Update on Higgs and Events at Philadelphia’s Esteemed Science Museums

No news on the particle. Sorry. I was referring to the cat. I spent all morning at the University of Pennsylvania Vet School, where poor Higgs was examined and X-rayed. He’s been unable to climb and has experienced some scary looking muscle spasms in his back. The veterinarians suspect a slipped disc, exacerbated by the steroids he takes for his allergies.

Higgs is in good hands at Penn, even though they don’t yet realize they’re working with a famous patient. I brought the laptop but was too nervous to blog from the waiting room.

So, in happier news, February looks like a great month for science lectures. As always seems to happen, the good ones pile up on the same day. Tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb 1) the Academy of Natural Sciences is hosting author Ross MacPhee, who will talk about his book on the race to the South Pole. It starts at 6:30 and it’s free. I have a particular interest in this because I got to go to the South Pole to write a freelance piece. That was back in the late 1990s, during the glory days of science writing when there was travel money and you could hang out with real people and nobody had to stop to "Tweet" anything. 

Exactly one hundred years ago, two teams—one British, the other Norwegian—raced for the honor of being the first humans to stand at the South Pole. Roald Amundsen and his Norwegian team won; Robert Falcon Scott and his companions eventually reached the pole but died on their return to base. What motivated this race for glory on the last place on Earth? What was learned at such a cost? Ross D. E. MacPhee, author of Race to The End: Amundsen, Scott, and the Attainment of the South Pole, presents the story of the conquest of the last great geographical prize on Earth and its modern relevance for science and discovery in Antarctica.

Ross MacPhee is curator of mammals at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Fascinated by the evolution of life on southern continents, MacPhee travels annually to Antarctica to search for fossils of ancient mammals and other vertebrates.

This event is free and open to the public. The author’s book, Race to The End: Amundsen, Scott, and the Attainment of the South Pole,will be available for purchase in the Acadmy Shop.

Read more here.  

Also tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb 1) at 6 pm, the Penn Museum is holding a talk as part of their Great Riddles in Archaeology series. This one is titled “Otzi the Iceman: The Puzzle of a 5,300 Year-Old Alpine Mummy.” You’ll have to pay a small fee for this one: 

In 1991, two German tourists discovered a frozen body emerging from the melting ice of a glacier in the Alps along the Italian-Austrian border. Although it was initially believed to be a modern corpse, it quickly became apparent that the body was quite ancient, mummified naturally in the frozen environment. The discovery set off a frenzy of examinations and testing, as well as a series of disputes about the discovery and ownership of the mummy, and even claims of a "mummy's curse." Nicknamed "Ötzi" after the Ötz Valley in which he was found, the male mummy has been dated to approximately 5,300 years ago. Dr. Thomas Tartaron, Assistant Professor of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania, recounts the story of Ötzi's discovery and subsequent investigation, separating fact from fiction.

Admission: $10 at the door; $5 with advance registration; free for Penn Museum members with advance registration.

Read more here:

I wish I could go to both of these events.