American Museum of Natural History

Aug 27

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Hey New Yorkers! The Frontiers Lecture Series kicks off September 8 with Caleb Scharf and the Copernicus Complex. 
Though the concept of “the universe” suggests the containment of everything, the latest ideas in cosmology hint that our universe may be just one of a multitude of others—a single slice of an infinity of parallel realities. Renowned astrophysicist and author Caleb Scharf takes us on a cosmic adventure like no other, from tiny microbes within the Earth to distant exoplanets and beyond, asserting that the age-old Copernican principle is in need of updating.
As Scharf argues, when Copernicus proposed that the Earth was not the fixed point at the center of the known universe (and therefore we are not unique), he set in motion a colossal scientific juggernaut, forever changing our vision of nature. But the principle has never been entirely true—we do live at a particular time, in a particular location, under particular circumstances. To solve this conundrum we must put aside our Copernican worldview and embrace the possibility that we are in a delicate balance between mediocrity and significance, order and chaos.
Scharf will sign copies of The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities after the lecture.
Get tickets today. 

Hey New Yorkers! The Frontiers Lecture Series kicks off September 8 with Caleb Scharf and the Copernicus Complex. 

Though the concept of “the universe” suggests the containment of everything, the latest ideas in cosmology hint that our universe may be just one of a multitude of others—a single slice of an infinity of parallel realities. Renowned astrophysicist and author Caleb Scharf takes us on a cosmic adventure like no other, from tiny microbes within the Earth to distant exoplanets and beyond, asserting that the age-old Copernican principle is in need of updating.

As Scharf argues, when Copernicus proposed that the Earth was not the fixed point at the center of the known universe (and therefore we are not unique), he set in motion a colossal scientific juggernaut, forever changing our vision of nature. But the principle has never been entirely true—we do live at a particular time, in a particular location, under particular circumstances. To solve this conundrum we must put aside our Copernican worldview and embrace the possibility that we are in a delicate balance between mediocrity and significance, order and chaos.

Scharf will sign copies of The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities after the lecture.

Get tickets today. 

Aug 26

Spiders are important predators. By one estimate, the spiders on one acre of woodland alone consume more than 80 pounds (36 kg) of insects a year. (Those insect populations would explode without the predators.)
Spiders employ an amazing array of techniques to capture prey.
They play tricks:
Some pirate spiders of the family Mimetidae fool their prey: other spiders. They vibrate the spiders’ webs the same way a struggling insect might. Then, when the host spiders come close, the pirates grab them.
They spit: 
Spiders of the genus Scytodes catch prey by ejecting a glue from their chelicerae (spider mouthparts that end in fangs and inject venom into prey). Once it hits, the gooey substance shrinks, trapping the prey in place.
They use a home field advantage:
Lynx spiders of the family Oxyopidae hunt on plants. They are agile, jumping from stem to stem, and have better vision than many other spiders.
Learn more spider hunting techniques on our blog. 

Spiders are important predators. By one estimate, the spiders on one acre of woodland alone consume more than 80 pounds (36 kg) of insects a year. (Those insect populations would explode without the predators.)

Spiders employ an amazing array of techniques to capture prey.

They play tricks:

Some pirate spiders of the family Mimetidae fool their prey: other spiders. They vibrate the spiders’ webs the same way a struggling insect might. Then, when the host spiders come close, the pirates grab them.

They spit: 

Spiders of the genus Scytodes catch prey by ejecting a glue from their chelicerae (spider mouthparts that end in fangs and inject venom into prey). Once it hits, the gooey substance shrinks, trapping the prey in place.

They use a home field advantage:

Lynx spiders of the family Oxyopidae hunt on plants. They are agile, jumping from stem to stem, and have better vision than many other spiders.

Learn more spider hunting techniques on our blog

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Aug 25

#MuseumMonday is dazzling!
At 563 carats, the Star of India is the world’s largest gem-quality blue star sapphire. Some 2 billion years old, it is also one of the most well-known objects in the world.
Rutile, a mineral in the Star of India, gives the gem its milky quality and star effect. Tiny fibers of rutile in a three-fold pattern reflect incoming light in the star pattern. This effect, called asterism, makes this gem a true star.
The Star of India is located in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems. 
AMNH/C.Chesek

#MuseumMonday is dazzling!

At 563 carats, the Star of India is the world’s largest gem-quality blue star sapphire. Some 2 billion years old, it is also one of the most well-known objects in the world.

Rutile, a mineral in the Star of India, gives the gem its milky quality and star effect. Tiny fibers of rutile in a three-fold pattern reflect incoming light in the star pattern. This effect, called asterism, makes this gem a true star.

The Star of India is located in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems. 

