Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dramatic Impact on the Sciences and Space Travel

By Michael L. Sampson

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

There is an interesting story told about how actress Nichelle Nichols, famous for playing Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura, was influenced by Dr. King. Nichols had begun her career in show business singing with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands. She believed the Broadway stage was her true calling until an unforgettable encounter with King convinced the talented actress to remain on the popular sci-fi show.

Nichelle Nichols as “Lieutenant Uhura” in the original Star Trek television show. fuzzyundertones.com

After informing Gene Roddenberry of her intentions, she directed her steps towards Broadway. Roddenberry was the brilliant creator and producer of the Star Trek series. Before leaving, however, she had a historic moment during a chance conversation with the noted civil rights leader. During the 1960s, there were no other Black females on television in non-stereotypical roles. Lieutenant Uhura, as the communications officer for the Starship Enterprise, became a role-model for African Americans. In addition, her unique Star Trek portrayal was an inspiration for women and other minorities.

King, an avowed Trekkie himself, explained to Nichols that she could not give up her positive presence on the award-winning television show. He exclaimed, “You can’t, you’re a part of history!” To Dr. King, her presence was influential, inspiring a generation of young people to shoot for the stars.

Thanks in large measure to her trailblazing television role, Nichelle Nichols gave hope to many that careers in space exploration and the sciences were dreams that were achievable. She became a successful recruiter for both NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the AMA (Analytical Mechanics Associates).

The first woman in space, astronaut Sally Ride, and the first African American woman in space, astronaut Mae Jemison, were both recruited by Nichols. She also recruited Charles Bolden, the current NASA administrator.

Other African American space pioneers include Dr. Guion “Guy” Bluford the first African American in space; Joan Higgenbotham, who has flown on the Space Shuttle Discovery for over 12 days in space; Dr. Ronald McNair, who was tragically killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and Stephanie Wilson, a flight engineer logging over 42 days in space where she operated her ship’s robotic arm.

Dr. King’s vision was a gentle nudge that continues to pay dividends for all of humanity. As we educate and utilize the skills and abilities of all, we confidently blast-off to a place “where no man has gone before.”

View the interview when Nichols recalls her conversation with Gene Roddenberry and the encounter with Dr. King.

Cookie Chemistry

You can’t think of the holidays without thinking of cookies! From gingerbread houses to sweet sugar cookies, everyone has a favorite—including a certain someone who is responsible for magically bringing presents to kiddos across the world!

It just so happens that National Cookie Day was last week, and because science and baking go hand-in-hand, we are going to explore the chemistry behind the perfect cookie! Too much flour, different fats, baking soda, and liquids, they all play a roll in crafting your cookie favorites.

First, let’s consider what holds our raisins, chocolate chips, and macadamia nuts together: the dough. Depending on the cookie, the dough can be created using different ingredients. For this example, we’ll use the classic chocolate chip cookie which requires eggs, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, baking soda, flour, salt, and vanilla. How do these things mixed together go from gooey to great? The answer: Heat causing a series of chemical reactions.

  1. You’ve just placed your dough on the cookie sheet and popped it in the oven. The heat causes the butter inside the dough to melt, which is what causes the cookie to go from a doughy ball to a round flat cookie.
  2. Next, your cookies will blow off some steam—literally! At 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the water in your dough turns into steam and the water vapor rises through the dough. Additionally, the baking soda starts to turn into carbon dioxide gas which will raise the cookie up even further.
  3. By now, you’ll start to notice that your cookie is turning golden brown in color, which means your cookie is just about done! Some tasty reactions are happening, including caramelization, when sugar reaches a high enough temperature, it begins to break down from clear crystals and transforms into a brown liquid, and the Maillard reaction.  This reaction combined with reaction from the combination from the sugar and protein from the eggs and flour creates a simply scrumptious result.

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You can conduct your own experiment by making a batch yourself and trying different ingredients, but if you want to make the classic chocolate chip cookie—look no further than this Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

 

7 Experiences That Treat Your Sweetheart This Sweetest Day!

Mark your calendars! Sweetest Day is just about a week away, and this year, it’s all about special experiences with your loved ones. The prequel to Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day is a Midwest tradition, a day to celebrate your sweethearts, whether they are your partners, friends, or family.

While fall is immensely busy with school, extracurricular activities, and football (go Flyers, go Bucks), you still have a chance to make Sweetest Day special with some inexpensive, thoughtful experiences and activities that far surpass the typical “flowers and chocolates” routine.

7 Fun Experiences For You and Your Sweetheart This Sweetest Day, October 17:

Take a fall hike and enjoy the scenery! Fort Ancient is the perfect place for a fall hike. Not only will you be able to soak in all of the colors of fall, you will also get to see all of the historic features that make Fort Ancient and southwestern Ohio so special, like the 2000-year-old man made earthworks. Bring a camera to capture the changing of the seasons and the serene nature that is a part of this National Historic Landmark.

Access to the hiking trails, biking trails, and interpretive center are included with regular admission.

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Fall at Fort Ancient

Dig into some fun! On October 17, from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m., the Boonshoft Museum’s sister site, SunWatch, and the Archaeological Institute of America are hosting a day filled with history, games, and more! International Archaeology Day gives guests the chance to have professionals ID oddities found in your very own home. Visitors will also get to participate in guided tours of this prehistoric Village that is nestled just a stone’s throw away from downtown Dayton. International Archaeology Day is FREE to the public.

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SunWatch is the oldest National Historic Landmark in Dayton!

Give Back Together! Committing your time to volunteer as a family or with your significant other is always a great experience. Whether you clean out your cabinets and bring canned goods to a food drive, commit to a day of volunteering at a local organization, or make a donation to your favorite local charity, giving back always makes you feel accomplished.

The Dayton Society of Natural History is always looking for Volunteers for special events, projects, and daily Museum duties. We also have a myriad of different ways you can give to the Society, from making a gift to a cuddly member of our Zoo crew to supporting a specific Society site.

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We All Scream For Ice Cream!
Share a science-fueled ice cream sundae! Foodies and scientists alike will love this DIY Ice Cream Experiment. All you need is a few household items and all the fixings to make your perfect sundae.

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Space, Science, Natural History, and a Picnic!
Spend the morning bird watching in the MeadWestvaco Treehouse, take a stroll through the Discovery Zoo, stop by our newest exhibition, Cut From the Same Cloth, and then enjoy an outdoor lunch in our beautiful Amphitheater. The Boonshoft Museum has offerings for guests of all ages, so pack a picnic and enjoy!

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rotators_9_158Get Into The Spirit of the Season! We love a good Halloween costume and we have plenty of occasions at the Boonshoft Museum Dayton and Springfield for you to wear one! Spend the afternoon DIYing a creative costume with your sweetie, then show it off at Spirits: Halloween at the Boonshoft Museum.  This 21+ event makes for a great date night!

A Family Affair! If you are celebrating Sweetest Day with all of the sweethearts in your life, consider taking a trip to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield. Hands-on public programs, exhibits, and their newest traveling exhibition, Children of Hangzhou, are all included with regular admission.

To learn more about all of our Dayton Society of Natural History sites, click on the links below:

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Dayton

Fort Ancient

SunWatch

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield