pop up description layer
UFO Mysteries
Space & Time
7 Wonders
Surprising Science
Troubled History
Index/Site Map

Custom Search

E-mail this page link to a friend
Enter friend's e-mail:

Requires javascript

Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

April 2012

In the News:

Moon May Have Doomed Titanic - A century after it happened scientists are speculating that the moon may be partly responsible sinking of the passenger ship Titanic. In 1912 the ship struck an iceberg and sank within a few hours killing 1,517 people. The huge number of icebergs in the shipping lanes that night may have been caused by the moon being the closest to Earth as it had ever been for 1,400 years. This, combined with an alignment with the sun, caused an exceptionally high tide. Icebergs that normally would have been stranded along the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland came floating down into the shipping lanes. Captain Edward Smith had gotten iceberg warnings, but seemed to disregard them, probably because he had made this trip many times before and thought he knew the dangers caused by icebergs. He wouldn't have known, however, that this rare astrological arrangement had put more icebergs into the shipping lanes than had been seen in a thousand years.

Einstein Speed Limit Still Holds - Back in October of 2011 we reported that scientists with the Opera experiment, based at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, thought they had caught tiny particles, known as neutrinos, traveling faster than the speed of light. This was an outcome that, if true, would shake the foundations of physics along with Einstein's theories of relativity. It looks like Einstein can rest easy, however. Researchers at the ICARUS experiment based at Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy reported they redid the experiment and found the neutrinos traveling at less than the speed of light just as expected. Authorities at CERN have also acknowledged that the original results might have been caused by a faulty wiring problem. A fiber optic cable that synchronized an external GPS signal to the master clock of the OPERA experiment might have been loose causing the speed measurements to be off.

Earhart Found? - The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) think they have found some compelling evidence in the disappearance of aviator Amelia Earhart 75 years ago. What happened to Earhart, whose plane went missing over the Pacific in 1937, has been considered one of the great mysteries of the 20th century. TIGHAR has long suspected she may have attempted a landing on Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner Island, a tiny bit of land 300 miles off her course. The new evidence is an analysis of a photo taken of the island in 1937 by a British survey team. An enhanced version of the image shows what appears to be part of the landing gear of a Lockheed Electra (Earhart's type of plane) protruding from a reef. TIGHAR, the Discovery Channel, and Robert Ballard, the explorer who found the Titanic, are teaming up to see if they can find the remains of the plane during an expedition this coming July.

The Better to See You With, My Dear - Why do giant squids have basketball sized eyes? A recent study suggests that it helps them spot their main predator, the sperm whale. Giant eyes (up to 10.6 inches (27 centimeters) in diameter with pupils that are 3.5 inches (9 cm) wide) allow more photons of light in, enabling the animals to detect lower levels of illumination in their deep, dark, underwater environment. Researcher Sönke Johnsen, a biologist at Duke University, thinks that they may be detecting the faint bioluminescence given off by ocean plankton when the plankton are disturbed by sperm whales swimming by them. This would allow the squid to detect the whales approaching at a distance and make a quick getaway.

A Whale of a Find - The coastal desert of Peru seems like a strange place to find a sperm whale, but a team lead by paleontologist Olivier Lambert from the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France, did just that. The whale had been extinct for 13 million years, however. When it was alive it had a 10 foot long (3m) skull, which makes it much larger than its relatives that inhabit the ocean today. Named Leviathan melvillei (in honor of the writer of "Moby Dick") it was apparently adapted to feed on large baleen whales, unlike today's sperm whales which feed mostly on giant squid. The teeth of the newly found whale are up to 14 inches long (36cm) and are on both the lower and upper jaw (contemporary sperm whales only have teeth on the lower jaw). Scientists think that this means that the whale was a hunting predator that took large chunks out of its prey.


