in this old drawing deal with a vampire like those
found in Poland.
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Graves Discovered in Poland - Three medieval graves
in Poland have yield the remains of "vampires." It not that
the archaeologists that uncovered the graves think the residents
were vampires, but the people who buried them apparently
did. Each body seems have been mutilated after death in
a way designed to keep the corpse from rising from the grave.
Two of the skeletons had holes in the spine apparently as
a result of them being staked to the ground. One of the
bodies, that of a woman, was buried face down and her knees
were broken. Another one, a male, was decapitated and dismembered.
The burials occurred in the 13th and 14th centuries in the
village of Górzyca, in western Poland.
Dino Tail Found in Amber - A chunk of amber that was
originally slated to become a piece of jewelry now is at
the center of an important scientific find. Paleontologist
Lida Xing noticed the oval lump of hardened resin (from
ancient tree sap) at a market in Myanmar in 2015. Buying
it he carefully examined it and came to a conclusion: It
contained a dinosaur tail and attached to that tail where
dinosaur feathers. Also the 99-million-year-old amber included
preserved soft tissue and eight complete vertebrae. The
fact that the vertebra were not fused indicates that this
was the remains not of a prehistoric bird, but a dinosaur.
While other feathers have been found in ancient amber, this
is the first real look at feathers which clearly belong
to a dinosaur. The feathers appear to have more in common
with modern ornamental feathers than those used by flying
birds. Xing thinks it's likely they were used for signaling
or temperature control, rather than flying. Xing also thinks
the owner of this tail was likely to be a theropod type
of dinosaur similar to a velociraptor, but much smaller,
perhaps the size of a sparrow.
Bridge Theory Questioned - The Bering Land Bridge has
been the leading theory about how humans came to the Western
Hemisphere from the Eastern Hemisphere. A group of scientists
think they have shown that this was impossible, however.
University of Copenhagen researchers Eske Willerslev, Mikkel
Pedersen, and their colleagues drilled core samples from
beneath two lakes in western Canada and found evidence that
the land bridge from Asia to North America only became passible
for human migration around 12,600 years ago. (Before that
ice and lack of vegetation to support animal life blocked
the route) However, there is ample evidence that much of
the Western Hemisphere was already settled by 14,000 years
ago. It's not clear, then, how North American became populated,
but some scholars suggest migration came down the west coast
(perhaps after a crossing by boat). Other scientists suggest
the original immigrants may have crossed from Europe.
is Getting Cheaper - In many parts of the world solar
has become the cheapest way to build a new power plant according
to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It found
the cost of solar dropped from $6 million per megawatt in
2010 to $1.65 million per MW in the first quarter of 2016
and is particularly competitive in regions that have "exceptionally
sunny conditions." The cost to manufacture solar has been
dropping and also it has the advantage of being attractive
in developing nations were getting financing to build a
large, coal, gas or wind planet can be difficult.
Are Not Shy About Asking for Human Help - A paper published
in the journal Animal Cognition suggests that horses not
only ask humans for help, but are aware of human thinking.
In experiments researchers from Kobe University hid carrots
(a favorite horse treat) in a location that was not accessible
to the animals. The animals then used nudges and other physical
touches to communicate with their caretakers on their interest
in the food. Even more interesting was the amount of signaling
to caretakers increased when the carrots has been placed
in that locations without the caretakeras seeing it and
knowing where it was. This suggests that the horses understand
the human mind enough to account for our awareness of the
situation. This in turn suggests a high degree of cognitive
skill on the animal's part.
