The Transit of Venus: Now and Then

Today, June 5th, astronomers and space enthusiasts will be able to experience the transit of Venus, a rare planetary alignment that helped scientists map out our solar system many years ago. The second since 2004, the phenomenon won’t occur again until December 2117.

For centuries, astronomers have studied the transit with the goal of estimating the distance between Earth and the sun. Explorers competed for viewing locations, and watched the Venus crossed the sun over a six hour period.

Modern technology has allowed scientists to reach more accurate readings of the distance between our world and the sun, as well as the other planets in our solar system, but the transit of Venus remains an iconic event in astronomic development. The occurrence also aids astronomers in their search for other planets outside our solar system today.


‘Living Wax Museum’ Teaches Third-Graders History

A few days ago, third graders from the Coronado Village Elementary School participated in an annual ‘living wax museum’ in their school cafeteria.

The event aims to introduce children to important historical figures in a fun, creative, and personal way. The children learn about Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci and many others by dressing up and presenting their characters to an audience.

“The wax museum project has been going on for longer than I’ve been teaching here,” explained third-grade teacher Heather Schumacher. “The kids pick a historical figure that they want to learn more about and they spend several weeks researching the, creating a speech, and they pretend to be that person.”

In other words, the children are the ‘wax’ exhibit, dressed up and standing next to a detailed timeline and table display. Students and visiting parents walk through the stands, where they press fake buttons to prompt the ‘wax figures’ to begin their speeches.

Some of the participating students include Jazlynn Puga, 9, Steven Stein, Deja Rascoe and Stephonn Blue. Puga chose to portray Mother Teresa.

“I want to be like my mom. She helps kids that don’t have a home or they don’t have their family,” Puga explained. Her mother added that she works to instill appreciation and support amongst Jazlynn and her two sisters, Jazmine and Jackelyn.

Steven Stein chose Leonardo da Vinci.

“I chose him because I’ve seen him in many video games, and I thought it would be interesting to see what he was like in real life,” he said. He worked hard on his costume, and even delivered his speech in a heavy Italian accent.

The Robot Zoo Tours the U.S.


Robotic House Fly

The Robot Zoo by John Kelly, Philip Whitfield and Obin is a children’s book designed to help kids explore how animals and their bodies work.

The book description reads “Cutaway images of robots and their animal partners explore the intricacies of each of the animals depicted, using a mechanical approach to clearly and vividly explain the digestive and circulatory systems, movement, and adaptation process.”

Now, the inspiring education method has been brought to life in the form of a traveling exhibit, showcasing the biomechanics of numerous animals. Featuring giant robotic animal figures like house flies, chameleons and even a platypus, the project provides an interactive approach to how animals work, both inside and out.

The bodies’ muscles, brains, intestines and even circulatory systems are replaced with pistons, filtering pipes and computers, which the visitors can explore with the help of interactive switches and buttons.

Opening Memorial Day Weekend at the East Tennessee State University’s natural history museum, the exhibit will run through Labor Day. It has already visited numerous museums throughout the U.S.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Launches ‘Cloud City’ Exhibit

Cloud City

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is launching a new 6-month exhibit today called “Cloud City.” Mixing art, architecture and science, the ‘city’ provides a new perspective on the New York from the museum’s rooftop garden.

The exhibit is 54 feet long and 28 feet high, made from large, seemingly unorganized units of various reflective materials, such as glass and mirrors. Central Park and New York’s skyline provide the backdrop for the unique installation. Tomas Saraceno, the Argentine artist who created the experience, explains that the spheres create a dimension that removes you from where you really are.

“Upside down, Central Park is a flying garden embedded in a cumulus cloud, mirrored buildings and skies appear under your feet, gravity seems to reorient itself, and people are multiplied in patchworks of cloudscape, forming unexpected interconnected networks,” Saraceno said.

The museum and artist have been working on the exhibit for two years. According to Anne Strauss of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, the creation was “a bold and exhilarating endeavor.”

She continued, “Thomas Saraceno is an artist who opens our eyes to ideas and possibilities and his site-specific structure is so successfully in dialogue with the setting. It is a microcosm against the microcosm that is Manhattan.”

Saraceno added, “Cloud City is an invitation to perceive simultaneously a multiplicity of realities, making overlapping and multi-reflective connections between things, affecting and challenging our perceptions.

“Cloud City is a vehicle for our imagination, ready to transport us beyond social, political and geographical states of mind.”


Remembering Those Lost in the Titanic Tragedy

Last month, thousands of people across the globe gathered to commemorate the lives of those lost on the Titanic a century ago. Services, memorial cruises and hundreds of other events were held in memory of the victims and their families.

“This is a day of deep memories for a lot of us, memories of all who perished in a human tragedy beyond all comprehension,” Rev. Fred Snyder said at a multi-faith ceremony at Fairview Lawn Cemetery. “Memories of loved ones who were left behind, left behind to deal with their overwhelming grief and their pain, and to try, if possible, to make some sense of something beyond belief.”

Fairview Lawn Cemetery is located in Halifax, the city that sheltered Titanic victims’ relatives as the bodies were brought ashore and buried. The city has appropriately been labeled the City of Sorrow, and family members frequent its graves to this day.

Josyann Abisaab, inspired by the memories of her relatives, traveled from New York to attend a ceremony and see a grave at Mount Olivet Cemetery this year. She was the first of her family to visit the resting place of Gerios Youssef Abi-Saab, her great grandfather, and was very grateful for the experience.

She explained that Gerios had left his wife and six children in Lebanon, with hopes of providing them with a better life once he found work in America. Though he never lived to see his dream, Josyann believes he would find comfort in his family now.

She wrote a personal blog commemorating Gerios and describing his journey, ending it with the words:

“Rest in peace, Gerios Youssef Abi-Saab, your wings have crossed the Atlantic and your descendants made it to America.”

Reading Just Might Change Your Behavior

Most of us agree that our children should read more, and that reading is good for them for many reasons. Now, there might just be a new reason to encourage them to pick up that book.  Researchers at Ohio State University, including co-author Lisa Libby, have found that people who get involved in their books may change their behavior to match the behavior of a favorite character. Their findings were recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

While the effects haven’t been tested in all areas as of yet, they have been tested on voting habits.  The researchers have coined the term “experience-taking” in relation to readers who take on the emotions, thoughts and beliefs of characters. In one experiment, for instance, they found that readers who strongly identified with a character who managed to vote despite many obstacles went on to vote in a real election just a few days later at a higher frequency than the regular average. 82 undergraduates were asked to read a one of four versions of a story about someone who overcame the odds to vote. They read it just a few days before the 2008 November presidential election.

The results showed that the students who read the story in first-person and about a student from their own university were more likely to have experience-taking. 65% of these participants then voted on Election Day. In contrast, only 29% of those who read the first-person story about someone from a different university went out to vote.

As co-author Libby explained,

“Experience-taking can be a powerful way to change our behavior and thoughts in meaningful and beneficial ways.”

Graduate student Geoff Kaufman, who led the study, explained that, “Experience-taking changes us by allowing us to merge our own lives with those of the characters we read about, which can lead to good outcomes.”