The Bell Museum is moving to downtown St. Paul

The Bell Museum is moving to downtown St. Paul

After what feels like years of gentrification taking place on the east side of West 7th Street, namely the OXBO debacle, the city is starting to unearth its historical side. As of Jan. 1, 2017, construction will begin for the big move of the University of Minnesota Bell Museum of Natural History, from Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul.

Now, through Dec. 31, the hours of operation will be extended to give guests ample time to soak up the charm of the 1940s-style building where the museum has resided for the last 75 years. Then, the Bell Museum will be closed for a year during the move, with the grand opening of the St. Paul location slated for summer 2018.

The Big Move

The reason for the move? Expansion isn’t enough for all of the added features you can expect from the new location, says the Bell Museum.

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A rendering of the new planetarium

After the University of Minnesota teamed up with the Minnesota Planetarium Society, members decided to dream big, investing in a $64.2 million plan to develop highly interactive science labs, a 120-seat planetarium, and much more.

Learn about the origins of the universe, as we know it, with the latest high-tech audiovisual equipment theater has to offer. The journey will conclude with a closer look at the flora and fauna currently inhabiting Minnesota, while the narrator promises to possibly posit our place in the great scheme of things.

jacque-diorama-bell-museum
The Timber Wolf exhibit at the Bell Museum.

One of the crowing features of the Minneapolis Bell Museum are the 3D dioramas depicting surreal scenes of wildlife the state over. Many of Francis Lee Jacques’ stunning dioramas will make the move, says the MinnPost, but most of the museum will consist of brand new exhibits, including digital tours depicting the Earth’s changing climates, replete with animal migration maps, and the anatomy of the human body will be on display as well.

The U of M plans to build outdoor learning environments, such as a rooftop telescope observation station and sustainable water management area for eternal students wanting to extend their research beyond the bounds of the museum itself.

Also, two new children’s programs will take center stage, implementing a day camp program featuring hands-on activities and field trips.

Construction Cam

Check out the construction cam for hourly updates.

bell-museum-minnesota
Construction cam, as of 6.pm., 12/28/16

 

 

(Photo credit goes to the Bell Museum)

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What Type of Tree is That? 10 Topiaries Found in the Wild

Arbor Day (April 29) is only 10 days away! Now that it’s nice out, why don’t you take the kids on an educational outing through your local nature trail to celebrate? You might not be aware of this simple fact, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different tree species thriving throughout the United States. Each have their own individual average lifespan, some grow flowers, and others produce spindles and cones instead of leaves and flowers. If you’re looking for a brief glimpse into the wide variety of topiaries thriving all over America, here is a handful of trees you might be most familiar with:

 

blackgum-black-tupelo-27Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

Description: Medium- to large-sized (50-100 feet) deciduous tree. Alternate, glossy leaves (2-5 inches long), generally elliptical in shape, turn bright scarlet in autumn. Male and female flowers are small and greenish white. Abundant fruits resemble dark, elongated blueberries (to 1/2 inch long), with rigid and bitter flesh.

Habitat: Uplands, well-drained valleys and woodlands, though the variety known as swamp tupelo thrives in soggy bottomlands.

Distribution: Southwestern Maine west to Michigan and south to Florida and east Texas

Points of Interest: The nondescript flowers of this otherwise highly attractive tree are an excellent nectar source for bees, producing a very popular type of honey. Black tupelo is also commonly known as blackgum or sweetgum.

 

southern-magnoliaSouthern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Description: Medium-sized (60-80 feet) broadleaf everygreen with a pyramidal crown. Glossy, elliptical leaves are large (5-8 inches long and 2-3 inches wide), as are cup-shaped, fragrant flowers (6-8 inches across), comprising six or more creamy white petals. In autumn, conelike pods break open to release red seeds.

Habitat: Bottomlands, low uplands, and coastal plains in moist, temperate regions

Distribution: Eastern North Carolina south to central Florida and west to east Texas

Points of Interest: The state tree of Mississippi, the magnolia is named for Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), a French botanist who influnced the work of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of the modern system of botanical nomenclature. Linnaeus honored Magnol by naming this genus after him.

 

Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)

monterey cypress

Description: Medium-sized (60-80 feet) evergreen, often with an asymmetrical or flat-topped crown. Bright green, scalelike foliage has blunt tips. Rounded cones (about 1 – 1 1/2 inches long) have a short barb on each scale. Grayish bark becomes furrowed with age.

Habitat: Rocky, exposed coastal headlands

Distribution: Only two native, unmixed groves still exist (both in Monterey County, California), but the widely planted tree has naturalized in other parts of coastal California

Points of Interest: accustomed to the Pacific’s unrelenting winds and salty spray, the Monterey cypress is now a popular windscreen, ornamental, bonsai specimen, and–in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa–source of timber. Naturalists estimate that it can live to 200 or 300 years.

 

cherry_escarpment_blk150Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

Description: Medium- to large-sized (50-100 feet) deciduous tree with glossy, elliptical leaves (206 inches long). Tiny, white flowers, arranged in 6-inch-long cylindrical racemes, appear in late spring. Edible cherries (about 3/8 inch in diameter) turn almost black when ripe.

Habitat: Woodlands, fields, roadsides, and bottomlands

Distribution: Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario and south to central Florida and Texas

Points of Interest: As a premium-grade hardwood, black cherry is second only to black walnut in value. The fruit, once used to make pemmican, is now commonly found in pies, jams, and liqueurs. The bark and leaves contain a form of cyanide, which can poison livestock. Wild cherry syrup, made from the bark, acts as a sedative and cough suppressant.

 

holly_american150American Holly (Ilex opaca)

Description: Small- to medium-sized (usually under 30 feet) broadleaf evergreen with a dense crown, often broadly conical or pyramidal in shape. Leathery, elliptical leaves with spiny teeth stay on the tree until the spring of their third years. Berrylike fruit turns bright red when mature; each “berry” contains about four small nutlets.

Habitat: Humid areas, including bottomlands, understory of mixed hardwood forests, and coastal dunes

Distribution: Southeastern United States, as far north as Massachusetts and as far west as Texas

Points of Interest: Settlers quickly endowed this New World species with all the Christmas symbolism associated with English holly. The state tree of Delaware, American Holly has the distinction of being the world’s hardiest broadleaf evergreen tree.


American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)

american-hornbeam

Description: Small, shrubby tree (up to 35 feet), often with a twisted or multiple trunk. Toothed, ovate leaves and unisexual flowers are similar to those of birch trees, but fruit is quite distinctive, consisting of paired nutlets, nestled in leaflike bracts, hanging in clusters 2-4 inches long.

Habitat: Bottomlands and the understory of hardwood forests

Distribution: Southeastern Ontario, southwestern Quebec, most of the eastern United States, and south to Mexico

Points of Interest: American hornbeam has extremely tough, heavy, close-grained wood, but its small size makes commercial harvesting impractical. In fact, this species is often eradicated as a weed in forests managed for timber production–despite its role as an important food source for beavers, squirrels, deer, and birds.

 

Sugar Maple (Acer saccahrum)

Description: Large deciduous tree with a dense, rounded crown, growing up to 100 feet. Palmately lobed leaves (about 5 inches long and slightly more across) turn brilliant shades of red, orange, or yellow in autumn.

sugar maple

Habitat: Cool, moist uplands and forests

Distribution: Southeast Manitoba east to Nova Scotia and south to eastern Kansas and North Carolina

Points of Interest: The state tree of New York, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, sugar maple is one of the most commercially important hardwoods of North America. Its durable and often strikingly grained wood is harvested for use in flooring, furniture, and other items: and its sap, which has twice the sugar content than that of other maple species, is harvest for maple syrup production.


Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Description: Largest tree on earth (in terms of mass), sometimes exceeding 250 feet in height and 20 feet in trunk diameter. Evergreen scalelike foliage has sharp tips. Fibrous, reddish brown bark may be 2 feet thick at the trunk base. Egg-shaped cones are 2-3 inches long.

