Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Dwarf Dinos on Island - A study to appear in the
journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology,
confirms the existence of dwarf dinosaurs on ancient Hateg
Island which was located in modern day Romania. The scientists
doing the research found that at least four of the Hateg
dinosaurs were dwarves. This includes the titanosaurian
sauropod Magyarosaurus, which normally had a body length
of 82 feet, but on the island grew to only 16 to 19 feet.
Also a hadrosaurid named Telmatosaurus which usually grew
to about 23 to 33 feet long on the mainland, was only 13-foot-long
on Hateg. The researchers examined sections of the dinosaurs'
bones to make sure animals were adults and not juveniles.
"So these forms are all typically half the length of their
close relatives on larger land masses, and this equates
to a body mass of perhaps one-eighth that of the relatives,"
said Michael J. Benton the lead author of the study and
a paleontologist from the University of Bristol . "Body
mass is what matters most in biological terms, such as physiology
and food intake." The scientists believe a process called
process called progenesis, which shortens the developmental
period was responsible for the dwarfism. Large animals often
evolve into dwarf forms on islands because of limited food
Roses that Smell Like Root Beer in Future - While
studying petunias as a model increasing tomato yields, scientists
have accidentally come across the genes that control a flower's
smell. These 12 to 13 genes tell the plant to produce rose
oil, clove oil, wintergreen, the smell of root beer, and
other chemicals that, when smelled together, give the petunia
its distinctive aroma. With this information it is thought
that it will be possible to make such exotic plants as roses
that smell like root beer or wintergreen. More importantly
it will allow scientists to restore smell to flowers and
fruits that have had the aroma bred out of them in the last
50 years in the course of selecting for size, shape and
color. "It's great that we can ship a strawberry from California
to the Midwest, but the flavor and fragrance of that strawberry
are drastically reduced," said Ryan Warner, a scientist
at Michigan State University. "People are starting to look
for fruit that not only looks like a strawberry, but also
tastes and smells like one." The first experiment with this
discovery will be a petunia that smells like a rose that
should be ready for test smelling this summer.
Mummy Case to be Returned to Egypt - U.S. officials
will return a 3,000-year-old mummy coffin to Egypt, according
to Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni. The five-foot-long
wooden coffin was confiscated by U.S. customs officials
at Miami International Airport in 2008 when the Spanish
merchant who was transporting it failed to show the proper
paperwork. This led United States authorities to suspect
that the object might have left Egypt illegally. The U.S.
plans to return the object to Zahi Hawass, the secretary
general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, on March
10 in Washington, D.C., during an official ceremony. Hawass
claims that some 5,000 treasures have been returned to Egypt
since his tenure.
King Solomon's Wall Found - Archeologists digging
in Jerusalem have found a section of the city wall dating
back to the 10th century B.C. that might be possible proof
of the Bible accuracy. The wall seems to match up with a
structure described in the First Book of Kings that was
built by King Solomon. The 230-foot-long, 20-foot-high wall
has "an inner gatehouse for access into the royal quarter
of the city, a royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse,
and a corner tower that overlooks a substantial section
of the adjacent Kidron valley" according to a report in
Science Daily. "A comparison of this latest finding with
city walls and gates from the period of the First Temple,
as well as pottery found at the site, enable us to postulate
with a great degree of assurance that the wall that has
been revealed is that which was built by King Solomon in
Jerusalem in the latter part of the tenth century B.C.E.,"
said Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
This is the first evidence of a structure that matches up
with "written descriptions of Solomon's building of Jerusalem,"
according to Mazar.
Thunderstorm Gama Rays may Threaten Airliners -
Scientists are concerned that recently discovered gamma-ray
flashes coming out of thunderstorms may threaten airline
passengers and crew with high radiation. The rays were accidentally
discovered by instruments scanning outer space for cataclysmic
explosions called gamma-ray bursts. The flashes appear to
be associated with lightning strikes in thunderstorms. It
is estimated that airline passengers could be exposed to
the equivalent of 400 chest X-rays worth of radiation by
being near the origin of a single millisecond flash. Still
the risk of such an incident is thought to be small. "We
believe the risk of encountering a TGF in an airplane is
very small," said Joe Dwyer,of the Florida Institute of
Technology, who was one of the authors of a recent study.
