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Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

June 2012

In the News:

Free Floating Planets more Prevalent than First Thought - According to a study published the journal Astrophysics and Space Science last month there may be as many as hundred thousand, billion free floating planets in our galaxy. These planets would not be associated with a solar system, but be drifting through space on their own. If so, this might be a major part of the "dark matter" that scientists know exists because the effect of its gravity upon visible matter, but cannot so far detect. The international team of scientists, led by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, of the University of Buckingham, also think that these planets have a close encounter with our solar system as frequently as every 26 million years. They speculate if such a planet passed by our solar system, it could accumulate up to 1000 tons of interplanetary dust onto its surface. "If the dust included microbial material that originated on Earth ... this process offers a way by which evolved genes from Earth life could become dispersed through the galaxy," according to the study authors.

Extinct Super Turtle Found in Columbian Mine - The fossil of a 60-million-year-old turtle which was the size of a small car, has been discovered in a coal mine in Colombia. Carbonemys cofrinii which means "coal turtle" was described in the latest Journal of Systematic Paleontology. "We had recovered smaller turtle specimens from the site," said Edwin Cadena, the North Carolina State doctoral student who discovered the animal, "But after spending about four days working on uncovering the shell, I realized that this particular turtle was the biggest anyone had found in this area for this time period -- and it gave us the first evidence of giant-ism in freshwater turtles." Scientists think that changes in the ecosystem, including a plentiful food supply, fewer predators, and a large habitat area are the reason these animals started growing so big. Titanoboa cerrejonensis, the largest snake fossil ever found also lived in this part of South America during this period

Was the Ripper a Woman? - A new book suggests the serial killer Jack the Ripper might have been a female. In Jack The Ripper: The Hand Of A Woman author John Morris, a retired attorney living in Ireland, makes the argument that the unsolved murders of five prostitutes in London in 1888 had a feminine touch. "The case for a woman murderer is overwhelming," says Morris, "but unfortunately it does not sit well in some quarters where such a theory flies in the face of long-held beliefs." He points out that none of the five murdered prostitutes was sexually assaulted, and that the personal items of victim Annie Chapman, were laid out at her feet "in a feminine manner." Detective also found three small buttons from a woman's boot near the body of another victim, and remnants of women's clothing (that did not belong to the victim, Mary Kelly) in the fireplace ashes near Kelly. Morris believes Lizzie Williams, the wife of the physician Sir John Williams, who ran an abortion clinic in London, was the murder. Morris thinks Lizzie killed the prostitutes out of anger over being infertile. He also has evidence that Mary Kelly was having an affair with Lizzie's husband.

New "Bionic Eye" Chip in Testing - The dream of a fully bionic eye is just a little bit closer. Scientists from Stanford University and the University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom have created a prosthetic silicon chip that is implanted behind the retina to stimulate neurons and restore vision. Unlike similar chips, this one is photovoltaic and powered by light and does not require a bulky battery. The chip is designed to work with video glasses that record images and then project what's been captured onto the eye using infrared beams. The chip then converts this to electrical stimulation of the neurons. The concept has been shown to work on rats. It is expected to be helpful to solve problems with age-related macular degeneration that damages the retina and makes object look blurry.

How Many Dangerous Rocks are Out There? - A new estimate from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) suggests that there are around 4,700 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) that might survive a trip through Earth's atmosphere and do significant damage (like destroying a city) on the surface of our planet. A PHA has a diameter larger than 330 feet (about 100 meters). The location of about 20 to 30% of PHA's have been identified. Data from WISE suggests that PHAs have much lower inclination orbits than the wider population of Near Earth Asteroids, which makes them more likely to collide with Earth. However, knowing that they tend to orbit in this manner will also make them easier to locate. Analysis of their composition suggest that they are also much more likely to be made of granite-like rock or metals that would survive atmospheric entry should they hit Earth. This, however, also makes them more valuable as potential sources of precious metals.


Science Quote of the Month - "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein


What's New at the Museum:

The Great Wall - In China there is something that for hundreds of years has let its long, snake-like form lay across the Asian countryside defending it from outsiders. Many writers have likened this thing to a dragon. Most people, however, call it the Great Wall of China. >Full Story

Howard Carter and the Curse of Tut's Mummy - The rumor of an ancient curse didn't stop this archaeologist from open the tomb of King Tut. An update including a new video on our classic page. >Full Story

Mysterious Picture of the Month - What is this thing?

