From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

"Bone Wars"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 18 September 2017. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

To help us prep for the upcoming natural history exhibit at COSI, starting this week I've invited my biology- and paleontology-leaning friends from OSU to guest blog about dinosaurs and evolution. Up first is Dr. Katherine O’Brien, a postdoctoral fellow at OSU and the community outreach specialist for the Museum of Biological Diversity. Her goal is to increase diversity in STEM by developing connections between universities, the arts, museums, and the communities they serve. To support this mission, Katherine also organizes the Columbus Science Pub and is an active member of the STEAM factory.

She writes:

If you can’t wait to explore the new Dinosaurs exhibit from the collections of the American Museum of Natural History this fall at COSI, you are not alone. People have been fascinated by dinosaurs since the first skeleton was identified in Haddonfield New Jersey in 1858. By 1868 this Hadrosaurus was displayed for the public in Philadelphia at the Academy of Natural Science after being carefully assembled into a life-like pose by Dr. Joseph Leidy and Edward Drinker Cope. People from across the United States flocked to Philadelphia to see this display. The number of annual visitors to the Academy of Natural Science jumped from 30,000 to over 100,000 in just 2 years, which forced the curators to find a larger building to accommodate public interest.

All this excitement led to the Bone Wars; a period from 1870-1897 where two paleontologists—O.C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope—competed to make dinosaur discoveries. Marsh and Cope engaged in some sensational behavior including stealing bones from western dig sites, revealing each other’s research sites, and running press smear campaigns.

The American Museum of Natural History, a pet project of Teddy Roosevelt, opened in 1877 in the mist of the Bone Wars. By 1912, the AMNH contained one of the most extensive collections of fossils in the world. Now the vast majority of their dinosaurs are not even displayed. One dinosaur on display is the Allosaurus skeleton that Cope initially assembled backwards, although it is now assembled correctly.

To learn more, check out the “Bone shards, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards” graphic novel available at Columbus libraries and “The Bone Wars” by Katheryn Lasky.

"Science Sunday"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 11 September 2017. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

Enjoy science in your life? Would you prefer to hear it from the experts themselves, instead of mangled and garbled by journalists and social media? Well, OSU has you covered with Science Sundays, a monthly lecture series that's free and open to the public. It's hosted, as you might guess, on Sundays from 3-4pm in the Ohio Union.

The series lineup this year features quite a few heavy hitters, including topics on the aging brain, the latest from particle colliders, what we're still learning from Archimedes, how we perceive food, and more. And this year was lucky to kick off with a presentation by COSI's CEO and president, Dr. Frederic Bertley, who talked about combatting declining scientific literacy.

The lectures are followed by a reception where attendees can mob the speaker with nonstop questions while munching on goodies. That seems important to mention.

"CCAD Goes to Mars!"

Written by Paul Sutter on Tuesday, 05 September 2017. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

Recently John Youger, a professor at the Columbus College of Art & Design, asked me to come speak to his class about living on Mars. That's a bit of a challenge, since nobody lives on Mars and we have very little idea of how to go about it. But that was the point of his design class: if we were to show people in, say, a museum exhibit what a future colony on Mars would look like, what exactly would we show?

There are a few big challenges to living on Mars: there's almost no air (and the stuff you can inhale in pretty much pure CO2), all the water is almost entirely frozen, the dirt is laced with perchlorates, it's very cold, and the gravity is less than half the strength as on Earth. Oh, and it's really, really far away.

So it's a little bit challenging, but that's half the fun. The other half is imagining how to communicate these challenges to audiences, so for this semester John's class is teaming up with me and Erik Burdock, COSI's Director of Experience Design, to design a set of mock exhibits highlighting the difficulty - and adventure! - of living on Mars. Stay tuned!

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