Art360, a new program that kicked off in August 2013, has grown into a popular event at Arizona Science Center during each month’s Adults’ Night Out. Jason Smith, the featured Art360 artist for February shares his experience below in our Q&A.

Q: How did it feel to have your art featured on the dome of the Planetarium?
A: It felt great to have my art showcased in the Dorrance Planetarium. I initially did not know what to expect; but, I was shocked, to see how well my work fit on the dome of the planetarium. The Planetarium offers a really immersive experience. The large, almost super-real nature of the dome, combined with the music, really brings the viewer into the work. It allows the viewer to engage with the work in a new and exciting format. You have to see and hear in person to really appreciate what the Planetarium can offer.

Q: How were we able to make your art come to life?
A: Mike and Liz are the wizards at work in the Dorrance Planetarium. We had numerous conversations about the work. I provided direction for the music. Mike and Liz did a fantastic job integrating all the work that I provided. I really gave them free reign as this format was so unfamiliar to me. I think they did a fantastic job at interpreting the work.

Q: How did you think animating your art influenced the way that people experienced it?
A: I think animating the work makes it more approachable from a conceptual standpoint. The animations clue the viewer into what the art is trying to convey visually. Animating the work, I feel, makes it more engaging.

Q: How did your Art360 experience differ from what you were expecting?
A: Everything exceeded my expectations! Everyone at the Science Center did a great job at making the show a total success. All the crowds were enthusiastic and there was a great energy and vibe that one gets from a successful exhibition of artwork. I really appreciate the hard work of everyone that made this show a great success!

Don’t miss out on the next Art360 event, March 7!

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Take a close look. Can you see Earth in this photo? Now take an even closer look. Can you see the moon too? This photo credit goes to the Curiosity rover taken from Mars nearly 100 million miles away from our planet. The Earth is the brighter spot of light near the center with the moon just below. If you were on Mars, the pair would look like bright stars in the night sky.

Read more…

 

IDL TIFF file

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“They look like upside-down cacti that are blown from glass,” explained Dr. Andrew Thurber who had witnessed an amazing phenomenon that very few people had ever seen before.  Dr. Thurber was on a research trip in Antarctica in 2011 when he discovered something brilliantly unexpected.  What he witnessed was the formation of a brinicle.  It is exhilarating to know that new and wondrous discoveries are still being made on our planet and the brinicle is one of them.

The best description of what a brinicle is would be to call it an underwater icicle, or ice stalactite.  Believe it or not, these spindly, ice fingers form in the extremely cold ocean environments of Antarctica and the Arctic. But how does it work?  Well, in the winter when the sea ice begins to form, the water molecules make up the solid ice and the salt is excluded.  The expelled salt forms viscous pools of brine, or pockets inside the solid ice.  Eventually the ice cracks and the more dense saline brine is released and falls downward into the sea water.  The brine is super-cooled due to its high salinity.  If you have ever lived in a very cold region you may be familiar with the application of salt to icy roads.  This is done because salt lowers the freezing/melting point of water. The same principle applies to the brinicle and when brine begins to sink it flash freezes the seawater it comes in contact with and forms a tube of ice that sometimes grows to touch the shallow ocean floor.

In 2011, BBC aired the mini-series: “Frozen Planet” and brought the wonder of brinicles to the world through a fantastic and rare time-lapse video of one forming.  The crew camped at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica and after some intense planning and a couple of failed attempts, film team Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson captured the first video of a brinicle forming and reaching the ocean floor.  This formation took about 12 hours and then spread 20 feet along the seabed.  While it is beautifully eerie it is also a killer.  Many urchins and sea stars scurry along the sea floor and those that come in contact with the icy fingers are killed in its path.

The scientific studies of brinicles are still in its early stages, but as new and incredible things are discovered every year, the possibilities are endless.

Discover more unbelievable facts at “The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!®” at Arizona Science Center through May 4, 2014!

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Last week we posted highlights from our interview with Lauren Worley, Press Secretary and Senior Advisor for NASA. The Dorrance Planetarium had the opportunity to meet Lauren during the Tucson Astronomy Expo and talk to her about increasing the awesome.

Below is our Q&A with her:

Q: What is your rough job description?
A: Increasing the awesome. That’s how I look at my job. Technically my title is Press Secretary and Senior Advisor. I work to make sure that the public knows what NASA’s doing. I work with really talented public affairs officers here at NASA headquarters and our centers around the country, universities, and private industry groups and I try to tie all that together to work on events, press releases, and tweet to make sure people know what NASA’s up to.

