Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Scientists Plan to Make Mammoth Live Again - According
to a report in the Japan's Daily Yomiuri, scientists
are planning use advanced cloning techniques to bring the
ancient, extinct mammoth back to life. The international
team, led by Prof. Akira Iritani, a professor emeritus from
Kyoto University, will get the necessary DNA from the carcass
of a mammoth preserved in a Russian research laboratory.
The nuclei of mammoth cells will then be inserted into an
elephant's egg and the egg implanted into a female elephant
with the hope that the animal will birth a baby mammoth.
Researchers have tried to obtain the DNA from a frozen mammoth
before, but ice crystals had damaged the cell nuclei so
they were unusable. The group plans to use a new technique
developed by Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama of Kobe's Riken Center
for Developmental Biology to retrieve the DNA. In 2008 Wakayama
successfully cloned a mouse from cells that had been kept
in deep-freeze for 16 years.
Study Investigates Climate/History Connection -
A recent study is trying to link past climate changes with
events in human history. The study, which covers the last
2.500 years in Western Europe tries to create a detailed
picture of how climate change and society have been linked.
Researchers compiled a database of more than 9,000 pieces
of wood dating back over 25 centuries. Samples came from
both living trees and wooden artifacts. By measuring the
size of annual growth rings in the wood, the researchers
were able to determine temperature and precipitation levels
on a year-by-year basis. Several intriguing patterns have
emerged from the study. For example, for decades before
the onset of epidemic of Black Death in 1347, the area experienced
wetter summers and a major cold snap. Also during the 17th
a century a dip in temperature coincided with the Thirty
Years War. "It's not that there was a war because it was
cold," explained Ulf Büntgen, one of the study's authors.
"But the conditions were not helpful. Society was already
affected a lot by this political turmoil, and they got additional
suffering from cold summer temperatures."
Oldest Human Teeth Found in Israeli Cave - Scientists
in Israel have found human teeth that may date back 400,000
years making them the oldest human remains ever found. The
teeth were found in 2006 in a cave, but the scientists,
taking extra time to confirm their suspicions, have only
recently published the results of their work. Avi Gopher,
of Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology, one of
the authors of the paper, said "The teeth are scattered
through the layers of the cave, some in the deeper part,
that is to say from 400,000 years and through all kinds
of other layers that can be up to 200,000 years. The oldest
are 400,000 years old." Such results call into question
the assumption that modern humans first evolved in Africa.
"It is accepted at the moment that the earliest Homo sapiens
that we know is in east Africa and is 200,000 years old
-- or a little less. We don't know of anywhere else where
anyone claims to have an earlier Homo sapiens," added Gopher.
Scientists continue to excavate the cave looking for further
Supermassive Black Hole found in Dwarf Galaxy -
Astronomers have found a supermassive black hole at the
heart of a nearby dwarf galaxy and this defies conventional
wisdom about how galaxies form. Supermassive black holes
have often been found at the heart of large galaxies and
scientists have wondered which came first: The black hole
or the galaxy around it. Consensus has favored the idea
that they formed together, but the discovery of a black
hole at the center of Henize 2-10, a small galaxy located
about 30 million light-years away in the direction of the
constellation Pixes, seems to suggest that the black holes
came first. "This is a very strange galaxy in which to find
a supermassive black hole," said astronomer Amy Reines,
a doctoral candidate at the University of Virginia. "Normally,
supermassive black holes are found in much larger, much
more massive galaxies that have bulges." The paper suggests
scientists need to do some more homework in this area. "We
really need to go and look for more examples like this.
It does suggest that it's at least possible that the black
hole formed before the galaxy," said Reines.
King Tut's Tomb to Remain Open for Now - According
to Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities,
King Tut's tomb will be remain open to visitor's for the
foreseeable future. There had been recent reports that the
tomb would be closed by year's end. Currently the number
of visitors to the tomb has been limited to 1,000 a day
because of concerns that the increased humidity caused by
so many tourists was damaging the delicate paintings on
the walls. Hawass has announced plans to built exact replicas
of the most popular tombs in the coming years to limit the
wear and tear on the originals.
