Archive for February, 2011

From the Archive: Strike a Pose!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archive

The Mark Miller photograph collection is truly a treasure trove at the Fort Collins Local History Archive. This collection of photographs taken by local photographer Mark Miller spans nearly six decades, beginning in 1912 when he started his photography business, and contains of over 77,000 prints and negatives of local scenery, buildings, events, and portraits of Fort Collins residents.

The portraits are a lot of fun to view since the collection often has images of multiple poses from a single sitting. You can almost hear Mark Miller telling the subject, “Now, let’s try it with you hat on….now take your hat off….now smile!”

Here’s a triptych of Edmond L. Boulter from his studio session in 1938. Which one is your favorite?

I also really like Miller’s logo stamped on the backs of these photos. “Photographs Live Forever.”

If you’d like to learn more about Mark Miller’s amazing and prolific career in Fort Collins, be sure to attend the Fort Collins Historical Society program on Tuesday, March 1st. Authors Barbara Fleming and Mac McNeill will be discussing their 2009 book Fort Collins: The Miller Photographs.

The program begins at 7:00 pm and takes place at the Webster House, located at 301 East Olive Street, right across the street from the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center. See you there!

Friday Quick Links

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Interpretation

A set of mystery false teeth

Scientists are developing a common language that will let dolphins and humans communicate with each other.

Seaweed may Earth’s oldest plant.

Do you know who these enameled and filigree gold false teeth belonged to? If you do, there’s a reward for $500. And even if you don’t, a good enough made-up story could still win you some money.

A new dinosaur has been given the nickname “Thunder Thighs.”

Are you smarter than an 8th grader? Probably. Are you smarter than an 8th grader from 1895? Maybe not…

How far is the Moon from the Earth?

Beautiful photographs of a trip around the world looking at human affects on climate change and biodiversity loss.

Timelapse video of wild animals consuming an elephant.

New photographs of the Moon.

Scientists hope to recover Amelia Earhart’s DNA from envelops she liked more than 70 years ago.

Who came first, the walking cactus or the arthropod?

The Oklahoma House voted down a bill that would have allowed teachers to elect not to teach evolution

Science can create the illusion that you have three arms. And you’ll believe it!

Robots train for the world’s first full robot-marathon.

A hedgehog-like mammal uses its quills to communicate.

An 11,500-year-old house is uncovered in Alaska, along with the oldest human remains yet discovered in northern North America.

From the Archive AND Science Wednesday: “Like a Monster from a Lost World”

by Jane Hansen, Research Assistant, Local History Archive, Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archive, and Katie Bowell, Curator of Interpretation

Recently, Local History Archive Research Assistant extraordinaire Jayne Hansen came across this fantastic (and highly editorialized) article from a September 1935 edition of a Fort Collins newspaper:

The big question: What kind of spider did Duane Wetzler find?

There are a few options. In such a sensational case as this, some sort of extraterrestrial creepy crawly is always a possibility, but we can probably rule out an alien-arachnid in this case. Why? Most spiders from space have at least five “evil pair of jaws.” Let’s look at the spider species a little closer to home.

When trying to identify Fort Collins spiders, CSU’s Extension resource “Spiders in the Home” is a great first stop. However, since it was written in 2008, I can understand why it wasn’t used as an original reference. Looking through “Spiders in the Home,” an obvious candidate for Weltzer’s spider of terror emerges: The “Catface” Spider.

Araneus gemmoides

All the clues are there.

  • Diamond-shaped body? Check!
  • Long, furry legs? Check!
  • “Cat’s face” markings on the back (abdomen)? Check!
  • Evil pair of jaws? Well, we won’t call them evil, but…Check!
  • Broad as the diameter of a five cent piece? Since female Catface spiders can be over 1/4″ in diameter, Check!

While perhaps not the prettiest of spiders (Katie’s vote for that category goes to the Mabel Orchard Spider), the catface spider (Araneus gemmoides) is harmless and not nearly the “monster from a lost world” the newspaper post made it out to be.

But you have to wonder, what do you think the paper would have written about the tarantulas that live in the southern part of the state?

Let’s stick with the catface spiders, shall we?

