Houston Museum of Natural Science

My parents are in town for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend so we decided to take a trip towards downtown Houston and explore the Museum of Natural Science. My wife and I have yet to explore many of the things downtown has to offer so this was a perfect opportunity.
The museum has a lot of fantastic permanent exhibits and a few limited engagement ones that rotate every couple months. We managed to get through the Ancient Egypt exhibit, the Gems & Minerals, and the Hall of Paleontology which was of course the most badass. We also went through the temporary exhibit of the Lascaux Cave Paintings from France. All in all it was a great day and we saw lots of fantastic things. Below are a few photos I took of our walk through. Some have captions/explanations. If you’re ever in Houston, I highly recommend checking out the Museum District and especially the Museum of Natural Science!

The first gallery we went in to was the Rocks/Gems/Minerals. Of course, my wife being a geologist was in Heaven here. But despite what most people think, rocks are pretty awesome. Not only because they can tell us the history of the planet, but also do some really awesome things on their own. The following minerals were not carved in this cubical shape. The crystal lattice of atoms that makes up the microscopic building blocks of the mineral form that geometrically in nature and grow the same way. It’s no wonder math is the universal language…
Fluorite (this was roughly 10″ on each side)

Pyrite

Stibnite

Microcline (Feldspar) Yes it’s the color for real.

This is Herkimer Diamond – something people from my neck of the woods in upstate New York are familiar with. Interestingly enough, though, they are not actually diamonds. They are tightly compacted Quartz of the purest grade. I couldn’t get a very good photo of it, unfortunately, but this was also one of the largest ones around:

From there we moved on to a few other random exhibits…

I liked this one shot in the Wild Animals exhibit because the severed zebra leg was hysterical. That is all.

Pretty awesome as well the museum has it’s own Foucault’s Pendulum. For those who don’t know it measures how the Earth rotates on it’s axis. It’s incredibly fascinating and I highly recommend Googling it or checking for some videos on Youtube to learn more about it and how it works.

Then we went to the special exhibit containing the cave paintings. Unfortunately we were pretty disappointed – but’s really our own fault. Everything in the exhibit was a replica or plaster/plastic. But it makes sense considering the original cave area is well preserved and protected. They couldn’t literally take the cave walls out and transport them. Instead they laser mapped the walls to create nearly exact replicas of the shapes of the cave walls, and then had professionals copy the cave paintings onto these. The exhibit was a bit of a bust but the cave paintings were neat to see and most of all it’s fascinating to think about living so long ago and doing these things.


From there we toured through the Ancient Egypt gallery -which isn’t stuff I haven’t seen before at other various museums – especially in DC. But it was neat all the same. They had many pieces on loan from Boston as well as a replica of the Rosetta Stone. Plus some nifty mummys and the usual stuff.

If you look hard enough on there I think you can make out a few Stargate addresses….


From Egypt we were even further back in time to the best gallery of the entire museum, the Hall of Paleontology. It was an amazing timeline with fossils ranging all the way back from the Devonian up through the final ages of the dinosaurs we’re all so familiar with. When I was younger I wanted to be a Paleontologist. Let’s face it any young boy who doesn’t say that at some point has something wrong with them.  Dinosaurs are awesome. But let’s not leave out the 3rd most awesome thing about prehistoric fossils: Trilobites!! (You’ll see what the 2nd most awesome is in a second)

Ok the 2nd most awesome thing are Eurypterids! They are so adorable!
It should be noted that these particular Eurypterids are from upstate New York as well, which makes them 10 times more awesome.

Then of course we came to the

The gallery had so much more than we ever thought. It just kept going and going and had much much more than just the average Dinos so many other museums have. I was blown away. Great, great stuff. Here’s some more:
Not your average crocodile. Those jaws….

Here’s our good friend Deinonychus:
Everyone learned from Jurassic Park that the Velociraptors were the most ferocious and frightening dinosaurs around. But when writing the book, Michael Crichton exaggerated the Raptor’s size and stature. He based his raptors in the books (and in the movie) on a close cousin you see about, Deinonychus. Let’s be real – Velociraptor sounds a hell of a lot more scary. But even this Deinonychus wasn’t the 6-7 foot tall monsters portrayed in the movie – they were smaller. Still had hat mega curved claw on the foot though. In reality a Velociraptor was much, much smaller – ranging in size from large chickens to turkeys or vultures. Some scientists have also found evidence that the Velociraptors even had feathers.

Here’s me hanging out with Bucky the Tyrannosaurus Rex

Everyone thinks Sloths are cute and adorable. Well, they are! But, way back when they were slightly…larger…
Interestingly enough, though, the teeth were still flat to grind/chew grass and leaves. They were not predators. Just…big.

Finally, we have the jaws of a Megalodon – the largest thing to ever swim in the prehistoric oceans.
Those aren’t your average shark teeth you’ve seen on the beach or in gift shops. A Megalodon’s teeth are roughly the size of a grown man’s hand. The giant predator grew roughly to about 60 feet long. People these days think the Great White Shark is a monster. Megalodon dwarfs it.

Anyway, that was our trip to Houston’s Museum of Natural Science today. We’ll definitely be going back. If you’re visiting Houston, I’d put it on your to-do list. There’s a $20/adult charge though, but there’s a nice AAA or AARP discount if you’re a member!

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