Q: To you, how important is it to tell NASA’s story?
A: It’s incredibly important. I mean, NASA is a national treasure, and if we look back at the history of the United States, the history of the world even, but we’ll just go for the United States right now, if we look back at the history and we look at the positives and the negatives, the history of NASA is an integral aspect of everything that we are as Americans; everything from the geopolitical achievement of being the first country to land on the Moon to all the technological advances that come out of that. Not to mention all of us who have been inspired by all the things the people of NASA have done. It’s amazing. I think it’s so important to not take it for granted because we are a national treasure but more than that we are also an asset to the American people and we are responsible to the American taxpayers. So we have a responsibility to let them know how we are using their hard earned tax money.

Q: How do you best tell that story?
A: Well that’s the trick. The best stories appeal to our hearts and our imagination. And NASA’s story is all about inspiration and aspiration. Right? We exist because people for thousands of years looked up into the sky and wondered why? And looked inward and said how did we get here; the stuff that we do from human inspiration and having astronauts up in the International Space Station, to our science missions, to Earth observing satellites. Everything that we do every day is answering those questions and benefiting human kind. That’s kind of mind blowing. Because NASA is inspiring and encouraging people to aspire, how do you tell that story? Well, for me it’s about sharing how in awe I am. NASA’s story is not just about a piece of hardware, it’s not just a widget that we built, it’s not just a satellite. There’s a reason why Curiosity tweets in the first person. The reason is because all of these scientific discoveries are about us as humans. And the people making the discoveries are people. Computers don’t make discoveries, right? Rovers don’t make discoveries. Scientists and engineers and researchers are making those discoveries. And it’s our job as public affairs officers to take those to the public. And we do that in a variety of ways, we have press releases, we create videos that you can watch on NASA TV or Youtube, that kind of thing. We certainly do a lot of social media. And we also have people who go out and talk to schools. We have astronauts who talk to schools everyday from the International Space Station

Q: Since that’s how you tell the story, do you have a favorite story of NASA for you personally?
A: My favorite story happened this week. So this past weekend, Orbital Sciences successfully conducted their first cargo resupply mission to International Space Station. For a long time we were taking our stuff to the International Space Station aboard the shuttle. Now we don’t have a shuttle, they were retired in 2011. So we’ve been working with private American companies to take our stuff to space. That includes clothes and food for the astronauts, it include science experiments and all that stuff. So we now, as of this weekend, have two American companies doing that. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. So Monday, my boss of communications said hey let’s have charley congratulate the team. Having the NASA team, the Orbital Sciences team, tell them congratulations on the successful resupply mission, that would be awesome. I’m like ‘no problem, let’s make a phone call.’ Then, the next thing I know, I get a call saying ‘we need a phone number because the astronauts on the International Space Station are going to call you.’ So on Monday I got to connect Administrator Bolden to space, via cell phone as we were touring the Michoud Assembly Facility right outside of New Orleans. And it was not just cool because ‘oh cool, Charley’s [Administrator of NASA Charles Bolden] is on the phone with the International Space Station.’ That was cool in and of itself, but what was really cool was why he was making the call. We are in the next generation of space travel. We’ve got private companies now doing this stuff, and if more private companies get into space travel, that means it’s more likely that people like you and me can go to space. That’s pretty cool!

Q: Do you have any opinion on Planetary Resources, the private company that wants to mine asteroids?
A: I’m pretty sure we have, this is ridiculous by the way, at NASA we don’t have contacts, we have space act agreements, which I think is just a fun word. I just think it’s really fun to say ‘I’m going to make a space act agreement with you.’ Kind of going back to what I was saying about commercial companies… they’re really important because the work they’re doing is expanding the body of knowledge, expanding what we know about our universe. Also, they’re getting more people and more businesses engaged. And that is pretty cool.

Q: Do you have a favorite scientist?
A: I can’t pick just one! I’m a fan of Dr. John Grunsfeld. Dr. John Grunsfeld is a five time astronaut, he’s also head of the science mission directory here at NASA. So he’s a scientist, he’s gone to space five times and he has fixed the Hubble Telescope. He fixed it so many times he’s nicknamed the Hubble Repair Man. And he’s super active on twitter. @SciAstro.

