new study suggests T-Rex was actually an invasive
species. (Copyright Lee Krystek)
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Rex Maybe an Invasive Species - Although we think of
the Tyrannosaur Rex as a North American original, a new
study suggests there is evidence he actually was actually
an invasive species. "It's possible that T. rex was an immigrant
species from Asia," said study co-author Steve Brusatte,
a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
He also cautions, however, that such a conclusion is not
yet a "slam dunk." Scientists involved in the study analyzed
28 different tyrannosaur species and created a family tree
that estimated just when and where each species lived. The
tyrannosaurs developed differently in Asia and North America,
but 67 million years ago a land bridge appeared between
the two continents which may have allowed T. rex to cross
using this route into North America. "Tarbosaurus is the
Asian version of T. rex," noted Brusatte "Or, you could
say that T. rex is the North American version of Tarbosaurus.
They are so similar in terms of their monstrous size, their
proportions, their massive jaw muscles and thick teeth and
even many minutiae of their skull bones."
Try to Clone Extinct Cave Lion - Researchers in a joint
Russian-South Korean project are trying to clone an extinct
Paleolithic cave lion. The opportunity to attempt this came
as the result of finding two perfectly preserved cave lion
cubs in the Sakha Republic in eastern Siberia last August.
The scientists hope they can extract enough DNA from the
remains to attempt to clone the creatures. One of the team
members, Semyon Grigoriev, is also involved in an effort
to clone a woolly mammoth using a similar process. Protopopov
believes the cubs were only a week or two old and died after
being hidden in a cave by their mother to protect them from
other hungry lions. He termed the find "sensational." One
of the cubs will be donated to a museum for study and display
while the other will be used in the cloning effort by the
Joint Foundation of Molecular Paleontology at North East
Russia University in the city of Yakutsk. The cave lion
is thought to have gone extinct about 10,000 ago.
Drill the Killer Asteroid's Crater - This month a team
of scientists are starting an exploration of the crater
of the asteroid that brought death to the dinosaurs. Scientists
from the University of Texas, the National University of
Mexico and the International Ocean Discovery Program, will
drill into the Chicxulub crater off off Mexico's Yucatan
Peninsula. They are hoping core samples will tell them how
quickly and to what extent life returned after the powerful
impact. "You can assume that at ground zero of this impact
we are dealing with a sterile ocean, and over time life
renewed itself. We might learn something for the future,"
said Research Professor Sean Gulick of University of Texas
Institute for Geophysics. The impact, which was thought
to be a billion times more powerful than the atomic bomb
dropped on Hiroshima, and the geological Cretaceous Paleogene
boundary it created, marks a major extinction event of life
on earth around 65 million years ago.
Aliens Huge? - According to one cosmologist's estimate
aliens should weight an average of 650 pounds. He's made
his approximation based on planet size and the law of conservation
of energy. "Throughout the animal kingdom, species which
are physically larger invariably possess a lower population
density, possibly due to their enhanced energy demands,"
says Fergus Simpson of the University of Barcelona. "Which
brings us to outer space, where, most inhabited planets
are likely to be closer in size to Mars than the Earth."
Other scientists have said that Simpson's estimates are
reasonable, but point out that the largest life forms are
not always the most intelligent. "Polar bears are large
but do not write great literature and build radio towers,"
observes SETI Institute researcher Seth Shostak, "and a
lot of that is probably because they are walking around
on all fours."
Quote of the Month - "The
cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry
about from Science, along with behavior control, genetic
engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the
unrestrained growth of plastic flowers." - Lewis
New at the Museum:
to Build a Thermonuclear (Hydrogen) Bomb - By
the end of WWII, it was possible to build atomic bombs using
fission (the splitting of atoms) that could create explosions
equal to several hundred tons of TNT. Scientists suspected,
however, that even more powerful weapons could be built
by forcing atoms together, an effect called fusion. The
United States tested the first of these mega-weapons in
1952 with a blast equal to 10.4 million tons of TNT. How
are these thermonuclear super bombs built? > Full
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Waves - I hear that scientists have discovered gravitational
waves. What is the significance of finding gravitational
waves and how might they advance future technology? - Levi
idea that like there are gravitational waves goes back to
Albert Einstein a century ago. In 1915 he published this
General Theory of Relativity and out of that work it became
apparent that gravitational waves should exist. Einstein
said that any object with mass makes a dent in the fabric
of space and other objects with mass, because space is curved,
tend to move toward that object.
