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More than 600 Stepped Into The Past to Support the Future

The Neanderthal Ball Was a Rockin’ Success

Guests partied like a caveman at the Orlando Science Center's Annual Neanderthal Ball on Saturday, November 5. They participated in a “diamond dig” for an authentic half-karat diamond, examined real fossils, and showed off the latest in “caveman couture.” It was a night of prehistoric fun in the dinosaur exhibit and raised $100,000 for the Science Center’s mission to inspire science learning for life.

Not only was the ball filled with fun activities, upscale dining was provided by Stonewood Grill with beverages, including Olive Garden’s fine wines and Orlando Brewing Company’s artisan beers. New event partner Absolut vodka offered a martini bar to move our theme into the Ice Age with a themed area inside the Science Center’s astronomy exhibit.

The Neanderthal Ball is presented by Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. The event continues to serve as one of the Science Center’s biggest friend-raisers of the year.

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More than 1,700 guests of all ages joined the Science Center to celebrate Halloween during the Spooktacular Science Extravaganza on Sunday, October 30. Trick or treating took place on every floor supported by themed activities.

There were strange new creatures that emerged from the NatureWorks lagoon, a giant stilt walker, and chances to decorate your own mask, enjoy facepainting or learn makeup tricks with fake scars and bruises. Guests could even play a round of Bloody Bingo or channel your own mad scientist with demonstrations featuring liquid nitrogen and dry ice.

For those that didn’t want to be scared, but wanted to see someone scary talented, local guitar whiz kid Alex Ivanov played two sets that day in the guitar exhibit.

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Saturday, November 26, 3:00 p.m.

Professor Jim Bell from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University will be presenting Postcards from Mars: Using Rovers to Explore the Mysteries of the Red Planet at our Science on a Sphere exhibit.

In January 2004, NASA successfully landed twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, on Mars, in the most ambitious mission of robotic exploration ever attempted.  Professor Bell is the lead scientist in charge of the rovers’ Pancam color cameras, and has had an amazing front row seat for their photographic and geologic adventures.  In this presentation, Professor Bell will share his favorite images and stories from "inside" mission operations, and describe the major scientific findings made by Spirit for its six year adventure, and by Opportunity during its nearly 8 year mission, which continues to this day.

Professor Bell is also a member of the camera team for the Curiosity rover, NASA's next Mars mission scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral on November 25.  In his presentation, Professor Bell will also share the latest information on the plans for this next exciting Martian roving adventure!


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Astronomers have found the brightest and youngest example yet of a fast-spinning star. This recent discovery has scientists believing that these versions of stars may be more common than they thought. The spinning star is a millisecond pulsar called J1823-3021A and is located inside a conglomeration of stars called a globular cluster which can be found 27,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius.

Pulsars form when the remnants of massive stars from supernova explosions collapse into compact objects made only of particles called neutrons. When  a great mass, like that of our sun’s,  is packed into a space the size of a city, the conserved angular momentum causes the neutron star to spin very quickly and emit a ray of high-energy light that sends out a sweeping beam, much like that of a lighthouse. Because astronomers can only see the beam when it’s pointed at Earth, the light looks as though it is pulsing.

The pulsar emits intense high-energy gamma rays which researchers were able to study using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. According to their findings this particular pulsar is only 25 million years old – a baby for these kinds of stars, who tend to be a billion years old or so!


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Shocking test have made physicists question Albert Einstein’s cardinal rule of physics: nothing is faster than the speed of light. At the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), OPERA, a team of physicists, shot neutrinos out of a particle accelerator and measured how long it took the particles to travel to a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are subatomic particles that have very little mass and can zoom through planets like they were not even there.

It was expected that these particles would be close in speed to light. However, their speed was 60 nanoseconds faster than expected, surprising many scientists. Although a nanosecond seems very small, over a distance of 621 miles, neutrinos would travel about 66 feet farther than light travels in the same time. If this discovery is accurate, it would be “revolutionary”, according to physicist Stephen Parke, because most theorists believe nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

A number of physicists have been skeptical about this finding because it would wreak havoc on scientific theories of cause and effect. Speculation looms that there might be instrument errors among the OPERA team causing these findings to be inaccurate. Louis Striggari, an astrophysicist at Stanford University, said, "There have been several instances where, through no fault of the experimenters, the equipment was not understood as well as it needed to be."

Even the OPERA team is being cautious about their findings allowing others to repeat the experiment. However, over the past month, many different physicists have had trouble repeating the experiment. There have been no concrete findings yet and physicists will continue experimenting with neutrinos.


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While most of us shudder at the thought of hurricane season, there is one colorful ocean dweller that actually benefits from these tropical cyclones. According to Derek Manzello, who studies the life of coral reefs at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Florida, hurricanes can bring up cooler waters from the depths of the ocean and bring aid to coral reefs that are in danger of bleaching. This act of circulating cool water is known as upwelling.

Corals have tiny organisms called Coral Polyps that contain photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae, which provide the coral with food and bright coloring. Coral bleaching takes place when zooxanthellae leave the coral, due to increased water temperatures or other stress factors. Because the coral has no way of feeding itself, it eventually dies. However with the help of hurricanes, water temperatures are brought down and the coral is able to recover in about 1 month.

In 2005, coral reefs in the Caribbean suffered the most damage and bleaching due to very high water temperatures. However, they recovered much faster than nearby reefs. The winds from all of the tropical cyclones that passed within 435 miles of the Florida Reef Tract east of the Florida Keys lowered the surrounding sea surface temperatures by as much as 5.8 degrees F.

Occurences like these are good reminders that, even under the most terrifying circumstances, Mother Nature has a way of finding something good.


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Dolphins are one of the world’s most beloved animals, and now we are introduced to a new species discovered in Australia called Burrunan dolphins. The strangest thing about this discovery is that these dolphins were found in Melbourne, the second most populated city of Australia. After DNA tests were done on these bottlenose dolphin species, scientists were so surprise at the results that they ran the test again.

To their shock, the Burrunan dolphins were genetically very different from the two recognized bottlenose dolphin species. The Burrunan dolphins not only look very different from the other bottlenose species, but they also have a more curved dorsal fin, a stubbier beak, and a unique “tricoloration”- including dark gray, mid gray, and white.

How did researchers miss this species of dolphins for so long? In 1915, the Burrunan dolphins were almost discovered, but scientist concluded that the differences between the common bottlenose dolphins were due to one being a male and the other a female.  As a result of new technology and studies, researchers today were able to provide evidence making a strong case for this new species.

These species are now listed as endangered because there were very few Burrunan dolphins found, approximately 100. Kate Charlton-Robb, a marine biologist at Australia’s Monash University says "Given the small size of the population, it’s really crucial that we make an effort to protect them." Hopefully these beautiful new species of dolphins will be around for a while with the efforts of protecting them.


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777 E. Princeton Street • Orlando, Florida 32803 • Phone: 407.514.2000 • TTY: 407.514.2005 • Toll Free: 888.OSC.4FUN • Email: [email protected]
  Orlando Science Center is supported by United Arts of Central Florida, host of power2give.org/centralflorida and the collaborative Campaign for the Arts.
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