Downtown Raleigh’s NRC

In my readings as of late I’ve seen “NRC” more times than I can count. Each time I see the acronym I struggle to remember what each letter stands for. “N” is for nature. No, wait, it’s for nuclear. Or was it national?

Well, lo and behold, the “N” represents all three of those words, and, you guessed it, I am writing another three-part blog to illustrate each NRC.

Let’s start with the NRC popping up in my local news reading. I’m following the construction of the new Nature Research Center in downtown Raleigh. This NRC extends the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences into a two-building, one-globe science haven!

The new Nature Research Center in downtown Raleigh.

Raleigh’s NRC will host interactive research labs, a 24/7 science news stream, and a glass walkway leading to a plethora of research laboratories filled with scientists and graduate students from several of North Carolina’s universities.

The eye-catching centerpiece of the NRC is a gigantic globe. Called the Daily Planet, the science globe will feature enough high definition multimedia to make your technology geek friends jealous.

Within this three-story sphere of science, breaking science news stories will be continually broadcast. Dare I ask: How many segments on your evening news programs focus on science? I’m going to bet my first-born that the answer is an outrageously disgraceful NONE.

Inside the multimedia globe, a Science Immersion Theater offers a 360-degree view of the planet. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will supply images of our planet from space. You, citizen scientist, can inspect NASA and NOAA images to find the devastating effects that population growth and climate change have had on our planet.

This next feature cracks me up. It’s called Meet the Scientist. Have you ever met a scientist? Well, I AM one, and I can tell you that we are not the super duper communicators that you may think we are.

So in this exhibit, scientists will work in their usual lab setting, save one exception: the laboratory walls are glass. Not tapered glass, nor fluted glass, but rather thin, see-through glass. NRC visitors will hang out in the lounge areas surrounding the glass labs, gaping at scientists as they work.

Here you see the concept...

I fully support this idea, and I’m all for science immersion, but my multi-part hypothesis for this experiment is as follows:

    (1) The visitors will peer curiously into the labs.
    (2) The visitors will bang on the glass, just like we all do at the zoo, even though we are not supposed to.
    (3) The scientists will, one day at a time, tape their experimental protocols and photos of their families onto the glass walls, thus protecting themselves from the outside world.
    (4) The visitors, via advanced yoga poses, will find ways to peer into the labs despite the wall coverings.
    (5) The scientists will increase their wall postings until 100 % coverage has been achieved.

Two complementary exhibits at the NRC are Investigate Labs and Citizen Science Center. In both settings, visitors can conduct research experiments. With Investigate Lab, the experiments are designed to be hypothesis-driven, short-term, hands-on kinds of analyses. An example might be to extract DNA from fruit. Oh yes, fruit has DNA.

At the Citizen Science Center, museum visitors participate in long-term research projects, collecting and analyzing data that they’ve gathered from nature. An example here would be tracking butterfly migration or observing tree defoliation. Research projects of this magnitude are much more successful when everyone in the community contributes data.

And, of course, there will be an aquarium. People love aquariums.

Mark your calendars, citizen scientists: the NRC is destined for a Spring 2012 opening!

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2 responses to “Downtown Raleigh’s NRC

  1. As long as the Investigate Labs include a daily visit from Beaker on the Muppets, they might be a success. 🙂

    And really, wouldn’t they make more money if it was just one big 3 story aquarium..hehehehe. Picture this, a huge 3 story fish bowl…

  2. A daily visit from Beaker – that’s a dream come true! After all, he’s just your average scientist: white lab coat, big wide eyes, stiff composure, minimal ability to communicate.

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