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Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

April 2014

In the News:

Giant Dino Stalked Prehistoric Europe - With a length of about 33 feet, weighing 4 to 5 tons and carrying large blade-shaped teeth Torvosaurus gurneyi was probably the largest predator dinosaur ever to stalk Europe. Christophe Hendrickx, a doctoral candidate at the New University of Lisbon in Portugal, and paleontologist Octavio Mateus described this 150 million year old monster last month in a study published in the journal PLOS One. "I suppose it wouldn't be a good idea to cross the way of this dinosaur," observed Hendrickx given that they estimate its teeth were nearly 4 inches long and its skull about 45 inches long. The remains of the carnivorous dinosaur were discovered in the Lourinha Formation, located north of Lisbon. This new set of bones has helped scientists establish that the Torvosaurus gurneyi was a species unto itself, not just another example of Torvosaurus tanneri, a similar North American dinosaur. One clear difference is that Torvosaurus tanneri had at least 11 teeth, while Torvosaurus gurneyi had some number less.

Power Lines Flash at Animals - For a long time scientist have known that animals avoid power lines. Finally they think they know why. Human eyes are not sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light. If we were, we would see that power lines glow and flash brightly from coronal discharges. Many animals including most insects, birds and non-primate mammals have UV vision. They may find the glowing and flashes off putting. Dr Nicolas Tyler, an ecologist at UIT The Arctic University of Norway who was an author on the study of the subject said, "There are hundred of examples of animals avoiding power lines. Now we know that, not only do these clear-cut corridors mean exposure to predators, at the same time there is this damn thing flashing at you." He went on to say, "The flashes occur at random in time and space, so the power lines are not grey and passive, but seen as lines of light flashing." Unfortunately there is no cheap solution to this problem and it seems that power lines may be a major contributor to the fragmentation of animal habitats.

Mammoth Cloning Back in News - The frozen mammoth that was discovered in New Siberian Islands last year is even in better shape than originally thought. According to Viktoria Egorova, chief of the Research and Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory of the Medical Clinic of North-Eastern Federal University, "The tissue cut clearly shows blood vessels with strong walls. Inside the vessels there is haemolysed blood, where for the first time we have found erythrocytes. Muscle and adipose tissues are well preserved. We have also obtained very well visualized migrating cells of the lymphoid tissue, which is another great discovery." Radik Khayrullin, the vice-president of the Russian Association of Medical Anthropologists, added, "The data we are about to receive will give us a high chance to clone the mammoth."

Brain May Actively Try to Forget - Do you curse your memory because you can't remember where you put your keys and you're late for work? Well being able to forget sometimes isn't necessarily a bad thing and can even keep you from going crazy. According to researchers at University of Basel in Switzerland the human brain must forget unimportant information in order to remain efficient and if it doesn't serious mental illness can arise. One person, Jill Price, who has a "photographic" or eidetic memory found it was hardly a blessing. According to Ms. Price, "Most have called it a gift but I call it a burden. I run my entire life through my head every day and it drives me crazy!!!" Scientists think that in most people the brain is actively, rather than passively, working to rid itself of unnecessary information. The scientists identified a molecule they think is responsible for this process called the Musashi protein. They engineered some nematode worms without the protein and compared them normal worms. The one without Musashi had much better recall. The next step might be to test humans with extraordinary memories to see if their levels of the protein are different from that of the general population.

Gravity Waves Detected - Scientists are excited by results from BICEP2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization 2) telescope in at the South Pole. The scope, which was looking at polarization of the cosmic microwave background in deep space, found evidence of gravitational waves. These waves were predicted by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity, but have never been seen before. The existence of such waves also supports the idea of "inflation" as the way the universe rapidly expanded after the Big Bang. These waves are the "first tremors of the Big Bang," according to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Because of the importance of the discovery many scientists are anxiously waiting conformation of the finding from other experiments, such as LIGO -- Caltech's Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, that are also looking for evidence of gravity waves.


Science Quote of the Month - "There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." - Mark Twain


What's New at the Museum:

A Half Century Ago: The 1964/65 New York World's Fair- Fifty years ago, on April 22, 1964, the World's Fair opened in New York City. It looked forward to a world where technology solved all of man's problems, wants and needs. Perhaps its goals were a bit optimistic, but it was fun, anyway. Full Story

Mysterious Picture of the Month - What is this this?

To Read :

Sea Monster Mayhem - The 30 foot long Kronosaurus was one of the most feared marine reptiles in the ancient Cretaceous Seas. Suppose one of them still survived today? This is the theme of Max Hawthorne's new novel, Kronos Rising. Hawthorne is a world record-holding angler whose writing has appeared in a multitude of outdoor magazines and periodicals. Now he telling a tale of a sea monster that still lives. According to the publisher's description:

"Devastated by his wife's tragic drowning, Olympic hopeful Jake Braddock turns his back on fame and fortune and retreats to his childhood home of Paradise Cove, Florida. He accepts the job of town sheriff, hoping to find the peace he so desperately craves."

"Soon, Jake finds himself drawn into an eons-old mystery - a mystery that ends with him adrift at sea, battling for survival against the deadliest predator the world has ever seen . . ."

The book, published by Far From The Tree Press, is slated to come out on April 24, and will be available and


Ask the Curator:

Elmo on Fire II - Last month Janie L. asked Is St. Elmo's Fire a symbol related to "The Masonic Order? Though I searched my resources I could not find a strong connection and invited readers to help us out. Reader Ruth Austin came to my rescue. According to Ms Austin:

"Yes, a connection does exist between St. Elmo's fire and Masonic symbolism. The rare phenomenon is represented as light from Heaven, coming down to earth and being manifested as holy fire on the altar found in the Masonic temple."

She goes on to say:

"According to the 'Codex Veritas,' this flaming light has a dual meaning, as most of the symbols in the Masonic beliefs have. It is associated with the Urim and Thumim, the two sacred objects that were used for divination purposes by the Hebrew high priest. When not in use, they were safely kept in the breastplate of the priest."

I did a little research on these objects and found that nobody at this point knows precisely what they were, but some scholars think they may have been small, flat objects made of wood or bone kept in a pouch on the high priest's vestments. When a divine judgment was needed the priest would reach into the pouch and pull one out randomly (this presumes that they were both identical to the touch so he couldn't know which one he was holding). The Urim essentially meant guilty and Thummim meant innocent. This might have also been interpreted as "Yes" or "No" depending on the question at hand. It seems likely that these devices might have been used to choose Saul as King in the Bible at 1 Samuel 10:22.

Ms Austin continues:

"The original Urim and Thumim would shine with heavenly light when the high priest needed a decision to be made, such as the guilt or innocence of an accused person. The original Umim and Thumim vanished when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple."

"The 'Codex Veritas' is an ancient text of Templar lore that I'm preparing for publication. It was originally a Latin manuscript acquired by Sir John Lindsay in 1246 AD, as he was returning from the Holy Land. He was a Knight Templar and a Mason."

Hopefully this sheds some more light on the original question. Thank you, Ms. Austin, and good luck with your coming publication.

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


In History:

Slippery Substance - Another "that's funny" moment in science. On April 6th, 1938 two researchers, Roy Plunkett and Jack Rebok were running an experiment at DuPont's labs that didn't go exactly right. They were testing a refrigerant gas, tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) and one of the cylinders of it seemed to be empty of the gas, but too heavy to be filled with air. On opening it they found a slippery, white powder with a high melting point. This powder turned out to be polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) resin. When it was marketed the slick stuff was called as Teflon.


In the Sky:

Bloody Moon - On the night of April 15th we will be treated to a Total Lunar Eclipse. This occurs when the Moon passes into the Earth's dark shadow (also called the umbra). During the eclipse, the Moon gets darker and darker finally turns red (like rust or blood) . This eclipse would be visible throughout most of North America, South America, and Australia.



