What is Seriously Amazing?

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What is an SI—Q?

What is an SI—Q?

The Smithsonian asks and answers questions every day about science, art, history and culture.

Look for the SI—Q symbol and ask and answer some questions along with us!

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Join the Smithsonian Fan Forum ›


What do you do when the charge on your locomotive runs out?

Refill the steam and superheated water reserves! The fireless locomotive did not need a fire to produce steam. Instead, the engine could run by itself for approximately five hours on one charge of steam and superheated water from the power plant’s boilers under high pressure and at temperatures around 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

From D.C. to Baltimore ›


Who was really the first ape in space?

No, not Yuri Gagarin but Ham the chimpanzee! Five-year-old Ham was secured in a Project Mercury Primate Capsule, MR-2, and launched into suborbital space flight from Cape Canaveral, FL on January 31, 1961.

One small step for..Ham ›


Where can you eat freeze dried beef and flying pancakes?

In the sky, of course! The V-173 “Flying Pancake” aircraft and a selection of delectable space food are on loan to the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas through the Smithsonian Affiliations program.

Innovations in space food ›

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Can a pipe help you win the Nobel Prize?

If you're Albert Einstein, then yes! Einstein created the theory of relativity and won a Nobel Prize all while chewing on his favorite pipe.

A source of creativity ›


What kind of bullets do dragons fire?

Dragon, later changed to dragoon, is another name for the 17th-19th century blunderbuss firearm! Early versions of the gun were decorated with a carving in the form of a dragon’s head around the muzzle, which would give the impression of a fire-breathing dragon when fired. See an example of an early blunderbuss on loan to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, WY through the Smithsonian Affiliations program.

More cool firearms ›


Who really cured Polio?

Although Jonas Salk was a household name with his introduction of the Polio vaccine in 1953, Albert Sabin developed the cheaper and more effective vaccine that was used more frequently around the world.

A very valuable vial ›


What dream vacation was not exactly “dreamy” once upon a time?

Going to Hawaii. Before the advent of safe and reliable jet travel, it took weeks to make the ocean journey there. And attempts by civilians to make the dangerous flight often resulted in tragedy.

How air travel changed Hawaii ›


What summer sport do zoo lions have to master?

All lion cubs born at the zoo must undergo the swim reliability test and prove that they are ready to be on exhibit. This means keeping their heads above water, navigating to the shallow end of the moat, and climbing onto dry land.

Crazy for cats ›


What is the "Jaws" of the insect world?

The Cone-Headed Katydid! These small insects, native to Central America, have an oversized jaw which helps them eat plants, fruits and insects like crickets and mealworms.

Bugs aplenty! ›

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.@nmnh experts use X-rays to study bone structure of fish like this winghead shark http://t.co/IpmZJVi1wu #SharkWeek http://t.co/FjIxgb5Ajw

19 days ago

The ensemble worn by Marian Anderson for her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

A watershed moment ›


What early campaign helped put the “spin” in politics?

Abraham Lincoln's presidential campaign was one of the first to use photography as a political tool, as shown in this button from 1860.

More from the campaign trail ›


What were some of our earliest "bestsellers?"

Wood-block illustrated books (ehon) in Edo-period Japan (1615–1868). With intriguing and entertaining subjects, these books were sold to the masses, creating a communication revolution similar to electronic media today.

The books everyone was talking about ›


Where can you put your own stamp on history?

At The National Postal Museum, visitors can create their own stamp collection on topics that interest them most. Interactive stations also allow visitors to create their own stamp designs.

Connect with U.S Stamps ›


What was black and white and then red all over?

The movie version of The Wizard of Oz! Dorothy’s journey from Kansas to Oz is symbolized by a shift from black and white to Technicolor. The contrast was highlighted by the vibrant hues of Oz, but most famously by Dorothy’s dazzling ruby slippers.

Follow the yellow brick road ›

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the companion facility to the Museum on the National Mall.

This photo is one of 100 that make up the “American Cool” exhibition at the Portrait Gallery.

American Cool ›


When can breathing help quench your thirst?

When wearing the Armbrust cup. This odd device, worn over the face, converts condensation from breath into drinking water. Renowned pilot Charles Lindbergh always took one with him on flights over the ocean in case of an emergency landing.

Aviation must-haves ›

The Smithsonian honors the musical legacy of Coltrane during Jazz Appreciation month.

American stories ›

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction.

Once there were billions ›


What do bats have in common with happy hour?

Tequila! Tequila is made from the agave plant. Certain species of bats feed on the nectar of agave flowers and in the process they pollinate the flower and help the plant to thrive.

A toast to pollinating bats ›

May 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of Batman’s debut with DC Comics.


What slimy invader doesn’t come from a sci-fi movie?

African giant snails! They are among the world’s most destructive invasive species, and possibly the slimiest. Customs agents work rigorously to keep them from entering the U.S. but colonies have already been well established in Hawaii and Florida.

More on migrating mollusks ›

Lady slipper orchids are just some of the varieties in the exhibition “Orchids of Latin America.”

If the slipper fits, pollinate it. ›

This is the smallest shark, a dwarf lantern shark – smaller than a person's hand!

Petite predator ›


How is hip-hop like the microchip?

Both grew out of communities that were innovation hotbeds—the microchip from Silicon Valley and hip-hop from the Bronx. By building primitive song mixers, constructing speakers out of trash cans and hacking power from street lights, early MCs in the 1970s’ Bronx demonstrated problem solving, risk taking and creativity, inventing a new style of American music. The Smithsonian studies how inventive communities form and impact culture.

Innovation Hotspots ›

This folk art guitar has a two chambers for stashing strings, picks or snacks

A primitive guitar ›


What American poet was delighted to be photographed but rarely happy with the results?

As can be seen at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, the poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was photographed many, many times throughout his life. He even posed nude when he was in his 60s. Whitman was one of the first to exploit his own image and use the camera to connect with his audience.

A poet's connection to the camera ›


When can you take a selfie in a marsh?

While you’re exploring the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center! The Smithsonian Latino Center’s Young Ambassadors Program (YAP) offers Latino students the chance to participate in a weeklong, all-expenses paid interdisciplinary training seminar at the Smithsonian. YAP is a national program that fosters the next generation of Latino leaders in the arts, sciences, and humanities via the Smithsonian and its resources.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ›