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American Museum of Natural History March 5, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in History, Science.
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I recently visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The museum features

the scientific study of animals or plants, especially as concerned with observation rather than experiment, and presented in popular form.

Here are twelve nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The group of dinosaurs known as the ornithomimids derive their name from a phrase meaning “bird mimics.” This group includes the:

These long-limbed dinosaurs had three-fingered hands, a relatively large brain cavity and a flexible neck; some of them attained lengths of at least twenty feet. Interestingly, while they had beaked heads, they were less closely related to birds than the maniraptors. They lived in the Cretaceous period.

2. The group of dinosaurs known as the ornithopods includes the:

These dinosaurs had a powerful bite due to the placement of their jaw joint; they also benefited from a network of bony tendons that stiffened their backbone and tail. They lived from the late Triassic period to the late Cretaceous period.

3. The hind limbs and front limbs of Moschops capensis were splayed under its body and to its sides, respectively. This creature with a cow-like face (Moschops is Greek for “calf”) had an enlarged synapsid opening and its skull was about four inches thick. It lived in the Permian period in modern-day South Africa.

4. The shells of leatherback sea turtles are about six feet long; it weighs up to 1400 pounds. This consumer of jellyfish has tough, rubbery skin that stretches over cartilaginous material; its skin is also strengthened by a layer of tiny, thin bones. Its predators include sharks and killer whales. Females typically lay 80-100 eggs on land above a tidemark; moreover, they can lay eggs on multiple occasions during a single season between late spring and early summer. After incubating for 7-10 weeks, the eggs hatch and the baby turtles crawl toward the sea.

5. The whooping crane is on the verge of extinction, as it has been extensively hunted; moreover, its native marshes in the north-central United States have been drained. At one point, about thirty individuals resided in Canada while wintering in Texas. In contrast, the sand hill crane is the most abundant crane species in the world. It gives a distinctive bugle call; in Florida, it tends to nest in freshwater ponds and marshes.

6. Wayang (Javanese for “shadow”) is a drama form that is based on shadow puppets. Influenced by orthodox religions and ancestor cults, performances are typically accompanied by a gamelan that is comprised of gongs, rebabs and flutes. One example of this art form is the Chalonarang, where a Barang dragon, who represents “life”, battles a witch, Rangda, who represents “death.” In this story, masked followers of Barang threaten Rangda with their knives until they fall into a trance.

7. Denizens of the High Andes (marked by low shrubs) include:

These birds originated in Patagonia at sea level before gradually migrating to higher altitudes over thousands of years. In contrast, denizens of the Pampas (marked by marshlands) include:

These marsh birds are often joined by migratory sandpipers and plovers from North America.

8. The Indian rhino has a single horn that is comprised of a mass of compact hairs; interestingly, its horn is not attached to its skull. It dwells in tall, reedy grasses and wallows in marshes. It is found mainly in reserves in Nepal and the Assam state of India. In contrast, its relative, the Sumatran rhino, has two horns; this endangered species is the smallest of the five extant species of rhinoceros. It dwells in tropical forests at altitudes of up to 3000 feet; it can also employ its two dagger-like lower incisors as weapons.

9. Denizens of the Libyan desert include:

These large, pale ungulates obtain moisture from their food. In this arid region that is characterized by iron-rich sand, rainfall triggers rapid growth of dormant seeds.

10. Belmore Browne advocated the establishment of a national park at Denali; his efforts were rewarded in 1917. One of the most prominent species in Denali (Athabaskan for “High One”) Park is the Dall sheep; males can weigh up to 240 pounds while females can weigh up to 110 pounds. These “thinhorn” sheep live above the tree line to avoid wolves and bears; they feed on grasses, lichens, mosses and shrubs.

11. Pegmatites are formed via a process where mineral elements are highly concentrated in the residual liquid in cooled magma; coarse-grained minerals are then obtained during crystallization of the cooled magma. Some pegmatites consist of large crystals that can weigh up to fifty tons with lengths up to forty feet. Elements that are found in pegmatites include:

12. The denizens of the ancient oceans were intriguing. For example, the Ordovician oceans included the:

The Permian oceans included:

The Cretaceous oceans included ammonites, which were either spiral or straight-shelled; their closest living relative is the chambered nautilus.

The museum is expansive, and one can spend an entire day browsing through its numerous exhibits. I especially enjoyed the exhibits that relied on taxidermists, as they provided realistic depictions of habitats and proportions.

