10 Science Facts You Might Not Know About Albuquerque

Science is at Home in Albuquerque

New Mexico has a great number of ties to the world of science and research. Some of its biggest discoveries are found in Albuquerque.

  • 01 of 10
    © Aileen O'Catherine

     The Fractal Foundation uses the beauty of fractals to inspire interest in science math and art (SMART). The foundation advertises the beauty of math and science through large-scale, public murals depicting fractals. The murals are made by young students, showcasing their creativity and intelligence. 

    They also provide fractal shows in the planetarium at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, on the first Friday of each month. First Friday Fractals and Fractals Rock incorporate music for a one of a kind show. 

    Fractal shows and fractal science and math activities go out to schools, where kids learn about fractals found in nature and in math. Their outreach programs include fractivities and their annual fractal challenge has participants create their own algebraic fractals. Winners are showcased with their work depicted on large murals like the one in the photo.

  • 02 of 10

    Microsoft Got Its Start in Albuquerque

    Microsoft began on April 4, 1975 at 115 California Street NE, near the State Fair fairgrounds. The company's founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, developed a simulator for the MITS Altair computer, which worked flawlessly. MITS agreed to distribute it and marketed it as the Altair BASIC. Gates was the company CEO and Allen came up with the name Micro-Soft. 

    It is said the early days in Albuquerque were a lot of fun, and sometimes staff, especially Gates, would sleep in the office. 

    As the company grew, they had trouble moving people to New Mexico. They decided to move to Bellevue, Washington 

    The company's original 12 employees included Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Miriam Lubow, Marla Wood, Bob O'Rear, Steve Wood, Bob Greenberg, Marc McDonald, Gordon Lewtin, Bob Wallace and Jim Lane. 

  • 03 of 10

    A Key Scientist for a NASA Mars Rover Lives and Works from Albuquerque

     The Opportunity rover has explored Mars for over 12 years and recently completed a distance of 42 km (26 miles). Opportunity holds the record for driving distance on another planet or moon. Dr. Larry Cumpler, research scientist with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science,  is a scientist on the NASA Mars Exploration Rover Mission. He served on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, and is co-investigator on an instrument proposal for the 2020 rover. He serves as a lead on the daily telecons that determine the activities of Opportunity, and serves as a "field geologist" on the Mars mission. 

  • 04 of 10

    On the west side of Albuquerque at Petroglyph National Monument, the remains of a group of small monogenetic volcanoes can be found. Monogenetic volcanoes only erupt once. The Albuquerque volcanoes produced lava flows, cinder cones, and cinder and spatter cones during a rare fissure eruption. The volcanoes are called Black, JA, Vulcan, Bond and Butte volcanoes. The volcanoes are known locally as the Albuquerque Volcanoes or the Three Sisters. 

    The cones were formed over 100,000 years ago after a series of fissure eruptions occurred. The landscape is coated in basalt caprock as a result.

    The park offers visitors the chance to walk around the volcanoes. There are shaded resting benches along its trail and it is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Access it by taking I-40 west to Atrisco Vista Blvd. (exit 149) and travel north 4.8 miles to the park. 

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  • 05 of 10

    It Has One of the Nation's Few University Meteorite Museums

    Esquel meteorite
    User: Captmondo

     The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque is one of only a few U.S. universities to have a meteorite museum. The University of New Mexico's meteorite collection houses examples of stony, stony iron and iron meteorites. The meteorites on display are only a small sample of the research and teaching collection, all of which are available for study by researchers. There are over 5,000 specimens of over 650 samples, right in the heart of the University of New Mexico campus. For those who want to hunt for meteorites in New Mexico, the museum serves as a great resource.

  • 06 of 10
    UNM Center for Quantum Physics
    CQuIC

    UNM's Center for Quantum Information and Control (CQuIC) formed in 2009 along with the University of Arizona. The center has been awarded a five-year, $2.3 million grant that will be one of only two National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Focused Research Hubs in Theoretical Physics in the country. The grant came in September, 2016. The UNM center is the only NSF Center that focuses specifically on quantum information. Dr. Carlton Caves is the CQuIC director and a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at UNM. He believes computers can simplify the process of drug development or send messages that are protected so hackers can't break them. 

    Quantum physics looks at how atomic elements operate and communicate. Matter at the atomic and subatomic level can travel through space quickly, and move information instantly, even across great distances. Harnessing the way the world works at the microscopic level may allow scientists to create powerful supercomputers or share unbreakable secrets. The CQuIC works closely with Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Labs.

  • 07 of 10
    © Aileen O'Catherine

     The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History is the nation's only congressionally chartered museum in its field. The museum tells the story of the Atomic Age, from early research through ​the development of nuclear weapons. It also tells the story of the Manhattan Project, which had a base in Los Alamos, New Mexico. 

  • 08 of 10

    Cutting edge thermodynamic science takes place in Albuquerque at the Sandia National Laboratories. The National Solar Thermal Test Facility is the only test facility of its kind in the United States. It focuses on experimental engineering data for use in proposed solar and electrical plants that could provide large scale power generation. In addition to researching the possibility of solar energy, it researches optics for astronomical observations. 

    The facility also has a heliostat field, solar tower, a molten salt test loop, optics lab, solar furnace and a high-flux solar simulator. 

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  • 09 of 10
    Rio Grande Rift
    Robert Frerck/The Image Bank/Getty Images

     Albuquerque is home to the Rio Grande Rift, one of only a few in the world. The rift is a major break in the Earth's crust, forming where a section of crust weakened and spread apart from the magma that swelled beneath. The rift runs from southern Colorado through New Mexico to the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The Rio Grande follows the contours of the rift, and Albuquerque is one of the cities along its route. The Albuquerque basin is one of the largest of the rift's basins, and one of the deepest. 

  • 10 of 10
    Baby Pentaceratops
    Aileen O'Catherine

    The only known baby Pentaceratops fossil is housed at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. Fossil experts there are working on extracting the bones of the ancient dinosaur from the casing they placed around it. Baby Pentaceratops was found in the Bisto Wilderness of northwestern New Mexico in 2011. 

    Pentaceratops was an herbivore and one of the largest horned dinosaurs that ever lived.