Super-cool new wing for state museum

November 21, 2011 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.

Mark Twain

What do Superman and science have in common?

Both depend upon finding the truth to solve global challenges.

The new wing of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences includes new research laboratories, hands-on science exhibits, citizen science activities, and the SECU Daily Planet technology theater.

Named in honor of Clark Kent's newspaper, the Daily Planet will link to students and citizens around the state and around the world via cutting-edge visuals and internet connectivity.

The Nature Research Center (NRC) is starting to reveal its true mission, as construction proceeds. Here are some facts about it.

The NRC is an 80,000-square-foot wing of the existing Museum of Natural Sciences, on Jones Street in downtown Raleigh.

Like the museum, the NRC will be free and open to the public year-round.

The theme of the new NRC is " how we know what we know." All exhibits explain how scientists work to solve mysteries that affect our daily lives.

The State Employees' Credit Union Daily Planet is four stories high, and the giant Earth-shaped structure houses a round multimedia theater featuring global science adventures. Awesome footage, ranging from exploration of forest canopies to digging up ancient dinosaur bones, will be broadcast. Schools can attend live presentations, or access recordings through an extensive virtual library.

The NRC also features citizen science, where the public can engage in science affecting our lives. Analyze the water in your local stream? Check out your DNA? Monitor birds in your back yard? Measure black holes in outer space?

Students, classes, citizens, and legislators will be welcome to visit our Investigate Labs to participate in ongoing research. Education staff will help you experience the excitement of discovery.

The new wing features a Science Café is modeled along the lines of a sports bar - except all the TV screens will feature live feeds from science around the world.

The NRC will open in April, with a gala (April 13), and a 24-hour grand opening (April 20-21) Substituting for Superman at the gala as honorary science chairman is Tommy Hilfiger; a Science of Fashion show as well as his philanthropic work on water conservation in Africa will be featured.

Meg Lowman is an N.C. State University professor and forest canopy expert who directs the Nature Research Center, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. Online: www.canopymeg.com.

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