Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Massive Fireball Startles Midwest - A massive fireball
streaked across the sky of the Midwestern United States
on the evening of April 14th. According to authorities the
object was visible for about 15 minutes starting at approximately
10PM local time. The fireball was reported across parts
of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin and was
caught by several security cameras. According to the National
Weather Service, ""The fireball was seen over the northern
sky, moving from west to east. Well before it reached the
horizon, it broke up into smaller pieces and was lost from
sight," the service said. "Several reports of a prolonged
sonic boom were received from areas north of Highway 20,
along with shaking of homes, trees and various other objects
including wind chimes." The cause of the fireball was probably
a large meteorite possibly associated with the Gamma Virginids
meteor shower which was in progress at the time.
Cornell Gives Up on Ivory-Billed Woodpecker -
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is giving up its search for
the almost mythical ivory-billed woodpecker. The search
started five years ago when evidence, including a video
tape, emerged suggesting the extinct animal might still
be alive and Cornell decided to declare the bird re-discovered.
This started an exhaustive investigation throughout the
historic range of the bird, however, no sign of any ivory-billeds
were found. "The preliminary conclusion we've come up with
at this point is that it's unlikely that there are recoverable
populations of ivory-billed woodpeckers in those places
that have received significant search efforts over the past
five years," Ron Rohrbaugh, director of the Lab's Ivory-billed
Woodpecker Research Project. "I think we'd say that (operations)
are suspended until any new information would come about
that would provide impetus for starting up systematic searching
again," he added.
Giant Lizard Found in Philippines - A new, giant
lizard, a relative of the Komodo dragon, has been discovered
in the forests of the Northern Philippines. The lizard,
brightly colored yellow and black, has been named the Northern
Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard and can grow up to 6
feet in length and weigh 22 pounds. The lizard lives in
the trees and uses tree-specific body coloration for camouflage.
Scientists think it may be very wary about exposing itself
to terrestrial predators which is why is has remained concealed
from researchers for such a long time. Unlike its distant
relative, the Komodo Dragon, the Northern Sierra Madre Forest
Monitor Lizard is, with the exception of an the occasional
snail, primarily a vegetarian, subsisting on Pandanus fruit,
figs, Pili nut fruits. "Rumors of its existence and some
clues have floated around among biologists for the past
10 years," co-author of the paper announcing the find, Rafe
Brown said. His article documenting the find can be found
in this month's Royal Society Biology Letters
"Oriental Yeti" Captured - Hunters in Sichuan
province in China have trapped a strange looking animal
that is being called 'oriental yeti.' The hunters at first
thought they were trying to capture what they thought was
a bear, but when they finally got it in the cage, it didn't
look like a bear. Lu Chin, one of the hunters explained:
"It looks a bit like a bear but it doesn't have any fur
and it has a tail like a kangaroo. It also does not sound
like a bear - it has a voice more like a cat and it is calling
all the time - perhaps it is looking for the rest of its
kind or maybe it's the last one?" he added. There are some
local legends of a bear that used to be a man and some people
think that's what the hunters have found. Other experts
believe that the creature might be a common civet (Paradoxurus
hermaphroditus), or a masked or Himalayan palm civet
(Paguma larvata) with a bad case of mange that has
caused the loss of hair.
High School Science Teacher Find Rare Fossil -
High school science teacher Kent Hups has made the find
of a lifetime: The skull of an ankylosaur dinosaur. Ankylosaurs
were highly armored dinosaurs that lived from about 125
to 65 million years ago. Hups, a teacher in Westminster,
Colorado, whose hobby is paleontology, found the skull a
few weeks ago. According to Hups "there's no skulls of this
kind anywhere in the world. That's why we get excited if
we see this kind of skull. I was an inch away and I was
looking in the area for 16 years. It's about being in the
right place at the right time. If we can confirm what it
is, it will be very amazing." The fossil was removed from
the rock and is now being analyzed at the Denver Museum
of Nature and Science where scientists hope to confirm the
identity of the creature.
