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Frost Science

FaviconSupersonic Challenges: The Installation of the F-5 Fighter Jet 27 Jan 2017, 2:10 pm

Riddle us this: what moves faster than the speed of sound and lives in a gallery? It’s our Northrop F-5B Freedom Fighter, on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The supersonic light fighter is capable of speeds faster than 1,000 miles per hour and you’ll find it hanging right over your head in the Feathers to the Stars exhibition, located in the Batchelor Foundation and Christine Allen Gallery, in the museum’s North Wing.

How is an 8,000-pound airplane moved into a gallery? Teamwork. Lots of it. For that, Frost Science enlisted the help of an invaluable group of experts, including first-class airplane movers and riggers. The aircraft was brought into the building in three pieces (the fuselage, the wings and the tail) through a tight opening between the Frost Planetarium and the level three terraces. The intricate task took our crew 10 hours from beginning to end.

Breaking through the sound barrier is a relatively recent feat in human history. On October 14, 1947, Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager became the first to do so. Manning a rocket engine-powered Bell X-1, Yeager reached Mach 1.06— exceeding the speed of sound in level flight. (At 768 miles per hour, Mach 1 is equal to the speed of sound.)

Because sound waves move at a finite speed, moving sources can catch up with the sound waves they emit as they accelerate. As this happens, sound waves pile up in front of them. If the aircraft is fast enough, it can burst through them causing a sonic boom. The loud noise is a consequence of the change in pressure as the aircraft outruns all the sound waves ahead of itself.

That accomplishment came just over 40 years after Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first controlled, sustained flight of a heavier-than-air powered aircraft on December 17, 1903, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. And just over 20 years before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. In less than a lifetime, humans mastered the sky and knocked on the door of space exploration.

Feathers to the Stars will carry you through the amazing story how ancient evolution gave birth to animal flight, and how humans used imagination and engineering to get airborne and explore the infinite possibilities of space. It’s a story driven by challenges—and perseverance. Ready for take-off? You can find more information on the exhibition here.


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Photo Credit: Barry Fellman, Center for Visual Communication

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FaviconSpring Tree Trimming May Spell Trouble for Owls 19 Jan 2017, 1:22 pm

Take a quick sweep through Miami’s neighborhoods and one thing becomes pretty clear—we take a lot of pride in our lawns. Our beautiful landscaped properties not only attract an admiring onlooker or two, but they also call to a wide array of wildlife. Often, the wild critters are what we love most about our backyards. But if you’d like to continue hearing the hoot of an owl or watching a family of squirrels playing a game of chase around a tree, it’s important to understand how that landscaping impacts the places they’ve made their home.

Spring is coming

Spring is right around the corner and with it comes… babies! Right now, parents are finding their perfect mate and building nests in which to raise their families. Many animals—like squirrels, owls and various song birds—build their homes in the cavities or on the branches of trees. Even dead, leafless trees can provide suitable homes for animals of all shapes and sizes. Landscaping our properties during this vital time can be harmful to these animals and often lead to unnecessary injuries or deaths. Although landscapers don’t intentionally cause injury to wildlife, their lack of awareness can often spell trouble for these animals and their families. As biologists in a wildlife hospital, we at the Batchelor Bird of Prey Rehabilitation Center see a large number of cases this time of year in which animals have been cut out of trees. In these instances, the animals are often left homeless, orphaned, injured, or in the most serious cases, dead.

Here’s what you can do

The good news? You can help prevent it. Simply be aware of the animals in your backyard. If you landscape your own yard or hire a company, take the time to survey the area and know the places these animals live. Communicate with your landscaper and let them know the areas they should avoid when trimming trees and hedges. If possible, it’s best to postpone tree trimming until late summer, or even better, fall. If you have a tree that absolutely needs maintenance, but a creature has already made itself at home, call a local wildlife hospital or wildlife commission and get tips for relocating nests.

If you are in the Miami area and have an injured bird, drop it off at our clinic on South Miami Avenue between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. any day of the week. We do not accept mammals, but we can give you the necessary information to get the animal the care and help it needs. If you have a tree trimming or re-nesting question, call us on our clinic phone at 305-484-9575 or our emergency cell phone at 305-322-8887.


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FaviconThe Classroom as an Innovation Resource 12 Jan 2017, 10:35 am

William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet and a pillar of the 20th-century Irish and British literary establishments, once said: “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Enter: Corpus Callosum, a program that merges art and science to explore how humans perceive the world through various senses. The effort is a collaboration between Alexandra Kuechenberg, Jonathan David Kane and myself.