Science Quote of the Month -
"I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific
problems is just as dumb as the next guy." - Richard
New at the Museum:
The Statue of Zeus - It was a work of
art worthy of the King of the Gods and one of the Seven
Wonders of the Ancient World.>Full
Mysterious Picture of the Month - What
is this thing?
Cardboard Submarine Trailer - We're getting ready
in the Spring to publish the sequel to our juvenile fiction
thriller Cardboard Submarine and in celebration we've
released a new trailer for the original book.
A Burning Question - Why can aluminum
dust burn but a block of aluminum will not? - John
It does seem
strange that if I put a match to a small pile of aluminum
powder I can get an energetic fire, (in fact powdered aluminum
is used in rocket fuel and fireworks) but if that same aluminum
is in the form of a block I can hold a match to it all day
without anything much happening. Why?
Then again, perhaps
it's not quite as strange as we might think. Anybody who
has ever attempted to light a camp fire knows that despite
wood being very burnable, it is almost impossible to take
a large branch, stick a match to it, and get it to burn.
However if you take your knife out and carve tiny pieces
off the branch until you have a little pile of shavings,
you can put a match to it and it will start burning without
The reason in
both the case of aluminum and the wood is that a fire needs
three things to burn: Heat, Fuel and Oxygen. Our match provides
the heat and the wood or aluminum is the fuel. The missing
ingredient is an adequate amount of oxygen.
Of course air
is about 20% oxygen. The problem is that the oxygen can
only participate in the burning if enough of it can get
close enough to the fuel to react with it. It needs a large
surface area, in comparison to the volume, to make that
contact. Let's look at an example.
A cube of aluminum
one inch square has a volume of 1 cubic inch. (1x1x1). The
surface area follows the formula of 6L^2 where L is the
length of any one side. So the surface area of the one inch
cube is 6 square inches.
Suppose we break
up our cube into smaller cubes each with the sides a tenth
of an inch long. This gives us 10x10x10 = 1000 cubes which
still have the same volume of the original cube (1 cubic
inch). Each of the smaller cubes would have a surface area
of 0.06 inches. If we take this figure a multiple it by
the number of small cubes we have we get 60 square inches.
So if the aluminum cube is in one piece it has a surface
area of just 6 square inches. If we break it up into a 1000
pieces, the surface area jumps to 60 square inches, though
the volume has not changed one bit. The
more surface area that is available, the better contact
the aluminum has with oxygen in the air and the better it
Since the particles
in powdered aluminum are much smaller than one tenth of
an inch the surface area of one cubic inch of the stuff
is enormous compared to the original solid cube and it burns
And, of course,
the same thing is true of wood. Take a one inch square block
of wood and it is very difficult to get it to burn with
a match. Take that same block and turn it into sawdust and
it can be lit with a match quite readily. Take that same
saw dust, put it into the air as a cloud, so that all sides
of particles have the maximum amount of contact with the
oxygen in the air and it will actually explode.
Every once in
a while you hear about a grain silo exploding. Grain by
itself will burn well, but is not explosive. When the grain
is poured into a silo, and a cloud of grain dust fills the
air then even a small spark can trigger a massive explosion.
So the lesson
here is that the smaller the size of the particles, the
more readily anything, aluminum, wood or even coffee creamer,
burns. Check out what happened when Mythbusters took
some powered creamer, blew it up into the air to make a
cloud, then lit it.
Gigantic Spectral Figure - On February 23, 1905,
according to the newspaper Advertiser, two men in Wales,
one of them an influential farmer, saw a "gigantic human
form rising over a hedgerow. Then a ball of fire appeared
above and a long ray of light pierced the figure, which
vanished." The sighting was one of a series of unexplained
religiously oriented phenomena experienced by people in
the region at the beginning of the 20th century.
