The name Brontosaurus, once relegated to the trash bin of science, may be back.


Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month


May 2015

In the News:

The Brontosaurus is Back! - In the 1870's famous paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh described a species of sauropod dinosaur giving it the name Brontosaurus (Thunder Lizard). In 1903, however, another researcher decided that the Brontosaurus was actually the same as another species Marsh had found, the Apatosaurus. What followed as a long argument over whether using the old name, Brontosaurus was a sign of scientific illiteracy. Well, things have changed for the brontosaurus again. Emanuel Tschopp a researcher at Unversidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal has led a very detailed study of the evolutionary relationships of groups of sauropods and come to the startling conclusion that the Brontosaurus actually is a distinct species from Apatosaurus. "The differences we found between Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus were at least as numerous as the ones between closely related genera, and much more than what you normally find between species," remarked Roger Benson from University of Oxford and co-author of the study. This may cause the Brontosaurus name to appear again in books and museums. The paper was published in the open access journal PeerJ.

Fast Charging Aluminum Battery in the Works - Scientists are demonstrating a new aluminum-ion battery prototype that can be recharged in only 60 seconds that my eventually find its way into our cell phones. Its only drawback? Not quite enough power. "Our battery produces about half the voltage of a typical lithium battery," said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford, and part of the development team. "But improving the cathode material could eventually increase the voltage and energy density. Otherwise, our battery has everything else you'd dream that a battery should have: inexpensive electrodes, good safety, high-speed charging, flexibility and long cycle life." Scientist have been trying to use aluminum in a battery for quite some time, but haven't been able to pack enough power into one for it to be practical. This new design, however, uses an aluminum anode and graphite cathode, with an ionic liquid electrolyte inside a flexible polymer pouch, to create a battery that is both cheap and safe.

African Monkey Not So Extinct - Animals seem be going extinct these days at an alarming rate, but at least one that was lost has been found again. The Bouvier's red colobus monkey has not been seen in the wild since the 1970s. However, explorers Lieven Devreese of Belgium and GaŽl Elie Gnondo Gobolo of the Republic of the Congo managed to track down the rare primate and get pictures. There are a few species of the red colobus monkey and scientists only knew about Bouvier's from a century old set of museum specimens. The monkey lives in groups in swampy woods along the Congo River. The area has been damaged by logging, leading to the assumption that the species went extinct. The expedition to find the missing primate was supported through the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, and money from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Man With Metal Detector Makes Major Find - Researchers announced that a man, searching for coins in a field in England, has come across an important Roman grave site. Last October Phil Kirk took his metal detector out into a field in Kelshall, a village located halfway between London and Cambridge, and found a buried bronze jug and a bronze patera. He then contacted local experts to check the site. They believe Kirk has stumbled upon the find of a lifetime: a grave belonging to a wealthy individual from around 200 A.D. Some of the objects found include a bronze pin, an iron lamp, glassware and a pair of shoes. There is also evidence of building close to the site that might be a shrine or temple.

More Magma Under Supervolanco - Yellowstone magma reserves are much larger than previously thought according to a new study by the University of Utah. Yellowstone is one of the largest supervolcanos in the world producing immense eruptions 630,000 and 2 million years ago. Today, the volcano is quiet, but its heat fuels Yellowstone's geological wonders like geysers and mud pots. The scientists new estimate for the total molten rock reserves is 13,700cubic miles, enough to fill the grand canyon 14 times over. The team used the shock waves from the 2,000 to 3,000 small earthquakes per year that occur in the area to create an image of the two magma chambers below the park. The upper one is 2,500 cubic miles in size measures about 19 by 55 miles while the lower one is 11,200 cubic miles and measures about 30 by 44 miles. Scientists emphasize that this new information does not increase the chance of the volcano having another eruption in the near future.


Science Quote of the Month - "The greatest discoveries of science have always been those that forced us to rethink our beliefs about the universe and our place in it." - Robert L. Park


What's New at the Museum:

Whatever Happened to the Brontosaurus? - This giant dinosaurs is suddenly back in the news, but why did he ever leave? - Full Story

Mysterious Picture of the Month - What is this this?

Ask the Curator:

Disappearing Ship - I'm a fan of the movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and have wondered about the ship, the "Cotopaxi," they discover in the desert. Was it supposedly lost in the "Bermuda Triangle?" Thanks. -Anonymous

If you only saw Stephen Spielberg's classic film in the theaters in 1977, you never saw this scene as it was deleted from the final cut in. However, when the "Directors Cut" was released in 1980 it was included. It the scene shows several bewildered investigators as they come across a tramp steamer perched on a sand dune in the Gobi Desert.

The real SS Cotopaxi was a steamer that disappeared in December o f 1925 on a trip from Charleston, South Carolina, to Havana, Cuba, while hauling coal. It is generally listed as one of the ships that disappeared mysteriously in the Bermuda Triangle, but when it did go missing it seems likely that a large storm was going on in the area. It gave a distress call on December 1st that the ship was in trouble, listing and taking on water. It went down with a crew of 32 on board.

The model used in the film did not look like the actual ship.

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In History:

Van Allen Belts - On May 4th of 1959 James. A. Van Allen was featured on the cover of TIME magazine in recognition of his discovery of the powerful radiation belts that surround Earth. Allen had given a paper about his findings to the joint sysmposium of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society earlier. Allen used data from the Explorer I and Pioneer III space probes to conclude that the Earth was surrounded by these concentrations of electrically charged particles.

In the Sky:

Aquarids Shower - On May 5 and 6th you will get a view of the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. This shower is debris left behind by comet Halley as it makes its way around the sun. The meteors will appear to come from the constellation Aquarius. Unfortunately viewing will not be optimal this year as there is a full moon on the 4th.


Kermit's Wild Twin - Scientists have found a new species of frog in Costa Rica that looks a lot like the famous thespian frog, Kermit. Both Muppet Kermit and Hyalinobatrachium dianae have pale green skin and bulging eyes. This new species is a type of glassfrog. Glassfrogs have translucent skin on the belly and the internal organs are visible from underneath. Researcher Brian Kubicki of the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center and along with Stanley Salazar and Robert Puschendorf were responsible for the discovery.


Zeep and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place we feature highlights from their past adventures.

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