Our first endeavor, “On a High Note,” is a collaboration between New World Symphony and Frost Science. The project combines classical music performances with advancements in neuroscience for a one-of-a-kind audience experience. The goal: to produce an entertaining and educational experience that would present a deeper understanding of how our brains work. In addition to that, our hope is to expose new audiences to the significance of complex music through an alternative concert viewing format (in this case, the full dome environment of Frost Planetarium).

Corpus Callosum received a Knight Arts Challenge grant in 2015 to develop “On a High Note” and, given the innovative nature of our effort, we’ve been working on the research and development aspect of it ever since. For that, we partnered with Kim Grinfeder, Director for the Interactive Media Program at the University of Miami’s School of Communication. The partnership materialized as a course Alexandra and I have been teaching. It’s based on an existing format in which a team of multitalented graduate students with different and valuable backgrounds undertake real-world projects with a partnering organization. In Grinfeder’s words, we were very excited to collaborate with Alexandra and Jorge from Frost Science in this semester’s CoLab course; this is exactly the type of creative partnership we were looking for that allows our students to grow alongside their community.”

On December 9, after five months of intense work, the student team introduced their prototype concept for a new type of user experience that merges symphonic performances, art and innovations in neuroscience to a fascinated audience, including New World Symphony’s President Howard Herring, who got to take part in a live demo after the presentation.

The team broke out the experience into three acts to include a pre- and post-experience that provide the necessary context to both enjoy and understand the ins and outs of “On a High Note.” One key element of their presentation was to prove that electroencephalography technology (i.e., EEG headset) can actually be used to translate neurological data based on our perception of classical music into fascinating visuals. Their work is carefully documented here.

While our students have done an outstanding job, and the course was arguably a success after they delivered a promising proof of concept, our journey to make it a reality is only beginning. In Herring’s words, “This is coming.”

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FaviconFlying Mangroves in Downtown Miami? A Curious Case, Indeed 29 Dec 2016, 8:58 am

If you happened to see a cluster of mangrove trees suspended in midair last month, no need to worry—your eyes haven’t gotten the best of you yet.

On December 6th, the first living organisms were ready to make their new home in our museum. Five red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle, as they like to be formally introduced), ranging from 14 to 19 feet and weighing an average of 2,500 pounds, were installed by a hundred-foot crane in our Mangrove Habitat. After much preparation with Skanska USA, Maxim Crane Company, and Tenusa, our biggest trees were ready to fly up to our Vista level.

Spoiler alert: wrangling a group of massive mangroves in midair is no simple feat. In fact, windy conditions that day made balancing the trees a particularly tough challenge. Along with this hurdle, the installation team had to contend with craning precision and a tight race against the clock. They had to install the mangroves before the company working on the aviary mesh finished their work and sealed the only opening in which the mangroves would be able to fly through. But thanks to our experienced rigger, we had the mangroves up in the air and flying through the opening in the roof and into their planters, right in the nick of time.

Next, it was time to install the biggest tree to the Vista level: a 22-foot gumbo limbo (Bursera simaruba) with a 19-foot canopy spread. Because of its size, this tree was the toughest to maneuver. Once we had it appropriately strapped in, our gumbo limbo made the successful journey into its planter in the hammock area. We wrapped up our tree craning journey with the installation of a paradise tree (Simarouba glauca) and Krug’s holly (Ilex krugiana) into the same hammock.

Soon, you’ll be able to visit our newest residents in our Mangrove Forest habitat. The exhibit is actually two worlds: above the surface on the Vista level, you’ll see birds such as green herons and cormorants perched amidst the mangrove trees—there’ll even be an American crocodile waiting to meet your acquaintance. Downstairs at the Dive level, you’ll explore the science of the mangrove system while watching snapper, grouper and snook make their way through the finger-like roots of the trees. And if the birds upstairs are feeling peckish, you just might catch them swooping down to snap up the food being released at the base of the mangroves. Instagram, anyone?


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Photo Credit: Barry Fellman, Center for Visual Communication

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FaviconWorld Science Day 2 Dec 2016, 11:04 am

November 10 was World Science Day for Peace and Development, and for the first time, this year celebrated the work of science centers and museums across the world.

I was lucky enough to be in Paris, France, at the UNESCO headquarters, with colleagues from around the world to explore how science centers and museums can have a greater impact on their communities and work towards the sustainable development goals established by the United Nations. Led by the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), this year’s International Science Center and Science Museum Day brought together science center networks across the globe. In opening remarks, Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO, expressed the importance of the links between science and daily life and how science centers play a vital role in raising awareness of the importance of science, encouraging a free exchange of ideas. Curiosity is a basic human trait and scientists need to find more ways of making their work known, across geographical, cultural and economic barriers.

