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.

Science @ Home: Candy Sparks

SCIENCE @ HomeFourth of July and fireworks go hand-in-hand, but you don’t have to attend a fireworks display to see a spark! That’s right, with some simple science, you can create spark (in your mouth!) with some refreshing candy.

What You’ll Need:

  • A bag of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers (not sugarless)
  • A pair of pliers (use if you are not allowed to crunch on hard candy)
  • A mirror or a group of friends

Experiment:

  1. Head into your bathroom and stand in front of a mirror. If you are at home with friends, you can head outside when it’s dark. Keep in mind you will need complete darkness to best see the spark, so if you are outdoors head to an area of your yard with the least light pollution.
  2. Give your eyes 3-5 minutes to adjust to the dark, you will be able to see the spark better this way.
  3. Place the Wint-O-Green lifesaver between your teeth, make sure you are standing across from your friends or directly across from the mirror. Bite down on the Wint-O-Green with your mouth or crush it with a pair of pliers.
Wintogreen_Video

Click to play

Observations:

What did you see? Was it a greenish-blue light? If you didn’t see the spark, repeat the experiment a few more times until you see the spark.

What is Happening?

You’ve created a little storm in your mouth, that’s right! This actually is more similar to lightning than it is to a sparkler. Lightning is an electric stream that excites nitrogen molecules in the air, proving them with extra energy which is released as visual light.

When sugar is crushed with teeth or pliers, the pieces become negatively and positively charged, making electricity jump through the air between the pieces of sugar. This is what creates light.

But can’t I just crush a piece of sugar and see the reaction? The answer is no, but that’s just because the release of energy when regular sugar is crushed is ultraviolet light, which can’t be seen by the naked eye. However, the wintergreen in the Wint-O-Green Lifesavers is a special substance that absorbs ultraviolet energy and transforms it into visual light – aka triboluminescence.

Summer is a Great Time to Be a Member!

We’re counting down the minutes until summer begins and we bet you are too. There’s so much to do: plan your vacations, summer camps, family outings, activities, and more. The list could go on forever, even though the summer season is only three months long. If your goals is to have some great summer family experiences that keep the kiddos happy — and probably more importantly, keep you under budget — check out a Dayton Society of Natural History Membership!

New and current Members can maximize their Memberships this summer with so many things to do, see, and experience in just three short months:

memberguidesummer

The cost of a Museum Membership, transportation, and snacks (because everyone needs snacks!), can get you an entire summer of entertainment, family memories, and fun.

Here are some Dayton Society of Natural History summer highlights you won’t want to miss (bonus: everything listed below is either FREE for Members or Museum Members receive a discount).

New Exhibitions: Both the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery & SunWatch will welcome new exhibitions this summer. On June 4 the Amazing Butterflies opens at the Boonshoft Museum and Johnny Appleseed opens at SunWatch later on during the summer season. Members enjoy a special sneak preview of Amazing Butterflies from 9:00 a.m. – Noon on June 4 before it opens to the public.

Special Events: From Movie Nights at the Museum to the Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow hosted at SunWatch by the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans, there are some stellar events that you won’t want to miss this summer, here are some of the highlights:

Fort Ancient: Summer Solstice Sunrise on June 19, Nature Hike on July 9, Archaeology Day on July 16.

SunWatch: Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow on June 25-26, Kids’ Days throughout the summer.

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery: Movie Nights at the Museum (A Bug’s Life in June and Frozen in August), Red White & Boonshoft on July 4, and our Meerkat Mob’s Birthday on July 30.

To learn more or purchase a Membership, visit www.boonshoftmuseum.org.

 

 

 

Celebrating Science During Black History Month!

In February you’re on the look-out for Rosie’s shadow and something sweet for your Valentine, but most importantly, February is a month dedicated to the celebration of African Americans and their accomplishments, contributions, and impact on society. We are celebrating by exploring some of our favorite African American scientists, academics, historians, and more.  In an extension of our ongoing conversation about opportunities for careers in science fields — that lasts all year long! — we wanted to delve into the underrepresentation of minorities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers.

The Challenge:

Like women and other minority groups, African American men are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. In fact, 2010 Census data shows that African American men made up 6.2% of the population between 18 and 64, yet the National Science Foundation reported just 3% of scientists and engineers working in those fields are African American.

In 2015, a round table of African American STEM professionals cited a lack of resources, failing school systems, role models, and “relatability”. The proposed solutions to these problems are similar to ones that help entice women into STEM careers—start teaching and engaging students sooner and build up their self-confidence in the face of self-doubt.

