Can we hide the Earth from this guy?


Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month


May 2016

In the News:

Could Lasers Hide Earth from Hostile Aliens? - Two astronomers from Columbia University are suggesting that the human race could use lasers to hide our planet from alien invaders. One of the ways scientists identify planets is by watching for how they dim the light of their parent star as the planet passes in front of it. If aliens are doing the same thing Professor David Kipping and graduate student Alex Teachey think Earth could be hidden by using lasers to fill in the missing light. Since it might be possible to tell what the atmosphere of planet looks like by seeing what colors of light are missing when the stars light goes though the planets air, it might also be possible to make Earth's inviting environment look like a dead planet by just using the right laser frequencies. Skeptics of this idea note that for it would only work if you knew the exact location of the aliens. Also it is possible that the transmission of terrestrial radios and TV signals may have already tipped off any curious extra-terrestrials to our presence

Satellite Images Used to Find Norse Settlement - Scientists have used satellite images from space to locate what looks like a Viking settlement in North America. Space archeologist Sarah Parcak from the University of Alabama discovered evidence of iron-work at Point Rose in Newfoundland, Canada, then excavations at the site confirmed that the inhabitants were gathering iron from bogs and smelting it into tools and weapons, a process that Native Americans were not aware of. This makes the site only the second confirmed location of a Norse settlement in North America. It is estimated that the Vikings crossed the Atlantic and had settlements in North American about 500 years before Columbus made his famous voyage.

Slab Reveals Dead Language - Archeologists are excited about a slab (or stele) found in an excavation of an ancient temple in Tuscany, northern Italy. They believe it is written in Etruscan, a long dead language of which we know little. What is known about it comes from inscriptions found on graves and other funerary items which are very brief samples. The slab is almost 4 feet (1.2 meters) in height and over 2 feet (0.6 meters) in width and weighs 500 pounds (225-kilograms) and has a long inscription on it. While only 70 characters are currently visible, due to the centuries of weathering, scientists hope by using lasers and other advanced equipment they can make the rest of the inscription visible. Project leader Gregory Warden said "we hope to make inroads into the Etruscan language," noting, "long inscriptions are rare, especially one this long, so there will be new words that we have never seen before."

SLAC Gets New Super Laser - The Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford will be getting a new X-ray laser. The laser, which is 10,000 times brighter than the original one and fires 8,000 times faster, (up to a million pulses per second) will be the most powerful X-ray laser in the world. The project, known as LCLS-II (Linac Coherent Light Source) will sharpen the view of the device for experiments allowing it to observe the ultrafast and ultrasmall. SLAC Director Chi-Chang Kao said, "Our lab has a long tradition of building and operating premier X-ray sources that help users from around the world pursue cutting-edge research in chemistry, materials science, biology and energy research. LCLS-II will keep the U.S. at the forefront of X-ray science."


Science Quote of the Month - "Understanding the history of matter and searching for its most interesting forms, such as galaxies, stars, planets and life, seems a suitable use for our intelligence." - Robert Kirshner


What's New at the Museum:

The Eiffel Tower - When construction was first started in 1887, it was called "useless and monstrous" as well as a "ghastly dream." Yet this structure has become one of the most beloved icons of a major city and a wonder of the age of steam. > Full Story

Mysterious Picture of the Month - What is this this?

Ask the Curator:

Big Packaderm vs. Little Sport Device - Could an elephant have the same momentum as a golf ball? - Anonymous.

The easiest way of thinking about momentum is the force necessary to stop a moving object. It involves both the mass of the object and speed of the object. Technically, in classical physics, this can be expressed as the mass of the object mulitpled by its velocity. The formula is:

P = mv

Where P is the momentum, m is the mass and v is the veolocity.

If we had and elephant that weighed 7200 Kg (about 15840 pounds) running at 1 meter per second, the elephant would have:

7200 kg m/s = 7200kg 1m/s

That means that 7200kg is the mass, 1 meter/second (m/s) is the velocity and 7200 kg m/s ("kilogram meters per second") is the momentum.

It is easy to see a trivial situation where any two objects, no matter the size of their mass, would have the same momentum. Any object that has no veolocity has no momentum. So both an elephant and a golf ball would have the same momentum if neither were moving.

There are also cases where the elephant and the golf ball could have the momentum even if they were both moving. Imagine our 7200 kilograms elephant from above and a golf ball weighing .046 kilograms. If we set up the equation with the elephant on the left and the golf ball on the right:

Mv = p = mv


7200kg 1m/s = 7200kg m/s = .046kg V m/s

we just need to solve for the V, the velocity of the golf ball:

7200kg 1m/s = 7200kg m/s = .046kg 156521 m/s

We can see that an elephant running along at 1 meter per second has the same momentum as a golf ball moving at 156,521 meters per second (around 351,000 miles per hour). So an heavy elephant moving along at a trot would have the same momentum as small golf ball going very, very fast.

Now, a couple of additional considerations. This is the formula for momentum under classical (Newtonian physics). The formala under relativistic physics is slightly different and allows for objects like photons, which have no mass, to still have momentum. Also a complete description of momentum for an object includes the direction (or vector) of the motion.

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In History:

Galactic Radio Waves Discovered - On May 4th, 1933, Karl Janksy reported the discovery of radio waves from the center of our galaxy. They came from an unchanging direction in space which turned out to be center of the Milky Way. Janksy conducted his research using the radio equipment at Bell Telephone Labs in Holmdel, N.J.


In the Sky:

Dark Sky for Eta Aquarids Shower - May 6th though the 7th brings us peak of the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. This shower can produce up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak in the Southern Hemisphere. Viewers in the Northern Hemisphere can expect half on that. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28 and will radiate from the constellation Aquarius. Dark skies will ensure good viewing this year.



Chickenosaurus a Step Closer - According to a study outlined in the journal Evolution, scientists are one step closer to creating "Dino-Chicken." In the experiment scientists from University of Chile's Department of Biology inhibited a single bird bone maturation gene, called Indian Hedgehog (IHH), to modify an embryo chick's leg to be similar to a dinosaurs. In dinosaurs the fibula bone is tube shaped and reaches all the way down to the ankle. In chickens, however, the fibula no longer connects to the ankle. This is just another of several experiments where scientists have been able to revert chicken characteristics to that of dinosaurs (others included changes to the toes and snout). Though none of these experiments have resulted in a live chicken Paleontologist Jack Horner would like to make a "Chickenosaurus" created by reverting all a chicken's genes to their dinosaur counterparts.



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

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Copyright Lee Krystek 2016. All Rights Reserved.


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