Friday Quick Links

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

A false toe found on the mummy Tabaketenmut

The Chevron Corp. has been ordered to pay at least $8.6 billion in restitution for its pollution of the Amazon.

It’s imaginary…for now…but what if bees worked for the police?

The Montana State Legislature introduces a bill on global warming that describes the climate change as “beneficial.”

How much money would it take to catalog all the remaining unknown organisms on Earth? Over $200 billion U.S.

Speaking of cataloging all life on Earth, have you heard about the Barcode of Life Project?

Some of van Gogh’s vibrant yellows are turning brown. The reason? A chemical reaction never before seen in paint.

An essay on the importance (and irresponsibility) of the language used to describe and discuss “undiscovered” tribes.

Check out Myrmecos, the blog of biologist and wildlife photographer Alex Wild.

You eat over 100 trillion genes every day. Yum!

Some Egyptian mummies have false toes – and it looks like they worked when the people were alive.

And ancient Homo sapiens had spring-loaded heels.

And Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, appears to have moved more like modern humans than we once thought.

From the Collection: Can You Count the Moves?

by Leigh Westphal, Museum Coordinator

A few months back I wrote about a recent acquisition of prescription slips from the City Drug store. After completing the re-housing of prescription slips from the store’s cigar boxes to archival boxes, I was left with one burning question… where was this place? The answer- as is often the case- was not a simple one.

Boasted as “the oldest legitimate business in Fort Collins,” City Drug first opened in 1873. Its original owners were a pharmacist, M.E. Hocker, and two local business men, William C. Stover and John C. Mathews. City Drug’s first location was at the southwest corner of Jefferson and Linden streets in one of the oldest buildings in Fort Collins, known as “Old Grout” for the enthusiastic use of grout in its construction.

From Old Grout, City Drug went on to have numerous locations and owners. When the Yount Bank Building on the southeast corner of Jefferson and Linden was completed in 1874, City Drug quickly moved across the street and into it. In the same year, William Stover sold his interest in the business to his brother, Frank, who had just arrived in Fort Collins.  At this point, both W.C. Stover and Mathews retired from the drug store in order to pursue other business interests in town.  Eventually, Frank P. Stover bought out Hocker and became sole owner of City Drug.  During this time Stover moved the business again, this time to the northwest corner of Jefferson and Linden streets, where he rented a corner section of the Tedman House.  Soon after, the store made its way back to its original location, but this time it inhabited a brand new brick building since the log-walled Old Grout had been torn down and replaced at the commission of Frank Stover.

City Drug c. 1884, located at the Tedman House

Upon his retirement in 1919, Stover sold City Drug to C.L. Brewer. With Brewer at the helm, the drug store moved three more times in an attempt to be a central part of the city. In its first year of Brewer’s ownership, City Drug relocated to 143 Linden Street. Seven years later, it moved to 145 N. College Avenue and again to the “Woolworth Building” at the northwest corner of College and Mountain avenues.

City Drug c. 1906, southwest corner of Linden and Jefferson streets

In 1946, Brewer sold City Drug to brothers Arthur and Harold Grovert. The Groverts also relocated the business more than once. First, they moved to 139 N. College Avenue and again in 1967 to the southwest corner of College and Mountain Avenues.

City Drug c. 1969, 101 S. College Ave.

In 1992, City Drug was purchased by its current owners, the Wilkins family. The Wilkins continued to run the drug store at the southwest corner of College and Mountain until September of 2009, when the business made its final move to 209 N. College Avenue, formerly know as the Ghent Motors Building.

Current location of City Drug just north of LaPorte Ave.

Whew, moving makes me tired… even if it is just reading about it!

From the Archive: Valentines Now Arriving at the Depot!

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archives

Please accept these warm Valentine’s Day wishes from the pupils of Thunderbird Cottage School. The students of this school, once located at 2812 Harvard Avenue in Fort Collins, worked on this LOVE-ly railroad back in 1966. I believe that even after 45 years, it still makes Cupid proud!

Do you have any fond memories of Valentine’s Day crafts you made in school?

Happy Birthday, Darwin!

