tracks & trek

Big things are ahead this summer at the Museum of Science and History. MOSH will host an exhibit called “A T. rex Named Sue” featuring the world’s largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever discovered. The exhibit runs through September 23.
Beginning Memorial Day weekend, the lobby will be transformed into a crime scene. Visitors will discover dozens of wooden crates that were used to deliver the replica of the dinosaur on loan from the Field Museum in Chicago. It took three tractor trailer trucks to haul the massive, 12-foot skeleton. The rib cage alone weighs in at an estimated 2,000 lbs.
Dinosaur tracks will lead visitors to the second-floor exhibit featuring a fossil dig pit, video footage, and interactive models of Sue’s jaws that demonstrate their massive strength when slamming down on prey. Guests will also be able to touch models of a T. rex arm, rib bone, tail and teeth.
“She is a monster. Sue is the centerpiece of this exhibit and we are really happy to share it with our visitors,” says Director of Operations and Curator Christy Leonard. “Sue has a fascinating history. The science behind Sue is groundbreaking. Her completeness alone has allowed the scientific community to make all sorts of discoveries.”
The nearly complete skeletal remains of the T. rex were discovered in South Dakota during a commercial fossil expedition in 1990. Fossil hunter and Sue’s namesake, Sue Hendrikson, unearthed the remains, which date back an estimated 65 million years.
Sue’s skeleton is approximately 90 percent intact, missing only one foot, one arm and a few ribs and vertebrae. Only four other partial T. rex skeletons have been unearthed that contain just 60 percent of their original bones.
While Hendrikson was credited with finding Sue, ownership of the skeleton was granted to the landowner since the discovery occurred on privately-owned land in the Hell Creel Formation near Faith, SD. The owner decided to put the skeleton up for auction in 1997, which scared the scientific community because they feared it would not be available for study. The Field Museum purchased the fossil for $8.4 million, setting the world record for both the most complete T. rex skeleton and the highest price ever paid for a fossil.
The museum will also sponsor Sci-Fi Day from 10 am to 6 pm on June 23 with planetarium programs, special presentations, children’s activities and original memorabilia from Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars and more. Visitors can receive $1 off admission by coming dressed as their favorite fantasy or science fiction character on Sci-Fi Day.
Memorabilia from some of science fiction’s most treasured films and television shows will be on display during Sci-Fi Day. Visitors can sit in Captain Kirk’s Chair at the helm of the Enterprise, see a model of Flash Gordon’s rocket and mix with a hodgepodge of Klingons, Vulgans and Star Wars characters.
Planetarium director Thomas Webber said the idea of hosting a Sci-Fi Day began to take shape last December. It grew from what used to be just a few tables to an all-day event with science fiction clubs from across the southeast in attendance.
Webber says the purpose of the event is the celebration of science and imagination in all its forms. “The point of the day, for me, is to celebrate and acknowledge how this genre of fiction has inspired people and how science fiction affects society,” Webber says. For some, science fiction might have paved the way for a career as an astronaut or scientist. To others, inspiration may evolve in a more creative direction like it did for directors George Lucas of the Star Wars films or James Cameron, who created Avatar.
Whether you prefer Star Trek to Star Wars, Sci-Fi Day will have something for everyone. A series of interactive presentations will be held throughout the day, tackling such subjects as the physics of science, the definition of science fiction and the ability to utilize a warp drive.
At 11 am, Dr. Mike Reynolds of FSCJ will present “Science Fiction and Society” followed by “The Science of Star Trek: Distances, Velocities and Warp Drive” presented at 1 pm by Webber. Senior Planetarium Educator Brett Jacobs will present “Science Fiction and the Stars” at 2 pm.
Special planetarium shows will also be screened throughout the day. Dynamic Earth will be shown at noon and is narrated by Liam Neeson, who played Star Wars Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn. Stars will follow at 3 pm and is narrated by Mark Hamill, also of Star Wars fame. At 4 pm Ewan McGregor narrates the screening of Astronaut. McGregor played young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel.
For Webber, science fiction is not just about stars and spaceships. It’s the intersection of science and the imagination that keeps us wanting more but “the real trick is making sure the Star Trek and Star Wars fans play nice.”