Ask the Curator:

The Majestic 12- I have often read about the Roswell Incident. Supposedly a strange UFO crashed on a ranch outside Roswell in 1947 I've also heard that none of this seemed to come to light until the 60's or 70's due to some strange documents that turned up, and everyone had bought the government's explanation up till that point. - Michael

The documents that you are referring to are supposed to be related to secret group of scientists, military leaders, and government officials that were authorized to investigate UFOs. Supposedly this group, the "Majestic 12" (or MJ-12 for short), was established by order of then President Harry S. Truman on September 24, 1947.

The papers surfaced in 1984 after having been sent to TV producer and UFO enthusiast Jaime Shandera in a brown paper envelope encoded on a roll of 35mm film. One of the items on the film was an eight page, official- looking document that gave a briefing to President-elect Dwight Eisenhower about the recovery of the remains of two crashed spaceships, with alien bodies, by government agents during the 1940s.

The documents also supposedly included a memo from President Harry Truman that gave MJ-12 the power to investigate the Roswell situation. The members of this secret group were allegedly Adm. Roscoe H. Hillenkoeter, Dr. Vannevar Bush, Secretary James Forrestal, Gen. Nathan F. Twining, Gen. Hoyt S. Vanderberg, Dr. Detlev Bronk, Dr. Jerome Hunsaker, Mr. Sidney W. Souers, Mr. Gordon Gray, Dr. Donald Menzel, Gen. Robert M. Montegue, and Dr. Lloyd V. Berkner. All of these men had died by the time the documents came out in '84, so none of them were around to comment on the authenticity of the material.

Shandera was suspicious that the documents might not be real and sat on them. If they were real it would be a tremendous news scoop and would prove just what the UFO conspiracy people had been saying for years: That the U.S. government had been hiding the truth about extra-terrestrials on earth. If the papers turned out to be fakes, however, he would be a laughing stock. Without good proof one way or the other, Shandera decided not to go public. Several years later a copy of the film was given to British UFO researcher Timothy Good who was working on a book called Above Top Secret (1987). Good was a little less cautious and decided go public with it. This lead to an article about the documents in the newspaper The Observer in May of 1987. After that Shandera decided also to admit that he had copies of the papers, too.

In 1988 UFO skeptic Philip Klass urged the FBI to look in to the matter. They decided to investigate under the premise that if the documents were indeed real, U.S. law had been broken in their release. The FBI, however, quickly came to the conclusion that the material was "completely bogus."

The documents split the UFO research community into two groups. Those arguing against the authenticity of the documents pointed out various problems with them: wrong formats, wrong type face, shaky providence , etc. (For example several documents from the 40's seemed to have been typed on a IBM 72, which dates from 1961).

Those who believe that the MJ-12 documents were real also found some justification for their thinking: For example, a memo entitled "NSC/MJ-12 Special Studies Project" from July 14, 1954 that apparently refers to the "Majestic 12" group was found in the National Archives. While this document might have been faked it, it would have been hard to insert it into the official governmental records.

Most people involved in researching UFO seemed to have come to the conclusion that the documents are indeed false. However, a minority still argue that they are real. Among those people who think they are false, however, there are those that think that they were part of a deliberate "disinformation" campaign by the government designed to discredit the idea of UFO's and extra-terrestrials. They support this claim by observing that the hoaxer apparently had access to a number of obscure, but clearly real government documents. If M-12 was disinformation from the government, just what, they ask, was the Uncle Sam trying to hide?

Have a question? Click here to send it to us.


In History:

Budd Hopkins - On June 15, 1931, Budd Hopkins was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. He was already a well-known professional artist when in 1964 he saw a disc-like UFO during daylight hours. He became interested in UFOs incidents, especially in cases where people claimed they'd been abducted by the UFO's crew. He conducted interviews with these "abductees", including many done under hypnosis where they witnesses experienced a gap in time and believed that their memories had been tampered with. His first book on the subject carried the title "Missing Time." He would go on to write "Intruders" (also made into a motion picture) and founded the Intruders Foundation. Though Mr. Hopkins had an interest in alien abductions, and perhaps became America's best known "ufologist," he never claimed to have been abducted himself. He died in August of 2011 at the age of 80.