best way to visualize this is to imagine the fabric of space
as a rubber sheet stretched out on a frame. Large, heavy
objects (like the sun and its planets) make a big dents
in that sheet. Smaller objects tend to roll downhill into
those big dents. If an object (like a ball representing
the moon) has enough velocity, however, it can find itself
looping around (orbiting) the larger object (the Earth)
only slowly falling into its dent as it loses it speed.
course, the fabric of space is three dimensional, not two
dimensional like our rubber sheet, but it still works the
same way. Now imagine you took a heavy object and bounced
it on that rubber sheet. Ripples would move outward though
the rubber. These are the equivalent of gravitational waves
in our model.
scientists have known that gravitational waves must exist,
it hasn't been possible to build a machine sensitive enough
to detect them till just recently (Because of the difficulty
Einstein predicted that they would probably never be found!)
so finding them is significant both as a proof of Einstein's
work and a demonstration of the sophistication of modern
machine that detected them, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave
Observatory (LIGO) consists of a machine built in an "L"
shape with arms 4 kilometers in length. It sends a laser
signal down both arms to measure the distance, which should
be the same. If a large enough gravitation wave comes through
it will stretch the fabric of space time by just a tiny
amount making one arm slightly longer than the other. If
the computer monitoring the machine detects that change
(and all other sources of error are ruled out) then LIGO
has detected a gravitation wave. The problem is that the
change in distance is very, very small: about a thousandths
the width of a proton, so it is very hard to detect (Imagine
trying to detect the change in distance between the sun
and its nearest neighbor star by only a hair's breath, and
you get the idea about how challenging this is to do).
of the immediately benefits of being able to detect gravitational
waves is being able to create new and infinitely more powerful
telescopes that can see back in time very close to the beginnings
of the universe. All telescopes are in effect time machines.
The light from the nearest star takes about 4.2 years to
reach us, so we see Proxima Centauri as it was a little
over four years ago. The light from the Andromeda Galaxy
takes 2.5 million years to reach us, so we see that galaxy
as it was over two million years ago. Optical and radio
telescopes are limited in how far back in time they can
see, however, by the cosmic microwave background in the
early universe. This cosmic microwave background is opaque
to photons, but gravity waves should have passed right though
it allowing gravitational telescopes to see back to the
first few minutes of the universe.
telescopes should also be able to detect events like supernovas
and black holes collisions way before the light from such
an event would arrive allowing scientists with optical telescopes
to have them pointing in the right direction to see the
whole event. The gravitational scopes should also tell us
something about what is happening inside the event, which
we can't see from just looking at the outside by using the
more traditional scopes.
fact, scientists believe that the gravitational waves LIGO
detected were the result of two black holes, both located
inside a huge star, colliding with one another.
are a number of groups with gravitational telescopes and
others who have plans to build them. Some of them here on
Earth will be deep underground to minimize vibrations that
might spoil delicate measurements, but others may be located
in space. Where ever they are, however, they will open up
a whole new area of astronomy and cosmology.
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send it to us.
Curse Victim? - April 5th of 1923 marks the death of
the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (George Edward Stanhope Molyneux
Herbert). Earl Carnarvon was a British Egyptologist who
backed the work of Howard Carter. Carter had discovered
the tomb of King Tutankhamun in November of the previous
year. Lord Carnarvon's death in Egypt of an infection from
an insect bite lead to the rumor that the tomb of King Tut
was accursed. (See our page on this subject here).
Moon Makes Lyrids Difficult to See - The night of April
22nd into the morning of the 23rd is the peak of the Lyrids
Meteor shower. The shower is the trail of dust produced
by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher as Earth crosses its path. Unfortunately
the full moon will limit the shooting stars seen on that
night to just the brightest. Best viewing will be after
midnight from a dark location.
Pyramid in Antarctica? - Self-styled UFO researcher
Vicente Fuentes from Madrid believes he's found evidence
of an ancient civilization on the remote Antarctica continent.
Using Google Earth Mr. Fuentes discovered what looks like
a pyramid at coordinates 79°58'39.25 S and 81°57'32.21 E.
Mr. Fuentes argues this is evidence that Antarctica was
a much more hospitable environment in the past. Mainstream
scientists agree that the continent was at one time much
warmer, but that this occurred millions of years before
the rise of man and that any pyramid appearing object on
the continent is most likely a natural feature.
and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place
we feature highlights from their past adventures.
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