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Interpretation

202 years after his birth, and 152 years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, Darwin’s still going strong!

To celebrate Darwin’s birthday, why not:

How would you celebrate Darwin’s big 2-0-2?

Friday Quick Links

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Interpretation

Calcite crystal invisibility

Last Sunday, two spacecrafts’ journey to the Sun that’s taken over five years was completed. For the first time in history, we can see images of the entire Sun.

A new species of psuedoscorpion, Cryptogreagris steinmanni, has been discovered in Colorado.

Did you ever wonder what microorganisms have a comfy and cozy home in your bellybutton? The North Caroline Museum of Natural Sciences gives you a peek!

Documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog, famous for Grizzly Man, has a new film opening in March: Cave of Forgotten Dreams. For the film Herzog was granted unprecedented permission to film inside Chavet Cave, the site of the world’s oldest known cave paintings.

A New York Times editorial piece on the history of the idea of extinction.

The terrible notion that a piece of God’s creation could be swept off the face of the Earth only became a reality on January 21, 1796, and it was a body blow to Western orthodoxy.

Almost all of your hugs last 3 seconds, no matter where you’re from, or how much you like or dislike the person you’re hugging.

A potato by any other name… An international team of scientists has created a guide to the over 600 scientific names used to describe only 4 species of potato.

A new whale hybrid has been discovered in the Arctic.

Speaking of hybrid animals, do you know about the pizzly bear?

A prehistoric toolkit found in the United Arab Emirates has been dated to be 125,000 years old, over 55,000 years before modern humans were thought to have migrated out of North Africa.

Invisibility crystals are making the fantasy of invisibility cloaks a reality.

Dr. Seuss would be proud. Scientists have shown that a non-Newtonian fluid like Seuss’s “oobleck” could have plugged the Macando oil well.

Have you seen the museum’s own “oobleck” in action?

An elegant and eloquent letter to Congress on the state of climate change.

Valentine’s Day – Science Style!

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, why not send your sweetie a science-based card to show your love?

Find more science valentines here, here and here.

If you want to do something a little craftier, try folding a 3-D heart valentine.

Instructions here.

And if a paper heart just isn’t enough to show your affections, be sure to stop by the museum this Saturday for our Valentine’s Day Heartbreaker: Heart Dissections program. After all, nothing quite says “love” like dissecting a pig heart together!

The Valentine’s Day Heartbreaker: Heart Dissections program will happen Saturday, February 12,  from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center.

“Man vs. Machine” for $400, Please, Alex

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Interpretation

For the first time in history, a computer will compete on Jeopardy!.

Meet Watson.

Watson is considered to be the smartest computer on Earth. Designed by IBM, Watson was created with the specific goal of being able to compete – and win – on Jeopardy!. Starting this Monday, Watson will be competing against the game show’s all-time top contestants, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, for a prize of one million dollars. Will Watson be able to succeed?

Creating a computer that can answer Jeopardy!‘s questions seems simple at first – just download every piece of information from every encyclopedia, book, play, movie, Wikipedia, etc. into a database, right? Wrong. This is where the trickery that is Jeopardy! comes in.

IBM had to create a computer that could understand the nuances of human language. Jeopardy! is famous for subtle clues in the questions, wicked wordplay, and requiring contestants to piece together multiple points of information from grammar and syntax in order to find the correct answer. For a computer to win at Jeopardy!, it needs a level of artificial intelligence that has all the data of Google but can “think” like a person.

It took four years, but IBM thinks they’ve done it. Composed of 90 computer servers – basically ten refrigerators of hardware – thousands of algorithms, and over a million lines of new code, Watson is ready. The best Jeopardy! champions give correct answers approximately 90% of the time, and Watson’s is right up there with them.

So will Watson be the next Jeopardy! champion? Possibly. But, then again, Watson’s still known to miss a few. For example, when asked during a practice run “It’s what grasshoppers eat,” Watson replied, “What is kosher?”

Along with watching Watson compete on February 14-16, be sure to watch Nova’s Smartest Machine on Earth, the story of Watson’s creation and how scientists are teaching computers to think and learn.

Who do you think will win this Jeopardy! championship, man or machine?


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