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DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Feb 2012 (19)

Distant Moon

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
20 February 2012
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Comments (2)

Your Question: Is the Moon getting further away?

The short answer is yes, the Moon is getting further away - it is retreating from Earth by 3.8 cm per year.

Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background Close-up of Planet Earth with Moon in background
Image: NASA, JPL
Source: NASA, JPL
 
The history of the Moon gives us clues about its future. Over 4.5 billion years ago, a planet-sized body collided with a young Earth. Although most of the impact was absorbed into the still-molten Earth, the collision threw debris into space. A large section of this debris solidified in orbit around Earth and formed our Moon. The Moon has been slowly getting further from Earth since then.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Image: NASA
Source: NASA
 
If we were to fast-forward from the impact event to about 1.2 billion years ago (over 3 billion years after the Moon formed), the Moon was still relatively close to Earth; much more so than it is today. As a result, the Moon’s gravitational effect on Earth was greater, and the tides were 20 per cent stronger than they are today. The Moon would have appeared much larger in the sky, although there was no life on earth equipped to see it.

Earth as seen from the Moon, Apollo 8 Mission Earth as seen from the Moon, Apollo 8 Mission
Image: NASA
Source: NASA
 
If we fast-forward again, this time 600 million years into the future, the moon will have less influence on Earth - ocean tides will be significantly weaker. From Earth the Moon will appear tiny by today’s standards and events like eclipses will no longer be visible.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Moon rocks land at Melbourne Museum

Dynamic Earth: How the Moon formed

Dinosaur Dreaming dig season opens

Author
by Lisa
Publish date
16 February 2012
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Comments (1)

Lisa works in the Public Programs Department at Melbourne Museum but also volunteers in the Palaeontology Department and has been on several fossil digs.

Last weekend hailed the beginning of the annual Dinosaur Dreaming dig season at Inverloch in Victoria. The crew will spend the next three weeks searching for the fossils of animals including dinosaurs, mammals, turtles, freshwater plesiosaurs, fish and pterosaurs that lived on and around the floodplain and in the forests that existed in the area 120 million years ago.

We can only access the dig site while the tide is out far enough to expose the shore platform, and before we can start hunting for fossils we need to prepare the site. First we remove the sand with shovels, which is often a bit of a smelly job due to the bits of rotting seaweed that have washed into the hole (the name we give to the part of the site which is being worked at any given time) with the tide.

Preparing the fossil site dig Left: The crew removes sand, boulders and seaweed from on top of the rock layers. Right: John Wilkins and Dean Wright remove one of many large boulders from the dig site using a boulder extraction contraption John invented and built for us.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Next we use large chisels, crowbars and large drills to remove the overlying layer of sandstone. Once we have access to the fossil layer we can begin searching.

Some of the crew use large chisels and sledgehammers to remove large chunks of the fossil layer and the rest of the crew sit further up on the shore breaking these large rocks into walnut sized pieces in search of fossils.

Breaking rocks to find fossils Left: Travis Park uses a sledgehammer and chisel to remove a large chunk of fossil-bearing rock. Right: Gerry Kool uses a much smaller hammer and chisel to break down chunks of rock in search of fossils.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

While the main aim of the dig is to find fossils, there is much more we can learn about the site. Dean Wright, a surveyor, and Doris Seegats-Villiers, a PhD candidate at Monash University, used a Leica Total Station to collect data which will be used to map geological features such as the different rock layers and fault lines. Dean plans to overlay this data onto a 3D map of the site he made last year and this information will assist scientists to better understand the geology of the site.

measuring geology of fossil site Dean Wright and Doris Seegats-Villiers taking data points which Dean will use to create a geologic map of the Flatrocks site.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Some of the interesting bones we have found so far this season:

dinosaur bones found at Inverloch Left: A cross-section through a dinosaur limb bone. Right: A cross-section through a dinosaur toe bone.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Dinosaur Dreaming blog

Infosheet: Dinosaur Dreaming - the Inverloch fossil site

Video: Dinosaur Dreaming

19th century anatomical model

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
15 February 2012
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Comments (3)

A long-time resident of Melbourne Museum's Mind and Body Gallery has retired from display to be replaced by an equally lovely, but more feminine, colleague. These two extraordinary 19th century anatomical models belong to the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney. Made from papier-mâché at the factory of Dr Louis Thomas Jerôme Auzoux, they were important teaching aids for budding anatomists at the university.

Male and female anatomical models Left: Male Auzoux anatomical model as he appeared in the Mind and Body Gallery. Right: Female Auzoux anatomical model before she was installed in the gallery in January.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Dr Auzoux (1797–1880) was a French anatomist who, frustrated at the limited usefulness of genuine cadavers and wax models for learning about the human body, began producing papier-mâché models of humans, animals, organs and plants. Where a human cadaver could only be dissected once and wax models deteriorated from use, papier-mâché was durable, lightweight and could be used over and over again. His models were very popular and continued production after his death. The arrival of plastic in the 20th century superseded papier-mâché as a material, but for decades his models were unsurpassed.

