Tuesday, October 17, 2017
KU NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM: EVOLUTION
In Lawrence, Kan., on the fifth floor of the Kansas University Natural History Museum, we had an interesting time exploring a series of exhibits about different approaches to understanding various evolutions and how they happen.
We approached a mirror that had the images of two life-sized chimpanzees on it and were asked to compare our human characterizes to theirs and then to move to the other side.
On the other side were the letters of our DNA and that of chimpanzees, and we were asked to find the differences in the thousands of letters. To help us they had placed a small figure between those letters that differed. We found only five figures showing us that chimps are biologically very close relatives to we humans.
How sexual selection has shaped the evolution of flies in Hawaii shows that the power of who females chose to mate with is a powerful influence on what happens to a species.
Male attractiveness has gone in three major subdivisions. In one division the females preferred males who have attractive colorful wings. A second group of females were attracted to the males' songs and a third group favored how the males danced.
Given that females choose to pair off with the one who is most attractive to them, each group developed their own somewhat different characteristics. Eventually it turned out that 30 percent of the males produced 100 percent of the offspring.
As the females continue to select males for certain characteristics those characteristics will become more definitive of the species.
A number of displays show how two very different species evolved from a common ancestor 55 million years ago. The early mammal was an artiodactyls. In one direction it went through many forms to end up as a rhinoceros and in the other it evolved into whales.
Evolution produced some very different animals from the same original
Since Darwin’s stop at the Galapagos Islands the islands have continued to serve as a laboratory to study the effects of environment on evolution. In this case they show the effect of rainfall on plants on one of the islands and how this results in the nature of the beaks of the finches.
Wet years the finches with the broad strong beak survive at a higher rate, while in years of drought the smaller thin beaked finch offspring survive.
A more complex evolution is coevolution where a number of different species relied on each other for survival. One interactive display shows how farming ants, fungus crop, a crop pest and bacteria have all evolved together, each relying on the other for existence..
The museum has an impressive collection from all ages of the world’s history, but we took special interest in the remains of animals that existed in Kansas around 14,000 years ago before they disappeared from history.
Two early camels face a big toothed cat
Some of the remains on display were from the La Brea tar pits in California: the dire wolf, the saber tooth, and ground sloth. At other displays we found: a giant buffalo, short legged rhino, middle horse, small camel, and a mastodon.
The day we were there we watched groups of children enjoying some of the interaction displays. We were impressed with the level of education that this museum provides and felt that more students around the country should have the opportunity to learn from exhibits such as these.
We expect that in the future museums of this quality will be put into a 3D experience so students can cruise the displays from their class rooms.
A short legged rhino roamed the Ozarks thousands of years ago
University of Kansas Natural History Museum
When we were in Laurence, Kansas at the KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum, ranked No. 1 among public programs, we were impressed by the focus on life on the earth. This museum has the largest university collection in the world of specimens of plants, animals, fossils and the archeological.
Walking into the Natural History Panorama of North American mammals was a wow experience. We felt we had been dropped into an alternate reality where all of the mammals of North America were suddenly there in front of us in their natural settings.
The University of Kansas Natural History Museum has a marvelous collection of taxidermied animals.
Each area had its appropriate vegetation, water, rocks and background so cleverly integrated that you couldn’t see where the picture background began.
In 1886 William T. Hornaday went on what he called, “The Last Buffalo Hunt,” to get specimens for what could be an animal headed for extinction.
One of the men he taught his methods to for preparing animals for display was Lewis Lindsay Dyche. Hornaday later pushed for the government to protect bison and the numbers have gone up so there is no chance of their extinction.
Hornaday helped prepare the animals for a panorama of North American Wildlife to be shown at the Kansas Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Many of these animals became part of the present exhibition when Dyche's methods of taxidermy mounting and exhibition caught the public’s eye at a time when neither the media nor the nature programs had shown much interest. The State of Kansas dedicated Dyche hall for a permanent home.