My second favorite is Michelle Fowler. You’ve probably seen her on the Science Channel, she’s interviewed a lot. She works with Goddard Space Flight Center. She’s just another cool scientist that I really respect.

Q: You’re really big on pushing women into, not just NASA, but science in general. How important is that to you?
A: When I was a kid, let’s see, 7th grade, I went to the state science fair with my science project, and as a result one of the things I won was a scholarship to a science camp. It’s called Buckeye Women in Science, Engineering and Research, or something like that. I actually was on the cover of their flier, it was the dorkiest. I thought, how could this picture ever inspire girls to go into science? I had my big glasses, and had my braces on.
I’ve always been into science, but my real passion is writing. So I went and got a degree in journalism. But it’s important to me for women and men, but women need a little extra push in this, for so long Science, Engineering, and Math programs pushed people out. They were selective. What those programs need to change to be is saying ‘ok, you’ve got the aptitude to be a real good engineer, right? But maybe you need a little help in calculus, because let’s face it calculus is hard. So instead of flunking you, let’s put you  in another remedial course that’s going to get you honed up on calculus so that we can allow you to reach your potential.’ That’s huge. The other thing, though, is that we don’t all have to become engineers, or rocket scientists, or astrophysicists to appreciate our Universe and to make a difference. We need elected officials, we need journalists, and we need CEO’s of companies to understand science. It’s not just about ‘we need more girl engineers,’ we need more women and men who have a basic understanding of science and the role that it plays in our lives. That’s what I like to do.

Q: How would you interest people who aren’t interested in science?
A: One of the things that I focus on is that, you know, we don’t all have to be sitting out there solving math problems. Space and science inspire art, as well. So I love connecting with my friends, particularly in the area of fashion design, around this concept of the inspiration that star gazing and the discoveries we make in our Universe, and how that inspires them. I’ve worked with musical groups, I’ve worked with folks who are related in different art projects, documentaries, all that kind of stuff. So it’s not just about scientific discovery, sometimes it’s about the artistic discovery as well.

Q: For someone who doesn’t have the ability like you to reach thousands of people, how would you best try to reach others?
A: Social media is powerful. The truth is that I can have a mega phone and can talk to thousands of people at one moment. But the truth is, that the information from people we know is the information we trust. Even if you’re just talking to your neighbor about a recent scientific discovery, or a group of girl scouts, or just posting something on your Facebook page. Your friends, and family, and colleagues see that and that’s it right there. You’re a science communicator. You don’t necessarily have to understand Quantum Mechanics to be a science communicator. By sharing your passion and your interest in exploring the Universe it’s going to get more people interested and passionate in it because they’re going to see your enthusiasm and they’re going to share it.

Q: Do you have a favorite story about communicating with other people that aren’t involved with NASA?
A: Let’s see, well, this year MATELL released the career Barbie of the Year, and Barbie in 2013 is a Mars Explorer. You don’t often think about NASA and Barbie, right? But I think it’s important for young girls in particular, and for all of us, to think about and imagine ourselves as explorers. It’s kind of a non-traditional partnership that we have. The agency has had partnerships with McDonalds with their happy meal toys. One of the other things we did during the Curiosity launch, we had a really great partnership with Will.I.Am. You’re like ‘what’s this rap dude doing with NASA?’ But it turns out he’s big into education and robotics, and he was the first song to be returned from Mars.

 

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The Art360 series, part of Adults’ Night Out, continues on March 7 with photographer Spencer Elizabeth Karczewski. See our interview with her below.

Q: How would you describe your work?
A: I am all about color and composition! When it comes to my artwork, I tend to focus more on the composition as a whole rather than the smaller details of my images. I love figuring out how the shapes and colors will lead the viewers’ eyes through the photograph. I also try to keep my images fairly true to life. I feel that nature has so many beautiful aspects about it that it doesn’t need to be greatly enhanced to make a gorgeous image.

Q: Where does your greatest inspiration come from?
A: My greatest inspiration for my fine art photography comes from nature and architecture. Both are very different, but full of beautiful compositions, patterns, and textures waiting to be framed!

Q: What is your favorite piece and why?
A: I think my favorite photograph in the Sedona Colors Series would have to be the one of the Blue Scrub Jay. I remember taking the photograph, and taking a shot in the dark at focusing my lens on the bird through all of the branches before it flew away. Somehow, I was able to capture a great shot of the beautiful bird, as well as what it was snacking on!

