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Getting a Positive Charge HMNS’ revamped Welch Hall of Chemistry explores the natural sciences through the lens of chemistry, opens to public on Nov. 18[11/18/2013]


BY Alex Wang [ November 09, 2013 at 11:12:06 ]


HOUSTON—The Houston Museum of Natural Science opens its newly revamped Welch Hall of Chemistry to tell the story of the life in the universe as seen through the lens of chemistry utilizing modern technology, rather than as the sometimes demure, formulaic discipline that is traditionally presented.

“In the ongoing process of building a bigger and better science museum for the city of Houston and beyond, we are excited to open the new Welch Hall of Chemistry, coupling diverse topics with new and interactive technology,” said Joel A. Bartsch, president of HMNS. “We are taking patrons out of the textbook and into a dynamic, real-world setting.”

About the New Hall

Measuring two and a half times bigger than the previous exhibition, visitors leave the new permanent exhibition understanding the origins of the Universe and the elements, career potential in chemistry, and the profound and interesting role of chemistry in the natural world.

From the ground-breaking discoveries of John Dalton to Marie Curie to the “Father of Modern Chemistry” himself, Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, the field of chemistry has historically been a staple in the scientific community. And with the advancements made in the research of subatomic particles, along with new elements being discovered within the vastness of the universe, chemistry plays a role in knowing where we are headed. The show investigates many of these important topics so patrons get a better understanding of these critical areas of ongoing research.

HMNS features a variety of technology in the exhibition. Custom built touch screens were made in-house, and the largest of these allows several users to simultaneously explore our universe and the origins of all matter with the wave of a hand in lieu of a computer mouse.

Additional interactives allow patrons to assemble their own molecules using hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms, the building blocks of many organic compounds. In a section focusing on the stars, a large custom multi-touch screen lets the visitor see in-depth how the elements that are all around us have been forged in the centers of massive stars. The Periodic Table is being re-presented as a map of all of the building blocks of the universe. Instead of simply a cluster of squares, the table permits you to experiment with what different elements can do. A computer-based periodic table illustrates how chemical reactions happen by mixing elements together, right on the table.

Another topic on display includes Joseph Conway’s famous Game of Life. A new take on this classic game gives guests a better understanding of how something complex emerges from simple rules. Additional topics, literally at hand, include the powers of 10 where patrons use gestures to navigate from the smallest subatomic particles, to the DNA in their bodies, to the expanse of the observable universe. In the science of bioluminescence, guests catch a firefly and see the chemical secrets of its glow.

Patrons can further investigate many related topics as potential career options in lab settings, by observing how chemists continue to explore our world. For example, scientists from local universities like Rice, as well as from various hospitals like Baylor College of Medicine, showcase Houston’s cutting edge research; the future of nanotechnology is discussed, and the new materials and devices that may be created; and cancer’s effect on the body and the research done to help treat it is also explained.

The Welch Hall of Chemistry has been funded by The Welch Foundation.

The new Welch Hall of Chemistry opens on November 8 to members and November 18 to the public, and is a part of the Museum’s permanent exhibit halls. For ticket prices or more information on the permanent exhibitions visit our website at www.hmns.org or call (713) 639-4629.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science—one of the nation’s most heavily attended museums—is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.

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