Spacesuit Designers Wanted - Want to help NASA Design their next spacesuit? You can. The public can vote for one of three different spacesuits models: "Biomimicry," "Technology," and "Trends in Society" at NASA's website. The Z-2 suits all work the same, but the exterior designs are different featuring items like glowing EL-wire and varying textures. Check them out and vote at on or before April 15th.

Fab Egg is Found - Another priceless object lost to history has been found. The Third Imperial Easter Egg, made by Faberge for the Russian royal family has been found after nearly a century out of sight. A man, from the U. S. Midwest but who wishes to remain anonymous, bought the egg at a sale for $14,000 thinking he could get it melted down for the scrap worth of its gold and make a $500 profit. Fortunately, it appears he underestimated its value in gold and could not get a scrap dealer take it. So instead he checked the internet and realized that he was dealing with something that had an art value of around $33 million. This was confirmed by Wartski jewelers in Mayfair, who have handled the sale to an anonymous buyer. The egg, which was termed by expert Kieran McCarthy as "the Holy Grail of art and antiques" is on display to the public for only the second time, from April 14 to 17, at Wartski's before it goes into the new owners private collection. The 3.2-inch high egg is one of fifty made for the Tsar's family by Carl Faberge's jewelry workshop in pre-revolutionary Russia.


On the Tube:

Please check local listing for area outside of North America.

Nova: Wild Predator Invasion - Can we return apex predators to their natural environments without endangering humans? On PBS April 2 at 9 pm on PBS ET/PT.

Nova: Inside Animal Minds: Smartest - Explore the social lives of some of the smartest animals on the planet. On PBS April 23 at 9 pm ET/PT.

The World 101 Objects That Changed The World - Our lives are so full of stuff these days that the average object is instantly forgettable. But, when fate and history combine, even the simplest of objects become infused with destiny--so much so that they actually change the world. It may look like a lump of rock, but if it's a Moon Rock then it stands for mankind's giant leap. And while it's just a twisted loop of steel, if it's a Slinky it bounces us back to our youth. Sometimes a guitar is just a guitar, but if the guitar you're playing is Jimmy Hendrix's, then you're touching a generation. Some objects are one-of-a-kind (King Tut's mask,) others are ubiquitous (the wedding ring,) but they touch us all...personally and universally. They're icons, and without them, the world wouldn't be the same. On the History Channel: April 1, 8:00 PM ET/PT.

Civilization Lost - Around the world, archaeologists are uncovering artifacts that suggest the existence of previously unknown ancient civilizations, much like the mythical city of Atlantis. There is a growing belief among certain scientists and archeologists that tens of thousands of years ago, before the rise of today's man, sophisticated human societies populated large cities that possibly featured mechanized transportation, electricity, and advanced weapons systems. Proponents of this theory believe that these civilizations were wiped off the planet and that the evidence now lies buried miles beneath the Earth's surface. This two-hour special will investigate these beliefs and uncover the truth about people who lived before the beginning of recorded time. On the History Channel: April 5, 8:00 PM ET/PT.

Ultimate WWII Weapons - This countdown special reveals the weapons, inventions and vehicles that shaped and decided World War II, from the humble Studebaker to the shock and awe of the A-Bomb. With a countdown format and an outstanding cast of experts, we'll provide an explosive and definitive understanding of the greatest conflict of all time seen through the incredible hardware that tipped the balance and changed the world. On the History Channel: March 1, 9:00 PM ET/PT.

A Night of Exploration: Easter Island Underworld - Deep beneath the legendary Easter Island, a team of National Geographic explorers undertakes a groundbreaking expedition: to map a vast cave system that became the last refuge of the people who carved these iconic statues. On the National Geographic Channel: Sunday April 7th at 7PM .


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Copyright Lee Krystek 2014. All Rights Reserved.


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