Stories tagged smm


Remembering Çatalhöyük

Changes at Çatalhöyük
Changes at ÇatalhöyükCourtesy Ziggurat

When I try to recall how long I have been blogging here at Science Buzz, I do a search for my post about Çatalhöyük. Soon after I first started volunteering in 2000, SMM had an exhibit about Çatalhöyük. To develop the exhibit and website several members of the Science Museum staff visited the dig site in Turkey. The 25 year project, now about 75% done, is going to see some changes..

Time for new blood at Çatalhöyük

Head archaeologist, Ian Hodder, in an e-mail notifying staff of their dismissal stated

the project “needs new energy—that is, new questions, new theoretical perspectives, ... new methods.”
“It has been a really remarkable team,” Hodder says. But, “I have felt over recent years that the project was getting comfortable with itself and so not challenging each other or me or the assumptions that we were all taking for granted.” Science Insider

Hodder says he plans to recruit new lab leaders for the next phase of excavations, planned for 2012–18, although he has not yet spelled out what new questions he intends to pursue.

Learn more about Çatalhöyük

Çatalhöyük links and resources


…of climate control systems...

Ever notice the plumes of smoke rising from many buildings, factories, and power plants on a cold day? That smoke is actually water vapor, which still contains usable energy, muahahahaha! Our buildings use lots of energy. Electricity, for example, powers everything from lights to computers to copy machines to coffee makers. Electricity eventually degrades into heat—you can feel that heat coming off of electric appliances. Current building energy management systems expel this excess heat energy instead of using it for other purposes, such as building the ultimate tilt-a-whirl of doom. Dave Solberg, an energy miser and consulting engineer-ahem-secret advisor, wants to change all that using the concept of exergy. He envisions a future where energy is used as efficiently as possible, and he has been working with Xcel Energy and organizations in the St. Paul area to re-engineer buildings.

We all know that mad scientists with plans for world domination need money and power. Well, current climate control systems are expensive to build and operate, and they're bad for the environment. But retrofitting old buildings and creating the infrastructure to support Solberg's systems has a higher up-front cost than following the status quo. If Solberg can demonstrate the effectiveness and cost savings of his plan below at SMM, your regional science museum will become a model for climate control systems all over the world--I mean it will take over the world! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

At Science Museum of Minnesota, Solberg wants to make two big changes in the way we use energy:

Solberg's Plan - Phase 1
Like all large buildings, SMM takes in outdoor air, cools it to dehumidify it, then reheats the air and sends it throughout the building to control the climate. Unlike most buildings, which use giant air conditioners and boilers, SMM uses hot and cold water piped in from Saint Paul District Energy to do that job. You can learn more about District Energy in an outdoor exhibit to the left of SMM's main entrance--and you can see the building right next to us!

District Energy burnin' the biomass
District Energy burnin' the biomassCourtesy Andrew Ciscel

The first change Solberg proposes is to re-use the waste heat that SMM generates from cooling down fresh outside air. Currently, SMM's ventilation system cools outside air down to about 50 degrees F with cold water from District Energy, dehumidifies it, and then reheats that air back up to a comfortable indoor temperature with hot water from District Energy.

Solberg would have us cool the air with cold District Energy water, then use that same water (now warmer) to reheat the air back up to 65 degrees F on its way to the ventilation ducts. This change would eliminate the need to use hot water from DE to reheat air, and it would reduce use our demand on DE’s cooling system, because we would send water back to their chilled water plant at a lower temperature than we currently do.

Solberg's Plan - Phase 2
District Energy makes electricity by burning waste wood. DE then uses the heat energy still available after making electricity to produce hot and cold water, making District Energy 50% more efficient than coal-fired power plants. But at the end of the day, DE has 95-degree F water left over. Right now this excess heat is released into the atmosphere from cooling towers on top of the building (see the plume rising from the building in the image?), but that 95-degree water could meet most of SMMs heating needs. Solberg wants us to tap into that wastewater as our primary heating source, replacing the 180-degree water we currently get from DE. This would put an oft-wasted energy source to work, and it would allow the 180-degree water now being used by SMM to be used elsewhere within DE’s hot water distribution system.

This plan is so good it must be evil. In the long run, if the kinds of changes being pursued by SMM were replicated widely, they would amount to lower emissions and lower energy bills everywhere, which is ultimately healthier for our environment (not that mad scientists care about that sort of thing). In fact, we found out that if we had implemented this system when the current building was constructed, we could have saved $1.5 million in infrastructure (which we could have really used for that giant laser in the--end of message truncated--


Oldest string found

Fibers found in a cave have been carbon dated to 34,000 years ago. Some of the fibers were twisted, indicating they were used to make ropes or strings. Others had been dyed. Learn more by clicking this link: Archaeologists Discover Oldest-known Fiber Materials Used By Early Humans ( via Science Daily).

Making string and rope at SMM

I volunteer in the Science Museum of Minnesota's Collections Gallery. I often watch Mary Johnson demonstrate spinning wool into string and Dick Enstead spinning string into rope.


MN Energy Challenge: Website here.

We need an intervention

Confronting an addict about their behavior usually doesn't have much impact. An intervention done by someone with a position of authority might. A successful intervention for those addicted to oil might resemble "treatment" and a "12-step program".

  • Overcome their denial.

    When the oil addict claims "I am not hurting anyone when I choose to waste energy," they should be made aware that depleting cheap and plentiful oil will result in scarcity and higher prices for future generations. The struggle to control oil resources will also continue to result in bloodshed.

  • Offer solutions and programs enabling recovery.

    Provide educational programs or "steps" that will eliminate abusive use of energy. Put on a sweater instead of cranking up the thermostat. Choose transportation that uses less gasoline. One means of learning "steps to recovery" is accepting the "Energy Challenge" (explained in this previous post).

  • Give incentives and recognition for appropriate behaviors.

    Governments could give rebates and tax credits for generating or using renewable energy.

  • Mandate consequences for abusive energy consumption.

    Again, governments could penalize those who refuse to clean up their act.

Change a bulb. Change the world.

To change the world, start with yourself. If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent, we would save over $500,000,000 each year. That is a lot of fuel that can be left in the ground for future generations.

Join our SMM team.

When you sign up for the the Energy Challenge you can assign your energy savings to three teams. Minneapolis has pulled ahead of Saint Paul. The Science Museum of Minnesota is currently one of the top four business teams because individuals are taking steps to save energy.


Iron pyrite: Photo by Art Oglesby
Iron pyrite: Photo by Art Oglesby

Best mineral ID website

We get a variety of rocks, minerals, and crystals from traders at SMM's Collector's Corner. Sometimes we need reference books or use the internet to identify specimens. has the most comprehensive mineral image library on the web. Their pictures of over 2,700 different species represents 60% of all known minerals. This mineral database contains 4,442 individual mineral species.
To differentiate minerals, several properties need to be identified.

The section on crystallography has a tool that allows you to see crystals from any angle by using the computer mouse. Another section gives chemical composition, or to see all minerals that contain a certain element. The search tool allows one to enter several properties with the most relevant finds placed first in the results.

Another Collector's Corner

The "Collectors Corner" of the Mineralogical Society of America features an excellent, on-line, mineral identification key by Alan Plante, Donald Peck, & David Von Bargen. Their identification key is also based on simple mineralogical tests such as luster, hardness, color and physical description for the most common minerals an individual is likely to encounter.