Get Together:

Creature Weekend 2012 - Interested in Cryptozoology? (The study of unknown animals) On May 18-20 the Salt Fork State Park, Cambridge, Ohio , will be playing host to Creature Weekend 2012 ( Ohio's first annual Cryptozoology Conference). Admission gets you entrance to some workshops, lectures and access to the vendor area. Workshops are "are geared toward the novice researcher or the person who just wants to learn how to get into the field as a cryptozoology researcher."

For more information go to www.creatureweekend.com


Science Quote of the Month - "An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field." - Niels Bohr (1885-1962)


What's New at the Museum:

Paricutin: The Volcano in a Cornfield - On February 20, 1943, Dionisio Pulido was working in his cornfield just outside the Tarascan Indian village of Paricutin, Mexico, when suddenly a volcano appeared. >Full Story

Attack of the Talking Nazi Dogs - Were the Nazis, as some accounts claim, really building an army of intelligent, talking dogs to defend the Third Reich? Where did this story come from and how much of it is actually true? >Full Story

Mysterious Picture of the Month - What is this thing?

Ask the Curator:

Radioactive Kitchen - Is it true that granite countertops give off radiation? - John

Granite has become an increasingly popular surface for countertops in the last decade. It very hard and won't easily chip. It's heat resistant so you can take something right out of the oven and place it on the surface without worrying about damaging it. It also comes in a large variety of natural colors that won't fade with time.

As a natural stone however, some granite can have uranium and /or thorium in it. These elements are naturally radioactive and uranium also emits radon gas (which is also radioactive) as it decays.

Now we should note that we are all exposed to low levels of radiation every day from many sources like the dirt under our feet, ceramic tile, plant fertilizer and cosmic rays from outer space. Even the smoke detectors that guard our house from fire give off a tiny bit of radiation.

This "background radiation" is so low it isn't usually considered dangerous, however. For example, the risk of being killed in a fire is many times higher than the risk from the tiny amount of radiation given off by smoke detectors, so you wouldn't want to remove the smoke detectors from your house.

Most granite gives at least a little bit of radiation, though not enough to be considered dangerous. Occasionally, however, a piece of granite used in countertops has been found to give off radiation at much higher levels than just background. It is thought this is more likely with exotic types of granite from places like Brazil and Namibia. Even with this higher radiation, however, it would take many, many hours of direct contact material before the radiation coming from it would be considered a real health threat. Of more concern would be breathing any radon gas given off by the granite. The EPA recommends that all houses be checked for radon gas. Such a check would find not only radon gas from countertops, but also gas from other building materials and from radon seeping in from soil underground (which is a much more likely source of the problem).

A study by the Health Physics Society concluded that no action needs to be taken to remove granite countertops in existing homes, but if there is a concern a test for radon should be done following EPA recommended protocols. If the level is high it is a lot easier and cheaper to remove the radon from the air via ventilation than getting rid of the countertop. A radon gas test can be done for less than $20.

If you are still concerned about your granite countertops giving off direct radiation you can have them tested, but it will cost you between $100 and $300 to have it done.

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

In History:

Francs from Heaven - Of all the strange things people have reported falling from the sky - blue ice, fish, rocks - perhaps money is the most odd. On April 15, 1957, in Bourges, France, witnesses said that they saw thousands of 1,000 franc notes fall from above. The money was never claimed.


In the Sky:

Lyrid Meteor Shower - The night of April 21st through 22nd brings us the Lyrid meteor shower. This year there will be new moon, so viewing conditions should be pretty good. Look for the meteors to appear to be coming from the constellation of Lyra which will rise in the northeast at about 10PM. You will probably see the most meteors in the darkest hours just before dawn. You can probably expect to see about 10 - 20 meteors per hour, but sometimes the Lyrids surprise us with surges up to 100 per hour.



