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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.

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Join the Smithsonian Fan Forum ›


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 ›


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 ›


When can breathing help quench your thirst?

When wearing the Armbrust cup. This odd device, warn 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 ›

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Celebrate a "Week of Chuck" as our traveling exhibit "What's Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones" opens @movingimagenyc #wabbitExhibit

7 days ago

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

Once there were billions ›

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


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

American Cool ›

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

American stories ›


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 ›

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


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 ›

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 ›


Do cats really only have nine lives?

They're actually much older than anyone imagined. This P. blytheae fossil skull revealed that ancient big cats lived nearly 6 million years ago, 2 million years earlier than previously thought.

A Missing Link ›

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Sometimes in the #Chesapeake it's a crab eat crab world. Video from @smithsonianenv https://t.co/C6qLMwnt0C

7 days ago


When did Buzz Lightyear actually need his spacesuit?

In 2008, Buzz Lightyear flew on Space Shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station and returned on Discovery 15 months later. Magellan T. Bear became the first official teddy bear in space, flying as the "education specialist" aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in February 1995.

Immerse yourself in space ›

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

A primitive guitar ›

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How entire bird populations are being threatened by urban development http://t.co/xeAYbvyTuj http://t.co/cx8u2Ti9rj

7 days ago


When is it okay for a child to drive a sports car?

When it is the “Midget Mustang." This pedal car, developed in the 60s, was one of the many advertising vehicles used to publicize the full-size model, a sporty, compact, and affordable automobile.

See the real thing ›


Where do dinosaurs go to chill out?

Smithsonian's “Rex Room" in Washington, DC offers visitors the unique opportunity to see staff members unpack, catalogue, photograph and 3D scan the 66-million-year-old bones of the Smithsonian’s new Tyrannosaurus rex.

Discover the T. rex ›

Smithsonian scientists used a CT-scanner to non-invasively examine this Peruvian mummy.

Mummies from the inside out ›


What is DC's most attractive storage facility?

The Luce Foundation Center for American Art offers three floors of open storage displaying 3,500 paintings, sculptures, miniatures, craft objects and folk art pieces from the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection.

Delve into art ›


Was "V-Mail" an early form of E-Mail?

During World War II, post offices were flooded with mail sent by military families. V-Mail letters were copied onto microfilm, then reproduced at one-quarter of the original size. This reduced the volume of mail competing with essential wartime supplies for cargo space.

All About V-Mail ›


What stamp featured one of history's oddest couples?

Sun Yat-sen, founding father of the Republic of China, appears with Abraham Lincoln on a 1942 stamp. Sun Yat-sen studied and lived abroad. His Three Principles (nationalism, democracy, and people's livelihood) reflect a concept he admired from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Telling Stories Through Stamps ›

Perhaps his most famous muse, Andy Warhol printed Marilyn Monroe's lips onto canvas in 1962.

Pucker up! ›

Born into slavery, Nat Love became a legend of the American West as “Deadwood Dick.”

In my fighting clothes ›

Native American Julia Keefe is an accomplished singer of a uniquely American art form: jazz.

"Up Where We Belong" ›


What do pizza and Pac-Man have in common?

Reportedly inspired by a pizza with one slice removed, Pac-Man was developed by programmer Toru Iwatani. Unlike previous hit video games, Pac-Man had a recognizable main character, which allowed it to be the first video game to also be a licensing success.

Video Games Go Mass Market ›


What favorite toy name was inspired by oily chalk?

Cherished by generations of children, Crayola Crayons were invented in 1903 by cousins Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith. The name "Crayola” was coined by Alice Binney, Binney’s wife and a former school teacher. It comes from "craie," French for "chalk," and "oleaginous" or "oily."

More National Treasures ›

Two fishing cat kittens born in May are the first of this species to reproduce at the National Zoo.

No fraidy-cats when it comes to water ›

Cute or creepy? The vampire squid got its name from its black skin and red eyes.

Get the whole story ›

Henri Matisse exaggerated the female figure in this terracotta sculpture.

Strike a pose ›


What artist inspired summer's coolest dress?

Everyday objects were elevated to artistic inspiration in Andy Warhol’s painting Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) and “The Souper” paper dress.

Where History and Fashion Intersect ›

Doug Aitken’s ‘Song 1’ creates liquid architecture, mixing concrete, music and video.

I only have eyes for you ›


When does a pest become a pesticide?

Ladybugs are beneficial insects – they help control aphids and act as a natural pesticide for plants in place of chemicals. To learn more about Smithsonian Gardens and beneficial insect release, see http://gardens.si.edu.

Beneficial insect release ›

Before there was the National Zoo, the Smithsonian exhibited animals right on the National Mall.

Oh, give me a castle (?) where the buffalo roam... ›


What poetry disappears before our eyes?

In Chinese public parks, artists use sponges and water to write poetry that disappears quickly, a popular art form called water calligraphy.

Tradition and the art of living ›


What business lets you work, sleep and pray in the same place?

Masum Momaya, curator at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, answers.

This drawing was architect Rafael Viñoly’s concept sketch for the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

Hope the blueprints are more detailed ›

The headgear that Muhammad Ali wore while training for his battle against Sonny Liston.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee ›