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  • 2009 February | BEYONDbones
    Legacy Published by Dirk on February 26 2009 at 5 19 pm in Lucy s Legacy 5 The model of Lucy created for the Lucy s Legacy exhibition Photo by reality photography The Lucy s Legacy exhibit was reviewed in early February by a representative of the Seattle based Discovery Institute which promotes Creationism and Intelligent Design In the following paragraphs I would like to add my observations to the statements found in this review Let me start with a few general remarks First a favorite approach by Creationists is to cast doubt on the subject of evolution particularly human evolution and to drive a wedge between faith and science This policy known as the Wedge Document is publicly acknowledged by the Discovery Institute as being theirs Second a favorite approach of Creationist writers is to represent issues in stark black and white terms The 2000 word document is sprinkled with terms that drive the message home the study of human evolution fails as a belief system the evidence is scarce and the interpretations fast and loose and not widely accepted Moreover some of the evidence is misrepresented The writer of the document stated that there is a paucity of actual hard evidence for human evolution An interesting statement but one which considering the presence of an actual fossilized hominin fossil fails itself to carry any water What harder evidence can one want but for an authentic fossil I wonder The same author also quotes a statement that unless more fossils are recovered there is likely to be a continuing debate on Lucy s posture Two thoughts come to mind here It is always good to have more fossil evidence In fact for years paleoanthropologists have continued to find fossils every year Our database of fossilized early humans continues to grow courtesy of an ongoing scientific effort This growing database has led to the formulation of answers to old questions while at the same time giving rise to new questions which we need to answer That is the essence of scientific research it is a never ending quest for better insights in what we can observe These statements using the terms paucity and until more fossils are recovered are misleading One wonders if the author knows that the remains of 300 Australopithecus afarensis individuals are known to the scientific community making Lucy and her kind the best known of all of early human ancestors photo credit ideonexus Turkana Boy Another lament found in the document is the incompleteness of her i e Lucy s skeleton The author continues only 40 was found and very little useful material from Lucy s skull was recovered I suppose one could say that everything is in the eye of the beholder Of course 50 or more would have been even better However another way of referring to Lucy and the preservation of her skeleton is that it is amazing that so much was preserved considering she died more than 3 million years ago Factually

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/2009/02/ (2016-02-12)
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  • 2009 March | BEYONDbones
    museum sometimes can be as well I am not just talking about the different exhibits we currently have at the museum but also what is going on at the museum behind the scenes I have often thought that one of the taglines associated with the museum should be never a dull moment Here is why I think that would be particularly appropriate consider Tuesday February 24 2009 On that day a crew of museum people as well as representatives from museums in Mongolia and Russia were busy putting the final touches to the Genghis Khan exhibit That day we also received the Mongolian ambassador to the US H E Ambassador Khasbazaryn Bekhbat who was traveling to Houston for the formal opening of the exhibit two days later Accompanying him was the second secretary of the Mongolian embassy Dawadash Sambuu In the weeks leading up to the opening of the exhibit he had been very busy working in Houston helping with the set up of the show Representing the Hermitage Museum Dr Mikhail Piotrovsky flew in from St Petersburg Russia that day as well Also on February 24 the museum hosted a lecture as part of the year long Darwin celebrations Joining us that day was Dr Francisco Ayala He came in to talk about his research into evolution Dr Ayala a recipient of the National Medal of Science recently published a book on this subject entitled Darwin s gift to science and religion In a well attended lecture in the museum s IMAX movie theater Dr Ayala carefully explained his reasons why science and faith can go hand in hand Dr Ayala took time to meet with High School students from the Houston area who are participating in the museum s Young Scholars program In a closed meeting preceding his talk Dr Ayala explained how he got interested in his field of study and what one needs to do in order to achieve what he did On February 24 the museum hosted Mongolian diplomats a Russian museum official and a Spanish born geneticist While this kind of line up does not happen every day it does occur often enough to warrant what I wrote earlier never a dull moment at HMNS Posted in Anthropology Tagged ambassadors darwin Darwin celebration darwin day Genghis Khan Genghis Khan exhibit hermitage Museum HMNS mongolia Night at the Museum Night at the Museum 2 Russia Young Scholars program Leave a reply 100 Years 100 Objects Elbaite on Quartz Published by Joel on March 30 2009 at 1 12 pm in Gems Minerals Reply The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now For this yearlong series our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts one for each year of our history Check back here frequently to learn more

