I'm happy to share the news that yesterday a group of teens, as a result of their participation in a California Academy of Sciences program, launched a social media campaign to educate the public about plastic waste. Called "Put a Cap on Plastic Use," their campaign focuses on three social media tools:
An Instagram Photo Challenge for the month of May (#reduceplasticuse and #maychallenge)
Today I got my first chance to check out the new Exploratorium museum located on Pier 15 on the Embarcadero. I was there for a digital learning symposium with fifty other researchers, developers and educators in the field. We were lucky enough to get a guided tour of the new Exploratorium facilities, barely open for three weeks.
I have been a fan of the Exploratorium for as long as I remember. From my childhood, I have fuzzy memories of the place -- a giant map that let you soar over the San Francisco Bay, a chair that carried your voice clear across to another person seated at the other end of the museum, a giant wave machine, and a hundred other delightful things that you could pull, twist and play with. It was a place crammed full of wonders that was formative in my excitement about science and technology.
When I heard that the Exploratorium was moving from their home at the Palace of Fine Arts to the Embarcadero, I knew this was going to be something big.
One of the Academy's biologists, Rich Ross, specializes in octopi, personally raising and cultivating them. He has spent more than a year studying this rare species, which finally can be shown to the public.
What's so special about this marine animal? Apparently most octopi live solitary existences because the females tend to eat the males after mating. Not so the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus. When they hook up, they connect beak-to-beak or sucker-to-sucker in an intimate embrace -- that doesn't result in the male becoming dinner. Which is why they are also called the "Kissing Octopus."
This female specimin will be swimming solo for some time, while the aquarium biologists study her and her brethren. But the Academy hopes to add a male to the tank soon. So hang in there, single lady!
The Larger Pacific Striped Octopus (along with many other fascinating animals) can be seen in the "Animal Attraction" exhibit in the Cal Academy's Steinhart aquarium.
Yesterday, a group of our science teens at the Cal Academy of Sciences got to talk with Jeroen Lapre, senior technical leader in the Morrison Planetarium here. Before Jeroen came to the Academy, he spent many years working in digital effects for the film industry, specifically Industrial Light and Magic. He worked on such tiny, little known projects as "Star Wars" episodes 1-3.
One of the neatest parts of Jeroen's talk was his description of an independent film project that he has been working on for a long time: "Maelstrom II." Based on a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, "Maelstrom II" tells the "near future" story of one lone technician trapped in a damaged space vehicle in a degrading orbit around the moon.
J-P Metsävainio is an astronomical photographer who has done something so simple and yet so compelling: combining two images of interstellar objects and animating them gives them a depth and a richness they didn't have before. They are the most stunning animated GIFs ever.
Today is the official launch of our newest exhibit at the Cal Academy of Sciences: Human Odyssey. I've only spent about 30 minutes in the exhibit, and I've already learned a lot more about human evolution.
If you thought you understood humanity's evolutionary journey, consider these questions:
What is the different between a "hominid" and a "homonin"?
When did homo sapiens decline to just 20,000 people?
What adaptations led us to be the only surviving species of the "homo" genus?
Why is there more genetic diversity among Africans than among any other group in the world?
Are we continuing to evolve as a species?
You will get answers to these important questions and more at our latest exhibit "Human Odyssey."
Among the neat features of the exhibit:
an articulated model of "Lucy", the famous fossil of the Australopithecus afarensis species
an animation showing the different walking gaits of a chimpanzee, Lucy and homo sapiens
an interactive digital map showing humanity's journey across Africa and to the other continents over 200,000 years
data from the latest research from the field from anthropologists, including our own Dr. Zeray Alemseged
Check it out at the Cal Academy during the day or during our popular "Nightlife" events every Thursday.