Quote of the Month - "Never
memorize something that you can look up." - Albert Einstein
New at the Museum:
The Truth about Truth Serums - A staple of old spy films,
can you actually inject somebody with a drug that will make
them reliably spill the beans to you? -
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
vs. Tank - I've heard a lot of stories about the
German Tiger II vs. U.S. M4 Sherman tank during WWII. Which
was really the better tank? - Joe
The answer to this question is hinges on what you mean by
Tiger II tank (sometimes referred to as the "King Tiger"
by U.S. soldiers) was perhaps the most technically advanced
tank of the war. I was a heavy tank featuring thick armor
particularly on the front of the machine. Its 88-millimeter
gun could penetrate five inches of enemy armor at a range
of two kilometers.
the other hand most M4 Sherman tanks mounted a 75-millimeter
gun that was incapable of punching through the Tiger's frontal
armor at any distance. Its own 2-inch frontal armor gave
the crew little protection from the Tiger's heavy gun. Also
early M4's tended to easily catch fire when hit (a problem
solved in later models by increasing the protection of the
it's an open and shut case, right? Well, not quite.
the point of view of the generals charged with winning the
war, things looked a little different. The Tiger II, because
it was so advanced, heavy and complex was hard and expensive
to build and difficult to maintain in the field. In fact,
only 492 King Tigers were built by the Germans. (And only
1347 of the slightly less formable Tiger I).
this with the nearly 50,000 M4 manufactured by the Americans.
The Shermans were simpler to build, very reliable and easier
to maintain in the field. They were also faster and more
maneuverable than the King Tiger and used a lot less fuel.
a General's point of view a tank wasn't very useful if it
broke down or ran out of gas.
also important to remember that the Sherman's main mission
in WW II was not to engage other tanks (The U.S. had tank
destroyers like the M10 Wolverine for that). The Sherman
was supposed to protect infantry by taking out German positions
defended by machine guns and pill boxes. In this role the
tank destroyers were more effective as a defensive plan.
While advancing toward Germany quite a few Shermans did
meet of with Tigers and in that situation the M4 would be
in trouble, especially if it was on its own and not part
of a group. It's clear that in that particular situation
the crew of the King Tiger would have a much better chance
these encounters would be relatively rare and when they
did occur it was often several Shermans up against a single
Tiger. The Allied strategy was to work together until one
of the M4's flanked the Tiger and could take it out with
a shot to the rear or side. Or course this often came at
a cost of one or more of the Shermans being hit and their
crews being injured or killed (For a dramatization of this
scenario check the 2014 movie "Fury.")
was the Tiger II better than the Sherman? From the point
of the crew in inside the tank during a one-on-one battle,
yes, it was. From the perspective of the Allied command
trying to win the war, the Sherman was much superior not
because they were technically better, but because they were
more reliable and there were many, many more of them.
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Doesn't Pan Out - In January of 1909, newspapers were
full of stories about a possible 9th planet being found.
Prof. Pickering of Harvard Observatory believed he had evidence
of a new body out beyond Neptune whose gravity was disturbing
the orbits of the other planets. Pickering was very prolific
about predicting new worlds having proposed between 1908
to 1932, seven hypothetical planets. This one, like the
others, would not pan out. A new planet was not found until
1930 (Pluto) by Clyde Tombaugh. Though Pluto did exist and
was considered a planet at the time, it was reclassified
as a dwarf planet in 2005.
Quadrantids Meteor Shower - The Quadrantids, with up
to 40 meteors per hour at its peak, will be visible in the
night sky from January 1st through the 5th. It will peak
the night of January 3rd. The shower is thought to be produced
by the dust trail left behind by an extinct comet 2003 EH1.
Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight
when the moon has set.
Amazon Starts Drone Deliveries - Amazon claims that
it delivered its first package to a customer using a drone
last month. The online giant retailer reported that a drone
delivered an Amazon Fire TV box and a bag of popcorn to
a customer in the U.K. on December 7th. The order took "13
minutes - click to delivery" according to founder and chief
executive Jeff Bezos's twitter feed. The delivery was made
in the Cambridge area. The company also wants to expand
it drone service to the United States, but has complained
about the cumbersome regulatory environment in America.
and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place
we feature highlights from their past adventures.
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