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Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

May 2009

In the News:

Drying Salt Lakes May have Caused Extinction - Many theories have been put forth for the end-Permian mass extinction 250 million years ago when nearly 90 percent of life on Earth died. Ludwig Weissflog of the UFZ-Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Germany and a team of researchers have come up with a new one: evaporating great Salt Lakes. The scientists measured gases coming from the Kara-Bogaz-Gol salt flats and found huge amounts of halogenated hydrocarbons like chloroform and trichloroethylene that are known to be poisonous and can damage the Earth's ozone layer. The theory is that very dry conditions 230 million years ago caused many salt lakes to dry out and release these chemicals into the air. This, it turn, killed most of the plants on the earth. Without plants, most of the animals died too. Co-author Kastern Kotte of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry admits that the theory is still circumstantial, but the group plans to continue testing and have built a more substantial case "within a year or two."

"Drowned" Spiders Comes Back to Life - Scientists have discovered that certain types salt marsh-dwelling spiders can survive being "drowned" for up to 40 hours and still revive. Julien Petillon, a scientist at the University of Rennes in France, wanted to see how long the salt marsh-dwelling wolf spider could survive underwater, so he submerged some in his laboratory. All stopped moving after 24 hours. After he dried them out, however, he was amazed to see some come back to life. While many spiders survive flooding by climbing up nearby vegetation, the wolf spider is the first known to go into a coma to survive high-water.

Researchers Search for Cleopatra and Antony Tombs - Scientists in Egypt started work this month looking for the tombs of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The location of the lovers' remains have been unknown since they committed suicide after their army was defeated in the battle of Actium in 31 B.C.. The famous queen of Egypt and the Roman general might be buried in a deep shaft in a temple near the Mediterranean Sea, according to Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. Teams from Egypt and the Dominican Republic have been excavating the temple for the last three years and have found a number of deep shafts inside the temple, three of which might have been used for burials. Archaeologists have already found the alabaster head of a Cleopatra statue, 22 coins bearing Cleopatra's image, and a mask believed to belong to Mark Antony at the site.

Long-necked Stegosaur Found - Scientists were surprised to discover the remains of a Stegosaur with one of the longest necks ever recorded for a dinosaur. Stegosaurs have always been thought of as squat animals with short legs, a short neck and a row of plates and spines running down the back, but Miragaia longicollum, meaning "long-necked wonderful goddess of the Earth," had more neck vertebrae than almost any other dinosaur. The creature was found in Portugal and lived between 144 and 159 million years ago. "Contrary to other stegosaur dinosaurs, Miragaia longicollum had a long neck with 17 vertebrae, which is as much as long-necked sauropod dinosaurs," said Mateus, a paleontologist at the Universidade Nova da Lisboa in Portugal.

Knights Templars Guarded Shroud - Scholars think that they have pieced together where the Shroud of Turin was during a period between 1204 A.D. and 1351 when it mysteriously disappeared from the history books. The shroud, which believers think covered the body of Christ, was apparently in the possession of the Knights Templar during those years. The Templars were a powerful, wealthy and secretive medieval order formed to protect Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, though later the group was accused of heresy and disbanded. The evidence for the connection of the Knights Templars with the shroud comes from Barbara Frale, a scholar at the Vatican Secret Archives. According to Frale, newly found archival documents reveal "missing clues" to the fate of the Shroud during those years. "The new evidence comes from the account of a Templar initiation rite in 1287 of a young Frenchman, Arnaut Sabbatier. He testified that he was taken to a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access. There, he was shown a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man, and was told to kiss the feet of the image three times," Frale said. The description of the linen cloth seems to match that of the shroud.


Science Quote of the Month - "Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum mechanics cannot possibly have understood it." - Niels Henrik David Bohr

What's New at the Museum:

Project Blue Book: The U.S. Air Force Verses the Flying Saucers - After investigating over 12,600 incidents the military's 22 year-long effort to crack the mystery of UFOs ended with anger, suspicion and claims of a cover up. > Full Story


To Read :

Cardboard Submarine - When Mike, Melissa and Hector ordered a submarine from an ad on the back for a comic book, they got less, and more than the expected. Robots, flying saucers, space aliens, sunken treasure and pirate looters were in the package too! Fiction Ages 8 - 13. At Amazon.com or on sale at our own Museum of UnNatural Mystery Press page.

Ask the Curator:

Geostationary Satellites - Is it true that for a satellite to hold the same position over the earth it can only be over the equator? - John

The type of satellite you are talking about is called a geostationary satellite and the idea for it was first proposed by Herman Potonik, a Slovenen rocket engineer, in 1928. Most people connect the idea, however, with famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke wrote an article about the idea for Wireless World in 1945.

The speed with which a satellite in orbit circles the Earth is dependent upon how high above the Earth's surface it is. Objects in low Earth orbit circle the globe much faster than those in higher orbits. For example, the space shuttle orbits the earth at a height of between 115 and 380 miles and will circle the Earth about 16 times in a 24 hour period. If an object is placed in orbit at a much higher level, say 22,300 miles, it will circle the globe only once in a 24 hour period. This makes it the object a geosynchronous satellite orbiting at the same rate the planet turns.

