MV Blog

DISPLAYING POSTS FROM: Jul 2012 (13)

Mystery object?

Author
by Nicole D
Publish date
29 July 2012
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 Your Question: What is this mysterious object I found on the beach?

One of the most popular services that Discovery Centre provides is identifications. We get asked by members of the public to identify a wide range of unusual objects and specimens on a daily basis. Many are quite straightforward for our experts but others, such as this one, can be trickier. Usually we can tell whether or not something has been made by human hands or is naturally occurring but not always!

Mystery object Mystery object brought into the Discovery Centre for identification
Image: Nicole Davis
Source: Museum Victoria
 

A little while ago one of our enquirers brought in this unusual egg-shaped specimen that he'd found in the Red Bluff cliffs at Black Rock.

  Mystery object Mystery object brought into the Discovery Centre for identification
Image: Nicole Davis
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It was filled with sand and appeared to be a hard material with a thin flexible coating. Due to its findspot at the beachside, the enquirer thought it might be the preserved egg of sea creature, perhaps a turtle.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/usoceangov/5514927530/

We sent the specimen to one of our mammalogists and then to an ichthyologist (that’s someone who studies fish). Both of them confirmed that it definitely wasn’t an egg and, furthermore, was an object made by humans rather than a naturally occurring specimen.

The object then went to our History & Technology curators who speculated on what it might be. Was it a globe, some kind of fishing lure or something else entirely? After having a bit of a look, the staff concluded that it was indeed a light bulb. But it was a very specific type of bulb – one that belonged to an old flash for a camera that might have looked something like this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/captkodak/271841556/

Mystery solved!

Got a question? Ask us!

Rear Window captioning review

Author
by Maggie Scott
Publish date
27 July 2012
Comments
Comments (1)

Maggie writes eclectically about pretty much anything to do with the arts because she has a big gap in her knowledge of science. She co-authors a blog on screen culture at www.pictureskew.net.

I haven't really thought about dinosaurs since Grade 5, so I was hoping that the wonderfully impassioned Sir David Attenborough narrating Flying Monsters 3D would rejuvenate my fleeting childish interest in all things 'flying saurus'. I also looked forward to trying out Rear Window captioning (RWC) designed by Rufus Butler Seder, the new closed caption technology introduced to IMAX Melbourne Museum (currently the only cinema in Australia to use it).

pterosaur flying A fearsome pterosaur from Flying Monsters 3D.
Source: National Geographic
 

'Closed captioning' usually refers to devices for personal use that display captions for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals. I am a regular purveyor of open captions at home (captions contained within the screen) and I always enjoy a foreign film at the movies because of their compulsory captions. But recently I have been trying out closed captions for English-speaking films at the cinema. At the Forest Hill Chase Hoyts, I tested CaptiView closed caption technology. It started out well, but broke down in the third act of the film. How would RWC compare?

Jeremy holding Rear Window captioning device. IMAX Melbourne Museum staffer Jeremy handing over the Rear Window captioning device at the Box Office.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I presented myself at the box office to collect the RWC gear, and was given a long, flexible black stem that had a white sock pulled over the end of it. Thankfully, they kept the sock, which protected a plastic reflective screen. Inside the cinema, I gulped bravely as I suddenly realised it was school holidays. Picking my way through the fidgety crowd, I found a seat about six or seven rows from the centre front and unsuccessfully tried to squeeze the contraption into the cup holder.

Within seconds, a cinema attendant bounced heroically over the seats, gave the thing a firm tap, and in it went. As the film rolled, I was still adjusting the flexible arm so that the small plastic screen would catch the mirrored captions reflected from an LED screen on the back wall of the cinema. The arm's design is not unlike the exoskeleton of a pterosaur, which is what I hoped the people around me would think it was as I fussed over the angles like I was adjusting a car's rear view mirror.

Throughout the film, distracted little legs kicked the back of my chair and I made a sorry attempt to move a few times. I couldn't yank the contraption out of the cup holder, and what with my giant 3D glasses, and my own personal collection of bulky bags, I was rendered immobile. Halfway through, I just gave up and settled in to enjoy the beautiful, immersive CG scenery which, at one point, depicts Sir David flying in a small glider, narrating like a champion as a giant Quetzalcoatlus flaps lazily behind him.

David Attenborough in a glider beneath a pterosoaur A scene from Flying Monsters 3D with David Attenborough in a glider, enjoying a close-up view of Quetzalcoatlus.
Source: National Geographic
 

I turned off my hearing aids to test the captions to their full capacity, and found that they kept up admirably, which is important for such a heavily narrated, information rich film. They are clear, consistent, descriptive and unfailing. This is what sets this technology apart from CaptiView, which relies on the full functionality of the device in your cup holder to work properly – one glitch and the movie is ruined.

Overall, RWC seems reliable if a little fussy to adjust within one's personal space. I will try it again with a feature fiction film to see how it holds up in a different genre, and to see whether the device better fits in other cup holders within the cinema.

It's fantastic that IMAX Melbourne Museum care so much about accessibility that they have integrated this technology into their cinemas, and it is doubly excellent to note that the allocated RWC seats are the best in the house! IMAX claims they will try to get most of their films with captions (look out for the CC symbol in the program). However, their selection of films is specialised and limited, so it would be even better if all the other cinemas out there could catch up because audiences who rely on this kind of technology really should have wider access to the huge variety of amazing films out there.

Links:

Accessiblity at IMAX Melbourne Museum

Rufus Butler Seder report on RWC

Melel Media review of RWC

Mudswitches on the plaza

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
25 July 2012
Comments
Comments (3)

Sometimes exhibition development can take a surprising turn. Last week, Aunty Esther Kirby, a Barapaparapa Elder, brought branches of lignum and mud from the banks of the Murray River to demonstrate a traditional Koorie children's toy called a mudswitch. Aunty Esther is a renowned carver of emu eggs but it turns out she is also a phenomenal flinger of mud!

Aunty Esther Kirby Aunty Esther Kirby, champion mudswitcher.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Aunty Esther is a member of the Yulendj group that is guiding and advising the Bunjilaka development team as they work on the new exhibition, First Peoples. Yulendj is a Kulin word for 'knowledge' and the group comprises Koorie Elders from south-eastern Australia. It was formed out of the community consultations held all around Victoria in 2010 and 2011.

Says curator Amanda Reynolds, "If you think about traditional culture, when big meetings and gatherings were held to talk about relationships between groups, or marriages or ceremonies, or teachings, Elders would gather and make decisions and present different views. Yulendj is a modern-day version of an ancient tradition."

Yulendj members spent three days at Melbourne Museum last week in the fourth intensive workshop about the exhibition’s content, tone, and cultural permissions. "It's like asking 20 academics to come and contribute all their knowledge that’s been built up over a lifetime – you can imagine the richness of knowledge and history that’s coming out," says Amanda.

Over the three days, Yulendj members viewed objects selected for display in the new exhibition, provided oral histories, collaborated on designs for the exhibition's texture wall, talked about how certain objects should be displayed, and more. At the end of the workshop, Aunty Esther showed how to use the mudswitches out on the Melbourne Museum Plaza. She proved herself an expert mudswitcher, flinging balls of Murray mud much higher and further than anyone else. "She’s got the best swing," says curator Genevieve Grieves. Stories of childhood mudswitching mischief came out, including recollections of hiding in the reeds to shoot mud at tourists riding in the river's paddle steamers.

People on plaza with mudswitches Yulendj members and Museum Victoria staff on the plaza with mudswitches.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Mudswitches will be part of a section of the exhibition called Toy Stories, which will display a range of toys used by Aboriginal children across Australia. This playful section, with its animations and low-set display cases, will specially cater for very young visitors.