They were formed in lead moulds under high pressure from a mix of papier-mâché, clay and cork. The surface was covered with veins made from linen-covered wire and then hand-painted, varnished and labelled. The handwork means that each model - and there are examples in museums worldwide – has a distinctive character and unique appearance.

Nurin Veis is the curator responsible for the Mind and Body Gallery exhibitions. "We've included a variety of multidisciplinary ways of looking at science and medicine," she explains. "This model is a great example where art meets science which is a rich area that many people are interested in. I think she's beautiful. All that work – each model is individually crafted, not like the plastic anatomical models that are churned out."

female anatomical model in crate The new arrival peering out from the custom-made travel crate that carried her from Sydney to Melbourne.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Nurin Veis with arm of anatomical model Dr Nurin Veis looking at the arm of the female anatomical model.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The first thing you'll notice is that she is unusually proportioned with a small head and very broad hips. This remains an inexplicable curiosity; female Auzoux models are extremely rare and there aren't many to compare her with.

Nurin is fascinated by the model's odd shape and stance. "It's what they have and haven't fleshed out – her head is so small but they've made such a big issue of her hips. I can't help thinking that the external form was possibly done from sketches. It doesn't look like it's been modelled from life. The discrete way that she's trying to hide her body and all the things that it says about gender roles is very interesting."

The female model's torso opens up to reveal her internal organs but unfortunately there was not room in the showcase to permit this for display. Before she was installed, we took photographs of her insides. She is in wonderful condition for her age but for one thing: she does not have a heart. No one knows if her heart was lost, stolen or strayed; the Macleay Museum has no record of her ever having one.

conservator with anatomical model Conservator Helen Privett opening the female anatomical model's torso to reveal her heartless core.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

The Human Body exhibition

Macleay Museum at Sydney University

Lack of human cadavers? Turn to papier-mâché medicine (New Scientist blog)

The papier-mache anatomist (Curious Expeditions)

Sweet talk

Author
by Emily Kocaj
Publish date
14 February 2012
Comments
Comments (1)

Sweet talker Emily Kocaj is working with Elise Murphy to organise the Sweets festival and exhibition. She manages community exhibitions at the Immigration Museum and delights in tasting sugary creations from around the world.

The Immigration Museum is working on something very special and super sweet. For the last few months we have been collaborating with five sweets-loving Victorian communities to create Sweets: tastes and traditions from many cultures, a delicious exhibition and festival that are part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and Cultural Diversity Week in March 2012.

Sweets festival Sweets logo.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Members of the Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mauritian and Turkish communities have come together with the museum to jointly explore the historical and cultural significance of sweets. This unique project has seen us sharing sweet stories, traditions and recipes with the communities, not to mention fantastic creations from their kitchens!

Committee members with an array of sweets. Sweets committee members enjoying an array of sweets.
Image: Dylan Kelly
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The community representatives have delighted each other (and us) with a steady stream of treats at each Sweets committee workshop – from crisp, syrupy baklava, tangy limone tiramisu, cloud-like mochi, rose-scented gulab jamun, gorgeous pink napolitains and numerous other delicious morsels.

  Five international sweets Five delicious sweets from the countries and communities featured in the Sweets festival and exhibition. Clockwise from top left: Italian tiramisu al limone | Indian gulab jamun | Turkish baklava | Mauritian napolitains | Japanese mochi
Image: Dylan Kelly
Source: Museum Victoria
 

As well as sharing these gorgeous confections, the communities have been working incredibly hard on the exhibition and festival. In further posts we will show you sneak peeks of what will be happening on festival day and in the exhibition, both opening on Sunday 18 March 2012.

Committee members with an array of sweets. Sweets committee members with an array of sweets.
Image: Dylan Kelly
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Sweets at Immigration Museum

What was the Lloyd Triestino Trio?

Author
by Kate B
Publish date
12 February 2012
Comments
Comments (8)

Your Question: What was the Lloyd Triestino Trio?  

Austrian Lloyd was founded as an insurance company in 1833 and when Trieste became part of Italy in 1919 the company name was changed to Lloyd Triestino. A shipping section was established in 1936, and Lloyd Triestino became one of the world's biggest shipping companies.

After World War II Lloyd Triestino re-established its Australian service with existing ships and began a rebuilding programme ordering seven new liners. Of these new liners three were for the Australian service, launched in 1950 these three ships became known as the Treistino Trio.

Pamphlet Express Service Fares to Italy Australia, Oceania & Neptunia Lloyd Triestino Line Jun 1955 Pamphlet Express Service Fares to Italy Australia, Oceania & Neptunia Lloyd Triestino Line Jun 1955 (HT 2610).
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The first to be built was the Australia launched on 21 May 1950, departing Trieste on 19 April 1951 and arriving in Melbourne on 17 May. The second ship Oceania launched on 30 July 1950, departed Genoa for its maiden voyage on 18 August 1951.The third, Neptunia, launched on 1 October 1950, departing on its maiden voyage on 14 September 1951 and arriving in Brisbane on 18 October.

In 1958 all three ships were withdrawn from service for a refit – air-conditioning was extended throughout the entire ship and accommodation altered to be suitable for 136 first class passengers and 536 tourist class passengers. From October 1960 Neptunia began operating as a single tourist-class ship; however the Australia and Oceania were not altered in this way.

