NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up the gamma ray flash that came with the first detected gravitational waves.


Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month


March 2016

In the News:

Detected Gravitational Waves Result of Black Hole Collision - The first gravitational waves detected back on Sept. 14, 2015, may have been the result of two black holes colliding within a supermassive star. "It's the cosmic equivalent of a pregnant woman carrying twins," said astrophysicist Avi Loeb, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Black holes form when massive stars explode. In this case scientists think that the star was spinning so fast that the center formed into a dumbbell shape with each end becoming one of the holes. The holes then quickly merged causing the wave and then later fueling a burst of gamma rays. The rays were detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope just 0.4 seconds after the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) picked up the gravitational waves. "In order to power both the gravitational wave event and the gamma-ray burst, the twin black holes must have been born close together, with an initial separation of order the size of the Earth, and merged within minutes. The newly formed single black hole then fed on the in-falling matter, consuming up to a sun's worth of material every second and powering jets of matter that blasted outward to create the burst," stated the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Queen of Egypt Tomb Explored - Archeologists have been examining the tomb of Khentkaus III, queen of Egypt 4,500 years and hope to find more information out about that era in which she lived as little is known. Her remains were first found in November in a necropolis in Abusir, near Cairo, were she was emtombed a few hundred feet away from her husband, Pharaoh Neferefre. The identity of his principal wife was still unknown till this find. Scientists hope that the contents of the tomb will better help them understand the Old Kingdom period (2649--2150 BC) in which she lived. It was a time in which there was turmoil in Egypt as politics changed. It's "a crucial period when the Old Kingdom started to face major critical factors: The rise of democracy, the horrific impact of nepotism and the role played by interest groups," noted project leader Professor Miroslav Barta of the Czech Institute of Egyptology.

Why Did Mary Ingalls Go Blind? - If you ever read or watched "The Little House on the Prairie" you probably know that Mary Ingalls went blind from scarlet fever, right? Well, the truth may be a bit more complicated. The author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, based the stories on her early life and on her sister who really did go blind. As a medical student Dr. Beth Tarini was intrigued when she found out that scarlet fever only produced temporary blindness and decided to do some more research on Mary's disease. Using medical records, letters and newspaper accounts Tarini found that it appears Mary Ingalls actually suffered from meningoencephalitis, a disease that inflames the brain and associated areas. In some cases it can also affect the optic nerve causing people to go slowly blind. Tarini thinks that Wilder decided that Mary's actually diagnosis was too complicated for literary purposes and substituted scarlet fever, which was a greatly feared disease at the time, though it is easily treatable today.

Ocean Level Rising Fast - A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that oceans are rising at a faster than any time in the past 2,800 years. According to the paper sea levels climbed by about 5.5 inches in the century ending in the year 2000. "The 20th century rise was extraordinary in the context of the last three millennia - and the rise over the last two decades has been even faster," said lead author Robert Kopp, from Rutgers University's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. The report suggests that even if fossil fuels were phased out immediately, ocean levels would still climb between eight tenths of a foot and two feet by the end of the century.


Science Quote of the Month - "Progress is made by trial and failure; the failures are generally a hundred times more numerous than the successes ; yet they are usually left unchronicled." - William Ramsay.


What's New at the Museum:

The Sewers of London: There were many great works of spectacular engineering in the 19th century such as gigantic steamships, innovative bridges and fantastic buildings. None of them, however, saved as many lives as this immense and complex infrastructure project under the streets of one of the largest cities of the world. > Full Story

Mysterious Picture of the Month - What is this this?

Ask the Curator:

I'm trying to figure out where to buy Quartz Rock, can you help me? I would definitely appreciate it. - Sincerely, Brandon

Finding someone to sell you quartz will be a lot easier than picking from the many variations of quartz there are including Amethyst, Rose Quartz and Smoky Quartz. If you want to shop on-line you may want to try a site like which has a nice gallery of all kinds of rocks that you can view and buy. Quartz specimens are available there starting at about $15. If you want to go cheaper and see the goods in person before you buy you should try a local rock shop. They should be listed in your yellow pages. Finally, you might want to consider joining a local geology club. The site keeps a list of geology clubs and rock related organizations throughout the U.S.


Have a question? Click here to send it to us.


In History:

Bone Wars Battle - March of 1872 marks a skirmish in the "Bone Wars" between 19th century scientists Edward Cope and Othniel C. Marsh. On March 12 Cope published an article about two new fossils from Kansas of two large winged reptiles, of the family of Ornithosaurians. Unfortunately his rival Marsh described the same animals in an article that came out on March 7th. American Journal of Science gave the naming rights to Marsh because his article had come out a few day earlier, even though Cope had read his paper to the American Philosophical Society on March 1st. Cope fought the decision until 1875, but eventually recognized that Marsh had been awarded the find.


In the Sky:

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse - Depending on where you are on March 23rd you might be able to catch the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. This occurs when the Earth gets between the sun and the moon, but its shadow does not fully cover the lunar surface. This results in the moon turning a dark, reddish color. If the sky is clear the eclipse should be visible from eastern Asia, eastern Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the west coast of North America including Alaska.



Boy Finds Ancient Artifact - A 7-year-old Israeli boy found a 3,400 year-old figurine on a day trip to an archeological site. Ori Greenhut was climbing a mound at Tel Rehov when he noticed the clay likeness of a woman in the dirt. Brushing it off, the boy took it home as a souvenir. On seeing it his mother contacted authorizes which identified it as being typical of the Canaanite culture. Amihai Mazar, a professor and expedition director of the excavations at Tel Rehov believes it may be a depiction of a real woman or the fertility goddess Astarte made by pressing soft clay into a mold. The object has been turned over to Antiquities Authority.



Zeep and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place we feature highlights from their past adventures.

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