"I wouldn't hesitate to take a flight. Pilots already avoid
thunderstorms because of turbulence, hail, and lightning,
and we may just have to add TGFs to the list of reasons
to steer clear of those storms."
Science Quote of the Month - "No
amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single
experiment can prove me wrong." -
New at the Museum:
Mystery of Quantum Physics (Part 2): Spooky Action at
- This month we will focus on how some interpretations of
quantum physics suggest that everything in the universe
is instantly connected with every else, no matter how distant
apart they are. >Full
What Makes a Dinosaur? - I read on your
web site and came across some dinosaurs with descriptions
elsewhere that said even though they lived in this [Mesozoic]
Era and were marine reptiles or flying reptiles, they were
still not considered dinosaurs. Can someone explain why?....and
just as important, what exactly were they considered then
if not dinosaurs? - Sydney L.
People tend to
think that any reptile that lived during the Mesozoic Era
qualifies as a dinosaur. However, dinosaurs actually have
a pretty precise definition. The term "dinosaur" was created
in 1842 by the famous zoologist Sir Richard Owen from the
Greek words deinos meaning "terrible, powerful, wondrous"
and sauros meaning "lizard." Owens also defined the
characteristics of the basic taxon (or group).
part of a larger collection of reptiles called Archosaurs
that include things like crocodiles and alligators. However,
two things divide dinosaurs from all other archosaurs. First,
they are by definition terrestrial. They lived on the land
(so they did not include flying reptiles or aquatic reptiles).
The second thing is that they have an upright gait. That
is, their legs were straight, perpendicular to the ground
and supported the weight of the body. This is a characteristic
that they share with today's mammals and gives both groups
the ability to walk or run more easily. Most other land
reptiles (like lizards) have a sprawling gait with their
legs out to the side and their feet not underneath their
The flying reptiles
that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs include the
huge Quetzalcoatlus, which with a wingspan exceeding
thirty feet was the largest flying animal ever, and Rhamphorhynchus
which had a long trailing tail with a diamond-shaped fin
on the end. The flying reptiles, including these two, had
their own group name: the Pterosaurs. (Note that
there is also a species in the group called Pteranodon
and you don't want to mix this up with the group name).
The aquatic reptiles
that lived during the time of the dinosaurs included the
famous Elasmosaurus, a type of plesiosaur with a
long neck, saucer shaped body and four diamond shaped fins
and the ichthyosaur Ophthalmosaurus, a dolphin shaped
reptile that grew to a length of 18 feet. There is no overall
name for this collection, except "ancient, extinct marine
reptiles." However, most of these creatures fell into three
groups, the mosasaurs, the ichthyosaurs and the plesiosaurs.
enough, recent developments in understanding which animals
are related to which may force the dinosaur group to include
flying creatures. Evidence has been mounting that modern
birds are descended from dinosaurs. Since under strict classification
rules a group descended from another is included in the
parent group, birds are dinosaurs and dinosaurs are not
extinct (It is important to note, however, that the Pterosaurs
are still not dinosaurs as they are not birds). Some scientists
now refer to the original dinosaur group as "non-avian dinosaurs"
and birds as "avian dinosaurs." This is somewhat clumsy,
however, and in common speaking people still use the word
dinosaurs to refer to the original group of extinct land
reptiles that include the familiar species Stegosaurus,
Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus rex.
Area 51 Encounter? - On March 6, 1993, William
Hamilton III, a ufologist, and a female friend were parked
on a hill just outside the famed Area 51 secret base in
Nevada when they claimed they saw a UFO that seemed to transform
itself into an automobile. Later they both came to the conclusion
they had "lost" time that evening. During a follow-up hypnotic
session the two said that they had both been abducted: him
to a spaceship where he was examined by aliens and her to
a white van were she was examined by men in black. There
has never been any collaboration to this story.
Four Planets - This is a good month to take a
look at the planets. Four of the five visible to the naked
eye will be in the evening sky in the latter part of the
month. Venus will emerge out of the sunset and by the end
of the month will stay in the sky for more than an hour
and a half after the sun is gone. Mars, which gives an orange-redish
glow, will be high in the sky near the constellation Cancer.
Saturn will be rising into the evening sky in the east.
Mercury will be low in the west after sunset in early March.
It will be right below Venus and will be moving closer and
closer to Venus as April approaches.
Jacko Spotted in Polymer Droplet - David Fairhurst
a physicist at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, spotted
the likeness of the late Michael Jackson, the king of pop,
in a drying droplet of polymer solution, according to PhysicsWorld.com.
"I noticed it immediately and showed it to the other guys
- we had a really good laugh about it," Fairhurst said.
The image is made up of a series of small "spherulites"
that crystallized on the droplet's surface revealing what
appears to be a human face. To take a gander go to http://physicsworld.com/blog/2010/02/jacko_spotted_in_droplet.html
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: The Pluto Files - Take
a cross-country journey with Neil deGrasse Tyson to explore
the rise and fall of America's favorite planet On PBS: Tuesday,
March 2 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
Nova: Cracking the Maya Code - The
story behind the centuries-long decipherment of ancient
Maya hieroglyphs. On PBS: March 23 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
On The Discovery Channel:
Monsters and Mysteries in Alaska - Alaska: could its uninhabited frontier be hiding monsters and mysteries?
For the first time, witnesses tell the stories of their
encounters with the unknown: Bigfoot, lake monsters and
UFOs - all under the scrutiny of a top microexpressions
Mar 07, 10:00 pm; Mar 08, 1:00 am; ET/PT.
On The Discovery Channel:
Colossal Squid - Colossal Squid is a landmark television event that presents the dramatic
capture of a massive squid off the coast of Antarctica,
and the groundbreaking research to discover the secrets
of one of the ocean's most elusive and mysterious creatures..
Mar 08, 10:00 pm; Mar 09, 1:00 am; ET/PT.
On The Science Channel
The Hawking Paradox - In 2004, Stephen Hawking admitted to making a mistake. The genius who
discovered black holes was claiming that his entire theory
about them was wrong. Follow Hawking as he prepares to deliver
the paper that he says will prove his doubters wrong.
: Mar 09, 9:00 pm; Mar 10, 12:00 am; Mar 11, 4:00 am; ET/PT.
On The Science Channel
Flooded Civilization - Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans provides a window into
the demise of ancient pyramid cities around the Gulf of
Mexico. Evidence suggests every 600-years the great coastal
civilizations of Mexico have been lost to similar megafloods.
Mar 01, 10:00 pm; Mar 02, 1:00 am; Mar 03, 5:00 am; ET/PT
Paranatural: Mystery Lights - For centuries, people around the world have witnessed a strange phenomenon
orbs of light hovering in the night sky. NGC joins a team
of researchers with a new theory on the origin of these
lights. On The National Geographic Channel: March 1st, 9:00
The Truth Behind Crop Circles - For centuries, strange and dramatic designs have appeared in crop fields
throughout southern England. Are they alien messages or
the work of human artists and hoaxers? On The
Channel: March 7th, 7:00 PM; ET/PT.
Titanic: The Final Secret - Join legendary explorer Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered Titanic in
1985 on a top secret naval mission. NGC reveals the details
behind this story of stealth, subs and superpowers in the
middle of a cold war operation? On The
Channel: March 20th 9:00 PM; ET/PT.
Nazca Lines: The Buried Secrets - Are they ancient road maps or messages for visiting aliens? Lying at
the foothill of Peru's Andes Mountains is the site of one
of the world's greatest mysteries. Etched, as if by giants,
onto its arid, moonscape plains are immense lines that stretch
for miles, forming strange shapes recognizable only from
the air. Now, a team of specialists from around the globe
has come to southern Peru to investigate the Nasca Lines
in the hope of uncovering their secrets. On The
Channel: March 4th 6PM ; ET/PT.
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