Q: Do you think that science influences your work at all? If so, how?
A: I think that science is in everything we do. As far as photography goes, I am fascinated by the way images can be captured by both film and digital cameras, and how light interacts with the camera and lens to freeze a moment in time. As I continue to learn more about the way my camera interacts with light, I also continue to be inspired in new ways when creating my art.

Q: Do you think science will continue to influence your work in the future and in what ways?
A: I definitely think science will always influence my work, especially as I continue to learn more about photography, and as new technological advances come out regarding equipment.

Q: How do you think that having your art displayed on such a large surface like the planetarium dome will influence your work and the viewer’s perception of your work?
A: I’m so excited and honored to have the opportunity to show my work on the planetarium dome! I hope that it will give the viewers a sense of how vast and gorgeous the Sedona landscape is, and how vibrant the colors can be.

Visit Arizona Science Center, March 7 to meet Spencer Karczewski and explore her work in a unique and immersive experience as it comes to life on the dome of the Dorrance Planetarium!

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From our point of view on Earth, we look up and often see a variety of birds and flying insects above us. Although that form of animal life usually stops at about 10,000 feet, there have been some sightings of bar headed geese as high as 21,000 feet. However, if we go even higher, say about 33,000 feet, which is near the level a jet plane flies, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot out there. It seems nearly impossible for life to survive due to the thin air, extremely cold temperatures, high levels of UV radiation, and low amounts of moisture. Previously, scientists thought this part of the atmosphere had nothing more than dust and salt particles, but recent studies conducted by NASA have shown otherwise.

Our sky really is alive! It turns out that it is composed of many different forms of bacteria that make up about 20% of the particles found at these high altitudes. In this first in depth study of our earth’s upper troposphere, we find results that are truly startling. It was hypothesized beforehand that if any microbes were found at this level, they would most likely be dead, but this was not the case. In fact, the majority of the bacteria they found were alive!

But how did they get up there? Scientists believe that heavy winds carry up these bacteria along with water vapor, dust, and other particulates from the earth’s crust.

So apart from the apparent evidence that our earth is surrounded by a cloud of bacteria, why should this be of any interest to us?

Believe it or not, these tiny bacteria could actually help scientists better understand weather patterns, such as cloud formations.  Their size allows moisture to attach to the bacteria, which then act as a nucleus on which ice crystals may form.  This could lead to formation of clouds and perhaps even precipitation.

Future studies of these atmospheric bacteria could lead to insights on how diseases are spread.  It is also possible that with these bacteria floating around in our atmosphere, scientists could engineer the bacteria to breakdown harmful greenhouse gases.  Of course, this is all still speculation.  Bacteria have already taught us so much about our planet, its life, and now its atmosphere and the future looks promising.

Discover more unbelievable facts at “The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!®” at Arizona Science Center through May 4, 2014!

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Lauren Worley shares the story of the Universe. She is the Press Secretary and Senior Advisor to NASA, and it’s her job to ensure that the public knows what NASA is doing. Or, as she puts it, “increasing the awesome.”

To Lauren, NASA isn’t another government agency. They have a duty to spread their discoveries to anyone who’s ever put their eyes to the sky. And that, Lauren says, is “incredibly important.”

“NASA is a national treasure,” she says. ”The history of NASA is an integral aspect of everything that we are as Americans; everything from the geopolitical achievement of being the first country to land on the Moon, to all the technological advances that come out of that. Not to mention all of us who have been inspired by all the things the people of NASA have done. It’s amazing.”

The Dorrance Planetarium met Lauren doing the Tucson Astronomy Expo, and had the opportunity to talk with her about, well, increasing the awesome.

The interview that follows is worth every word, Lauren is an absolutely amazing communicator, but just in case, here are some highlights for our 160 character limit world:

“The best stories appeal to our hearts and our imagination. And NASA’s story is all about inspiration and aspiration. Right? We exist because people for thousands of years looked up into the sky and wondered why?”

“Everything that we do every day is answering those questions and benefiting human kind. That’s kind of mind blowing.”

“We are in the next generation of space travel. We’ve got private companies now doing this stuff, and if more private companies get into space travel, that means it’s more likely that people like you and me can go to space. That’s pretty cool.”

“…this is ridiculous by the way, at NASA we don’t have contacts, we have space act agreements, which I think is just a fun word. I just think it’s really fun to say ‘I’m going to make a space act agreement with you.’”