AMNH/C.Chesek

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Aug 24

In partnership with Khan Academy, the American Natural History Museum is excited to present two online educational series.
Khan Academy provides a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. After working together for several months, we have developed engaging learning experiences around topics that everyone can get excited about: Dinosaurs and The Universe!
Get started learning.

In partnership with Khan Academy, the American Natural History Museum is excited to present two online educational series.

Khan Academy provides a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. After working together for several months, we have developed engaging learning experiences around topics that everyone can get excited about: Dinosaurs and The Universe!

Get started learning.

The material of stars is recycled over billions of years. Interstellar gas clouds collapse to make stars. Stars forge heavy elements and return their gas to space. This material enriches gas clouds from which new stars are formed, and the cycle continues. Each generation of stars is made in part from the ashes of previous generations.
Click to enlarge this diagram, and learn more about stars on our website.

The material of stars is recycled over billions of years. Interstellar gas clouds collapse to make stars. Stars forge heavy elements and return their gas to space. This material enriches gas clouds from which new stars are formed, and the cycle continues. Each generation of stars is made in part from the ashes of previous generations.

Click to enlarge this diagram, and learn more about stars on our website.

Aug 23

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Aug 22

Headed to the beach this weekend? You might spot a Tiger Cowrie! 
See archival images of the Museum’s Shell Hall in the Digital Special Collections. 

Headed to the beach this weekend? You might spot a Tiger Cowrie! 

See archival images of the Museum’s Shell Hall in the Digital Special Collections. 

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Look, #FossilFriday is smiling at you!
This fossil is Diadectes phaseolinus, and it lived in the Early Permian, about 280 million years ago. The anthracosaurs that gave rise to the amniotes—true land animals with watertight eggs—probably looked something like Diadectes. Diadectes shows the general form of early amniote relatives: well developed limbs clearly capable of terrestrial locomotion, but a posture that is sprawling, not erect, like that of many later amniotes. What Diadectes ate is unknown, but it had complex, molarlike teeth and may have been a plant-eater. 
This fossil is located in the Museum’s Hall of Vertebrate Origins. 

Look, #FossilFriday is smiling at you!

This fossil is Diadectes phaseolinus, and it lived in the Early Permian, about 280 million years ago. The anthracosaurs that gave rise to the amniotes—true land animals with watertight eggs—probably looked something like Diadectes. Diadectes shows the general form of early amniote relatives: well developed limbs clearly capable of terrestrial locomotion, but a posture that is sprawling, not erect, like that of many later amniotes. What Diadectes ate is unknown, but it had complex, molarlike teeth and may have been a plant-eater. 

This fossil is located in the Museum’s Hall of Vertebrate Origins

Aug 21

Two-toed Sloth
Albert Seba’s (1665-1736) four volume Thesaurus (Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio…) illustrated the Dutch apothecary’s enormous collection of animal and plant specimens amassed over the years. Using preserved specimens, Seba’s artists could depict anatomy accurately—but not behavior. For example, this two-toed sloth is shown climbing upright, even though in nature, sloths hang upside down.
See this and other illustrations from the Museum’s Rare Book Collection in Natural Histories: 400 Years of Scientific Illustration from the Museum’s Library.

Two-toed Sloth

Albert Seba’s (1665-1736) four volume Thesaurus (Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio…) illustrated the Dutch apothecary’s enormous collection of animal and plant specimens amassed over the years. Using preserved specimens, Seba’s artists could depict anatomy accurately—but not behavior. For example, this two-toed sloth is shown climbing upright, even though in nature, sloths hang upside down.

See this and other illustrations from the Museum’s Rare Book Collection in Natural Histories: 400 Years of Scientific Illustration from the Museum’s Library.

Today’s peek into the archives takes us back to the Museum in 1910. “Sigurd Neandross painting figure in Haida ceremonial canoe, North Pacific Hall” was photographed by Thomas Lunt. 
The Great Canoe has since been moved to the Museum’s Grand Gallery. At 63 feet long, the seaworthy Great Canoe is one of the Museum’s most popular artifacts. It was carved in the 1870s from the trunk of a single cedar tree, and features design elements from different Native American peoples of the Northwest Coast, notably Haida and Heiltsuk. 
Learn more about the history of the Great Canoe.
AMNH/33006

Today’s peek into the archives takes us back to the Museum in 1910. “Sigurd Neandross painting figure in Haida ceremonial canoe, North Pacific Hall” was photographed by Thomas Lunt.

The Great Canoe has since been moved to the Museum’s Grand Gallery. At 63 feet long, the seaworthy Great Canoe is one of the Museum’s most popular artifacts. It was carved in the 1870s from the trunk of a single cedar tree, and features design elements from different Native American peoples of the Northwest Coast, notably Haida and Heiltsuk.

Learn more about the history of the Great Canoe.

AMNH/33006