(PC: Yosemite Online)

Habitat: Mixed coniferous forests, generally from 4,500-7,500 feet

Distribution: Western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada

Points of Interest: Giant sequoias’ longevity is as impressive as their bulk; many are believed to be over 3,000 years old. From the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, these mammoth, ancient trees were logged extensively, prompting John Muir to opine, “As well sell the rain-clouds, and the snow, and the rivers, to be cut up and carried away if that were possible.” Today, the sequoias outside national parks (about 50 percent of the population) remain unprotected.

 

dogwood_floweringFlowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Description: Small (usually under 40 feet), attractive tree with a broadly spreading crown. Deciduous, ovate or elliptical leaves turn red in autumn, as do berrylike fruit (poisonous to humans). Flowers comprise clusters of tiny, yellow-green petals, each cluster bordered by four large, white (or pinkish) bracts.

Habitat: Understory of mixed hardwood forests

Distribution: Southern Ontario east to southwestern Maine and south to east Texas and northern Florida

Points of Interest: While humans admire its ornamental qualities–over twenty cultivars of this lovely tree are now sold commercially–wildlife appreciate this native species for its high-fat, calcium-rich foliage and fruit. Flowering dogwood is the state tree of Missouri and Virginia.

 

Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)

live-oak

Description: Broadleaf evergreen of only medium height (to 50 feet) but with a massive trunk (diameter of 4 feet or more) and widespread crown (150 feet or more). Dark green, elliptical or obovate leaves appear leathery with a glossy sheen. Acorns with deep, rounded, scaly cups reach maturity the first year.

Habitat: Coastal plains, barrier islands, sandy areas (including dunes), and marsh borders in temperate regions

Distribution: Southeastern coastal states, from central Texas east to Florida and north to Virginia

Points of Interest: Characteristically drapes in Spanish moss, live oak is the state tree of Georgia and a majestic emblem of the Deep South. Its revered status may explain why its strong timber is no longer used for shipbuilding or other purposes.

 

Can you tell these trees apart? Quiz your friends, or impress your coworkers with your new knowledge of trees, the next time you take a stroll along wooded walkways with them.

 

Descriptions come from the Sierra Club’s Knowledge Cards, printed by Pomegranate Communications, Inc. Photos from Yosemite Online, North Carolina Forest Service, and Drawing from Line to Life. Featured image via Southern Pride Tree Farm, Inc. 

Simultaneously published on KING’s official blog

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Moon Shot: a documentary about daring to do the impossible

Now that government-funded space travel is no longer in the public vocabulary, private citizens are taking matters into their own hands while competing for the XPRIZE lunar landing competition. The project began in 2007, and JJ Abrams just released a nine-part web series called Moon Shot that goes behind the scenes and shows the world who is taking part in the competition.

You can watch every episode, here, on the XPRIZE site.

Google presents XPRIZE or Moon 2.0

XPRIZE’s giving 16 private teams the chance to win a shot at $30 million in funding for their space expedition to the moon. There will only be one first-place winner, but each team had the chance to be featured in a part of the Moon Shot series.

To win the prize, the teams must design a lunar lander that can travel a minimum of 500 meters on the surface of the moon–and they must have high-definition video and images to prove it.

The complete roster of teams was announced in February 2011, but was open to anyone with a little bit of money and a lot of ambition. The XPRIZE website states they have “…teams ranging from industry experts to well-funded high school students who don’t know what they can’t do.”

Basically, XPRIZE wants to see what people will come up with, whether they’re rocket scientists or not.

It’s not about the money

The competition isn’t just about the money, though. The purpose of the competition is to spur people into action, to believe they can achieve the impossible, and shake the concept of space travel down to the foundations as a result.

There may even be a chance that the teams will spend more than they win, as we saw with the 1927 competition for the Orteig Prize. Charles Lindbergh was the first man to make a transatlantic flight. He dared to go 55 hours without sleep, without food, just to accomplish something no one had ever dared before. This feat Wiley Post to fly around the world in seven days, back in 1933, among other amazing journeys that inspired people across the globe to pursue their dreams.

lindberg
Front page of the New York Herald on May 22, 1927 declaring Charles Lindberg’s first transatlantic flight via Airsoc

Moon Shot, the documentary

Moon Shot is not a documentary leading up to an ultimate conclusion, such as we’ve seen with regularly-televised competitions like American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. The purpose of JJ Abrams’ documentary is to enliven the human spirit and highlight the individual personalities embarking on a quest to reach the moon.