Animals from all parts of North America are on display at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum
Seeing the animals on display it was hard to believe that they had been mounted over 125 years ago. The panorama is arranged by areas with the first one being the rainforest. This and the Polar section were added later so visitors could have a complete North American experience.
The positions and faces of the animals convey much about them. In the forest scene two wolves face off with a skunk. The skunk is defiant and the male wolf is threatening while the female wolf is watching patiently as if being more aware of the skunk's power than her companion.
At the mountainside covered with several dozen mountain animals we got a lesson in the evolution of the mountain sheep hooves that not only have sharp edges to hold on to the stones but a suction cup feature that gives it added advantages.
The plains area has buffalo, deer, badgers, ground hogs, and other animals so complete that you could study North American animals by just studying what is in the gigantic Panorma.
At one point in the exhibition is a display with five different animal furs for the visitor to touch to see the different ways fur has evolved to meet the living conditions of that particular animal: Warmth in water, warmth in cold air, snag resistant, underground movement, and change with the seasons.
From a higher floor we viewed the mountain scene as if we were standing on a high crag.
On another floor there were naturalist displays in boxes of mammals in scenes doing what they do. A Red Fox carefully stalks a prairie vole in a snowy scene.
On the main floor in a separate section taxidermy horse Comanche stands alone in the semi dark to protect his hide from light damage. He was the sole survivor of the Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn.
Despite being badly shot up he survived and lived another 15 years. When he died his hide was preserved and later turned into a monument of the battle.
The museum's section on the results of evolution was so interesting in itself that I will write a separate story about it for next week's Venture Bound.
Two wolves confront a skunk.
Carla faces off with fierce taxidermied bear.
Monday, September 18, 2017
Robo Thespian greeted us at the entrance to Robot Revolution Exhibition
The Robot Revolution exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry is back from a national tour and will be at the museum until February 4, 2018. and then the exhibit will be touring across North America through 2020.
Robo Thespian, a human-size robot, greeted us at the entrance to the exhibit and answered such pre-prepared questions as, How Smart are robots? and Can we work together? He said his goal is to work cooperatively with us to solve many of the world's problems. Since his answers were preprogrammed, I was impressed with him but not as much as I am with Cortana on my own computer.
Never-the-less there was much to be impressed with inside this special exhibition as considerable progress has been made in the development of robots such as three types of robots who will be life changing for medical patients.
First was the exhibition on how invasive surgery is possible for the surgeon on a computer screen. I took the two rods that controlled items on a screen and was asked to separate them into appropriate boxes. I quickly learned that the two had to work cooperatively. I had already been exposed to this in more detail at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where it is already a part of their practice of surgery. The explanatory material said, "With a 3-D high definition vision system, special instruments and computer software, surgeons can operate with enhanced vision, precision and control."
Second was the exoskeleton that can be used for people who work with heavy loads or probably more importantly with physically handicaps in helping them walk and move around. A video alongside the powered exoskeleton device demonstrated a number of ways it could be used by the handicapped.
Social robots can be used for healing. Some are capable of talking to patients who are lonely and for those with dementia who cannot communicate they can have soft animal robots whose heads, eyes and mouths move and who can be petted. While it was not discussed here, I am aware of Japanese men buying female robots as lovers and sexual companions.
Game playing was very attractive to the children present. When I played a robot in the O-X game, he always let me move first and we always ended in a tie. When a robot dealer was working a casino table for blackjack, he beat me two hands and then asked me to give my seat to a new player.
A game playing robot could be tied but not beaten.
After my two losses the Robot asked me to let someone else play.
A robot with only a head demonstrated eight different emotions, including disgust, anger, and happiness showing the progress being made in making robots more human.
I sat in the seat of a mockup of a driverless car that gave an excellent demonstration of the many things a car must be tuned into to safely navigate the streets.
Drones appear to be much further along than cars and a continuous demonstration of a drone was going on with help of children from the audience. Drones are being used for farming, fire control, police work, military tasks and a variety of other situations.
Some robots were working to show how they could play sports like soccer, climb stairs and avoid hazards. I was aware of the usefulness of robots in the military and had a grandson who while in Iraq used them as part of his work on bomb deactivation and discovery.
The robot exhibition area is so active that visitors need to get a time card allowing entry for a limited number of people at a time. When paying for my ticket on a computer I had to get a staff member to work the screen for me. It only took her three tries to get the program to work. Maybe some of us don't have the necessary skills for working with robots.
This is a popular exhibition opening our minds to many ways that this technology is going to change our lives.
JURASSIC WORLD: THE EXHIBITION
The Jurassic World: The Exhibition, until January 2018, at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, is an unusual traveling exhibit based on the movie Jurassic World. The exhibit includes a blend of some realistic dinosaurs, some active entertainment, and some science fiction. Although my wife Carla and I basically enjoyed most of the exhibition, we were a few times confused about what was questionably science at this time by most scientists.
A special 17,000 square foot plastic-walled perma-tent has been erected on the museum's front lawn for the exhibition, which has been so popular that visitors need timed entree tickets. Even with these limits we found the exhibition overcrowded making it difficult to hear the guide giving a tour of the fictional Isla Nublar on TV screens.
Not knowing what to expect each new area was a surprise. When we entered a jungle like environment , we soon encountered a Stegosaurus and a Brontosaurus, who moved their heads, their eyes followed us and they were close to us.
Next we entered a room that gave us "scientific" background how these were genetically created by taking dinosaur DNA from mosquitoes who had bitten them and then become incased in amber. To reassure us of the reality of this "scientific" approach a full wall of brightly lit amber is on display. This mix of fictional science from the movie and real science presented elsewhere in the exhibition may be bit confusing to some visitiors.
A case has three baby dinosaurs who have just broken out of their eggs and on the walls are displays explaining to visitors the "science" involved in their re-creation.
The exhibition took on more reality as we entered the next space. A barrier stood before us and we were asked to wait a moment because a carnivorous velociraptor had been seen in the area.
A carnivorous velociraptor attacked walls of his cage.
And sure enough a moment later he came roaring around the corner full of noise and what looked like rage. He bit at the barrier and hit his head against it trying to break it down. We were all impressed but the kids in the group found him especially enchanting.
However, mostly we were also being exposed to real science and could touch screens to learn more about the movie it was based on and others to give us real scientific information as it was known when the film was made.
That is, these dinosaurs were covered in scales and had a certain coloring. The recent information we have on the subject suggests that rather than scales they may have been covered in feathers like their descendants the birds.
Our biggest thrill was yet to come. We entered a fair-sized room that had a fence and a truck like the one used in the movie. We heard a roar and then saw the head of a T-Rex soon followed by his body. He also was in a bad mood and upon seeing the truck tried to tip it over. His head and mouth were so large he could have picked me up in it.
A modified T-Rex was the scariest thing in the exhibition.
(Picture courtesy of Field Museum)
Later in the Field Museum in the Stanley Field Hall I found that he was same size as the T-Rex Sue, 40 feet long. Sue who has 90% of the original dinosaur resides on the first floor and is a major attraction.
a permanent, expanded collection including every major group, and the worlds they lived in.
The Jurassic World exhibition opened last year in Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and has been at the Melbourne Museum, in Australia.
The exhibition is a drop back into the world's very distant past.
FORT OSAGE, MISSOURI
Fort Osage, Missouri existed from 1808 to 1828 and has been rebuilt as it existed during that period.
At Fort Osage, a rebuilt National Historic landmark near Sibley, Missouri, we especially enjoyed listening to two re-enactors whose knowledge of the history of the site made it seem to come alive,
Captain William Clark had picked this spot for a fort when the Lewis and Clark expedition had passed it in 1803. He came back in 1808 to build it as an outpost in the new Louisiana Purchase.
One of its most important functions was to establish trade with the powerful Osage tribe who readily joined the Americans for two reasons: they wanted the trade items we made available to them and they needed our help in protecting their areas against other tribes such as the Ioway and the Cherokee.