Two women on the Plaza Titta Seacombe (left) and Paola Balla celebrating a successful mudswitching.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria

Woman playing with mudswitch Vicki Couzens playing with a mudswitch.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria

John Patten John Patten playing with a mudswitch.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Tangled Lignum

Venom and phobias at SmartBar

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
23 July 2012
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SmartBar is returning to Melbourne Museum by popular demand! On 26 July from 6pm, the second adults-only SmartBar will focus on Mind and The Human Body. The Science and Life exhibitions will be open after dark with talks, displays, activities and music to boot.

The Live Exhibits crew were very popular at the first SmartBar and they are back again with a look at creatures that bite and sting, how venom interacts with the body, and how our minds can turn healthy wariness of venomous animals into debilitating phobias.

Australia is notorious for its venomous wildlife. Even our cute furry Platypus carries a poisoned spur that causes excruciating pain for any unfortunate human on its receiving end. But did you know that venom can have positive effects on humans too? The field of bioprospecting is uncovering new compounds from the venom of snakes, scorpions, centipedes and spiders that may help to treat cancer and many other diseases.

glowing scorpion Scorpions glow when viewed under ultraviolet light due to fluorescent chemicals in the cuticle. The bulb at the end of the tail can inflict a nasty sting.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders – is the most common phobia in western society. You might think it's simple evolutionary common sense to fear something that can harm you. However, the lives of the truly arachnophobic are governed entirely by their relationship with spiders, leading some to risk their lives by jumping from moving cars and out of upper storey windows. For others, every daily decision, from the car they drive to where they live, is based on avoiding eight-legged critters.

Huntsman spider on screen door Huntsman spider on your screen door - a welcome friend or nightmarish visitor?
Image: PG Palmer
Source: Image courtesy of PG Palmer, as licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic.
 

MV's manager of Live Exhibits, Patrick Honan, likes spiders – especially the big black hairy ones. He has helped people face their arachnophobia through cognitive behaviour therapy, followed by a controlled process of desensitisation called exposure therapy. He'll be speaking at SmartBar about the root cause of our fear of spiders, and whether it's justified. Whether you're fond or fearful of spiders, Patrick's stories are not to be missed.

SmartBar's Brain, Mind, Eyes, Drinks and DJ event is on for one night only on 26 July 2012. For more information or to buy tickets online, head over to the SmartBar What's On listing.

Links:

MV Blog: First SmartBar round-up

Moon gazing across the globe

Author
by Nicole K
Publish date
22 July 2012
Comments
Comments (6)

Your Question: How can my wife and I gaze at the full moon together, but from opposite sides of the globe?

Our enquirer is in Jervis Bay, on the East Coast of Australia. His wife is in Ottawa, Canada. They contacted Museum Victoria to ask if we can help them plan a romantic evening – a full Moon-gazing date on opposite sides of the Earth.

A full moon seen from Ontario, Canada. A full moon seen from Ontario, Canada.
Image: Michael Gil
Source: Wikimedia Commons
 

The next full Moon will occur on the 1st or 2nd of August 2012 (depending on what time zone you are in). In Ottawa, the Moon will rise at 7:55pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) on 1 August. It will be at its absolute fullest at 11:27pm and will continue to be visible until it sets on 2 August at 6:28am.

Sadly in Jervis Bay's time zone, the full Moon will occur when the Moon is not visible from that side of the Earth, at 1:27pm AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time). The Moon will have set that morning at 6:24 and will not rise again until 5:32 that evening.

All is not lost, however. The Moon-watching date can still occur, just not at the precise moment when the Moon is at its fullest. Our couple will just have to wait a few hours.

When the Moon rises on the night of 2 August in Jervis Bay (at 5:32pm AEST), it will be 3:32am in Ottawa (EDT). The Moon will be visible in both places and will remain so until it sets in Ottawa at 6:28am (EDT). This means our two Moon-gazers can watch the still-very-full Moon "together" for nearly 3 hours.

If the idea of getting up so early diminishes the romance from the Canadian perspective, our Moon-gazers can wait a few days – if they are happy to look at a Moon that is no longer full.