“…we don’t all have to become engineers, or rocket scientists, or astrophysicists to appreciate our Universe and to make a difference. We need elected officials, we need journalists, we need CEO’s of companies to understand science. It’s not just about ‘we need more girl engineers,’ we need more women and men who have a basic understanding of science and the role that it plays in our lives.”

“It’s not just about scientific discovery, sometimes it’s about the artistic discovery as well.”

“You don’t necessarily have to understand Quantum Mechanics to be a science communicator. By sharing your passion and your interest in exploring the Universe, it’s going to get more people interested and passionate in it because they’re going to see your enthusiasm and they’re going to share it.”

Follow her @SpaceLauren

Come back next week to see our full Q&A with her!

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Arizona Science Center is happy to host, each month, a series that incorporates leaders in science and engineering with members of the community to discuss how biotechnology and medicine are changing the world that we live in presently and our future.

February is all about burns.

Did you know that the survival rate of a burn injury is 96.9% or that the highest percentage of burn causes arise from fires or flames and overwhelmingly happen in the home?

Prepare and learn more with some of the leaders in the burn research medical industry from the Arizona Burn Center on Feb. 27 from 6-7 p.m. Arizona Burn Center, Arizona’s only verified Burn Center, was founded in 1965 and has the second largest patient capacity in the nation. Arizona Burn Center’s own experts Dan Carusco MD (Dept. of Surgery Chair), Kevin Foster MD (Burn Center Director), Melissa A. Singer Pressman PhD (Research Director) and Karen Richey RN, BSN (Manager of Research: Burn, Surgery and Trauma) will speak on topics relating to burn pathophysiology, the history of burn research as well as hot topics in burn research including the skin gun.

Find out more…

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In honor of the sweet holiday, Valentine’s Day, we are exploring not only the history of this so called “hallmark holiday,” but also the science of love.

Some tales say that Valentine’s Day originated from the patron Saint Valentine who performed secret marriage ceremonies after the Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage to build an army of strong single men. Supposedly, Saint Valentine was put to death when the Emperor found out. In remembrance of his heroic life, a feast day was set for Feb. 14. However, Valentine’s Day was not romantically associated until the 14th century when Geoffrey Chaucer intertwined St. Valentine’s Day into his love poem. Where today’s celebrations of Valentine’s Day actually arose, we can only speculate.

From tales and speculation to science; there is in fact science behind love. It appears that the metaphor “love is sweet” may be more realistic then metaphorical. Studies show that when people are in love or thinking of love, even water is perceived to taste sweeter. Psychologists call these “embodied” metaphors. Findings from these studies show that the difference isn’t in taste buds, but instead arises from the brain’s processing of taste information. However, psychologists believe that the “embodied” metaphors may only develop after a lot of experience, most likely, linking back to infancy.

Science or not, it can be argued that this holiday has, in fact, evolved into a “hallmark holiday.” According to the National Retail Federation, Valentine’s Day sales are expected to reach a total of $15.7 billion. Try surprising your Valentine this year with some science instead of chocolate!

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Do you struggle with arachnophobia? Do you feel at ease in the water knowing that spiders can’t get to you there?

Well you must not be familiar with the diving bell spider, a species of spider that spends the majority of its life underwater!

 

Diving Bell Spider_1

Yes it’s true, there is such a thing as an underwater spider!

This fascinating arthropod, also known as the water spider, is quite similar to other spiders in that it breaths air, although it does it in a much more creative way.  These spiders spin a web cocoon of silk which they then fill up with air creating a bubble that they can take with them underwater. This bubble can last them quite a long time because they can use it to extract oxygen from the water around them and disperse the carbon dioxide back, acting like a gill. And due to a mostly sedentary life this spider is able to make the most of its oxygen only needing to come up about once a day or even less to replenish its air supply. This water spider, found in ponds of Northern and Central Europe as well as parts of Asia, is the only known spider to spend its life entirely underwater. It does common spider tasks underwater like mating and laying eggs, and using its silk threads it can even set traps for unsuspecting prey being alerted as soon as something touches the threads so it can dash out to deliver a paralyzing bite with its venomous fangs!

Diving Bell Spider_2

Humans have derived several contraptions that allow us to breathe underwater for periods of time, but unlike the diving bell, we haven’t quite figured out how to do this during long winters or to support our everyday life. Perhaps we have a little something to learn from this amazing spider.

Discover more unbelievable facts at “The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!®” at Arizona Science Center through May 4, 2014!

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