NASA’s Journey to Mars

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In the classic Ray Bradbury book, The Martian Chronicles, humans land on Mars only to discover it is already populated by Martians. Naturally, disaster ensues. In real life, NASA’s Mars mission – scheduled for the 2030s – is sure to be more successful. 

In the past, Mars may have had conditions suitable for life (although none as complex as described in The Martian Chronicles) and NASA is hoping to uncover evidence of this, answering the age-old question “does life exist beyond Earth?”

Although 2030 may seem far away, NASA is already preparing for the mission. Three astronauts recently returned from 199 days in orbit on the International Space Station and NASA will be monitoring them to determine how the human body changes in space.

During their time in orbit, the astronauts conducted a number experiments that will advance the Mars mission and benefit those on Earth.

Special Pants
The Fluid Shifts experiment tests one theory to explain why more than half of astronauts experience changes in their vision. This experiment uses special pants to help pull fluids from an astronaut’s upper body to their legs – similar to the effect of gravity on Earth.

Neck Collars
Drain Brain uses a neck collar to relieve pressure inside an astronaut’s head, which may help relieve headaches caused by lack of gravity.

Espresso Machines
The Capillary Beverage study, using an espresso machine, helps researchers better understand how fluids move in space.

Wrenches
A 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station created a wrench – the first object to be 3-D printed space.

To learn more about the Journey to Mars project, visit the NASA website and check out our Journey to Space IMAX® film opening June 13. This film, narrated by Patrick Stewart, explores the past and future of human space exploration, including the Mars program.

Introducing MiSci’s Robot Lab

Thanks to support from Quicken Loans, MiSci will open a new Robot Lab June 20! The Robot Lab will allow guests to learn computer coding and manipulate a two-wheeled robot known as the Finch. The Finch robots were developed in Carnegie Mellon’s Robot Institute and are designed to engage students with computer science. The Carnegie Mellon website offers a complete description of this innovative educational tool.

(The) Finch … can be programmed by a novice to talk, dance or even make its beak glow in response to cold temperatures. 

The simple look of the tabletop robot is deceptive. Based on four years of educational research sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Finch includes a number of features that could keep students busy for a semester or longer.

“Students are more interested and more motivated when they can work with something interactive and create programs that operate in the real world,” said Carnegie Mellon’s Tom Lauwers.

Read more …

Visit us this June for your chance to learn coding, play with the Finch, and even compete against your friends, family and other guests! Members: don’t miss our members-only Summer Kickoff on June 18!

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Guest Blog: Hyperscore – Changing how we Understand Music

By Katie Scharra, MiSci volunteer

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As a master’s student of anthropology at Wayne State University, I am always looking for fun ways to spend a day or two away from schoolwork. I am extremely interested in the way adults and children alike interact with alternative modes of learning, so I jumped at the chance to work with a new Michigan Science Center exhibit. I’d like to share the awesome things I’ve learned about the Hyperscore exhibit and program, how children and adults interact with it, and my hopes for the future of the exhibit at MiSci.

Hyperscore is an incredible music composition software created by Tod Machover – a renowned composer and MIT professor.  By assigning colors to individual sets of notes, Hyperscore lets you create music through your own drawings. The exhibit is part of a program called Symphony in D, which asks Detroiters to capture the sounds of the city using Hyperscore or a related app. These sounds will be used to create a symphony which will be performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in November.

Seeing how Hyperscore is used by visitors of all ages has been the most rewarding part of the past few weeks. As children came to experience Hyperscore, I began to notice a distinct pattern. While older children love the software and find it pretty intuitive, younger children didn’t seem to understand how to use it, even when I guided them. After I tried to explain how to draw across the screen, a parent said to me, “They don’t know what ‘click and drag’ means.” It was an absolute shock to learn that ‘the click of a mouse’ is an increasingly obsolete term.

Luckily, the Michigan Science Center is a place full of wonderful employees ready to challenge themselves and try something new. Within a week, MiSci had new Microsoft Surface tablets, allowing Hyperscore to be run by touch. We still have several PCs for those who are familiar with the mouse, in addition to three touch screen tablets. These touch screens have completely changed the experience of this already incredible program. Imagine, musical notes coming right from your fingertips. This will be extremely familiar to musicians, however, for those cannot read a single note (like me), the act of creating our own music is incredibly exciting.

