Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Yard Sale Bowl Goes for $2.2 Million - Ever hope
to pick a bargain in a yard sale? In 2007 a New York state
resident bought a small, curious-looking bowl at a yard
sale for $3. A couple of years later she decided to have
it assessed. It turned out to be a 1,000-year-old example
of Chinese, Northern Song Dynasty pottery. Only one other
piece like it exists and had been in the collection of the
British Museum in London for over 60 years. The auction
house Sotheby's estimated it would go for around $200,000
to $300,000. When it went on sale last month, however, the
ancient treasure got caught in a bidding war between four
buyers and sold for over $2.2 million.
"Gate to Hell" Found - Archeologists think they
have identified the mythical "Gate to Hell" that appears
in Greek and Roman legends at a location in modern Turkey.
"Any animal that passes inside meets instant death," wrote
Stabo, the ancient Greek historian. The cave in the Ruins
of Hierapolis apparently emits a poisonous gas - carbon
monoxide - that kills anything that gets too close. "We
could see the cave's lethal properties during the excavation,"
said Francesco D'Andria who worked on the dig. "Several
birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening,
instantly killed by the carbon monoxide fumes." The location
seems to match the ancient description including a temple,
a pool and a series of steps above the cave. The site was
supposedly destroyed by Christians in the 6th century.
Mammoth Found in Mexico - Scientists have unearthed
the remains of a Columbian mammoth that died approximately
10,000 to 12,000 years ago just south of Mexico City. According
to the National Institute for Anthropology and History,
"For the first time in Latin America, magnetic, electric
and ground-penetrating radar methods were applied in paleontology...
(methods that are) commonly used in archaeological excavations
to detect architectural (findings)." By using these methods
scientists saved time and were able to understand the size
of the find before actually starting to dig. It is the most
complete skeleton of this type a mammoth ever found in Mexico
and researchers estimate that the specimen was a male about
30 years old when he died. It appears he fell into a gorge
where the body was covered with a more than a yard (1 meter)
of ashes during a volcano eruption.
Studying the Loch Ness Monster to Learn About Ourselves
- Dr. Charles Paxton, a research fellow and statistical
ecologist at St Andrew's University thinks he can learn
more about the nature of people by looking at reports of
the loch ness monster, the anything about the monster itself.
He's doing a study of all the accounts looking for statistical
patterns with the idea to see if the Loch Ness phenomenon
will help him analyze how science handles anecdotal and
low-frequency data. For example, are the number of Hotel
and Café owners - people who have an economic stake in the
existence of the monster - higher than for other people?
So far Paxton has looked at over 800 reports starting with
what is considered the first modern report by Aldie Mackay,
a hotel owner; eighty years ago back in April of 1933. Paxton
admits that some people may have an agenda in making a report,
"But I stress that I believe the vast majority of people
are reporting the truth. They believe they have seen something
strange. Now there might be a lot of people who are mistaken,
but I think they are sincere."
Mysterious Circle at the Bottom of Sea of Galilee -
A strange, circular structure, with a diameter greater 230
feet (70m) -- twice that of Stonehenge -- has been discovered
under about 30 feet (9 meters) of water in the Sea of Galilee
in Israel. The structure is cone-shaped and comprised of
basalt rocks weighing an estimated 60,000 tons. The mound
was first noticed in a sonar survey of the sea in 2003,
but the information not published until recently. Archeologists
think that it was built on dry land, but submerged by a
change in the level of the water. Silt around the base suggest
that it is anywhere between 2,000 and 12,000 years old.
Scientists have only guesses about the purpose of the structure.
Because it is underwater excavations on it will be difficult.
However, when they are eventually done they should yield
much information on the about the mysterious circle as underwater
sites are usually well preserved.
Science Quote of the Month - "With
fame I become more and more stupid, which of course is a
very common phenomenon." -- Albert Einstein
New at the Museum:
from the Curators Office: Visiting the Fake Shroud of
Turin - Just
a few days ago I went to visit the fake Shroud. No not the
one in Italy, the one in Bristol, Pennsylvania. -
Mysterious Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Cheating Einstein - If you had a pair of
scissors sufficiently large enough, can the tips of the
scissors exceed the speed of light? - Nanshir
Ever since Einstein
published his theories on relativity and stated that nothing
can travel faster than the speed of light, people have delighted
in trying to find a way around this rule. For example, if
you took a flashlight and pointed the beam into space (then
waited for the tip of the beam to get, let's say a light
year away) then suddenly swung the beam across the sky to
the opposite direction you might try to argue that the tip
of the beam must have traveled faster than the speed of
"tip of the beam" is more of an intellectual concept than
an actual thing. The photons that make up the beam keep
streaming out in the straight line you had them pointed
in even after you moved the flashlight and only photos emerging
from your flashlight after you changed its direction would
go toward a different point in the sky. You can picture
what is happening with a stream of water from a garden hose.
Point it in one direction, then swing it in suddenly across
your yard. The tip of the stream of water doesn't move immediately,
but lags behind the motion the hose's nozzle.
of trying to get around the speed of light is to build a
giant rod between two planets one light year apart. You
might try to get around the limit on information traveling
no faster than the speed of light by pushing the rod on
one end as a signal and expecting the person receiving the
signal on the other end to see the rod on his end to move
immediately. If it did, he would get your signal faster
than the speed of light.