I do not have any quibbles with the museum at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to those who happen to be in the Big Apple.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art October 29, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Arts, History.
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I recently visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The museum presents the history of various societies through the lens of their art.

Here are twelve nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Many natives of Kwangtung migrated to present-day Thailand. They founded several kingdoms, including the:

They also practiced a conservative strain of Buddhism that was influenced by religious practices in Sri Lanka, as Muslim conquests of India marred its reputation as a stronghold of Buddhist orthodoxy.

2. Present-day Burma has been shaped by several kingdoms, including the:

The first king of Burma, Anawrahta, was a devout adherent of Theravada Buddhism. He also subdued the Mon people, enabling the Pagan to control Burma until it was toppled by repeated Mongol invasions.

3. The Srivijaya kingdom was a maritime and commercial power that originated in Palembang. It controlled the strategically vital Strait of Malacca. The early years of its influence overlapped with that of the Shailendra dynasty that controlled Java. The notable Buddhist monument of Borobudur was constructed during the reign of a Shailendra king.

4. The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II rebuilt the city of Calah. His citadel was surrounded by a wall that was five miles long; it covered an area of 900 acres. It was guarded by two large statues; each statue included the features of a human, a bird and a bull. The extant reliefs from the citadel include a depiction of a sacred tree and Akkadian inscriptions; Akkadian was written in cuneiform script (“cuneiform” is derived from a Latin root that means “wedge-shaped”).

5. The Licchavi dynasty in Nepal actually originated in India. It was succeeded by the Thakuri dynasty; later, the Malla dynasty would rule over the Kathmandu Valley. Eventually the Kathmandu Valley was dominated by three city-states: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The Shah dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of Nepal, ruling until 2008.

6. The Chenla kingdom controlled much of present-day Cambodia. Later, Jayavarman II founded the Khmer Empire at Phnom Kulen. One of his successors, Yasovarman I, moved the Khmer capital to a location near Angkor. There, another Khmer ruler, Suryavarman II, constructed Angkor Wat. The Khmer Empire reached its greatest territorial extent under Jayavarman VII, who is often depicted with a protective naga, or snake spirit.

7. The Diadochi warred over Cyprus after the death of Alexander the Great. Eventually, Ptolemy I gained control over that island; he established his capital at Nea Paphos. The Cypriots would later devote themselves to the worship of various deities, including:

After Cyprus became a Roman province, Cicero briefly served as its governor.

8. The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula and The Denial of Saint Peter were the last two paintings of Caravaggio. The former work depicts the Hun siege of Cologne; the titular saint allegedly led eleven thousand virgins in an attempt to lift the siege, yet she was slain by an arrow fired by Attila the Hun. The latter work depicts a woman pointing two accusing fingers at the titular saint; a soldier is also shown pointing a third accusing finger at him.

9. The development of Norwegian art was facilitated by Norway’s declaration of independence from Denmark in 1814. Notable artists in this movement included Johan Christian Dahl and Peder Balke. Dahl’s status as the founder of this movement, though, overshadowed the contributions of Balke for many years. Balke successfully avoided military conscription by leaving his boyhood home for Stockholm. He would later travel to Dresden and study with Dahl. Some of his best paintings were influenced by his visit to the North Cape in Finnmark.

10. Kraters were large vases that often depicted prothesis – the laying out of the body of a deceased person while surrounded by mourners and soldiers in boats and chariots. Kraters exemplify the Geometric style and were often made from terra cotta.

11. The mao, the pi and the jian featured prominently on the battlefields of ancient China. In particular, the jian was optimized for close-range striking and stabbing. The rise of iron production during the Han Dynasty impacted the design and development of these Bronze Age weapons.

12. Inlaid celadon was developed during the Koryo dynasty, where slip was poured into carved clay and fired. During the Choson dynasty, buncheong ware was eventually replaced by porcelain, as it reflected the Confucian virtue of simplicity. The demands of the nobility for porcelain were met by the bunwon kilns near Hanyang.

The museum is expansive, and one can spend an entire day browsing through its numerous exhibits. I especially enjoyed the special exhibit that included a section on warfare during the Qin and Han dynasties; I was impressed by its detailed animal figurines and plethora of ancient weapons.

My only quibble with the museum is that the staff gradually closed the exhibits as the afternoon progressed. It would have been better to allow unrestricted access to the entire museum during its operating hours.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to those who happen to be in the Big Apple.