It was an inspirational day, with more than 60 people discussing how best science centers can use and expand their resources to better the lives of people worldwide. Participants came from Asia, Africa, South America, as well as the US and Europe. Video links to Australia, Austria, South Africa and Washington DC illustrated some of the actions that were taking place over the whole world to celebrate this special day. Speakers covered topics as varied as health trends (one of the positive areas as infant mortality has decreased), to migration (data on positive income flow to developing countries), to concerns about the rising rejection of expert knowledge and the need for developing effective methods to co-produce and integrate the public in policy development.

World Science Day

Activities took place in science centers across the globe. Over 300 science centers were delivering special activities to celebrate the day. From Anchorage, US,  a program exploring life below the land, to a special event in Alexandria, Egypt on solar energy, a party for volunteers in Singapore and special science club event on clean water and the environment, or Buenos Aires, Argentina, where young people committed to the environment held a meeting to raise awareness of the challenges. People young and old gathered in science centers to demonstrate how science can help both face and solve the challenges ahead.

Students around the world had also participated in the GLOBE Observer, a citizen science global experiment to document cloud cover in collaboration with NASA. While pictures of clouds from space are tracked regularly, the corresponding pictures from the ground upwards are not available. Over 900 observations, corresponding to 3,000 images, were made and links to satellite transit was established for some of these. This experiment is a test to see if it can enable scientists to explore clouds from a different viewpoint, enabling them to refine weather projections.

What does this mean in practice for Miami? Many of these goals are directly linked to our work: for example one related to life under the sea, or another promoting quality education, a third for good health and wellbeing. At the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, the Aquarium aims to raise awareness of the importance of life under the sea. Another major initiative is MeLaβ, a gallery devoted to increase in wellbeing while also a research program supported by Baptist Health South Florida, in collaboration with the School Board of Miami-Dade County. Establishing global partnerships offers opportunities to expand our understanding of the challenges and potential solutions while also opening minds.

They call themselves the baby science center, The House of Experiments' in Bucharest, Romania just joined the ISCSMD.

The House of Experiments’ in Bucharest, Romania joined ISCSMD.

In developing countries, science centers rarely happen without leadership by government, so one step that came out of the meeting was to explore how we could better educate governments to recognize the important role of science centers. Frost Science is a great example of a public-private partnership, where popular support and individual major donors have made this possible.

One outcome from the meeting was to explore how to encourage links between young people at science centers: we have been lucky enough to participate in two such programs in the past, one with Bogota, Columbia, exploring water issues in these two very different environments, another with Jamaica exploring urban environmental restoration. These opportunities can have a major impact on widening young people’s perspectives and understanding the global nature of many of the challenges we face.

So what would be good initiatives for Frost Science? By next year’s World Science Day, we will be open and ready to join in the celebrations.

We are the fortunate ones. Professor Romain Murenzi, the Director of UNESCO’s Division of Science Policy and Capacity Building, was the chair for the meeting. He had been the Minister for Education in Rwanda in charge of rebuilding this sector after the civil war and genocide. He spoke about how education and especially science education was essential in that country to rebuild, to give young people other options than fighting. As he said on his appointment to the UNESCO position:

I am confident that many of us will continue to work together toward the goal that we all share: using science and engineering to support sustainable development and better lives for people everywhere.”

I think we can all work towards that.


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StarDate Online - Your guide to the universe

FaviconOrion 20 Feb 2017, 1:00 am

Orion, perhaps the most beautiful of all constellations, stands high in the south as night falls. It’s outlined by a rectangle of four bright stars, with a short diagonal line of three stars at its middle.

FaviconNeutron Stars 20 Feb 2017, 1:00 am

Orion, perhaps the most beautiful of all constellations, stands high in the south as night falls. It’s outlined by a rectangle of four bright stars, with a short diagonal line of three stars at its middle.

Within a few million years, though, all seven of those stars will disappear. Each star will explode, leaving behind a corpse that’s one of the most extreme objects in the universe: a neutron star.

A neutron star forms when a massive star can no longer produce energy in its core. Without radiation to counteract the pull of gravity, the core collapses to the size of a city, even though it’s a couple of times as massive as the Sun. Under that crushing gravitational grip, electrons and protons smash together to form a sea of neutrons, which give these odd stars their names.

The layers of gas around the core fall inward, then rebound, creating a titanic blast known as a supernova.

As the neutron star collapses, it spins much faster, like an ice skater pulling in her arms — up to hundreds of revolutions every second. As it spins, it emits a beam of energy into space. If we happen to line up along that beam, we see the star pulse on and off like a celestial lighthouse, making it a pulsar.

A neutron star may have a crust made of solid iron. But astronomers are still trying to model how neutron stars are put together and how matter deep inside their hearts behaves. A new space telescope will help with that effort. More about that tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield


Monday, February 20, 2017
Crushing the core of a mighty star

FaviconMoon and Saturn 19 Feb 2017, 1:00 am

The planet Saturn is in good view at dawn the next couple of days. It looks like a bright golden star, and will stand close to the lower left of the Moon tomorrow, and about the same distance to the right or upper right of the Moon on Tuesday.