As of now, there is no official announcement date for declaring the winner; frankly, only two teams have signed launch contracts and they plan on making the journey sometime next year.

For now, we’ll have to watch Moon Shot to get familiar with the crew, then cross our fingers and hope our favorite team actually makes it to the moon.

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‘Weird’ is a hard word to define

It’s about time I wrote an etymology report, and I’m planning on publishing a new one each month. The subject matter should be comprised of either trending words, rarely seen, frequently misused, or words with strangely archaic origins.

The why and how of language is a curious thing.

I’ve always been interested in the origin of words, along with their connotations. On a personal note, as a child, my punishment for stealing or lying would result in copying, by hand, words from the dictionary along with their meanings. I often struggled in such a simple task, when my step dad wouldn’t allow me to use syntactical punctuation marks–I had to write this in full sentences. For instance, I might find a bottleneck like, “The meaning of the word meaning means…” How could you possibly explain anything with that circular way of thinking? I had to dive deeper, discover synonyms, and find other ways of conveying my point to my step dad. Would he become baffled upon reading what I had written? Would he be impressed? Would he even read it at all, I wondered.

This ultimately led me to discover I enjoyed exercising what I’ve learned, kinesthetically, usually by rephrasing explanations in a way that made sense to me. I continued the practice on a 1980 Macintosh word processor that my biological father brought home when I was around the age of 10 (early 2000s) and started typing up passages I liked from our encyclopedia collection (mostly about the habitats of arboreal creatures like frogs and leopards), then I’d stare at them for a spell, mesmerized by the blinking green line glowing amid a black background, and I’d print it out just for added justification.

Then there was Spanish class in middle school. I found a lot of words in English had similar-sounding homonyms, spelling, and associated syntax. This led me toward French, another romance language that I can’t get enough of (though I sound like an ape trying to pronounce a damn thing, no offense to apes). The point is, it’s all interrelated, English steals from other languages to compose a more hardy, marble-mouthed version of some of the most beautiful words in existence, in my opinion.

Now that my backstory is out in plain view, I’d like to take this little habit a step further and dredge up the meanings behind one particular word, monthly if it all goes as planned.

I plan to interview experts in etymology and bring their insights back to this blog, but for now, let’s just jump into the origin of the word “weird” as I think that might be the best word to describe my own blog. I should’ve named it “weird nerd” or some such nonsense, but as a computer lover, the 7331 speak spoke volumes to me. Hence, w3rdn3rd.

Well, it’s about time I get back to my origins for deeming this domain to be centered on nerdy words, then, ey?

Since I have no live witnesses on hand to demonstrate my hypotheses, let’s see what the internet has to say about the word, “weird.”

Definition for “Weird”

merriam
Merriam-Webster
download

Use over time for: weird

Can we go back to spelling the word “weird” with a “y”? I don’t know about you, but I kind of want to explore the Old English origins of this word. How did “destiny” turn into “abnormal” in everyday usage?

From Wordorigins.org:

Until its appearance in the Scottish Play, the adjectival use was restricted to the phrase weird sister. Only after Shakespeare used the term, did its use expand to other contexts.

The modern adjectival sense, meaning strange or uncanny, dates only to the early nineteenth century. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary only records it as an adjective, “no longer in use,” meaning skilled in witchcraft. Shelley uses the word several times. From his 1817 The Revolt of Islam, used in the sense of something supernatural:

Some said, I was a fiend from my weird cave, Who had stolen human shape.

Oh, how I love that book…

Next month, let’s look at the word “devolved” because I’ve been hearing it a lot lately.

Are there any weird words you’d like to explore? Let me know and I’ll try to wrangle up a few experts in the field to debunk their origins.

Until next time!

 

Featured image via Alexander Vestin

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