intersection of biology and technology – how the Tobacco mosaic virus can increase the storage size of lithium batteries ten times!

Don’t know what to get a girl chimpanzee for the holidays? Try a stick; she may use it as a doll.


On the Discovery Docket – The Supersizers

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

I don’t know about the rest of you, but over these next two weeks I’m going to be eating a lot of food. And while I’m definitely looking forward to all the delicious treats, I know I’ll to reach a saturation point where there’s no way more food can fit inside me. What will I do then? I’ll watch videos about other people eating food. Specifically, I’m going to be watching The Supersizers.


The Supersizers go Victorian

The Supersizers is a BBC television series in which the hosts, restaurant critic Giles Coren and comedian Sue Perkins, explore the dining habits of the last 2,000 years of (mostly) British history and eat what those people would have eaten.

This series, equal parts documentary, history lesson, comedy hour and cooking show, is fascinating. Even though the main focus of the show is British history, you’re also treated to other historic cuisines, including  Ancient Rome and Marie Antoinette’s Versailles. It’s amazing how drastically people’s diets have changed over the centuries, and how the definition of “edible” is much more subjective than you might first think.

How about a treacle tart filled with pickled mackerel and herring? Shakespeare was know to eat it. No? Alright then, what about the tongue of an ox in the amniotic sack of a calf? Really? They ate it all the time in 1660. My, you’re picky. Well, no one can say no to a nice piece of puma. What? Darwin loved it and said it tasted like veal.

Yep, those are frogs being put inside a pie

Sadly, the series isn’t readily available in the US, but you can watch all of the episodes on The Supersizers’ YouTube Channel.

History has never been so delicious…or, in the case of the boiled sheep’s head with sheep’s brains in butter from the Victorian episode, so…um…not. Bon appetite!

Are any of you trying new foods this holiday season?

From the Archive: Let it Snow!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archives

I’ve heard some folks lamenting the fact that we haven’t had much snow this season, so here are a few historic photos from the Fort Collins Local History Archive to get you in that wintery mood.

A winter wonder-yard at 618 South Grant Street, 1988.

Rocky Mountain Ski Club on a madcap excursion near the Brynwood Hotel in Estes Park, circa 1930.

Don Alexander inspects some impressive icicles at the Laramie-Poudre River Tunnel, 1920s.

Members of the Hartshorn family enjoy a ride in a one-horse open sleigh through the streets of Fort Collins in 1937.

And finally, a cautionary photo from 1966 for those of you who drive convertibles in the wintertime…

Aren’t you ready for a nice cup of hot cocoa now?

Solstice Eclipse

by Toby Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.

– Clement Clarke Moore

The moon looks red when it's inside Earth's shadow

Stargazers across North America will witness a rare December solstice / lunar eclipse this evening.  The moon will appear to change colors as the Earth’s shadow passes across the lunar surface turning it from gray, to orange, and then, finally, red.

This spectacular display happens when the moon passes behind the earth and enters the earth’s shadow. The earth block’s the sun’s light, which normally shines on the moon and causes it to look white to us, and changing colors of the moon come courtesy of our atmosphere, which will filter the available light.

Diagram of a Lunar Eclipse

Tonight’s eclipse is starting at 11:33 p.m. Mountain Time, December 20th (your start time may vary, depending on the local time zone).  Some aspects of the event will also be visible to viewers in Western Europe and Asia, but North America is best positioned for viewing. Unlike a solar eclipse, tonight’s event can be seen safely with the naked eye requiring no special equipment (blankets, thermos bottles of hot cocoa, and a lawn chair are optional; but what the heck, you’ve probably got most of that stuff just lying around the house).

What makes tonight’s eclipse even more special is that it’s happening on the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. A total lunar eclipse coinciding with the winter solstice is fairly unique; the last time the two events coincided was 456 years ago.  Luckily, we won’t have to wait that long for another eclipse to come along: the next one is slated for April 15, 2014.  Granted, Tax Day isn’t nearly as festive an event as the solstice, and the visibility won’t be nearly as good here in North America, so get out there and enjoy tonight’s show!

Friday Quick Links

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Hoekman's blunt-snouted dolphin (Platalearostrum hoekmani)

Researchers have proposed pulleys, sleds and wooden rollers as possible tools to move the huge slabs of rock needed to create Stonehenge. Now there’s a new mechanism added to the mix: balls. A combined system of ox-power, grooved rails and wooden ball bearings may have been just the trick to move 45 ton stones.

Planetary scientists in Boulder, Colorado, hypothesize that the origin of Saturn’s rings may be ice stripped off  a long-gone moon that crashed into Saturn 4 billion years ago (note: the link includes a podcast).

A new prehistoric dolphin species (and a balloon-headed dolphin at that!) was just described based on a bone found by a Dutch fisherman. You never know who’s going to be a part of the next scientific discovery…

Still looking for that perfect holiday present for that special someone? Why not name a mathematical theorem after them? After all, nothing says love like a whole bunch of cosines.

Meet the Clusterwink snail: a snail that looks, and acts, a lot like a Christmas tree light. When threatened, the fingernail-sized snail generates pulses of bioluminescent light from a single spot on it body and the snail’s opaque shell diffuses the blue-green spectrum of that light, making the whole shell glow.

2,400 year old pot of soup found by archaeologists in China.

Massive volcanic activity may have played a big role in the Permian Extinction and the death of the dinosaurs.


New Museum Update – The Walls are Coming Up

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

Laying down the "mud slab" at the new museum construction site

Since breaking ground in September, construction has been proceeding apace at the new museum site. Practically all of the work so far is at or below the surface — hundreds of helical foundation piers have been drilled into the ground, a low concrete wall has been poured around the perimeter of the building, runs of PVC plumbing and venting pipe have been placed, and the working floor, or “mud slab,” is being laid. Every time we go to the site, it looks amazingly different. And starting this coming Monday (12-20), it’s going to look really different — the walls are arriving!

The outer walls of the museum building will be assembled from 89 custom precast concrete sections, built by Stresscon Corporation in Dacono, Colorado. We’re using precast wall sections for several reasons: they are environmentally friendly, they last longer than other construction methods, and they provide an array of beautiful finishes to choose from. Assoc. Director Jason Wolvington and I are heading down to Stresscon this morning to watch the first batch of wall sections being loaded on flatbed trucks for delivery on-site Monday. When they arrive Monday, a giant crane will unload them and they’ll be welded onto the foundation wall. Over the next three weeks, the new museum building will look like it’s literally rising up from the ground.

Stayed tuned for updates and photos. Keep an eye on our Flickr site for photos, follow us on Facebook, and check out the panoramic photos of the construction site that we’re posting on our website. And as always, if you have any questions about what’s going on, please don’t hesitate to ask!

December 2010

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