Farmer Finds UFO in Hole - Austrian farmer Franz Knoglinger discovered a hole in his field that that he believed must have appeared overnight. He tried dropping a stone down it and after a long pause (indicating the hole was very deep) he heard a metallic thump. This strange anomaly immediately attracted the attention of people who came up with some very bizarre explanations. The favorite was that it was a buried flying saucer. Finally, however, somebody did some research in the local library and found that the hole had actually been there for decades, perhaps hidden by weeds or grass. It was drilled by a company looking for oil. When the drilling bit got stuck in some rock, the hole was abandoned. What was the metal thing down at the bottom of the hole? The broken bit.


On the Tube:

Please check local listing for area outside of North America.

NOVA: Deadliest Tornadoes - Why was the 2011 tornado season in the U.S. so extreme, and, with advanced warning systems, why did so many die? On PBS: April 11 at 9 pm; ET/PT.

NOVA: Secrets of the Sun- With new tools, scientists are striving to better grasp our star and its potentially widely destructive solar storms On PBS: April 25 at 9 pm; ET/PT.

The Resurrection Tomb - Two scientists think they have found Jesus's family tomb and evidence that early Christains were celibrating his resurrection. On The Discovery Channel: Apr 12, 10:00 pm; Apr 13, 12:00 am; ET/PT.

Titan: A Place Like Home? - Titan, Saturn's moon, along with Earth, Mars and Venus is one of only four astral bodies in the Solar System to have an atmosphere. Titan's is very similar to that of Earth 4 billion yrs. ago as life began. Could Titan hold the key to the origins of Life?. On The Science Channel: Apr 10, 10:00 pm; Apr 11, 1:00 am; Apr 12, 5:00 am; ET/PT.

Will We Become Extinct? - Our ability to read the human genome means that we have a roadmap for the history of our evolution. Humans have continued to evolve over the past 50,000 years and that begs the most exciting question of all: how will we evolve in the future? On The Science Channel: Apr 13, 9:00 pm; ET/PT.

Supermassive Black Holes - Scientists have discovered something even more powerful than black holes - supermassive black holes. Far from being agents of destruction, these giant black holes are now believed to be the seeds from which all galaxies grow. On The Science Channel: Apr 04, 10:00 pm; Apr 05, 1:00 am; Apr 06, 5:00 am; ET/PT.

The Real Face of Jesus? - As the Shroud of Turin is put on public display for the first time in 10 years, new data reveals more than just a flat image embedded in the ancient cloth, but an astonishing, three-dimensional, sculpture-like figure. Using the principles of physics, cutting-edge digital technology, and the revolutionary CGI process pioneered in Stealing Lincoln's Body, HISTORY brings that image to life, unveiling the most accurate representation ever seen of what many believe to be Jesus Christ. On The History Channel: 9PM April 6th; ET/PT.

Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron - James Cameron's epic 1997 film Titanic won 11 Oscars and grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide. Now, on an empty sound stage, in the shadow of a massive 42-foot replica of the Titanic and other props from the blockbuster film, Cameron brings together some the worlds leading Titanic experts, including engineers, naval architects, artists and historians, to solve the lingering mysteries of why and how the unsinkable ship sank On The National Geographic Channel: April 8th 08:00 PM; April 9th 08:00 PM; ET/PT.

Light the Ocean - Its the ocean like youve never seen it before. Using data from scientists around the globe, combined with specially developed computer animation software, NGC turns the Earths ocean waters crystal clear. Spectacular underwater landscapes and hidden structures are revealed. Follow sperm whales as they dive into the dark depths of the Kaikoura Canyon off New Zealand, and descend to the underwater mountain ranges of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to find never-before-seen creatures. On The National Geographic Channel: April 22nd 08:00 & 11:00 PM; ET/PT.



Science over the Edge Archives

LGM Archive 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Copyright Lee Krystek 2012. All Rights Reserved.


Related Links

Great Pyramid

King Tut Curse

Mummy Page

Rosetta Stone

Lost Ark

Making Mummies

Make a Fruit Mummy

Odd Archeology