Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Complex from Abraham's Time Found - British archaeologists
have unearthed a huge complex near the ancient city of Ur
in Iraq once home of the biblical patriarch Abraham. "This
is a breathtaking find," said Stuart Campbell of Manchester
University's Archaeology Department. "It appears that it
is some sort of public building. It might be an administrative
building, it might have religious connections or controlling
goods to the city of Ur." Structures from this period, 4,000
years ago, were rarely as large as this complex which is
260 feet (80 meters) square. The building was located near
a large Ziggurat (Sumerian temple) and was laid out as a
number of rooms around a central courtyard. The building
would have been in operation about the time Abraham would
have lived there, according to the Bible, before he left
on his journey to Canaan.
New Zealand Sea Monster? - Quad riders in New Zealand
riding along the beach at the Bay of Plenty last month got
plenty of surprise when they happened across the carcass
of what looked like a sea monster. According to the New
Zealand's Sun Live newspaper, "beachgoers were stumped when
they came across what they thought was a prehistoric creature
on the shore … stretching about 9 meters (30 feet) in length
with large teeth and rudimentary flippers." A marine biologist
identified the remains, however, as a killer whale by checking
for the shape of its distinctive flipper. This isn't the
first time a rotting corpse had washed up on New Zealand
shore and been mistaken for a sea monster. Usually the "blobsters"
turn out to be badly decomposed whales.
Sea Monsters Get Arthritis Too - Paleontologists
at the University of Bristol in England have identified
an arthritis-like disease in the jaw of a fossilized pliosaur.
This is a condition that has never been seen before in these
types of animals. The carnivore was a 26 foot (8m) long
female that lived about 150 million years ago. The affected
jaw was part of a head 10-feet (3m) long. "The most exciting
aspect of this research for me is the arthritic condition,
which has never been seen before in these or similar Mesozoic
reptiles," said researcher Judyth Sassoon. "In the same
way that aging humans develop arthritic hips, this old lady
developed an arthritic jaw and survived with her disability
for some time. But an unhealed fracture on the jaw indicates
that at some time the jaw weakened and eventually broke.
With a broken jaw, the pliosaur would not have been able
to feed, and that final accident probably led to her demise."
Pyramid Workers Were Well Fed - Archeologists
in Egypt have identified a section in Giza where the workers
who built the Menkaure pyramid (the last of the three at
Giza) lived. The town is located about quarter mile south
of the Sphinx. From animal bone found there scientists estimated
that about 4,000 pounds of meat from cattle, sheep and goats
were used to feed the pyramid workers. It is estimated that
25,000 sheep and goats, 8,000 cattle and 1,000 pig bones
have been found at the site. "People were taken care of,
and they were well fed when they were down there working,
so there would have been an attractiveness to that," said
Richard Redding, chief research officer at Ancient Egypt
Research Associates, a group that has been studying the
site. "They probably got a much better diet than they got
in their village." The workers also apparently got health
care and if they died during construction were buried near
the site. It is estimated the about 10,000 people were on
site at certain times of the year to work on the pyramid,
with a smaller group operating year round to do preparation
and survey work.
Sunken Continent Found Off Brazil - Scientists have
found chunks of granite - a rock normally associated with
dry land - 8,000 feet under the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil
and think it might be the remains of a sunken continent.
The discovery, made by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth
Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and the Geology Service
of Brazil (CPRM), has been nick-named the "Brazilian Atlantis"
after the legendary story mentioned by Plato in his writings.
It is clear, however, that if the granite is from a sunken
continent, it must have pre-dated man by millions of years.
Researchers believe that when South America and Africa separated
into two different land masses about 100 million years ago
part of what was then above the water sank into the sea.
The discovery was made 900 miles off of Rio de Janeiro using
a Japanese Shinkai 6500 submarine.
Science Quote of the Month - “Space
is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly
big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the
road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.”
- Douglas Adams
New at the Museum:
The Flight of the Norge (Part I) - It was a feat
that was astounding at the time, but now lost in the dusty
pages of history. In May of 1926 a group of sixteen fearless
adventurers boarded a small dirigible to fly over the North
Pole. The tiny lighter-than-air craft they piloted they
named the Norge. - Full
Mysterious Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Carbon Cycle - How do plants turn carbon
dioxide into oxygen? - John
The change plants
do of carbon dioxide into the oxygen in the air is part
of the "carbon cycle." Carbon dioxide, which makes up a
little more than 3% of air, is composed of two parts carbon
and one part oxygen. That means a single molecule of it
has one carbon atom attached to two oxygen atoms.
A plant takes
the carbon dioxide molecule and splits it apart using energy
from the sun. It keeps the carbon atom, which it wants,
and kicks some of the oxygen out into the atmosphere. The
carbon gets combined with hydrogen (the plant gets its hydrogen
from splitting up a molecule of water - a hydrogen atom
and two oxygen atoms) The carbon, the hydrogen and some
of the oxygen together make sugar (twelve hydrogen atoms,
six oxygen atoms and six carbon atoms to be exact). Sugar
is, of course food and a major ingredient in carbohydrates.
Animals and humans,
of course, do the opposite of plants. They breathe in oxygen,
eat carbohydrates, and then combine them to make carbon
dioxide. This action of combining these releases the energy
(which the plants originally took from the sun) . We use
this energy to walk, play checkers, ride bikes, write essays
on our computers, etc.
They call it
the carbon cycle because plants do one half of the operation
by taking carbon dioxide out of the air and releasing the
oxygen, which is really their waste product. Animals complete
the cycle by taking oxygen back out of the air, eating the
plants, getting energy by combining these and breathing
out carbon dioxide (which is our waste product). The carbon
dioxide goes into the atmosphere so that other plants can
using it again in a circle of activity. The whole thing
keeps going as long as the plants have sunlight to split
the carbon dioxide apart again.
So how exactly
does a plant do that? The process is called photosynthesis.
Light, of course, is a form of electromagnetic energy. Plants
use a material called chlorophyll which takes the light
energy and creates a series of chemical reactions that spit
the carbon dioxide and water apart and recombine them to
make sugar and free oxygen.
To capture light
energy most plants use little solar panels we call leaves.
This is where most of the energy is captured and chemical
reactions take place.
also what makes a plant green. It tends to absorb red and
blue light waves, but reflects the green. Since what we
see are the colors not absorbed, but reflexed, plants appear
mostly green to our eyes. The truth is that scientists aren't
really sure why plants aren't black. It seems like this
would be the most efficient color for a plant as it could
absorb all the wavelengths and get the most energy out of
the smallest area. However, as you can observe by walking
through a meadow, most plants are green, not black, and
were not really sure why.
One of the coolest
things about the carbon cycle is that plants are really
making themselves out of thin air. Yes they do get water
and some trace materials from their roots, but the carbon,
which makes up so much of their structure, just comes from
the carbon dioxide in the air
The reverse is
true when we exercise and lose weight. Our carbs disappears
into the thin air. The food you eat (carbon) is combined
with oxygen and breathed out as carbon dioxide.
I should probably
also mention that photosynthesis isn't limited to just plants.
Algae, and cyanobacteria can do it too. What's more it isn't
the only game in town. Chemotrophs are organisms that obtain
energy by oxidative chemical reactions and don't need sunlight.
An example of these are the bacteria that live in the deep
ocean near hydrothermal vents. It is too dark down there
for them to use photosynthesis, so they get energy by oxidizing
iron is dissolved in the sea water near the hot vents.
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Explosion on the Moon - On June 18, 1178, an
English monk named Gervase of Canterbury recorded an odd
event in the sky. He and five others witnessed the crescent
moon appear to split in two. He wrote ""From the midpoint
of this division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out...
fire, hot coals and sparks... The body of the moon, which
was below writhed... throbbed like a wounded snake." Scientists
are divided on what Gervase actually saw with some suggesting
a meteor hit the moon creating the the crater Giodano Bruno.
Others suggest that a shooting star in the Earth's atmosphere
happened to line up with the moon provoking this strange
Supermoon - On June 23/24 look for the "Supermoon."
This really isn't an astronomical term, but people recently
have been using it to describe when the moon is both full
and close to Earth. The official term for the closest the
moon gets to our planet is a Perigee Moon. Whatever you
call it, it's a good night to get outside and look at our
Falling Lights not Alien Spaceships - The night
of May 9-10 in South America a lot of people spotted something
they were sure were UFOs. They appeared as a handful of
dazzling lights streaking across the sky. It turned out,
however, that it wasn't a fleet of flying saucers, but parts
of an Orbital Sciences' test spacecraft. Orbital Sciences
is under contract with NASA to build a cargo rocket that
can put a payload in orbit. The test for this craft is known
as the Cygnus Mass Simulator and was shot into orbit by
Orbital's Antares booster. The simulator is the same size
and weight of Cygnus cargo capsule which will one day resupply
the International Space Station. The simulator came down
right on time, but there was no advanced warning to people
in the area who got a surprising light show that night,
but no aliens.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: Ape Genius - A reassessment of the intellectual abilities of the great apes, which
include bonobos, chimps, gorillas and orangutans; and a
possible explanation for why ape culture hasn't evolved.
Included: an experiment that compares chimps to toddlers.
On PBS: June 12 at 9 pm; ET/PT..
Super Snake - South Florida is under siege from a new invasive species. This time,
they're man-eaters: African Rock Pythons. These lethal giant
constrictors are one of nature's most aggressive snakes.
On The Science Channel: June 1st 12:00 AM; June 2nd
4:00 AM; ET/PT.
Mummies - Combining high-end drama reconstruction, scientific tests and expert
testimony, we uncover a series of elaborate hoaxes, natural
phenomenon and unidentified creatures as we explore man’s
eternal fascination with extra-terrestrial beings. On The Science Channel: June 1st 10:00 PM; June 2nd 1:00
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: June 1st 10:00 PM; June 2nd 7:00
Killing Lincoln - April 14, 1865. One gunshot. One assassin hell-bent on killing "a
tyrant," as he charged, the 16th President of the United
States. And in one moment, our nation was forever changed.
This is the most dramatic and resonant crime in American
history: the true story of the killing of Abraham Lincoln.
From Executive Producers Ridley Scott and Tony Scott, and
narrated by Tom Hanks, National Geographic Channel's first
ever docudrama, Killing Lincoln, based on the New York Times
bestseller, combines re-creations with historical insight
in a thrilling chronicle of the final days of President
Lincoln and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. On The National Geographic Channel: June 7 11:00PM; ET/PT.
Lost Cities of the Amazon - Over the centuries, explorers traded tales of a lost civilization amid
the dense Amazonian rainforest. Scientists dismissed the
legends as exaggerations, believing that the rainforest
could not sustain such a huge population -- until now. A
new generation of explorers armed with 21st-century technology
has uncovered remarkable evidence that could reinvent our
understanding of the Amazon and the indigenous peoples who
lived there. On The National Geographic Channel: June 6, 9AM; June 14,
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