A re-enactor at the trading post explains the fur trading business to us.
One re-enactor at the trading post had a great supply of different animal skins that he allowed us to feel the different tectures. Carla even got to try the fox skin as a neck piece, a common fashion statement during our 1930s. He showed us the trade goods most sought by the Osage: metal pots and pans, iron axes, beads, small bells, and for the men rifles and ammunition. The building was three and half stories, just outside the fort's gate.
The Osage may have been friends, but the army did not want more than one or two in at a time inside the fort because of some experiences elsewhere where an Indian tribe had overpowered the soldiers by coming in under false pretensions or even dressed as women.
Fur trading companies, unhappy with the U.S. government taking over the business, protested that the result was more “factories” were being closed--so the fort was shut down in 1828. The Osage also preferred the traders coming to them since it gave their enemies less opportunity to attack them.
In the fort proper a re-enactor was easy to spot; the guy in old fashioned clothes sitting comfortably on a bench watching the visitors. He was in front of the captains' quarters and told us how the captains lived in contrast to the soldiers who were there. Eighty of them slept two to a bed, but when the team was reduced to forty, each got his own bunk.
Two men to a bunk made sleeping conditions tight.
This site was not a popular assignment for soldiers. It was isolated, there was little to do other than practice loading a rifle three times a minute, and food was so bad some of them got scurvy. Other soldiers took to growing their own gardens in order to have a better range of food.
Constant problems involved who was in charge of the fort: Captain Eli Clemson or George Sibley, the manager of the trade with the Indians.
The re-enactor pointed out that the post in the middle of the square was a punishment post. The rule breaker was strapped to it and whipped. That no or few women were available also contributed to the hardship.
Following our inspection of the buildings and their facilities we went to the relatively new Education Center. Special funds had been allotted by the state and it is now used by many schools in the area as a study center, but not only of the fort but of the history of the area with emphasis on the history of the Native Americans who had inhabited the area.
An18-minute film showed re-enactors in large numbers as if the fort was still in operation. We noted a fair number of civilians and learned that this was a sanctuary for early settlers and explorers.
The displays in the main area start with a history of the Hopewell, goes on to more information about the Osage including an Osage hut and an Osage couple in natural surroundings.
Other displays focused on objects from other tribes, plants and animals of western Missouri, information about the Lewis and Clark expedition and the history of the area.
We were impressed with this as an excellent addition to the learning experiences available to visitors as well as the students in the area.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
My first psychiatric hospital experience was as an intern at Nebraska Psychiatric Institute in 1954. This was before drugs were used to control psychiatric symptoms of mental illnesses and a variety of what are now labeled primitive methods of treatment were in use.
So recently at the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St Joseph, MO., I took a step back in time to those days and beyond to the truly dark ages of mental health treatment .
The museum is on four floors of what once was the Lunatic Asylum #2 that housed 3000 patients. In 1954 we relied on treatment methods that were of little help, but gave us some feeling that some patients were improving.
Electric shock was being used for a variety of conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, homosexuality, and hysteria. When I watched a patient I was counseling on the table in convulsions my visual field narrowed and I almost passed out.
Electric Shock was used for most every mental illness
It has been found that the electric shock does work on some problems including certain kinds of depression, but it has been dropped for most other mental health conditions. Since 1973 homosexuality has no longer been considered a mental illness.
Also familiar to me from my time at Nebraska was the patient (manikin) in a tub of ice water that was used as a calming technique.
Ice baths were also used for treatment of mental illness
One section of the museum is given over to lobotomies that were still being used in the 1950s. Dr. Egas Moniz won a Noble Prize in 1949 for developing the procedure. Later as a VA psychologist I worked with victims of this method of treatment that separated by surgery the frontal lobes--one's judgment center --from the rest of the brain. The cases I worked with had lost the ability to be rehabilitated for life outside the hospital.
From those 1950s methods the museum went back even further to more primitive ways of dealing with the mentally ill: steel crates to hold violent patients, isolation in chains to calm them, wheels like the ones rats run on to teach them to be still.