However, unless the satellite is also in an orbit over the Earth's equator, it will appear to move back and forth in the sky along a north to south line during the course of the day. To be a geostationary satellite the object needs to be in a circular orbit directly over the equator at the height of 22,300 miles (This is sometimes refered to as the "Clarke orbit"). Only then will it appear to be fixed in a single location in the sky.

There are many uses for geostationary satellites including communications (for example, the dish television broadcast satillite I get my TV on) and weather observation. Since they do not move in the sky, geostationary satellites allow receivers on the ground to use a simple fixed antennal to point to them and pickup broadcasts. Because the satellites are over Earth's equator, however, any northern hemisphere location wishing to point an antenna at them must have a clear view of the southern sky. The opposite is true in the southern hemisphere.

Have a question? Click here to send it to the curator.


In History:

Wildman in China - On May 14, 1976, 6 Chinese bureaucrats driving home spotted a strange "tailless creature with reddish fur" on a rural highway near Chunshuya. The creature tried to escape up an embankment alongside the road, but fell and was nearly hit by the bureaucrats' jeep. The passengers got out and surrounded the creature, but after a few moments decided that they should let the creature move off. It successfully climbed up the embankment and escaped. The group described the animal as being covered in thick, wavy brown and purple hair with a flat belly and pronounced buttocks. Some claim the creature was a "Chinese Wildman" - the equivalent of America's Bigfoot.


In the Sky:

Find Planet Neptune - This is a project only for readers with a small telescope or good binoculars. From mid-May, Neptune will be just one degree from Jupiter, making it a much easier to find. The best night to try may be May 15th when the two will be in less than a degree apart in the sky. First find Jupiter (it will be the brightest object up there) in the southern sky. Just to the left is the star Mu Capricorni and then Neptune will be the bluish dot to the left and a little above. Each day Jupiter heads a bit closer to Neptune, passing Mu Capricorni on May 20. By the 27th, Jupiter will be directly below Neptune.



Astronaut Believes in UFO - Former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell addressing the National Press Club following the conclusion of the fifth annual X-Conference (a meeting of UFO activists and researchers) said, "…we really have evidence. No, we're not alone." Mitchell went on to explain how he had grown up in the Roswell, NM, area and had heard stories about the UFO crash that had allegedly occurred there in 1948. People there, after being warned to keep quiet by the government, he said,"…didn't want to go to the grave with their story. They wanted to tell somebody reliable. And being a local boy and having been to the moon, they considered me reliable enough to whisper in my ear their particular story." Mitchell also said that an Admiral at the Pentagon had once confirmed to him that the stories of a UFO crash at Roswell were real. Now, contends Mitchell, that same Admiral denies the story.


On the Tube:

Please check local listing for area outside of North America.

NOVA: Cracking the Maya Code - The story behind the centuries-long decipherment of ancient Maya hieroglyphs On PBS. Tuesday, May 5 at 8 pm ET/PT.

Yellowstone: Battle for Life - Follow a year in the life of three charismatic wild characters, whose dramatic lives and fortunes are interwoven in Yellowstone, one of the world's last and most spectacular wildernesses. On Discovery Channel. May 03, 9:00 pm; May 04, 12:00 am; ET/PT

Quest for the Goblin Shark - A team of scientists search Tokyo Submarine Canyon,1,000 meters deep and 40 kilometers long, for the Goblin Shark. An illusive ancient creature that has never been caught on camera. This fearsome species has been in the ocean for a hundred milllion years! On the Science Channel. May 10, 5:00 pm; ET/PT

The Ends of the Universe: Hubble's Final Chapter - Hubble has revolutionized our science of the cosmos.It has become a global superstar and a household name. But after years without maintenance the telescope is desperate for help.Now, a massive final mission is underway to repair it for the very last time On the Science Channel. May 11, 8:00 pm; May 11, 11:00 pm; May 12, 4:00 pm; May 13, 3:00 am; ET/PT

The Real Superhumans and the Quest for the Future Fantastic- This groundbreaking, feature-length documentary reveals the amazing stories of real people with extraordinary super powers.. On The Science Channel. May 09, 8:00 pm; May 09, 11:00 pm; May 11, 3:00 am; ET/PT.

Ancient Aliens - What if life on Earth began in outer space? Millions of people accept the theory that intelligent life forms visited Earth thousands of years ago and were worshiped as gods by primitive man. Are monuments like Stonehenge and Easter Island the last remains of an ancient alien visitation? From unexplainable super structures, to knowledge of the solar system, mathematics, and even the ability to make electricity, this special explores evidence of super-human influences on ancient man and embarks on an around-the-world search for answers. It's an investigation into a theory some believe cannot be true, but many agree cannot be ignored. On The History Channel. Saturday, May 09 08:00 PM; Sunday, May 10 12:00 AM AM; ET/PT.



Science over the Edge Archives

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Copyright Lee Krystek 2008. All Rights Reserved.


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