FaviconMoon and Saturn 19 Feb 2017, 1:00 am

An explorer that’s winding down its mission is scheduled to make a close pass by the rings of Saturn early Tuesday. It’ll fly less than 60,000 miles above Saturn’s cloudtops, putting it just beyond the edge of the planet’s magnificent rings.

Cassini has been exploring Saturn and its rings and moons for more than a decade. It’s running out of fuel, though, so it’s being targeted to slam into Saturn in September.

In preparation for that final maneuver, it’s been placed in an orbit that carries it above Saturn’s poles, and just outside the rings. That’s allowing it to study the rings in greater detail than ever before. The new observations may help scientists determine just how and when the rings formed.

In April, Cassini will move even closer to Saturn. Each orbit will carry it through the narrow gap between the planet and the inner edge of the rings, providing striking views of Saturn’s clouds.

These close passes also will allow the craft to make high-resolution maps of Saturn’s magnetic and gravitational fields. Those readings will reveal more about the planet’s core — a final accomplishment for a planetary explorer.

And Saturn is in good view at dawn the next couple of days. It looks like a bright golden star, and will stand close to the lower left of the Moon tomorrow, and about the same distance to the right or upper right of the Moon on Tuesday — about the time Cassini is sweeping past the giant planet’s rings.


Script by Damond Benningfield


Sunday, February 19, 2017
Sweeping past the rings of Saturn

FaviconOrion Nebula 18 Feb 2017, 1:00 am

The Orion Nebula stands halfway up the southern sky a couple of hours after sunset right now. To the eye alone, it looks like a fuzzy star. In reality, though, it’s the birthplace of thousands of stars.

ESOcast HD

ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO, the European Southern Observatory. Here we explore the Universe's ultimate frontier with our host Doctor J, a.k.a. Dr. Joe Liske.

FaviconESOcast 95 Light: How Big is a Star? (4K UHD) 8 Feb 2017, 5:00 am

It’s hard to comprehend the sheer size of objects in space , but let’s give it a try!

FaviconESOcast 94 Light: Celestial Cat Meets Cosmic Lobster (4K UHD) 1 Feb 2017, 6:00 am

A new image from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope gives a very detailed view of the star formation regions NGC 6334 and NGC 6357, often called the Cat’s Paw Nebula and the Lobster Nebula, respectively, because of their distinctive shapes. This ESOcast Light takes a quick look at this spectacular vista and explains what it shows.

FaviconESOcast 93 Light: Kick-off for Mirrors and Sensors for Biggest Eye on the Sky (4K UHD) 18 Jan 2017, 10:00 am

ESOcast 93 Light takes a quick look at four important contracts that were placed for big parts of ESO's Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) at a ceremony on 18 January 2017 in Garching. The giant telescope is moving forward!

FaviconESOcast 92 Light: ALMA Starts Observing the Sun (4K UHD) 17 Jan 2017, 9:00 am

The ALMA telescope has been used to study the Sun for the first time. It is also the first time that an ESO facility has been used to study our nearest star.

FaviconESOcast 91 Light: VLT to search for planets around Alpha Centauri (4K UHD) 9 Jan 2017, 11:00 am

ESO has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives to adapt the Very Large Telescope instrumentation in Chile to conduct a search for planets in the nearby star system Alpha Centauri. Such planets could be the targets for an eventual launch of miniature space probes by the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative.

HD - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

High-definition (HD) videos from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory feature the latest news on space and science findings from JPL and NASA. Topics include discoveries made by spacecraft studying planets in our solar system, including Mars, Saturn and our home planet, Earth. Missions also study stars and galaxies in our universe.

FaviconEnceladus: Mystery of the Icy Moon 16 Feb 2017, 3:00 am

How Cassini's sleuthing revealed an active ocean world.

FaviconWhat's Up - February 2017 1 Feb 2017, 3:00 am

Use Venus and Mars to find the Zodiacal Light, plus two comets and the brightest asteroid.

FaviconSix Ways Opportunity is like a Teenager 24 Jan 2017, 3:00 am

On January 24, 2017, Opportunity celebrates 13 years on Mars. On Earth, she's officially a teenager -- and behaving like one.

FaviconTitan Touchdown 11 Jan 2017, 3:00 am

On Jan. 14, 2005, ESA's Huygens probe made its descent to the surface of Saturn's hazy moon, Titan.

FaviconWhat's Up - January 2017 2 Jan 2017, 3:00 am

The moon, Venus, Mars and the Quadrantid Meteor shower ring in the new year!