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/2009/03/ (2016-02-12)
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  • 2009 April | BEYONDbones
    the Houston Zoo Now every week I have a nice walk down to that part of Hermann Park to enjoy these trees and every time I go it s a different adventure photo credit emills1 A handsome Wood Duck Today I thought I would take my camera and document some of the great things I saw vibrant wildflower plants amazing wildlife and people enjoying a beautiful day It s a really nice way to get out of the office and I always look forward to what I ll see I love all kinds of wildlife not just bugs of course Hermann Park is filled with so many different species especially birds many of which are ducks The wood duck is just one of the most beautiful I ve seen Their colors are amazing and they have such a distinguished look These ducks nest in trees near water sources The ducklings jump out of the nest falling several feet to the ground without being hurt Many people consider them the most beautiful water bird and I can see why This duck was not shy with the camera photo credit emills1 Great Blue Heron Another bird that I am always happy to see is the Great Blue Heron The first time I saw one of these take flight I was so impressed They are huge birds but are so graceful and delicate Seeing these majestic birds completely makes me forget that I m in the middle of the 4th largest city in the United States There were two of them today hiding behind tall plants in the water Luckily one came out of hiding for me My visits have become even more special recently with the beginning of spring Dragonflies and butterflies have taken to the air Aquatic insects dart around the surface of the ponds feeding fish tadpoles and baby turtles The babies are my very favorite part of spring I ve been lucky enough to encounter several ducklings on my last couple of visits Their numbers have decreased but the surviving ducklings are getting bigger and depending less on their mothers I saw one today swimming by itself looking for food It s still pretty fuzzy and cute photo credit emills1 A duckling how precious photo credit emills1 I was also able to photograph a dragonfly If you ve ever tried you know it can be very frustrating They scare so easily and it s so hard to get up close The key is definitely patience Dragonflies are very territorial and will always come back to the same perch or one near it If you keep at it you will be able to catch a couple of shots of one Once I had gathered enough food for my insects and lollygagged around enough I started to make my way back to work but not without seeing the very familiar adorable face of a squirrel I ve always loved squirrels for their cuteness and fun loving personalities They definitely have a

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  • 2009 May | BEYONDbones
    lent themselves well to graphs and simple statistical analysis Olga received a well deserved A for her paper Olga became so fond of her spiders that she kept one as a pet after the experiment had concluded She donated the other three to the Cockrell Butterfly Center Science is not Olga s only interest She also enjoys art especially painting playing classical guitar and sports such as volleyball And starting next fall she will be a student in the History Department at the University of Texas at Austin Posted in Plants Insects Tagged bugs butterflies discovery channel fun science projects HMNS insects jumping spiders spiders Leave a reply Vulcan Caprica Tatooine Published by James on May 27 2009 at 10 06 am in Astronomy 2 The idea that other life bearing worlds are out there continues to fire our imaginations as attested by the success of the recently opened Star Trek movie and by the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica series which concluded earlier this spring In 1995 astronomers identified the first exoplanet around the star 51 Pegasi nicknamed Bellerophon Since then we ve found over 300 planets around other stars For many years though we were finding only hot Jupiters gas giants extremely close to the host star such as Bellerophon These are not logical places to search for Mr Spock or for that matter any kind of life as we know it However the search for extra solar planets or exoplanets planets around stars other than our Sun is now entering a new phase As we refine our methods and our tools we are at last beginning to find planets much smaller than Jupiter approaching Earth in size And we re starting to find some planets in the habitable zones of stars regions where the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for life Although we don t really expect to find another Vulcan or Caprica two recent announcements can give us some insight into how the search is done In April astronomers announced the discovery of Gliese 581 e the fourth planet found around the star Gliese 581 At around two Earth masses this is the least massive planet ever found outside our solar system Astronomers also announced that Gliese 581 d the third planet found in the system is within the star s habitable zone A would designate the star itself the planets are b c d and e This is star 581 in Wilhelm Gliese s Gliese Catalogue of Nearby Stars an effort to list all stars less than 25 parsecs from the Sun Gliese 581 is about 20 light years away located in the constellation Libra Astronomers found Gliese 581 s planets using the radial velocity method Perhaps you are familiar with the Doppler effect in which a sound changes in frequency when a source that had been approaching begins to move away We see the same effect with receding and approaching sources of light When a light source is receding from us the wavelength of its light gets longer and therefore redder When a light source is approaching the wavelength of its light gets shorter and therefore bluer The spectra of stars show dark absorption lines indicating wavelengths of light absorbed by gases in the star By observing these lines over time we see that some stars show a slight redshift then a slight blueshift then a slight redshift Such a periodic variation indicates that the star is being tugged by something orbiting it The size and period of the tug gives us an idea of the tugger s mass A mass much less than our Sun and comparable instead to Jupiter indicates a planet To understand how hard it is to find Earth sized planets this way imagine if a crewman on Galactica had to find Earth with this method Our observer needs to see an entire oscillation to recognize the periodic tug of a planet so s he must observe the Sun for a full year Earth s entire orbital period to detect our planet Further Jupiter s tug on our Sun overwhelms Earth s by about a factor of 12 Any distant observer studying our own Sun s radial velocity would probably notice only Jupiter s influence on our Sun And that would take about 12 years of observing since Jupiter takes about that long to orbit the Sun Finally the observer needs to see our solar system roughly edge on such that planets tug the Sun towards and away from the observer Fortunately for Starbuck et al Galactica has access to much better technology than we do today Gliese581 is type M3V Here V is the Roman numeral five representing the fifth luminosity class which is the main sequence of stars that includes our Sun M3 indicates a reddish star significantly smaller and cooler than our Sun In particular Gliese 581 has less than one third our Sun s mass and is more than 2000K 3600 o F cooler than our Sun Therefore the habitable zone around Glises 581 is much closer to the star than ours is to our Sun Gliese 581 d orbiting in that zone orbits once in 67 Earth days Although Gliese 581 e takes only about 3 days to orbit its star once is the planet closest to Earth s mass we have yet identified The Gliese 581 system brings us closer to finding planets like ours and to understanding solar systems like our own Hubble Telescope Photo credit Xaethyx Just days ago May 13 NASA announced that its Kepler telescope launched March 6 is ready to begin observations This is NASA s first mission capable of finding Earth sized and smaller planets around stars other than our Sun Unlike the Hubble telescope which orbits Earth this telescope is in orbit around the Sun It is roughly at Earth s distance from the Sun but on an orbit where it lags slightly more behind Earth s position as time passes After 4 years Kepler

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/2009/05/ (2016-02-12)
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  • 2009 June | BEYONDbones
    miles across photo credit fdecomite It turns out that the biggest sunspots are noticeable to the naked eye when the Sun is low to the horizon or seen through mist or clouds You should never try this however always observe the Sun by projecting its image or by looking through a filter expressly designed for this purpose There is evidence though that before modern understanding and technology early astronomers risked eye damage by looking at the Sun when it seemed dimmer than usual For example ancient Chinese astronomers may have made reference to sunspots in 28 BC This may have supported the legend that a raven lived in the Sun photo credit dizarillo Early telescope users Galileo Galilei and Thomas Harriot were among the first western astronomers to observe sunspots David Fabricius and his son Johannes were the first to publish a description of sunspots in June 1611 In 1843 German astronomer Heinrich Schwabe discovered that the number of sunspots varies in a cycle of about 11 years Swiss astronomer Rudolf Wolf then used data from Schwabe and others to reconstruct solar cycles back to about 1745 Wolf designated the cycle from 1755 1765 as Cycle 1 and we still use that count today Accordingly the last cycle which peaked in 2001 was Cycle 23 and the next cycle expected to begin now and peak in 2012 will be Cycle 24 Also solar astronomers use the Wolf number to describe the number of sunspots on the Sun It was George Ellery Hale who first associated sunspots with magnetism This graph shows that not all solar cycles are the same Peaks in the early 19th century were much smaller than those of the 20th century for example Towards the left of the graph covering about 70 years including the last half of the 17th century is a period which seems to have no peaks This is the Maunder Minimum noted by Edward R Maunder The decades of few sunspots coincided with decades of unusually cold winters in Europe and North America This is also a time when few aurorae were observed In fact the 11 year cycle of minima and maxima continued in this time as well it s just that the peaks were very very small compared to later periods For much of 2009 we ve been past due for the start of the next solar cycle Cycle 24 Since the peak of Cycle 23 occurred in 2001 and the next peak was expected in 2012 scientists expected to begin seeing many Cycle 24 sunspots in late 2007 and especially by 2008 Instead 266 of the 366 days of 2008 were spotless The dearth of sunspots continued into early 2009 where 134 days 78 of all days through June 22 have been spotless Solar scientists were a bit baffled by the late start to the new cycle a few wondered if the Maunder minimum might be recurring On June 17 however researchers Rachel Howe and Frank Hill of the National

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/2009/06/ (2016-02-12)
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  • 2009 July | BEYONDbones
    beneath your feet Posted in Education Tagged aphids beetles carcass beetles carrion beetles chitin Chrysomya rufifacies coleopterans Dermestids entomology forensic HMNS insects ladybird ladybugs postmortem interval scarab scarab bettles Leave a reply Soak up the sun make a sunprint at home Published by Allison on July 28 2009 at 2 09 pm in Education Reply This summer we had a really fun camp for 10 12 year olds called Freeze Frame Campers learned about a variety of photography processes and how the technology has progressed over the years One of the things they learned about was Cyanotypes or the blueprint process Generally people will associate the word blueprint with architectural plans or layouts but the term came from the fact that a process similar to cyanotyping was used to make inexpensive copies of plans without a huge investment in technology The Freeze Frame class created cyanotypes by treating both cotton t shirts and cotton rag paper with cyanotype chemicals and then using either photographic negatives or opaque objects to block the sun and expose the treated surface to the sunlight In this video Xplorations Summer Camp Educator Andrea Gilbert walks us through the Freeze Frame camp Today you can easily buy pre treated paper to create a sunprint of your own you can find it at your local arts and crafts store here in Houston you can find it at Texas Art Supply By following the simple instructions included with the paper and being careful to keep your paper in the dark until you re ready to expose the photosensitive surface with your design on top you can create all sorts of fun images For my first example I used a die cut paper elephant and some random bits of hardware to create an image My second example uses tracing paper this is more like creating a blueprint from a technical drawing on vellum Any flat opaque objects will do but these are just what I happened to have lying around After only a minute or so I could see that the paper that started out blue indoors was quickly fading to white after about 2 full minutes I flipped all of the hardware off and carried the sheets back indoors To fix the image I soaked the exposed paper in water for just a minute the colors reversed to white images on a blue background the sunprints lay out flat to dry and voila Now head outside and make a sunprint of your own What natural objects can you find to use for design elements sticks leaves shells What other flat items can you think of that will block out the sun If you like sunprinting don t forget to sign up early for Xplorations Summer camp next year and check out Freeze Frame for more adventures in photography Posted in Education Tagged blueprints cyanotype exposure freeze frame HMNS museum Natureprint paper Photographic processes photography photosensitive solar energy summer camp sun Sun print Sunprint paper UV rays xplorations Leave

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/2009/07/ (2016-02-12)
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  • 2009 August | BEYONDbones
    1 500 barrels day Cleveland refinery in 1870 photo credit eMaringolo The Greek roots of the word petroleum are simple petra meaning rock and olemum meaning oil but there the simplicity ends Edwin Drake on August 27 1859 had no idea that he was in on the birth of the world s new energy era He never patented his drilling techniques and died a poor man in 1880 having lost his money on Wall Street For the last seven years of his life he lived on a 1500 year annuity granted to him by the State of Pennsylvania for services rendered to the oil industry Yet as a successful entrepreneurial wildcatter he paved the way for many others to make the oil industry what it is today a complex potpourri of applied science ingenuity engineering design unit operations and marketing systems that have become a political forced throughout the entire world Posted in Energy Tagged Benjamin Silliman birth of oil industry bitumen Edwin Drake Energy history of oil history of oil industry HMNS Ignancy Lukasiewicz oil oil energy oil industry weiss energy hall 1 Reply Steamy salsa night closes out the summer Published by Steven on August 27 2009 at 11 19 am in Science Reply The time has finally come to close out this summer s Mixers Elixirs series But we re going out with a bang End this summer right with one last steaming salsa night before summertime is gone We talked to lead singer Rudy Rincon from Grupo Ka Che to see what makes their performance at Mixers and Elixirs so spectacular What is the best thing about playing at Mixers Being around the dinosaurs is definitely one of the best things Another great aspect is being in a location that gives you the opportunity to be outside the normal standardization of a club It is something really new and innovated that gives you another taste of both themes a museum and a show How would you describe your band s overall music and performance We are the most energetic Latin performance in town Our show is completely live and it is well established We got together in 98 What started you out in music We all started as musicians We share Latin music as our connection even though we come from different countries By communicating with the local audience we felt the need to polish and professionalize our music Our group presents Latin music that delivers our culture as well as an exciting show for our audience What was it like performing under a giant dinosaur in past years It was an adventure Everyone at the beginning wasn t sure what the response would be As a band we really appreciate the work that the museum has been putting behind Mixers We are pleased to be a part of the most exciting events It integrates the museum aspect as well as an opportunity for young business professionals to network dance and mingle This is your last chance to see and be seen at Mixers Elixirs Don t let the opportunity to salsa under the dinosaurs pass you by for another year The party starts at 6 p m with our live DJ and cash bars The dancing begins with Grupo Ka Che at 7 p m Be sure to catch this fantastic night before it summer slips away Posted in Science Tagged friday dancing Houston friday nights friday party friday party Houston grupo ka che HMNS houston friday night Laitno music mixers and elixirs salsa Leave a reply Meet Charro our new resident iguana Published by Nancy on August 26 2009 at 1 25 pm in Plants Insects 3 The Butterfly Center recently acquired a new iguana His name is Charro which means cowboy as in charro beans and we believe he is between 5 and 10 years old For the time being he is housed in a cage in the rainforest area We may eventually let him loose to wander freely in the Center once he is thoroughly acclimated but for now he seems to be content and is particularly visible to patrons in his cage Keeping him confined does allow us to find him easily in order to take him outside for some exercise and sunshine on a daily basis We ve had several free ranging iguanas in the Center over the years It is a perfect place for them much better than the situations in which pet iguanas are typically found Indeed all of our resident iguanas have been pets that outgrew the space and or time their owners could provide them I think it is unfortunate that these creatures continue to be sold as pets what starts as a cute little green lizard ends up as a small dinosaur and most people are not prepared to handle the latter But as a result of all the iguanas we ve had I ve learned more about them than I ever expected to know They are actually very interesting and personable creatures If you d like to learn more yourself read on or check out the excellent information at the website of the Green Iguana Society Galapagos Island Iguana photo credit Ansgar Berhorn Iguanas are in the same family Iguanidae as the little green or brown anole lizards we see in our gardens here in the southern USA The most common species available through the pet trade is the common or green iguana Green iguanas the scientific name is Iguana iguana are common in tropical areas from Mexico to South America In their native habitat they often sit sunning themselves high up in trees especially along rivers If a hawk or eagle flies over both are major predators of iguanas they will fling themselves into the river below They are excellent swimmers There are several other species of iguana including the spiny or black iguana also common in Central America especially near the coast and of course the famous marine iguanas and land iguanas

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/2009/08/ (2016-02-12)
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  • 2009 September | BEYONDbones