Even further back it was dangerous to be mentally ill because you could be declared a witch or a cohort of the devil and be burned at the stake. A manikin stands ready for execution, strapped to a pole with the firewood stacked at her feet.
Some mentally ill people were burned at the stake as witches
The basement of the museum took us into another dimension of running a mental hospital: food. The hospital had had gardens and animal barns to provide some of the tremendous amount of food consumer by 3000 patients. The cooking area had tubs in which hundreds of pounds of potatoes could be cooked at one time.
Patients not only grew much of the food and helped with the cooking but other money making projects helped keep hem active. Daily walks were also a part of the treatment.
In the 1950s there were complaints about patients being required to work and complaints about this policy that was cutting into local businesses--so that treatment was dropped. When I worked in a VA hospital after this kind of work was forbidden, I found some patients who had grounds' privileges were sneaking off into the woods to cultivate patches of vegetables.
Cutting out patient labor made hospitals more expensive and with the widespread use of drugs for treatment, it was felt many of the patients could be discharged.
This had a number of consequences, one being an increase of crime and the sending of many mentally ill to prison. It is shown at this hospital by the section that is now a Missouri prison with 250 prisoners.
My own experience with prisoners is that many of them should be receiving mental health treatment. My observations were agreed to by prisoners I have worked with who resent the mentally ill among them because they are so unpredictable.
The Glore Museum is an eye-opening experience. Visitors also have the opportunity to see three other small museums connected to the Glore which I will write about next week.
COSMOSPHERE INTERNATIONAL SPACE MUSEUM
At the Cosmosphere International Space Museum in Hutchison, Kansas, my wife Carla and I continued to be amazed that a town of only 42,000 people had been able to develop one of the top world's space museums, a major destination for education about space exploration.
The museum started small when a local woman, Patricia Brooks Carey, bought a used star projector and opened a small planetarium in 1962. In 1966 Dr. Robert H. Goddard's lab was added, Goddard being one of the first scientists to test rockets beginning in 1926.
By now the museum has the largest combined collection of U.S. and Russian space artifacts in the world. It was easy to lose ourselves in the 105,000 square-feet of rockets, space capsules, astronaut suits and stories of creative and far-seeing personalities.
One of the planetarium's consultants was serving on a committee at the Smithsonian that was trying to find homes for thousands of space artifacts that had been released at the end of the Apollo program. Adding artifacts from this collection led to the opening of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Discovery Center in 1980. The museum continued to seek out and add artifacts and in 1997 a new venue was opened three times the size of the previous one.
One rocket is Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle the other Titan II rocket used in the Gemini Program
Here is a quick overview. As we approached the building, we saw two rockets standing at the corners. One was a Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle and the other a Titan II rocket used in the Gemini program. The Titan was placed in the original rocket pit that had been used at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
In the lobby was a Lockheed Blackbird overhead, the world's fastest spy plane at 2,200 miles-per-hour at 85,000 feet. It had a black titanium surface that reached 600 degrees Fahrenheit--this one had flown many missions.
The Germans had done much to develop rocketry in their V-1 and V-2 missile rockets which led the way to space exploration. A display told the story of how Wernher von Braun helped develop the two rockets and at the end of war how he took his team of scientists to the U.S. army rather be captured by the Russians.
A space shuttle stands in the lobby
Despite the U.S. having von Braun, the Russians were ahead of us in the space race. A section is devoted to the Soviet Vostok Capsule--the U.S. was given a few capsules. The first man to use it to go into space was the Russian Yuri Gagarin.
Although the Apollo White Room doesn't look like much when you are standing in it you are standing in the actual room from which the astronauts entered their spacecraft on their way to the moon.
The Apollo 13 had become famous after the narrow escape from death of its astronauts on a failed mission. The original Apollo 13 has been reconditioned after a massive search for its 80,000 components that had been spread across the world The capsule itself had been taken back from a museum in Paris, France, after much political maneuvering.
