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ISSUE 116 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/18/2002

'Jungle Fever' at the Science Museum

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 18, 2002

The Science Museum of Minnesota allows one to travel to the fierce past of the dinosaurs as well as up to the present, with its focus on some of the most vital and unique ecosystems in the world. The history of the Vikings and the fossils of native Minnesotans are also resurrected. One can even experience a day in the life of a noisy chimp. The Science Museum is welcoming chimpanzees in an Omni presentation called Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees. Goodall is renowned for her groundbreaking studies on chimpanzee behavior and preservation. Initially, she anticipated staying in Gombe National Park in Tanzania for only a short period, but the first chimp family she observed, Flo, Flint, Fifi, Figan, and Flame, captured her imagination and she continued her research for years. A press release states: [The Omni] will transport you to the jungles of Africa for an experience like no other … you'll understand why Jane Goodall traveled to Gombe more than 40 years ago and why her heart never left. The presentation will reveal the life of a chimpanzee and its similarities to human life. One of Goodall's most significant scientific discoveries, in fact, was that chimps are sophisticated enough to build and utilize tools, just like humans. They fashion a twig into a sort of fishing rod and force it into a termite mound. Termites are a delicacy to them. The termite attacks the foreign object and the chimps withdraw the twig full of termites. Also showcased at the Science Museum is an exhibit opening in November that will focus on Viking art, artifacts, and historical objects. The Smithsonian Institute assembled these items from numerous European museums in 1999. The history of these Nordic travelers, such as Leif Erikson in 1000 A.D., documents the wide expanse of discovery by the Vikings and the objects left from their history. The Science Museum offers much more than Omni presentations and exhibits for those who enjoy hands-on science. Adult classes in astronomy instruct amateurs how to view stars, galaxies, nebulae, stellar clusters, constellations, and even binary systems from one's own backyard. The basics of telescope equipment and use are also taught in the course. Archaeology at the museum examines the artifacts left in the Red Wing area, near the Mississippi and Cannon River intersection. These treasures document the cultural life of the people between 1050-1250 A.D. One artifact is a large hourglass-shaped cooking vessel with an image of a thunderbird. The thunderbird is a symbol of rain, cleansing, and renewal. There is also an expansive exhibit of 40,000 bryophytes. Perhaps one has not heard of sphagnum papillosum, but surely peat moss sounds familiar. This collection displays the many types of moss and liverwart species, each catalogued in a database and some sketched and illustrated through watercolor. Paleontology at the museum has a new addition that is about 50 feet in length and about 70 million years old. Paleontologists Kristi Curry Rogers of the Science Museum of Minnesota and Cathy Forster of the State University of New York at Stony Brook recently unearthed the largest titanosaur ever found. They named the creature Rapetosaurus krausei because the Rapetosaurus name is influenced by a giant of Malagasy folklore and Krausei is the last name of the expedition's leader. This dinosaur is an important find because its form is nearly 90 percent complete and the skull is the most complete one ever discovered. Attendees may also be fascinated by the presentation of the greatest places to live. Madagascar is home to screeching lemurs and giant hissing cockroaches. In fact, of the 10,000 species, 80 percent of them are endemic to the island. Once the country was home to turtles as large as small automobiles. The Okavango Delta is home to hippos, which weigh about 8,000 pounds. Their skin alone weighs about 500 pounds. Though one might assume such a heavy creature to be slow and sluggish, hippos are fast and furious animals. Other great places to visit are the Amazon, Greenland, and Tibet, to name a few. The Science Museum of Minnesota is designed for the kid and the explorer in every person. It unites history and science together in a meaningful and significant way to teach all people about the fascinating Earth and its past.

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