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The thrill of discovery awaits you in the Smithsonian Learning Lab. From the Discovery space shuttle to the Star Spangled Banner to dinosaur fossils, the Learning Lab gives everyone with a desire to learn the opportunity to explore the Smithsonian's rich resources anytime, anywhere. Start discovering what interests you today, and find your inspiration from more than a million multimedia resources.

Suggested Discoveries

Dizzy Gillespie [ca. 1984-1990 : black-and-white photoprint]

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Copyrights transferred to Smithsonian Institution in Deed of Gift.

Displayed in Archives Center exhibition, "Gift of the Artist: Photographers as Donors," November, 2011-Feb. 29, 2012. David Haberstich, curator.

Gillespie playing trumpet.

Introductory Trailer to Chandra (High Definition)

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
To commemorate Chandra's ten years in orbit, a new trailer has been produced to spotlight NASA's premier X-ray telescope. This short video begins with Galileo some 400 years ago and brings the viewer to modern astronomy, of which Chandra's high-energy Universe plays a critical role. Transcript: In Florence, Italy, in the year 1609, the world changed. Using a small telescope, Galileo proved that the Earth is not distinct from the universe, but part of it. And he showed that there is much more to the universe than we see with the naked eye. In the twentieth century, astronomers made another revolutionary discovery - that optical telescopes reveal only a portion of the universe. Telescopes sensitive to invisible wavelengths of light have detected microwave radiation from the Big Bang, infrared radiation from proto-planetary disks around stars, and X-rays from explosions produce by black holes. Ten years ago this July, the most powerful X-ray telescope ever made began its exploration of the hot Universe. Explore the Universe with Chandra.

Postcard of Horned Dinosaur Skeletons

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) first opened to the public on March 17, 1910, as the new United States National Museum. The National Museum was first housed in what is now the Arts and Industries Building.

Grayscale postcard of two skeletons of horned dinosaurs on exhibit at the United States National Museum, now the National Museum of Natural History. The larger one is a Triceratops skeleton, and the smaller one is a Brachyceratops skeleton. The postcard is unused, but the message side has a printed note about the dinosaurs: "These skeletons of two extinct reptiles known as Horned Dinosaurs were discovered in the Cretaceous rocks of the West. Triceratops, the larger of the two specimens, shown, named for the three horns on its head, was about 20 feet long. With a head 6 feet in length it had the largest skull of any known reptile. The other skeleton, Brachyceratops, less in size than the skull of the Triceratops, is the smallest of North American horned dinosaurs. Both of these animals were plant eaters, living in the swamps of the western plains. They became extinct over 100,000,000 years ago."

Stuart Perry Gas Engine Patent Model

National Museum of American History
This model was submitted to the U.S. Patent Office with application for Patent no. 4800, issued October 7, 1846.

This engine is very similar to the Perry engine of 1844 (US National Museum accession number 309253). It differs in that the cylinder is water-jacketed and the hot cooling water is used to heat the fuel retort. Ignition is effected by heated platinum exposed to or separated from the explosive mixture by a valve.

The model shows a horizontal double-acting engine completely water-jacketed. Beside the cylinder is the retort for generating the vapors. Air is mixed with the vapor in a valve box above the retort, and valves operated by cams from a lay shaft admit the explosive mixture to passages leading to the cylinder. The gas is ignited by incandescent platinum, and combustion continues during about one-third of the stroke, the expansion of the products of combustion forcing the piston to the end of the stroke.

To start the engine it was necessary to heat the water about the retort to generate the vapor and to heat the igniter. When running, the engine developed sufficient heat for both purposes.

Perry designed this engine so that the water served not only to cool the cylinder but also to lubricate the piston and piston rod.

Reference:

This description comes from the 1939 Catalog of the Mechanical Collections of the Division of Engineering United States Museum Bulletin 173 by Frank A. Taylor.

Star-Spangled Banner

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The Star-Spangled Banner, undated. Note that the "A" sewn into the flag has been whited out in the image The Star-Spangled Banner was the Garrison flag of Ft. McHenry, Baltimore, during the bombardment of the fort by the British, September 13-14, 1814, when it was successfully defended by Colonel George Armistead. The flag was presented to the United States National Museum, Washington, D.C., by Mr. Eben Appleton of New York, the grandson of Colonel George Armistead.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is stopped by police at Medgar Evers' funeral, Jackson, MS

National Museum of African American History and Culture
This black-and-white photograph depicts Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His face is framed by the head and shoulders of two men in the foreground.

Amelia Earhart

National Portrait Gallery
A late photograph of Amelia Earhart

To locate tiny Howland Island, Earhart and Fred Noonan expected to communicate with the Itasca, a United States Coast Guard cutter that President Roosevelt agreed to locate near the island for assistance. Although the cutter received messages, at first faint but then clearer and stronger, communication ultimately failed. Upon learning that the pair had not arrived, Roosevelt ordered a massive sea and air search that went on for more than two weeks. When that search was terminated, George Putnam underwrote his own search that lasted until October. Newspapers around the globe covered the search on a nearly daily basis. Yet as time elapsed, hope for their safe recovery faded. In 1939, a probate court in Los Angeles declared Earhart legally dead. Neither the plane nor the bodies of the two pilots have ever been recovered.