Archive | February, 2016

Woodpeckers: Go Nuts for Nuts

Acorn Woodpeckers are nature’s food hoarders. As the name might suggest these woodpeckers are obsessed with acorns! Much of their time is devoted to eating or storing (hoarding) acorns. But these birds take storing to an extreme level. In their efforts to store as many acorns as possible Acorn Woodpeckers tend to pick an ideal location. To these woodpeckers, any nice wooden area or structure may be the perfect “granary.”

Woodpecker's have interesting social behaviors

Woodpecker’s have interesting social behaviors

Most of the time these granaries or pantries will be used for communal feasting. In fact in Arizona, a group of Acorn Woodpeckers collected 485 lbs of acorns and stored them in a wooden water tank! These birds are not afraid to use man-made structures for their storage and have become quite a nuisance by drilling holes into fences and utility poles. But even when they use trees for their storage they usually don’t do much damage! Part of that is because their timing, when they store their acorns, is usually during winter when trees have thicker bark, which keeps them safe from drilling woodpeckers.

Not only are they nutty about their acorns, but they have also been known to store hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, and almonds in individually drilled holes. Once they have stored their food they will continue to reuse the old holes and will periodically check on they acorns and move them around as needed.

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The Language of Flowers: A Valentine’s Day Tradition

Even though Valentine’s Day has recently passed us by, every year as Valentine’s Day approaches the stores are becoming increasingly stocked with large red and pink hearts, chocolates and. . . flowers! We hope everyone had a lovely Valentine’s Day with someone special with family members, good friends or a “sweet heart.”

Flowers communicate so many things

Flowers can communicate so much more than just beauty.

Valentine’s Day is a holiday we Americans celebrate with incredible gusto every year, with lavish gifts, chocolates. . . and flowers. But how do you know what kinds of flowers to get? Is it random? Do you pick their favorite flower? Do you know their favorite flower? Do flowers even matter? If you are asking yourself any of these questions, it is not too late. When stress is running at an all-time high for making a “perfect day” a very comforting and traditionally special gift is flowers. Continue Reading →

Film Review: National Parks is Quite the Adventure!

3D Screening of National Parks

3D Screening of National Parks

Famous naturalist and nature enthusiast John Muir once said “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” Nature is a wonderful unifier of people from all walks of life, because whether you climb a mountain or look up at the stars you are reminded of how big and beautiful the world is and how very unique you are in that big world.

A few weeks ago our nonprofit director and his assistant were able to experience this same feeling of awe and wonder when they were invited to attend a special reception and preview screening of the film entitled “National Parks Adventure 3D” at the IMAX theater in Los Angeles. The film itself highlights the vast wonders of 40 of our 400 amazing National Parks here in the United States.  Director Greg MacGillivray was there to explain some of the details and thoughts they had when making this amazing film. He and his staff chose to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the US National Park Service by documenting and filming spectacularly wild and beautiful places, such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Everglades, Redwoods, Arches National Park and many more.
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An American Icon Hopefully Here to Stay

One of the great symbols of Americana and national pride is the mighty bald eagle, our national animal and national bird. But the history of the bald eagle in the United States has been as complicated as the “American Dream.” The bald eagle was chosen as the nation bird and has since made it’s way onto our coins, our seals and into our hearts. Contrary to popular belief, Benjamin Franklin was not known to have publicly nominated the turkey to be the national bird, but his observations of the bald eagle were very counter to the Society of the Cincinnati  who supported the eagle as a national symbol:

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

For my own part. I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly … besides he is a rank coward: The little king bird not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district” – Benjamin Franklin
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California Science Center Special Edition: The Challenger Investigation

Since our foundation annually grants to the California Science Center Foundation, we get invited to educational Lunch and Learn events during the year. Because January 28, 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy, we attended such an event held in honor of the memory of the crew and their brave dedication to space exploration. The featured speaker was Dennis R. Jenkins who worked as a contractor to NASA for more than 30 years and is now the Project Director of the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center project at the Science Center. He is based in Florida so commutes back and forth to California. He provided an insider’s perspective on the cause of this terrible accident and explained what was learned so future flights would be improved.

Dennis Jenkins speaking about the Challenger

Dennis Jenkins speaking about the Challenger

Mr. Jenkins showed images via a PowerPoint presentation. You might recall that the space shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff and 7 Americans died on board. He said that some parts of the Challenger were recovered from the ocean after the accident. This tragedy put the shuttle program on hold for almost three years. The Rogers Commission looked at both the films of the liftoff and the debris found and surmised that the accident was due to a field joint with a defective design. There was a leak. In addition, there was wind shear during the ascent. It was also discussed that cold may have had some effect on the o-rings. Another factor was that those managing the flight were not willing to stop the launch. The solid rocket motor was responsible for the accident and not the rocket booster. Pressure built up in the motor during the first 600 milliseconds after ignition causing joint rotation. Continue Reading →