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The Inside Story On ‘Your Emotional Brain’

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Emotions are controlled by the levels of different chemicals in your brain. At any given moment, dozens of chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, are active. but there is no one “love” or “hate” chemical. Some of these neurotransmitters go between individual cells, while others are broadcast to entire brain regions. By layering signals on other signals, your brain can adjust your responses and can effectively alter your mood.

In the Museum exhibition Brain: The Inside Story, visitors can try out an interactive exhibit that illustrates how neurotransmitters work, find out the difference between our “lizard brain” and our “mammal brain,” and learn more about the emotional brain.

Tags: Brain

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From the Field: Fossil Hunting Begins

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Blogging from west Kenya, William Harcourt-Smith, a research associate in the Division of Paleontology, is directing a 20-million-year-old paleontological site on two islands in Lake Victoria. One of these islands, Rusinga, is best known as the site of the discovery of the first fossils of Proconsul, an early ape. Harcourt-Smith’s multidisciplinary team includes physical anthropologists and geologists, and in addition to collecting fossils, researchers are trying to learn more about the evolutionary events and environmental conditions that may have influenced the emergence of Proconsul and other early ape lineages.

Tags: From the Field, Paleontology

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Museum Scientist Will Oversee Sample Analysis For 2016 Mission to Asteroid

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Geologist Harold C. Connolly, a research associate in the Museum’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, will oversee sample analysis on the first U.S. mission to collect material from an asteroid and bring it to Earth for study.

NASA announced the new mission-which is called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx-in late May as the third mission in its New Frontiers Program. An unmanned spacecraft will be launched in 2016 to the near-Earth asteroid 1999 RQ36 and will travel for four years to its destination. After OSIRIS-REx performs surface mapping of the asteroid—a process that may take up to 505 days—Connolly will be responsible for recommending locations most suitable for sampling.

“We will narrow it down to several choices to select the best location based on low risk to the spacecraft and on chemical signatures” found during surface mapping, says Connolly, who is also professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the City University of New York.

Tags: NASA

Podcast

Podcast: 21st Annual Environmental Lecture and Luncheon

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On April 12, 2011, the American Museum of Natural History hosted the 21st Annual Environmental Lecture and Luncheon, “A New Food Culture for a Sustainable Future.”

The luncheon featured a panel of sustainable food experts who addressed topics ranging from urban agriculture to how eating locally can affect the community, environment, and the planet. Moderated by Lynn Sherr, a former “20/20″ correspondent, the panel included Nevin Cohen, assistant professor of Environmental Studies at The New School and urban food policy expert; Dickson Despommier, emeritus professor at Columbia University and inventor of the vertical farm concept; and Nancy Easton, founder and executive director of Wellness in the Schools.

Listen to a portion of the 2011 lecture in this podcast.

Tags: Podcasts

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Back in Black: Upgraded Projector Enriches Dome Experience

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As dazzling as Hayden Planetarium programs have always been, their impact has been magnified many-fold by a recent $2 million upgrade. In essence, the projection system has caught up with the science, making it possible for audiences to see thousands of stars that astrophysicists had been able to identify and even include in various space visualizations but which didn’t show up on the dome’s surface because of technological constraints.

Tags: Hayden Planetarium

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