The fourth video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on the galactic center alignment. Some people think that the Earth, our Solar System and the center of the Milky Way Galaxy will align and the resulting gravitational forces from the black hole in the center of the galaxy will destroy the Earth. Once again, this 2012-doomsday scenario has a lot of scientific evidence against it. Check it out and find out why it won’t happen and even if it did, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

The Truth Behind 2012: Galactic Center Alignment

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

15 Jul 2010
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We’ve been recruiting museums, parks and other sites all around North Carolina to host activities during the first-ever North Carolina Science Festival, scheduled Sept. 11-26.

So far, the schedule is pretty impressive. We’re aiming for 100 unique activities and events, and we’re getting close.

But we may have just scored the biggest event possible for this year. Adam and Jamie, the hosts of the Discovery Channel’s popular MythBusters TV show, are coming to do a special program at UNC. And people are thrilled.

From the moment we posted the news on our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed, the excitement became building. It’s going to be a big event, so big that it’ll be in the Smith Center (aka basketball heaven, most years) on UNC’s campus.

Tickets are limited. In fact, since the stage set-up is in the middle of the floor, rather than at the end, we’ll only have access to fewer than one-half of the seats. We don’t know if it will sell out, but as a safeguard in case it does, we’ve set up a way for Morehead members to buy tickets early through a special presale opportunity.

If you’re already a Morehead member, you’ll get information about the presale through e-mail (be sure the membership office has your e-mail address!). If you aren’t a member yet, this could be a really good time to join. And you’ll get to enjoy all of the other membership benefits (free admission to fulldome planetarium shows, gift shop discounts and more) throughout the year.

So join. Come see Adam and Jamie. And check out all of the other cool activities during the NC Science Festival. It just keeps getting more amazing!

What myths have you busted lately? (Keep it family-friendly, please!)

The third video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on the planetary alignment. Some people think that the planets of our Solar System will align and the resulting gravitational forces will damage our Sun. Once again, this 2012-doomsday scenario has a lot of scientific evidence against it. Check it out and find out why the planets won’t be aligning and, even if they did, it wouldn’t cause a disaster.

The Truth Behind 2012: Planetary Alignment

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

Oil Spill

Oil is clearly visible on the water surface in this satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico (from NASA). But how much oil might be collecting below the water surface?

It’s a familiar refrain for many children learning math in school: “Why do we need to know this stuff?” Dr. Richard McLaughlin, a mathematics professor at UNC Chapel Hill, answered that question at the July Current Science Forum. Speaking to a sizeable crowd, Dr. McLaughlin showed how a team of researchers at UNC are using math to tackle important questions related to a topic which has captured international attention since April: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

One of those questions centers on the issue of underwater plumes: we can see the oil slick on the water surface, but is it possible that there is an even greater amount of oil underwater? Dr. McLaughlin and Dr. Roberto Camassa, also at UNC, are using the science of fluid dynamics to shed some light on this. The Gulf of Mexico, like most large bodies of water, does not have a uniform density, Dr. McLaughlin explained. The oil shooting out from the damaged pipe is hot, and coming out at high pressure. Using a water tank, Dr. McLaughlin demonstrated how such conditions may create a cloud of oil trapped beneath the surface of the gulf.

Next Dr. McLaughlin showed how his team is taking a simple mathematical idea – the parabolic formula – and using it to estimate how many barrels of oil are escaping from the leak each day. The team is using the BP Spill Cameras to fit a parabolic curve onto the leak, then applying mathematical formulas to obtain a flow rate. Using this method, they estimated the flow rate to be around 70-80,000 barrels per day – a number that is far higher than BP’s initial estimates and similar to the latest government-released figures.

If you missed the forum, you can still watch the water tank demonstration and an interview that Dr. McLaughlin and Dr. Camassa gave on a KBZK newscast - both are available on YouTube. Stay tuned to the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center homepage for information about upcoming Current Science Forum events.

Casey Rawson is the Science Content Developer for Science 360.

Here’s our next video in the Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series. In this one, we’re focusing on the “end of the Maya calendar.” Does the Mayan “Long Count” calendar mark the end of a 5,126-year era and herald an apocalypse? As with the other 2012-doomsday scenarios, the Mayan calendar claim has a good deal of scientific evidence against it. Check it out and find out why the real Maya will probably not be hiding in caves, but throwing a party.

The Truth Behind 2012: Mayan Calendar

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager. He will be partying like it's 5126. Yes, Prince will be there.