On 4 August, the Moon will rise in Jervis Bay at 7:38pm (AEST). It will be 6:02am in Ottawa (EDT). The Moon will be visible in both locations until it sets in Ottawa at 8:48am. Unfortunately this means the Canadian half of our Moon-gazing couple will be looking at the Moon during daylight (the Sun will rise in Ottawa on 4 August at 5:51am).

While arranging this date was tricky, it was only possible because our lovers are not on exactly opposite sides of the Earth. If they were, there would be no chance of viewing the Moon that the same time (for more than an instant and only then if they had a perfect view of the horizon). And one of them would have to be in a boat. Less than 4% of all land on Earth (and no part of the Australian mainland) is antipodal (diametrically opposite) to land: the antipode of Jervis Bay is in the North Atlantic Ocean; the antipode of Ottawa is in the Indian Ocean.

Maps showing Jervis Bay, Australia, and its antipode, in the North Atlantic Ocean. Maps showing Jervis Bay, Australia, and its antipode, in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Image: Antipodes Map
Source: Antipodes Map
 

Links

Melbourne Planetarium: Skynotes

Melbourne Planetarium: Moon Phases

US Navy: Rise/Set times for Sun/Moon

Antipodes Map

timeanddate.com

Sportsworks olympians

Author
by Kate Phillips
Publish date
20 July 2012
Comments
Comments (1)

Kate curated the Sportsworks exhibition at Scienceworks.

Some of the athletes who feature in the Sportsworks exhibition at Scienceworks are heading off to represent Australia in the Olympics in London. When we developed the exhibition in 2005, we interviewed 40 Victorian athletes to show inspiring people from a wide range of sports.

kids in Scienceworks Sportsworks gymnastic exhibit featuring Ashleigh Brennan aged 14.
Image: Kate Phillips
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Ashleigh Brennan, a gymnast we filmed when she was 14, is now 21 years old and is competing in her second Olympics. At the time we filmed her she was a promising young gymnast – but we had no idea that she would go on to compete at the highest level. We filmed her and five other gymnasts aged 7 to 14 for an exhibit where visitors have to be judges and give each athlete a score for their routine on the beam. This is a popular exhibit, particularly with aspiring gymnasts.

Girl smiling at camera Gymnast Ashleigh Brennan, aged 14.
Image: Jenni Meaney
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Even at 14 Ashleigh looks very strong, confident and skilful. During the time we spent with the girls and their coaches at the gymnasium, I was impressed by the effort and the hours they put in to their training. It was a big commitment for those children and their parents. But I also saw the joy they felt in learning to do some amazing things and the challenge of continually mastering new skills.

Girl walking along low beam A visitor balancing on the beam interactive exhibit.
Image: Kate Phillips
Source: Museum Victoria
 

One of the main messages of the exhibition is that no matter if you are short or tall or what your abilities are there is a sport that you can enjoy. Visitors can test themselves and measure a range of abilities in the exhibition then complete a questionnaire to match themselves with a sport.

At 147cm, Loudy Wiggins (Touky) is the shortest athlete on the Australian team. She is competing in the 10 m synchronised diving at her fourth Olympics. Again, I was delighted to discover that someone we featured in the exhibition seven years ago was still competing at this level and I can't wait to see her diving.

Rowie Webster, now aged 24, is competing in the water polo. When we featured her she was already a great competitor in the under-17 age group and told us 'My formula is hard work, plus focus, mixed with water, equals success!'

exhibition label with hand sillouette You can measure your proportions and compare your handspan with an outline of Drew Ginn's hand.
Image: Kate Phillips
Source: Museum Victoria

One measurement in the exhibition includes an outline of Drew Ginn's hand. As a rower you can bet that his hands, arms, shoulders and back are all very strong! He is competing in his fourth Olympics in the rowing fours. He was a member of the famous 'Oarsome Foursome' crew that won gold at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. Ginn went on to win two more gold medals at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.

Best of luck to all the athletes – we hope all your hard work is rewarded. Your skill and dedication inspire us.

Links:

Athlete profiles on the official London 2012 AOC site:

Ashleigh Brennan

Loudy Wiggins (Tourky)

Rowie Webster

Drew Ginn

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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