The protagonists of We Still Live Here and Flames of God, two of the selections in this year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival, live worlds apart, but they share a remarkably similar passion: to preserve their unique languages and codify them in dictionaries where none existed before.
For Jessie “Little Doe” Baird, the quest involves reviving her ancestors’ language, Wampanoag, one of many Algonquin tongues that have gone extinct despite their echoes across her corner of Cape Cod: Sippewisset, Hyannis, Narragansett. Director Anne Makepeace’s film We Still Live Here, which will be shown on Saturday, November 12, follows Baird as she studies linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and forges a friendship with the late Kenneth Hale, a scholar of indigenous languages. Makepeace will be in attendance at this year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival.
Associate Curator Lorenzo Prendini, the Museum’s resident scorpion expert, was recently featured in a CBS video about scorpions’ evolutionary history and their role in indicating climate change.
In the video below, Prendini recounts his most dangerous skirmish with a scorpion, which he was searching for at night using UV light. This technique causes scorpions to glow blue, much like the scorpions, part of Prendini’s research, featured in Picturing Science: Museum Scientists and Imaging Technologies on view in the Akeley Gallery.
In The Mind’s Eye, physician and author Oliver Sacks tells the stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and abilities: the power of speech, the capacity to recognize faces, the sense of three-dimensional space, the ability to read, or the sense of sight. On Monday, October 17, Dr. Sacks will visit the Museum to discuss his book and how he too has struggled with several perceptual conditions, from face-blindness to a loss of stereo vision due to ocular cancer. The Museum will stream Dr. Sacks’s lecture live at amnh.org beginning at 7 pm. Dr. Sacks recently answered a few questions about his personal experiences with some of the disorders he treats.
How common is face-blindness, and why have we never heard about it until now?
Face-blindness, or prosopagnosia, affects roughly two percent of the population, and probably this has always been the case. Some of us are better or worse at recognizing individuals, but those with face-blindness are at the extreme end of the spectrum. So-called “super-recognizers” are at the other end. Most people are somewhere in the middle. But this is not something one is really conscious of, until a comparison is made with others. If you are born with prosopagnosia, or colorblindness, or you are a bit near-sighted, you may not realize this, because it is normal for you, and your brain compensates in other ways. Often people realize they are colorblind only when they take a driver’s license test. Many people who have face-blindness do not realize it, and only very recently have researchers begun to investigate the subject.
The Museum’s upcoming exhibition Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration features some spectacular technologies and missions—from a space elevator to the terraforming of Mars—that have been the staple of science fiction for the last 50 years, inspiring generations of students. Today, what was once limited to the realm of science fiction is being discussed by leading researchers and engineers as not-too-distant possibilities.
And so, for the first time ever, the Museum is headed to New York Comic Con (October 13 through October 16), this weekend’s highly anticipated convention. Our booth will feature a preview of Beyond Planet Earth and a mini-planetarium where visitors can enjoy a flight through the universe narrated by Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson, with visualizations based on the Digital Universe Atlas, an authentic map of the observable cosmos maintained at the Museum.