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SciTech is independently reported and edited through the newsroom of The Charlotte Observer. The underwriter plays no role in the selection of the content. To learn more about underwriting opportunities, email Glenn Proctor or call 704-358-5407.

Longer summer hours at Discovery Place

Discovery Place – 301 N. Tryon St. in uptown Charlotte – is offering extended hours through Sept. 2. The hands-on science museum will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.

What else is new there?

“Animal Grossology” opened June 1, offering kids an off-kilter approach to the animal kingdom through exploration of slime and other disgusting topics. The exhibit, adapted from the best-selling series of “Grossology” books, features animatronics, interactive learning games and more.

“Animal Grossology” runs through Sept. 2 and is free with museum admission.

“Animalopolis” also opened June 1, but in the Discovery Place’s The Charlotte Observer IMAX Dome Theatre. It takes a lighthearted and imaginative look at creatures. Also offered is “Flight of the Butterflies,” an IMAX film that tracks the yearlong annual migration cycle of monarch butterflies between Mexico and Canada. There is an additional charge to see IMAX movies.

Details: 704-372-6261; www.discoveryplace.org. Staff Reports

Engineers, geologists: Let’s try Roman concrete

In a quest to make concrete more durable and sustainable, an international team of geologists and engineers has found inspiration in the ancient Romans, whose massive concrete structures have withstood the elements for more than 2,000 years.

Using the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a research team from the University of California at Berkeley examined the fine-scale structure of Roman concrete. It described for the first time how the extraordinarily stable compound – calcium-aluminum-silicate-hydrate – binds the material used to build some of the most enduring structures in Western civilization.

The discovery could help improve the durability of modern concrete: Within 50 years, it often shows signs of degradation, particularly in ocean environments.

The manufacturing of Roman concrete also leaves a smaller carbon footprint than its modern counterpart.

Part of the researchers’ findings were published last week in the online Journal of the American Ceramic Society; another paper is scheduled to appear in October in the journal American Mineralogist. UC Berkeley News Service

Pebbles, sand hint at long-gone rivers on Mars

Pebbles and sand scattered near an ancient Martian river network may present the most convincing evidence yet that the frigid deserts of the red planet were once a habitable environment traversed by flowing water.

Scientists with NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission report in the journal Science the discovery of sand grains and small stones that bear the telltale roundness of river stones and are too heavy to have been moved by wind. The researchers estimated that the sediment was produced by water that moved at a speed between that of a small stream and a large river, and had a depth of roughly an inch to nearly 3 feet.

The researchers analyzed sediment taken from a Martian plain that abuts a sedimentary deposit known as an alluvial fan. Alluvial fans are composed of sediment left over when a river spreads out over a plain then dries up; they are common on Earth in arid regions such as California’s Death Valley. Princeton Journal Watch

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