Being Part of a Solution:

The Boonshoft Museum is doing its part to engage young students across multiple cultural, economic, and scholastic backgrounds by making a promise to our community to open its doors, free to the public, four times a year. New for 2016, these free Saturdays, known as Super Science Saturday, will feature enhanced science-based public programming, planetarium shows, roaming animals, and much, much more–all day, all free to the public. In addition to Super Science Saturdays, during the Dayton Regional Science Festival we also offer free field trip programming to qualifying schools so children can meet with STEM professionals, Universities, and Colleges in our community, in addition to having special programming throughout the Museum with our trained Museum Educators.

Some of our Favorites

At the Boonshoft Museum we do everything with a science-twist, so when we asked some of our educators and administrators to talk about their favorite African American figures, naturally we saw an array of scientists, medical professionals, historians, and more!

Mae C. Jemison

Mae-jemisonThe first female African American astronaut in space, Mae Jemison is a favorite of our Astronomy Department and Museum Educator, Robin Ramsey. In 1992 from September 12 to 20, Jemison flew into space aboard the Endeavour as a mission specialist. Her love for the sciences as a child followed her through her adulthood, as she attended Stanford University and received a bachelor degree in chemical engineering and then attended Cornell Medical College. Jamison was not only the first African American female astronaut in space, she is our favorite kind of philanthropist, creating the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which encourages children’s interests in science!

Regina Benjamin

ReginaBenjaminTiarra Callahan, our Special Events Coordinator admires Regina Benjamin, humanitarian and U.S. Surgeon General from 2009-2013.

“During her time as the surgeon general, Benjamin took on a wellness and prevention stance. She focused on maintaining a healthy body as opposed to a treat-sickness paradigm. As such, coordinating efforts with a number of federal agencies, she emphasized the importance of nutritious foods, regular exercise (including dance) and cessation of smoking. She also supported breastfeeding, including creating more spaces where women could do so comfortably, and exploring issues around suicide.

When I learned she was resigning as Surgeon General I was sad, but I later found that she would be returning to the La Batre clinic, where some of her patients could not afford to seek medical attention if it had not been for her efforts to make the clinic affordable. Over the length of her career, she has received many honorary degrees and accolades, including the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and the National Caring Award.”

Emmett W. Chappelle

Emmett_W_ChappelleCertainly, our Live Animals Department are huge fans of all-things-animals, but one of our Keepers, Steve, is a big fan of Emmett W. Chappelle.

“Someone that inspires me to keep on giving my all would have to be Emmett W. Chappelle, environmental scientist and biochemist,” Steve noted.

Chappelle lived on a small farm on the edge of town in Phoenix, AZ where his family grew cotton and tended to cows. After serving in the army, Chapelle attended Phoenix College and earned his B.S. from University of California. His degree in biology gave him the tools he needed to aid in the creation of safe supply of oxygen to astronauts and discovered how using a chemical derived from fireflies could detect life in water on Mars. He also served as an instructor at a medical college.

Theresa Singleton

Singleton,T 2013Jeff White, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield’s site manager is not only an educator he is a trained archaeologist—so naturally, he admires Associate Professor of Anthropology, Theresa Singleton. She was the first African-American to receive a PhD with a concentration in archaeology and the first African American to receive a J.C. Award in Historical Archaeology. Singleton specializes in Historical Archaeology, African American History & Culture, Slavery in plantation America, and Archaeology of the African Diaspora.

Not to be outdone, Theresa Singleton also joins Archaeologist, John Wesley Gilbert, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, and Ernest Everett Just, just a few more of Jeff’s favorites!

You and your family can learn more about famous African American scientists by clicking here.

Boiling Water to Blistering Vapor..the Classic Below Zero Experiment

It’s the dead of winter in the Midwest and the term “arctic blast” has been thrown around quite a few times—which means one thing…boredom! Sure, the appeal of having a day off school and/or work is great until about 11:30 a.m. when you realize it’s -12 degrees outside which means any expectation of shopping, sledding, or running errands is out the window. While being stuck at home has a downside, there is also an upside, with boredom comes curiosity and with curiosity comes experimentation and where there’s experimentation, there’s science!

SnowScience

Click to view

Though we don’t encourage you do to the following experiment at home, as our professional educators have the experience, safety equipment, and space to experiment in (literally) freezing cold temperatures, the “boiling water to snow” experiment is a popular one — especially on YouTube, but why? Perhaps because the same thing you use to cook a steaming plate of spaghetti turns to “snow” virtually instantly. Impressive, right? But what is actually happening? Here’s the science behind it:

The boiling water is closer to evaporating than cold water, so when you throw very hot water into very cold, dry air, the smaller droplets are able to cool off and evaporate rapidly into a cloud before it reaches the ground. What you are actually seeing isn’t the formation of snow, but rather boiling water that evaporates into a vaporous cloud. This experiment works best when the air and dew point are below zero (so we were in luck today!).

Weather is way cool – no pun intended — especially when you can experiment, but we must admit that in these kind of temperatures that we can wait for a summertime liquid nitrogen ice cream experiment, but for now we’ll just have to enjoy the chilly weather and we hope you do to!