In August, I’ll return from my internship in Colorado, and the MiSci team and I hope to host one or two workshops on Hyperscore. These programs will allow visitors to learn Hyperscore in-depth and to re-create the sounds of Detroit. I encourage everyone, regardless of musical ability, to visit MiSci and try Hyperscore. It will change the way you understand the music you hear every day.

Learn more about MiSci’s volunteer program.

A Symphony By and For Detroit

In collaboration with Symphony in D, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and Composer Tod Machover, the Michigan Science Center is excited to offer Hyperscore, software that empowers anyone to compose music. Hyperscore compositions will be featured in the DSO’s Symphony in D debuting this November!

Tod recently shared his Symphony in D experience on the Knight Arts Foundation blog.

My dream is to collect … impressions of Detroit – past, present and future – in sound, to transmute those sounds into “music,” and through our Symphony in D to tell a story about what Detroit feels like now, and what it could be in the future. 

There are so many ways for you to participate – no matter what musical background you do or don’t have, what kind of music you like, where you live, how old you are, etc. – and I really hope that you will jump in and take part. You’ll have the opportunity to record and send your favorite sounds, to shape and vary music as it develops, to lay down beats and tweak timbres, to trade ideas about Detroit’s problems and potential, and to contribute to telling a special sonic story about this great place, to be enjoyed here and now….. but also far away and for a long time to come.

Read more …

There are many ways to contribute to Symphony in D and we invite you to share the sounds of your Detroit at one of our three Hyperscore stations. Be sure to check our Hyperscore webpage for availability.

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No More Porridge

At MiSci, we talk a lot about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). At renowned  design firm Sundberg Ferar, President Curt Bailey and his team are advocating for STEAM – STEM plus art.

The Sundberg Ferar team’s motto – “no more porridge” – reflects their desire to rise above mediocre and create unique products and experiences. Curt’s take on the importance of art in engineering and design is showcased in Model D’s new STEM Hub series. Curt backs up his case with arguments for:

1. Beauty: An exposure to the magical results of great technology and great art.

2. Emotion: An understanding of art and its emotional appeal.

3. Eccentricity: An ability to create things that are new and different.

Continue reading …

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Total Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse will be visible in the early morning of April 4. A total lunar eclipse occurs only when the sun, Earth and moon are perfectly lined up. Our own Planetarium Coordinator and Staff Astronomer Paulette Auchtung recently discussed lunar eclipses with radio host Frank Beckmann on WJR. Learn more from Paulette in her interview and visit us for Astronomy Weekend, April 24 – 26!

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Fascinating Frescos

The Michigan Science Center is proud to host a limited availability lecture and workshop by renowned Detroit artist Hubert Massey on March 28! This event is organized in conjunction with the Detroit Institute of Arts’ exhibit, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit.

Massey will speak to MiSci guests about the scientific discoveries that inspired Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry. His lecture will be followed by a fresco-making workshop. Both are included with general admission, but space is limited for the workshop – just 30 seats are available. Call 313.577.8400, Option 5, to make a reservation.

Hubert Massey’s installations can be seen at the Museum of African American History, Paradise Valley Park and Campus Martius. He is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and has studied at the University of London, Slade Institute of Fine Arts. He studied with Stephen Dimitroff and Lucienne Bloch, apprentices to Diego Rivera, and is one of few African American artists painting in the true Buon Fresco style.

Hear from Massey himself in this video featuring his work as a Kresge Fellow.

Hubert Massey , 2011 Kresge Artist Fellow in the visual arts from Kresge Arts in Detroit on Vimeo.

Your Guide to the Detroit Sky

By Paulette Auchtung
MiSci Planetarium Coordinator and Staff Astronomer

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The night sky has captured our attention and imaginations for centuries. The ancient Greeks looked up into the night sky and used the stars in constellations to tell stories of Gods and Goddesses, heroes and villains, and monsters and pets. Every culture throughout time has stories that went along with patterns in the sky.

Today, we are more disconnected from the night sky. We have television and video games to hold our attention and we aren’t able to see very much of the night sky because of light pollution. Light pollution is mainly caused by very bright city lights.

Detroit has a lot of city lights, and though they help keep us safe, they also block our view of the night sky. To get away from the city lights, you have to go about 100 miles outside the nearest city, but here in Michigan, there are plenty of places that you can go nearby. To find a dark sky near you, visit the Dark Sky website.

However, if you are interested in star gazing in your backyard, there are still objects that you can see from Detroit. Right now, shortly after sunset, the bright stars in the winter circle are visible in the southern sky and can be seen from the city. Betelgeuse and Rigel in the constellation of Orion the Hunter are bright, and visible almost due south shortly after sunset. The brightest star Sirius is close by.

You are actually able to see more than just stars in the night sky. Shortly after sunset, two planets are visible in the western sky. If you look close to the horizon, you will see Mars and Venus. Venus is the brighter of the two, but both are fairly bright. Venus is so bright that you can see it in the daytime if you know where to look. After the sun sets, but before it gets really dark, you should be able to see a very bright object – Venus – in the west. A lot of people mistake it for a UFO, or unidentified flying object. Along with Venus and Mars, another really bright object is visible in the east-southeast. You’ll notice Jupiter starting shortly after sunset and for the majority of the night. Even if you don’t have a telescope, some of these objects are visible with a pair of binoculars.

To learn more about the stars and constellations that you can see here in Detroit, or to learn more about space, come visit us at the Michigan Science Center for Space Week, March  11- 15!

 

Humpback Whales: Incredible Expedition

This weekend, we’ll be premiering a new IMAX® film, Humpback Whales, by MacGillivray Freeman. The 40-minute adventure explores how these whales communicate, sing, feed, play, and take care of their young.

In his own blog, film producer Shaun MacGillivray described the incredible challenges his crew faced in bringing this film to life. “When you’re on location, every day counts,” he wrote. “You’re always thinking about the time and funding put into it. But that’s how filming wildlife is. You spend a lot of days hoping the animals will do things they don’t do every day.”

Cost
IMAX® film costs $1,000 per minute to shoot. This prevents the crew from filming continuously so as not to miss the perfect shot. Instead, the crew had to be ready for just the right moment.

Weather
Part of the film was shot in Alaska. During two weeks of filming, the crew experienced just two sunny days.  There was a lot of rain, which often ended up on the camera lens.

Behavior
Humpback whales are known for breaching, a behavior that the filmmakers wanted to capture. Breaching is unpredictable, as the whales will jump without warning. “You’re just looking at calm seas and then bam, a 40,000 pound whale is flying out of the water,” MacGillivray wrote.

Snot
When humpback whales spout, the exhaled water drifts in the air and would often hit the crew’s lenses.

Despite these challenges, the filmmakers were able capture amazing up-close footage of these massive creatures – some up to 50 feet long and weighing 80,000 pounds.

“We were able to get really great footage and I’m excited to show people what these whales do,” MacGillivray wrote of the crew’s time near Alaska, Hawaii and the Kingdom of Tonga. “They provide a powerful example to the world as they communicate and work together to find their livelihood.”

Humpback Whales premiers this Saturday, February 14. Members are invited to an exclusive preview on February 14 at 10 a.m.

Win a whale-watching trip to Alaska!

Paging Dr. Eadie

This weekend marks the opening of two new exhibits at the Michigan Science Center: Eat Well, Play Well and Moneyville! These exhibits teach nutrition, physical activity, financial literacy and more.  Both exhibits are especially timely as many of us are trying to keep on track with our 2015 New Year’s Resolutions.

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Dr. Reginald Eadie, M.D., the President/CEO of DMC Harper University and Hutzel Women’s Hospitals, is an expert in eating healthy and staying active. He is the author of How To Eat & Live Longer and will be speaking at the MiSci New Year’s Blast, an event previewing our new exhibits for members of the Michigan Science Center, on January 24.

Eadie has been referred to as the “soda pop doc” for leading campaigns against soda pop and fried foods, including “Say No To Soda Pop” and “The 61-Day Challenge.” His campaigns focus on taking simple steps towards good health.

We look forward to hearing more of Dr. Eadie’s insights at our member preview event, along with family yoga from Nature’s Playhouse, interactive financial activities with Bank of America, and our new exhibits!

You can get involved in the conversation by using #MiSciResolutions on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If you share your New Year’s Resolution and show your social media post at our Tickets and Information Counter, you save $3 off general admission at MiSci!

UPDATE: Dr. Eadie gave a great presentation this weekend at MiSci and you can find his PowerPoint slides here!

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