In the Sky:

Transit of Venus - This month there will be a rare transit of Venus across the face of the sun. On June 5 and 6 the planet will slowly pass in front of the sun appearing as a black dot. If you want to observe this you use need to use protection. Wielders goggles can be used or create an image of the sun by using a cardboard box with a pinhole in one side that will act as a lens. The event will be visible in the Americas on the evening of the 5th and Europe and Asia on the 6th. The total time for the transit is 6 hours and 40 minutes. Hope for clear skies because the next transit of Venus will not occur till 2117.



Mysterious Creature Might be Jellyfish - A video of a mysterious animal allegedly filmed by underwater drillers in the deep ocean has been making it rounds on the internet. The film, supposedly shot on April 25th, shows a creature similar to a thin sheet moving hear a pipeline. Some experts have suggested that it might be a form of jellyfish. According to Dr. Daniel Bucher, of Southern Cross University "In last the 30 seconds or so you start to see more of the structure, these pendulous tubes with four or five whitish structures and some branching between them, which look to me like the gonads of a jellyfish,' he said. 'I have no idea what species it would be, but if I had to say it would be a very unusual shape deep sea jellyfish." If so it may be a species known as Deepstaria enigmatica which lives in deep water and have very rarely be observed.


On the Tube:

Please check local listing for area outside of North America.

NOVA: Hunting the Edge of Space: The Mystery of the Milky Way - From Galileo's to today's, telescopes have opened grand vistas onto our galaxy and beyond. On PBS: June 20 at 9 pm; ET/PT.

NOVA: Hunting the Edge of Space: The Ever-Expanding Universe - Huge new telescopes are poised to penetrate the enigmas of dark matter and dark energy. On PBS: June 27 at 9 pm; ET/PT.

City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri - Vist the city of Pavlopetri, submerged for 5,000 years off the coast of southern Greece. On The Discovery Channel: Jun 02, 8:00 pm; Jun 03, 1:00 am; ET/PT.

Bermuda Triangle Exposed - Examine the Bermuda Triangle by layer to reveal what's beneath the 440,000 square miles of ocean in the deadly marine graveyard. Freak waves, magnetic anomalies, giant whirlpools and more have been blamed for its mysterious plane and boat disappearances. On The Discovery Channel: Jun 02, 10:00 pm; Jun 03, 12:00 am; ET/PT.

Morgan Freeman's Through The Wormhole: Will We Survive First Contact? - Mankind longs for proof that we are not alone in the universe, but the moment of first contact will certainly mean the end of the world as we know it. Whether that is a bad thing for humanity or the start of a great future is the subject of much debate. On The Science Channel: Jun 01, 9:00 pm Jun 02, 12:00 am; Jun 03, 4:00 am; ET/PT.

NASA's Unexplained Files - Strange flying objects have been caught on NASA's cameras and astronauts have reported seeing UFOs. Some of the odd shapes and lights can be identified; others remain a mystery. We'll reveal NASA footage and interview the astronauts and scientists. On The Science Channel: Jun 01, 10:00 pm; Jun 02, 1:00 am Jun 03, 5:00 am; ET/PT.

When Yellowstone Erupts - A super volcano lies beneath the beauty of Yellowstone Park. Scientists are challenged with predicting when the next super-eruption might take place and describing what will happen if this cataclysmic event occurs. On The Science Channel: Jun 08, 9:00 pm; Jun 09, 12:00 am; Jun 10, 4:00 am; ET/PT.

Gold Rush Ghost Ships - In late spring, when the first rays of sunshine melt the ice on the rivers and lakes of northwestern Canada, wooden skeletons begin to emerge. The haunting wrecks of the once-proud paddle-steamers are the last remnants of a truly intoxicating era, when thousands of men and women plunged into the adventure of a lifetime in hot pursuit of gold. Now, a team of underwater archaeologists and historians explore this sunken fleet. On The National Geographic Channel: June 18 08:00 PM; June 18 11:00 PM; ET/PT.


Science over the Edge Archives

LGM Archive 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Copyright Lee Krystek 2012. All Rights Reserved.


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