Postcards - Lloyd Triestino Line, circa 1950s Postcards - Lloyd Triestino Line, circa 1950s (HT1497).
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In 1960 Lloyd Triestino placed orders for two new liners which would be twice the size of the existing Australian fleet and were built to replace the Triestino trio. When these new ships entered the trade in 1963, Australia, Oceania and Neptunia were withdrawn from the Australian trade and transferred to the Italia line. The Australia was renamed the Donizetti, Oceania renamed Rossini and Neptunia renamed Verdi.

The Triestino Trio had all emerged from the same shipyard in the 1950s and spent their entire careers operating together; they ended their careers in La Spezia, Italy within months of each other. Donizetti and Rossini were laid up in late 1976 joined by Verdi in January of 1977. All three ships were offered for sale with Donizetti and Verdi purchased by shipbreakers in June 1977. Rossini was moved to another Italian company, Tirrenia, but with no use for her she was also sold to shipbreakers in September 1977.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Triestino in MV Collections

Museum Victoria Migration Collection

Picture Australia

Happy Darwin Day

Author
by Ursula
Publish date
11 February 2012
Comments
Comments (3)

Ursula Smith works in the natural sciences collections at Museum Victoria. Though a palaeontologist by training she finds all the collections fascinating and swings between excitement at all the cool stuff in them and despair at the lack of time to look at it all.

February 12th is Charles Darwin's birthday, now celebrated at institutions around the world as Darwin Day. Darwin's work is obviously relevant to a lot of the research that goes on at Museum Victoria today, but we also have a direct link with him through some specimens housed in the Palaeontology Department.

Charles Darwin in 1854 Charles Darwin in 1854
Source: Out of copyright, via Wikipedia.
 

Darwin's best-known work is The Origin of Species, and if you had to name the animals he was particularly interested in, you'd probably think finches, or perhaps tortoises. But these are just the tip of the iceberg; before, and after publishing The Origin, Darwin also published prolifically across a breadth of natural history subjects, including geology, zoology, ornithology, entomology and botany. All of this work was vital, both in developing his theory of evolution by natural selection, and in gaining him a wide and interested audience.

One of the lynchpins of Darwin's theory was homology, the sharing of characters due to common descent (meaning that if two species share a feature we assume, until we can show otherwise, that they both inherited it from their common ancestor). Much of Darwin's thinking about homology was developed through his detailed study of the humble barnacle. He published the first full treatment of barnacles in the early 1850s with four monographs on modern and fossil barnacles.

Over 100 years later in the 1960s, the then Curator of Palaeontology at Museum Victoria, Thomas Darragh, noticed that some of the specimen labels in the palaeontology collection had handwritten notes saying "Original figured by Darwin".

Specimen label written by Kranz. Specimen label written by Kranz.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Going back to Darwin's original descriptions and illustrations, Dr. Darragh confirmed that these specimens matched Darwin's material. For instance, looking at this photo of Scalpellum simplex and the original illustration, it's clear that the illustration is of this specimen – they share the same broken tip even though the figure shows the specimen free of the rock. Similarly, the other specimens are close matches to those in Darwin's monographs.

  Barnacle Scalpellum simplex Darwin 1854, illustration and fossil Left: Extract of plate from Darwin's original monograph. | Right:Fossil barnacle Scalpellum simplex Darwin 1854. Scale bar = 1cm. (NMV P133334).
Image: Charles Darwin | Thomas Watson
Source: Out of copyright | Museum Victoria
 

A little more investigation showed that all of the specimens Dr. Darragh had found had been declared lost by Thomas Henry Withers in the 1930s when he compiled a catalogue of the barnacle material at the Natural History Museum in London (then the Natural History section of the British Museum). So the specimens that had been thought lost for over 30 years were now found, but how had they come to be in Melbourne instead of London?

In 1854 when his work on barnacles was complete, Darwin donated all the material that he had collected himself to the British Museum, where, 80 years later, Withers made his catalogue. However, Darwin also borrowed from other collectors. One of these was John Morris, a mollusc specialist possibly best known for The Catalogue of British Fossils and who went on to become professor of Geology at University College London. When he donated his own collection, Darwin returned Morris' material to him. Morris later sold his collection to the German fossil dealer, August Krantz who, for some reason, discarded all of the original labels and re-wrote them.

In 1863, Frederick McCoy, the first director of Museum Victoria (then known as the National Museum of History and Geology) bought a collection of fossils from Krantz for the museum.

This was just one of many purchases of fossils and minerals that McCoy made from Krantz, but this one happened to include at least part of Morris' collection, including the barnacles that Darwin had worked on. Since nobody was actively working on barnacles, it took 100 years for anyone to realise the importance of these specimens, but since we did the specimens have been housed safely in the museum's type collection accessible for researchers around the world.

Happy Darwin Day!

Links:

Darwin Online Project 

Darwin's barnacle studies (Darwin Online Project)

Invertebrate Palaeontology Collections

Infosheet: How do barnacles cement themselves to rocks?

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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