Check out Orion Nebula - February might be a
really great time to check out the Orion Nebula. To find
this cloud of interstellar dust find the three bright stars
in a row of Orion's belt. From the belt hangs a sword and
midway down the sword there is a glowing fuzzy area that
is the nebula. The Orion Nebula is an example of a stellar
nursery where new stars are being born. In good conditions
the nebula can be seen with the naked eye, but a pair of
binoculars is very helpful. Especially if you want see the
four bright stars in the nebula known as the trapezium.
Little Girl Finds Supernova - A 10-year-old
Canadian girl has become the youngest person on record to
discovery a supernova. Stars several times bigger than the
sun end their lives in titanic explosions called supernovas.
Amateur astronomers often find them by photographing the
sky and then comparing the photo with older ones showing
the same area. Kathryn Aurora Gray of Fredericton, New Brunswick,
found the exploding star while checking pictures taken by
David Lane an amateur astronomer. Kathryn will share the
credit with her father, Paul Gray and Lane. Gray said his
daughter found the exploding star while examining the fourth
of 52 images Lane had sent to them. "Kathryn pointed to
the screen and said: 'Is this one?' I said yup, that looks
pretty good," Paul Gray told the Toronto Star.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: How Does the Brain Work? - Investigate
the psychology of magic tricks, magnetic wands that treat
depression, artificial intelligence, and more. On PBS: February
2 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
Nova: Smartest Machine on Earth - Jeopardy!
challenges even the best human minds. Can a computer win
the game? On PBS: February 9 at 10 pm on PBS; ET/PT.
On the Science Channel
Radioactive Paradise - A team of scientists, historians and divers embark on a scientific journey
to Bikini Atoll to see the effects of 23 atmospheric atomic
test blasts. With the help of a high-tech submersible, the
Pagoo, they explore Bikini's underwater ship graveyard.
Feb 03, 8:00 pm; Feb 03, 11:00 pm; Feb 05, 3:00 am; ET/PT
Killer Lakes - When Mount Nyiragongo erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo in
January 2002 molten lava plunged down the hillside and poured
into nearby Lake Kivu. Had the eruption spread to the volcanic
faults under the lake it could have unleashed lake overturn.On
The Science Channel: Feb 03, 9:00 pm; Feb 04, 12:00 am;
Modern Marvels: Strange Weapons - Modern arsenals have become much more sophisticated than bullets and
bombs. Discover microwave-like rays that make the enemy
flee when they feel the heat and laser weapons, mounted
on trucks and airplanes that can blow missiles out of the
sky. Some of the newest non-lethal weapons include a B.B.
machine gun that can fire 150 pain-causing pellets a second
and a flashing device nicknamed "the pukelight" that may
make you lose your lunch. Finally examine ancient weapons
that include a cutlery set containing hidden pistols and
Ninja hand claws that would put the X-Men's Wolverine to
shame. On The History Channel: Feb 5th 11PM; ET/PT.
Modern Marvels: Mad Electricity - Nikola Tesla's bizarre vision of the future brought him failure, but
his genius electrified the world. Travel to Niagara Falls,
where in 1893, Tesla installed his new system of Alternating
Electrical Current known as AC--the same power we use today.
Uncover the forgotten ruins of Tesla's dream experiment---a
huge tower on Long Island Sound he hoped would wirelessly
power the world. Radar, death rays, invisibility devices
and earthquake machines: Tesla claimed to have created them
all. More than 100 years ago Tesla foresaw the need for
alternative energies like geothermal and solar. On The History
Channel: Feb 18th 8PM; ET/PT.
Naked Science: The Book That Can't Be Read - The mysterious and centuries-old Voynich Manuscript was written by an
unknown author, illustrated with bizarre, puzzling pictures
and composed in a language that even the best cryptographers
can't decode.On The
Channel: Feb 3rd 8:00 PM & 11:00 PM; ET/PT.
Explorer: How to Build a Beating Heart - EXPLORER delves into the science of tissue engineering and shows how
scientists are beginning to harness the bodys natural powers
to grow skin, muscle, body parts and vital organs, even
hearts. On The
Channel: Feb 12th 7:00 PM; ET/PT.
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Copyright Lee Krystek 2011. All Rights Reserved.