Stormtroopers, Ghostbusters invade Carnegie Science Center, plus more news


Star Wars, Ghostbusters to clash at Carnegie Science Center Friday night


Carnegie Science Center’s next adults-only night will uncover the science behind science fiction. The event, 21+ SciFi, will be held on Friday, April 24, from 6-10 p.m.

Stormtroopers from Garrison Carida (a chapter of the 501st Legion), members of the Rebel Legion, and members of the Steel City Ghostbusters will mingle with guests. The Pittsburgh Ecto-1, a replica of the ghost busting hearse, and the Steel City Time Machine will be on-site, making a great photo opportunity. Visitors can even make ectoplasm!

The feature film Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey, will play in the Science Stage. After the movie, resident astrophysics expert and Buhl Planetarium Director Dr. Brendan Mullan will discuss the movie and answer questions.

The live demonstration show “Frankenscience” will feature the Science Center’s large Tesla coil, a one-million volt display of light and sound. The show focuses on the origins of science fiction, starting with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

As always, 21+ Night features the chance to experience four floors of hands-on exhibits – with no kids! Exhibits include SpacePlace, roboworld, and the Miniature Railroad & Village. Cash bars are located throughout the building, and snacks are available for purchase.

Local bluegrass band “Lonesome Lost & Foggy” will perform in the Robot Lounge.

Cost is just $10 for tickets purchased by Noon the day of the event or $15 if purchased at the door.

For a few dollars more, visitors can watch an Omnimax movie on Pittsburgh’s biggest screen or catch a laser show in the Buhl Planetarium.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit the official website.


Allegheny Health Network executive joins Carnegie Science Center board

Carnegie Science Center announced that Kathleen K. McKenzie will join its board, according to a press release. McKenzie is the Vice President of Community and Civic Affairs at Allegheny Health Network.

McKenzie supports Allegheny Health Network’s external affairs by providing strategic management of civic and community relations. She is responsible for the system’s compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s Community Health Needs Assessment. McKenzie leads the integration and alignment of the provider side community affairs function with Highmark Health.

“Carnegie Science Center and Highmark SportsWorks have special places in my life as a Pittsburgh parent,” McKenzie said in a statement. “From the many birthday parties we attended to the ‘day at the Science Center’ visits with my daughters, the experiences enriched our lives and sparked an interest in science we share as a family together. I’m proud to join a board whose mission it is to continue to make science accessible to all.”

In addition to the Science Center’s board, she currently serves on boards of the Pennsylvania Economy League, the International Women’s Forum, The Ellis School, and Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women in Politics.


Buhl Planetarium director part of alien project

Dr. Brendan Mullan, Carnegie Science Center’s resident astrophysics expert and Buhl Planetarium director, was part of a team of scientists who searched 100,000 galaxies for signs of highly advanced extraterrestrial life. The team of scientists used observations from NASA’s WISE orbiting observatory, and they found no evidence of advanced civilizations in those galaxies.

The research team’s first paper about its Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey (G-HAT), was recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. Also among the team’s discoveries are some mysterious new phenomena in our own Milky Way galaxy.

“This research is a significant expansion of earlier work in this area,” said Mullan, a member of the G-HAT team, in a statement. “The only previous study of civilizations in other galaxies looked at only 100 or so galaxies, and wasn’t looking for the heat they emit. This is new ground.”

Jason T. Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, conceived and initiated the research.

“The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonized by an advanced spacefaring civilization, the energy produced by that civilization’s technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths — exactly the radiation that the WISE satellite was designed to detect for other astronomical purposes,” Wright said.

Wright added: “Whether an advanced spacefaring civilization uses the large amounts of energy from its galaxy’s stars to power computers, space flight, communication, or something we can’t yet imagine, fundamental thermodynamics tells us that this energy must be radiated away as heat in the mid-infrared wavelengths. This same basic physics causes your computer to radiate heat while it is turned on.”

Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson proposed in the 1960s that advanced alien civilizations beyond Earth could be detected by the telltale evidence of their mid-infrared emissions. It was not until space-based telescopes like the WISE satellite that it became possible to make sensitive measurements of this radiation emitted by objects in space.

In any case, Wright said, the team’s non-detection of any obvious alien-filled galaxies is an interesting and new scientific result.

“Our results means that, out of the 100,000 galaxies that WISE could see in sufficient detail, none of them is widely populated by an alien civilization using most of the starlight in its galaxy for its own purposes. That’s interesting because these galaxies are billions of years old, which should have been plenty of time for them to have been filled with alien civilizations, if they exist. Either they don’t exist, or they don’t yet use enough energy for us to recognize them,” Wright said.

Mullan added: “The implications of this work are profound. It’s actually not that difficult to take over an entire galaxy, once you’ve figured out spaceflight. Our results might mean that no one out there has tried to colonize their home galaxies (including our own), or that these kinds of super-advanced civilizations are exceedingly rare, or that it’s impossible to do it at all. With all the planets orbiting hundreds of billions of stars in each of these 100,000 galaxies, why wasn’t there at least one extraterrestrial civilization that managed to spread out over its galaxy?”

The team included Jason Wright, Steinn Sigurdsson, and Roger Griffith at Penn State University, and Jessica Maldonado and Matthew Povich at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

The G-HAT survey was supported by a New Frontiers in Astronomy and Cosmology grant, funded by the John Templeton Foundation.




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