We took in the three presentations that were available. At the Digital Dome theater was "Dream Big: engineering our world," a 3D movie that told how engineers are making a better world including creating more space for humans by building earthquake-proof high rise buildings. We watched the Night Sky Live at the planetarium,
We were especially delighted at the live presentation in the Dr. Goddard's Lab by a young scientist who demonstrated with energy, various forms of propulsion used in rockets. We were also impressed with the sophisticated questions asked by two ten-year -old girls sitting behind us. They were obviously very interested in science.
We have visited the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and the U.S Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama. We found them all outstanding, but this nearby museum in a small town was a match in terms of the artifacts available for examination.
Moon landing suits
The actual Apollo 13
MID-AMERICA ALL-INDIAN CENTER
The Mid-America All-Indian Center in Wichita, Ks., focuses on the history and culture of the Nature Americans who originally populated this area.
Our visit started with an excellent film about the career of Francis Blackbear Bosin, a Native American artist who developed a painting style specifically to help Native Americans keep ties with their traditional tribal cultures.
Born in an Indian community he was sent off early to a school that was specifically developed to remove Indian children from their own culture and help them become members of American culture. Another display emphasizes how wide spread the attempts were to put Indian children in boarding schools and convert them to our way of life while destroying theirs.
Blackbear resisted and escaped from the program and spent the rest of his life dedicated to restoring Indian spiritually through his art work.
Blackbear Bosin mural "From Whence All Life"
The center piece of the main display hall is “From Whence All Life,” a lengthy mural Blackbear made for the Credit Bank of Wichita and is now on permanent loan to the museum. In the mural Blackbear is attempting to show the philosophy of life common to this area before the white man came along and not only upset Indian traditions, but tried to eradicate them.
A variety of pots are on display with a list of 19 terms used to describe them. For example, a wedding vase has a double mouth and Micaceous vase is made with glittery mineral mica.
A double mouthed wedding vase
Seventy Native American Flags hand in a large gallery
Seventy Native American flags hang in the large gallery. The comments on each flag shown in the brochure allows the visitor to get a brief history of each of the tribes. The brochure says, "The Mid-America All-Indian Center is proud and honored to fly the colors of these nations. The collection is a tribute to all Native People, and is constantly growing. To add your nations flag to the collection please contact the Museum Staff."
Fifteen of the flags are tribes that are now in Oklahoma. The Ponca tribe of Oklahoma has a different flag than the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. The brochure while explaining the meaning of the symbols on the flags points out that the Ponca Tribe was forcefully moved to Oklahoma, but due to harsh conditions part of the tribe returned to Nebraska.
In the hall of flags is a series of large pictures of Indian tribes doing their special dances, such as the men's Chicken Dance, as a symbol of their Indian identity. There is also a set of instructions for those who want to attend a dance, such as "6. Dance as long and as hard as you can, When not dancing be quiet and respect the Arena."
In one area the Indian Mascot Controversy is discussed. They want no usage of terms like: The Indians, The Braves, or Redskins since they feel these are racial slurs. Since 1963 no new mascots for sports teams with references to Native American have been created and the NCAA has a policy to have colleges remove these mascots that still exist.
After reading the materials I could understand why Redskins was on the negative list, but I still was not sure what they are unhappy about with other names, since it seemed to me in my ignorance that it should be a point of pride that we recognize them as powerful symbols.
Outside the museum overlooking the river stands a 44 foot statue on a 30 foot stone base Keeper of the Plains created by Blackbear Bosin. The Keeper's hands are raised in supplication to the rising sun. At the base are a collection of Indian symbols, weapons and tools.
A small Outdoor Learning Center stands between the statue and the Indian Center. It contains a tipi, a travois and native edible and medicinal plants.
I noticed several dozen children were being led through a hands-on exploration of the center. Museums like this one do a good job of teaching children and adults much about the creativity shown by various cultures.
A 30 foot stone base Keeper of the Plains created by Blackbear Bosin