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Can the entire universe be explained with a single, unifying theory? This is perhaps the most fundamental question in all of science, and it may also be the most controversial.
The 2011 Isaac Asimov Memorial debate, moderated by Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson, featured a compelling discussion with six of the world’s leading voices on the subject: Dr. Katherine Freese, professor of physics at the University of Michigan; Dr. Jim Gates, professor of physics at the University of Maryland-College Park; Dr. Janna Levin, professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College; Dr. Marcello Gleiser, professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College; Dr. Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University; and Dr. Lee Smolin, theoretical physicist at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Click below for a video or to download a podcast of the debate, which took place at the Museum on March 7, 2011.
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This Saturday, Tahuantinsuyo, a group of traditional Andean musicians, returns to the Museum for the Latin American Arts Festival to lead a pre-Columbian-style procession from the Hall of Mexico and Central America to the Hall of South American Peoples.
Following the procession, Tahuantinsuyo will perform music from the ancient Inca empire, whose territories included modern-day Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and Colombia. The group, which plays traditional instruments and wears traditional costumes, uses their performances to share and preserve an important cultural heritage.
Saturday’s family-friendly festival will begin at noon and will feature additional performances highlighting a range of Latin American cultural traditions, from centuries-old dance of the Aztecs presented by Mexica dance group Alt-Tlachinolli to a spoken word set by acclaimed poets “La Bruja” Caridad de la Luz and “Taina.” The festival will also include storytelling, instrument-making workshops, and opportunities to meet the artists in the Museum’s cultural halls.
The Latin American Arts Festival is free with suggested admission.
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Delicate, with the eerie beauty of a 19th-century engraving, the gray-and-white cross-section of Nautilus pompilius — an object of ongoing research by Museum paleontologist Neil Landman – is the product of a cutting-edge, high resolution, computed tomography (CT) scanner. Acquired by the Museum last summer with a grant from the National Science Foundation, the GE Phoenix V/tome/x Dual-Tube CT Scanner is one of only four of its kind in the country and allows researchers to look deep inside both small and large specimens without destroying them in the process.
“We can see spatial detail not available in dissection, and some parts are so delicate they would be otherwise missed,” says Dr. Landman, curator in the Division of Paleontology who, with geologist Denton Ebel, associate curator in the Division of Physical Sciences, and Curator Darrel Frost, a herpetologist, wrote the successful grant application for the scanner. “Three-dimensional visualization is such an important part of our thinking now—you can put your arms around the object you are studying.”
For each image, the scanner, as a rule, takes 1,500 to 1,700 x-ray images as the sample is rotated in the x-ray beam, at a level of resolution 100 times that of a typical medical scanner used on humans. These images are then used to create a 3D image of the entire specimen—in essence, a stack of virtual dissection slices—that can be manipulated, rotated, and studied from every angle, revealing unprecedented details of its internal structure. “We can only capture so much of the morphology from the surface,” explains Landman. “You want to get insights into the interior.”
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After the Museum closed on Thursday, March 3, tweeters gathered beneath the towering Apatosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rexin the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs for the Museum’s Dinosaur Tweetup. Choosing from a slate of tours, groups of tweeters headed to behind-the-scenes destinations for a conversation with one of the Museum’s scientists, a preview of a major upcoming exhibition, and a close look at some of the specimens in the collections,
In his office on the Museum’s off-limits sixth floor, paleontologist Mark Norell, co-curator of the upcoming exhibition The World’s Largest Dinosaurs and chair of the Division of Paleontology at the Museum, met with tweeters to discuss his current research and show an unnamed fossil specimen.
Tweeters also visited the Exhibition Design Studio to see the preparations underway for The World’s Largest Dinosaurs, which opens April 16. Senior Vice President for Exhibition David Harvey revealed the partially constructed model of a Mamenchisaurus, which will reach 60 feet in length. Tweeters also got a glimpse of a colossal sauropod femur and of the exhibition in miniature.
Finally, in the Big Bone Room, paleontology collections manager Carl Mehling told stories of dinosaur-hunters of the past and presented some of the largest items in the Museum’s collection. Highlights included a look at a fossilized dinosaur brooding eggs and the chance to touch a 70-million-year-old impression of dinosaur skin.
Read more about the tweetup in these posts from participants @alana_margaret and @anthinpractice, find out what tweeters had to say by following the #AMNHTweetup hashtag, and check out the photos on Flickr. Follow @AMNH on Twitter for more news from the Museum and stay tuned for information on upcoming tweetups and other events.
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After flying nearly 5 billion miles over six years, the MESSENGER spacecraft is scheduled to begin orbiting the innermost planet. On Thursday, March 17, join Denton Ebel, associate curator in the Museum’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Joe Boesenberg, senior scientific assistant in the department to watch a live feed from MESSENGER operations center at Johns Hopkins University and hear about new information that has been gleaned from the mission so far, such as the importance of understanding the planet’s high-density composition.
To date, three flybys of Mercury have yielded insights into this least explored terrestrial planet, starting with a historic flyby in January 2008. The Museum’s Science Bulletins chronicled the MESSENGER science team’s reaction as the orbiter’s first images of Mercury rolled in. Click below to watch the Science Bulletins video feature. For more about the MESSENGER mission, check out the article, “First Planet Finishes Last.”