The problem here
is that though we expect the rod to be perfectly rigid,
it really isn't, especially when dealing with an object
that would be a light year in length. Pushing on rod on
one end would compress it slightly and this compression
would move along the rod at no faster than the speed of
light, so your signal would not be received on the other
end for at least a year.
example has similar problems. Like the rod the blades of
your scissors are not going to be perfectly rigid. As you
close them the tips will bend and lag behind the portions
of the blades closer to the scissors fulcrum. If you do
manage to get the tips of the scissors to approach the speed
of light you will find that their mass will grow and grow
and you will require more and more energy to try and close
the blades. In fact as the tips get near the speed of light
their mass will near infinity and the energy you need to
close the blades will also approach infinity. Since you
don't have limitless energy, you will never be able to close
the blades fast enough to get the tips to the speed of light
(In addition are also some problems with transmitting the
energy to the tips since we already established the blades
aren't perfectly rigid anyway).
This is usually
the problem with trying to get anything going at the speed
of light. As you accelerate the object it becomes more and
more massive and eventually there isn't enough energy in
the universe to accelerate it all the way to the speed of
light. The only things that can travel at the speed of light
are photons, which have no rest mass.
Now maybe you
might be able to get around this rule by building a spaceship
the can "warp" space and compress it in front of your ship
and stretch it behind your ship (this is where we get the
Star Trek term "Warp Drive" from). In this scheme
your ship wouldn't actually be exceeding the speed of light,
but would simply be carried ago by a bubble of space. It's
a very interesting way to cheat Einstein, but nobody knows
if you could ever make such a propulsion method actually
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Number One Supernova - On May 1st of 1006 AD
Chinese astronomers noted the appearance of a 'guest star'
in the sky. This, as it turned out, was the first time in
recorded history a supernova was seen. The star continued
to increase in intensity until it was brighter than anything
else in the night sky other than the moon. Eventually it
could even be seen during the day. Then the star faded and
disappeared. In 1965 two radio astronomers, Doug Milne and
Frank Gardner, found the remnant of the supernova at the
same location in the sky observed by the early Chinese astronomers.
Solar Eclipse - On May 9th or 10th (depending on
which side of the international dateline you are located)
an annular solar eclipse can be seen. It will start in the
South Pacific and move across parts of Papa New Guinea and
Australia. Even if you're not in this area, you can probably
catch some live webcasts of the event on the internet.
Real "X-File" Fascinates Public - According to the
FBI, the most popular case notes to visit of those they've
posted online is entitled "FLYING SAUCERS" from 1950. In
the memo from Guy Hottel, special agent in charge in Washington,
reports "An investigator for the Air Force stated that three
so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico.
They were described as being circular in shape with raised
centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter. Each one was
occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet
tall." Unfortunately the name of the source is blacked out
and no action was ever taken on the report. The department
treated the information as either a hoax or heresy. Still
it remains one of the most fascinating objects in the cache
of hundreds of pages of accounts released online by the
FBI in 2011.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: Australia: Strange Creatures - After a massive extinction, diverse marsupials came to dominate this
On PBS: May 1 at 9 pm; ET/PT.
Nova: Venom: Nature's Killer - Hunting down the most venomous animals to reveal their medical mysteries.
On PBS: May 8 at 9 pm; ET/PT.
Shared DNA reveals a deep connection with our long-vanished human cousins.
May 15 at 9 pm;
Behind: The Crystal Skulls
Mysterious crystal skulls found around the world have captured the imagination
of new age enthusiasts and esteemed academics alike. One
skull in particular has long been the source of controversy
and intrigue - the Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull, claimed
to have been discovered in Belize in the early 20th century.
Is it a contemporary object of art or an ancient Mayan artifact
dating to over 3,000 years ago? On National Geographic Channe
May 3rd at 6PM;
One out of eight Americans claims to have seen a UFO, including Sammy
Hagar and Muhammad Ali. And that is just one of the juicy
tidbits of information that pop up during The Truth Behind
UFOs. In the vein of VH1's Pop Up Video series, NGC offers
pop-culture factoids while charting the rise of UFO sightings
from the 1940s to the present day. Experts investigate a
UFO sighting in Connecticut, meet a man who claims to have
flown an actual flying saucer and analyze eye-witness video.
Will their research finally uncover the truth behind aliens?
Probably not, but viewers will learn that "Foo Fighters"
is more than a band name; the term originally referred to
small, round objects that followed Allied bombers in Germany.
May 2nd at 7PM;
World's Biggest Cave
Is it the World's Biggest Cave? More than three times the height of
Niagara Falls, much of Vietnam's Mountain River Cave has
remained untouched by humans until now. With exclusive footage,
NGC reveals, for the first time in history, astounding evidence
that this could be the largest cave in the world. Together
with renowned expedition leader Howard Limbert, cave geologist
Darryl Granger uncovers the formula for how the cave grew
so grand. On The
May 24th 6PM;
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