Science Quote of the Month - "The
saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers
knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." ~Isaac
Kids to Read:
Man of Mystery Hill - This month sees the
release of Man of Mystery Hill a children's paranormal
novel by Tracy Carbone. Here's a quick synopsis:
is a typical fourth grade girl. She hates her hair, thinks
her mom is too strict, envies her best friend...Oh, and
Abby's father is crazy. Andy McNabb is a famous author known
for his investigations of aliens, ghosts and all things
paranormal. This embarrasses Abby to no end until the day
he takes her to America's Stonehenge, a/k/a Mystery Hill
... and for the first time in her life, she sees a ghost,
and her zany father as they explore local New England spooky
sites and learn what it means to believe in make believe
and trust what you cannot see.
from Amazon in both Kindle and regular print versions: The Man of Mystery Hill
New at the Museum:
Temple of Artemis - "I have seen the walls
and Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon, the statue of Olympian
Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the mighty work of the high
Pyramids and the tomb of Mausolus. But when I saw the temple
at Ephesus rising to the clouds, all these other wonders
were put in the shade"- Philon of Byzantium.
Read the update of our classic Seven Wonders of the World
page on ancient Ephesus >Full
Earth: The Heat is On! - How can so much
of the interior of the earth be hot molten lava, and have
the ground stay around a cool 55 degrees? Why does the heat
not work its way to the surface? Where's the convection?
The very center
of the Earth is estimated to have a temperature of around
12,000°F. As you move outward from the center of the planet
the temperature drops off till just below the outer crust
of the Earth it is only about 1,202 to 2,192°F. All the
rock below the crust is either molten or semi-molten and
it does support a convection current with the hottest rock
moving upward, losing its heat near the surface and then
sinking back down. These convection currents are slow, but
powerful and are responsible for the movement of the tectonic
plates on the surface of the Earth. The movement of the
plates, in turn, is responsible for such events earthquakes,
tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.
As you note,
the average underground temperature when you get about four
feet or so underground runs about 50 to 55°F. It isn't hotter
because the crust, which is almost completely a solid, acts
like a thick insulating blanket. Because it is solid it
does not support a convection current that would more easily
bring heat energy to the surface.
the average temperature near the surface is about 55, does
not mean there are not spots where it isn't significantly
lower or higher in temperature. For example, in locations
where the crust is thick, or the surface temperature is
consistently low, you can get a condition called permafrost.
This is where the subsurface temperature is freezing even
down to a depth of several hundred feet. We usually associate
these regions with places near the poles, like Alaska, but
permafrost can actually be found in lower latitude locations
like the Suwaki cold anomaly in the north-eastern corner
Where the crust
is thinner, more heat escapes to the surface causing higher
than average sub-surface temperatures. The crust tends to
be thinnest under the sea, so much of the Earth's heat escapes
into the oceans. Places where to tectonic plates join are
also locations where heat can escape more easily. For example,
the edge of the pacific plate is known as the famous "ring
of fire" and is responsible for 75% of all the recorded
volcanic activity. Some of the volcanoes involved include
those from the coast of North America (including Mt. St.
Helens and Mt. Rainer), Japan (Mt. Fuji), the Philippines
(Mount Pinatubo) and New Guinea and Micronesian (Mount Tambora).
There are also
"hotspots" where the crust thins and a molten rock plume
comes very close to the surface. One of the most famous
hotspots created the island chain of Hawaii, which has active
volcanoes despite being in the middle of the Pacific plate.
The world's most famous hotspot is probably Yellowstone
where high subsurface temperatures cause spectacular phenomenon
like hot springs, mud pots, steam vents and geysers. The
subsurface temperatures at the Norris Geyser Basin at Yellowstone
have been found to be as high as 401 °F at only a depth
of 265 feet. Yellowstone is also one of the known locations
of a "super volcano" which,
when it erupts, can lay waste to continent sized regions.
Why to these
hotspots exist? Scientists think that either upward flowing
convection currents from deep within the earth melts and
thins the crust in these locations, or the crust itself
melts creating a convection current to carry heat to the
Where does the
Earth's internal heat come from in the first place? Some
of it is residual heat from the planet's formation, but
planet has also picked up kinetic energy from the impact
of asteroids, including a collision with another planet-sized
body that created the moon. However, about 80% of the all
the heat is thought to come from the natural decay of certain
radioactive isotopes found underground. Some scientists
theorize that the center of the earth may even form a natural
atomic reactor generating energy at the core of the planet.
Dinosaurs in Colorado? - In a letter to Empire
Magazine, Myrtle Snow of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, wrote
that in May of 1935, as a small girl, she had observed "five
baby dinosaurs" near her home. She added that a few months
after this incident a nearby farmer had shot one after it
had attacked one of his sheep. She remembered seeing it.
"It was about seven feet tall, was gray, had a head like
a snake, short front legs with claws that resembled chicken
feet, large stout back legs and a long tail." Unfortunately
Ms. Snow's story was never corroborated.
Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower - Look for the Eta
Aquarid Meteor Shower to reach its peak on Thursday, May
6th. The shower starts to hit on 1st and will run through
the 8th. At the peak you may expect to see as many as 45
meteors per hour. Try looking toward the east just after
sunset to see meteors streaking over the horizon. This meteor
shower comes to us courtesy of Halley's Comet which leaves
a trail of debris behind it. As these bits of dust and rock
burn up in entering the atmosphere they appear to us as
recognize this fellow?
Crustacean Stowaway - Engineers with a sub-sea survey
company were surprised when they hauled up one of their
robotic submersibles and found a more than two and one-half
foot long creepy looking crustacean attached to it as a
stowaway. The engineers think it latched onto the ROV at
roughly 8,500 feet depth. One of the technicians associated
with the company posted the creature's picture to face book
asking for help identifying it. Scientists believe it is
a fairly large specimen of a Bathynomus giganteus
otherwise known as a giant isopod. Giant isopods live in
the muddy, harsh environment of the ocean floor and are
usually found in depths ranging from of 560 to 7,020 feet.
Though they look scary they are considered edible in northern
Taiwan and other areas and can be bought at seaside restaurants
and taste like crab or lobster.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: Mt. St. Helens: Back From the Dead - 30
years after the massive eruption...could it happen again?
On PBS: Tuesday, May 4 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
Nova: Mystery of the Megavolcano - Researchers
unearth clues to the greatest volcanic eruption of the last
100,000 years. On PBS: Tuesday, May 25 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
On The Discovery Channel:
Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking - The world's most famous living scientist presents the wonders of the
universe, revealing the splendor and majesty of the cosmos
as never seen before. See how the universe began, how it
creates stars, black holes and life -- and how everything
May 02, 9:00 pm; May 03, 12:00 am; ET/PT.
On The Discovery Channel:
The Volcano that Stopped the World- No description on this yet, but it appears to be look at the recent
volcano in Iceland the paralized air traffic around Europe
for weeks this May.
May 06, 9:00 pm; May 07, 12:00 am; ET/PT.
On The Science Channel
Killer Waves - Recent disappearances of huge cargo vessels at sea have breathed new
life into an old mariner's tale of single, massive waves
capable of sinking a ship in one hit. Investigate evidence
that suggests these towering waves really are out there.
May 03, 10:00 pm May 04, 1:00 am; May 05, 5:00 am; ET/PT
On The Science Channel
New York Earthquake - New York Earthquake will explore the rare, but potentially devastating
threat of an earthquake in the most populous U.S. city.
May 03, 9:00 pm May 04, 12:00 am; May 05, 4:00 am; ET/PT
On The Science Channel
Exploring Einstein: Life of a Genius - Albert Einstein's physics theories led to the creation of the nuclear
bomb, space travel, and an understanding of our universe.
In the later part of his life Einstein tried to disprove
his theories as they clashed with his personal beliefs.
May 02, 9:00 pm; May 03, 12:00 am ; ET/PT
The Truth Behind Crop Circles - For centuries, strange and dramatic designs have appeared in crop fields
throughout southern England. Are they alien messages or
the work of human artists and hoaxers? On The National Geographic
Channel: May 1st, 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM; May 1st 11:00 PM to
12:00 AM; ET/PT.
The Truth Behind the Bermuda Triangle - Explore what makes this area such a hotbed for catastrophe. Are natural
phenomena such as rogue waves or methane explosions wreaking
havoc here, or could something "out of this world" be at
work? On The
Channel: 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM; ET/PT.
Explorer: Python Wars - The Burmese python, one of the largest, most powerful snakes in the
world, has established a breeding population in Florida's
Everglades and soon, the snakes will be poised to spread
to other areas in the United States. On The
Channel: May 22nd 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM; ET/PT.
Ancient Aliens: The Visitors - If ancient aliens visited Earth, who were they, and where did they come
from? Possible historic evidence and beliefs are examined
around the world. The Dogon people possess knowledge of
a galaxy they claim was given to them by a star god named
Amma. The Hopi and Zuni people celebrate Kachinas, gods
from the sky, whose headdresses and costumes appear to resemble
modern helmets and protective clothing. Halfway around the
world, Chinese legends tell of the Han leader, Huangdi,
arriving on Earth on a flying, yellow dragon. Was this dragon
more likely a spacecraft? Ancient astronaut theorists believe
that these are far from chance encounters and that extraterrestrials
not only interacted with us, but changed the course of human
history. . On The
Channel: Saturday, May 1, 8PM; ET/PT.
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