    larger in our telescope each day Also we begin seeing Venus more from the side with the day night terminator in view Venus goes from full phase to gibbous phase to quarter phase Venus appears largest when it is about to pass between the Sun and the Earth At that time it shows a crescent phase as most of the sunlit side faces away from the Earth We can t observe Venus when it is directly in line with the Sun unless it also transits the Sun but it soon reappears in the morning sky again as a large crescent As the morning star Venus goes from crescent to full and gets smaller in our telescopes as it recedes to the far side of the Sun In fall 2009 Venus is nearing the end of an appearance as the morning star It therefore shows a small nearly full disk in telescopes now It will pass behind the Sun in January 2010 And if you want to observe Jupiter tonight look southeast at dusk for the brightest thing there Towards the end of the year Jupiter will have shifted to the southwest With Venus in the morning sky only the Moon can outshine Jupiter on an evening this fall Any observing equipment you have today is better than what Galileo was using in 1610 so even the smallest telescopes today will show you the Galilean moons of Jupiter If you can t see all four keep in mind that sometimes moons are behind Jupiter in Jupiter s shadow or passing in front of Jupiter and thus lost in its glare The outermost of the four moons Callisto is often much farther from the planet than the others this is why Galileo couldn t see it on January 7 8 1610 As you watch Jupiter s moons orbit you ll be repeating one of the observations that changed astronomy Posted in Astronomy Tagged Astronomy callisto claudius ptolemy copernicus europa galileo ganymede international year of astronomy io johannes kepler jupiter Jupiter s moons moon sidereus nuncius simon marius venus Leave a reply 100 Years 100 Objects Feather Poncho Published by Dirk on September 29 2009 at 9 29 am in Anthropology 1 The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now For this yearlong series our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts one for each year of our history Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind the scenes curiosities we will post the image and description of a new object every few days This description is from Dirk the museum s curator of anthropology He s chosen a selection of objects that represent human cultures throughout time and around the world that we ll be sharing here and at 100 hmns org throughout the year Pre Columbian feather poncho Nazca culture 400 500 AD This centuries old poncho from Nazca Peru is incredibly well preserved Dated to 400 500 AD it provides an excellent teaching tool to illustrate the role of climate in preserving perishable items like these Feather work of this nature may have existed in the Gulf region of the US Hot and humid conditions prevalent in this region ensured that none of these items would have preserved like this poncho Low humidity and great climatic stability along the coastal zone of Peru like the Nazca region resulted in incredible preservation rates as seen here The poncho also reflects the long distance trade routes in existence in Pre Columbian South America bringing feathers across the Andes from the Amazon basin Explore thousands of years of Native American history in the John P McGovern Hall of the Americas a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science You can see more images of this fascinating artifact as well as the others we ve posted so far this year in the 100 Objects section at 100 hmns org Posted in Anthropology Tagged 100 years 100 objects amazon basin Anthropology feather poncho HMNS nazca pre columbian 1 Reply Book List Imaginary Places Published by Susan on September 28 2009 at 10 44 am in Education Reply Imaginary Places can be anywhere your imagination takes you sometimes happy places sometimes to the future or sometimes to worlds unknown Children know about the Wizard and the Land of Oz some of the unusual characters Alice met when she fell down the rabbit hole or what happened when Lucy Edmund Susan and Peter Pevensie venture through the wardrobe into the land of Narnia where it is always winter but never Christmas But one of the most popular imaginary places for children is Peter Pan s Neverland photo credit tipoyock James Barrie first published Peter Pan in the early 20th century and the book remains a classic over one hundred years later All children are probably familiar with Peter Wendy John and Michael Darling and their dog Nana Interestingly all of these characters were based on real children and a real dog Three of the boys were named after three of the sons of Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies Peter John and Michael The name Wendy was first introduced in Peter Pan A young girl named Margaret Henley called Barrie Friendy but when she pronounced the name it came out Fwendy And Nana the Newfoundland was inspired by a St Bernard puppy Barrie and his wife Mary bought on their honeymoon in Switzerland Peter Pan is often referred to as the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up Is it possible the character was also based on Barrie s brother Daniel Barrie s mother s favorite who died at age thirteen Barrie s mother is said to have found comfort in the fact that Daniel would never grow up and leave her The first

    Original URL path: http://blog.hmns.org/2009/09/ (2016-02-12)
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