Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Supersize Dino Predator Down Under - Researchers
have found a new species of dinosaur in Australia that might
have dwarfed T-Rex. The animal doesn't have a name yet,
but belongs to a group of creatures known as spinosaurs.
The individual found in Australia was between 7 and 10 feet
long, but other species of spinosaurs have been known to
grow as long as 56 feet. It is believed that that their
main food source was fish. The discovery was published in
Biology Letters and according to co-author, Thomas
Rich of Museum Victoria, the find was based on a neck vertebra
found at Dinosaur Cove near Cape Otway, Victoria. Spinosaurs
have previously known been found in Europe, Africa and South
America and the discovery in Australia suggests that they
had a world-wide presence.
Blackbeard's Arsenal Found - Archeologists have
been exploring the wreck of what is believed to be Blackbeard's
ship Queen Anne's Revenge off the North Carolina
coast and have found that the pirate employed an array of
terrifying weaponry. While working to recover the ship's
1.4-ton (3,000-lb) anchor they located a number of deadly
devices. The scientists have found "The three conglomerates
[that] consist mostly of lead shot, nails, and glass which
we suspect were put in canvas bags and fired from the cannons,"
said Mark Wilde-Ramsing, the deputy state archaeologist.
The material would have caused the cannon to act like a
giant shotgun creating mayhem on the opponent's deck. Researchers
also indentified a device that appeared to be two identical
cannon balls linked by an iron bar or chain. When shot it
would producing a spinning effect designed to slash through
the rigging of an enemy ship. Pirates had little interest
in sinking merchant ships but wanted to scare them into
giving up. For that reason "shooting bolts and scrap lead,
iron and glass would have been very effective," Wilde-Ramsing
Meaning of Markings in Hidden Pyramid Chamber? -
Luca Miatello, an independent researcher who specializes
in ancient Egyptian mathematics, believes he knows the meaning
of mysterious markings found in a hidden chamber of the
Great Pyramid at Giza. The markings were discovered earlier
this year by a French robot exploring a tiny shaft leading
up from the "Queen's Chamber." They were observed by the
robot when it used a tiny camera to peer into though a hole
in a door blocking the shaft and appear to have been made
with a reddish paint. Miatello believes these markings are
hieratic numerical signs reading "100, 20, 1." "The builders
simply recorded the total length of the shaft: 121 cubits,"
comment Miatello. The Eqyptain royal cubit was about 20.6
inches (52 cm) in length. Scientists have observed that
multiples of the numbers 7, 9 and 11 cubits frequently are
seen in the design of the Great pyramid and 121 is 11 times
Scientists Check DNA from Shrunken Head - For the
first time scientists have been able to analyze the DNA
from a shrunken head.
The head, part of a collection at the Eretz Israel Museum
in Tel Aviv, was apparently from a man of Afro-Ecuadorian
extraction. The analysis also proves that this particular
shrunken head is real. Up to 80 percent are suspected to
be fakes manufactured from animals matter in late 19th through
the 20th centuries for the tourist trade. Scientists think
this person was killed between 1600-1898 A.D. based on his
West African heritage. Before 1600 no Africans were in the
area. The fact that the head is genuine also supports stories
gathered from the region that such heads were trophies of
war gathered by Jivaro-Shuar warriors during battle as trophies.
Dog "Telepathy" is Instinctive - Some people
think that their dogs can read their minds, but a new study
suggests they are simply "hyperaware" of our emotions. The
study showed that while this type of this canine "mind-reading"
is inborn, practice can perfect it. Monique Udell and her
team from the University of Florida set up a test were wolves
and domestic dogs both had the opportunity to beg food from
a human. Both groups were capable of this and since the
wolves had little experience with humans, the ability seems
to be instinctive. The group didn't stop there, however,
comparing the capability between dogs raised in a shelter
and those raised in a home. The dogs raised in a home were
much more effective at the activity suggesting that while
the ability is inborn, they can hone their natural people-reading
skills by practice.
Science Quote of the Month - "Research
is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."
~Wernher Von Braun
New at the Museum:
Could Experimental Physics Accidently End the World?
It's a scenario right out of a bad science fiction
movie: Scientists working in multi-billion dollar facility
tamper with the tools of creation and accidentally make
a tiny black hole. Then suddenly the world flattens out
into the shape of a giant freebie and then collapses in
on itself. Out in space the astronauts on the ISS watch
in shock as they now orbit a small, invisible black hole
which they cannot see, but has just consumed everyone and
thing they knew and loved... >Full
The Bridge Across the Golden Gate - They said it
couldn't be built. When
the Golden Gate Bridge was finished in 1937, however, it
was longest suspension bridge in the world and a wonder
of the modern world.
Mysterious Picture of the Month - What
is this thing?
I've heard several stories about the 'cursed'
Hope diamond. Most stories about the Hope diamond say its
owners had a violent death. Is there any proof of this?
Thanks! - Kelsey
The curse of
the hope diamond, the largest deep, blue diamond in the
world, is much like the curse of King Tut's Tomb: It has
some roots in actual events, but much of the story has been
much exaggerated. In the case of the diamond the culprits
include the early 20th century press and a few of its owners
hoping to pump up its sales value.
The story has
it that the diamond was originally one of two eyes stolen
from a statue of the goddess Sita somewhere in India. The
priests cursed whoever owned the stones from that point
on. There is absolutely no evidence that this story is true,
however. It appears to have originated in a New Zealand
newspaper article in 1888 as a bit of hoax journalism.
It is believed,
however, that the diamond was brought back from India in
the form of a 115 carat rough-cut, triangular stone by French
traveler Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in the 17th century. It
is thought that in 1669, Tavernier sold the blue diamond
along with a bunch of other valuable stones to the French
King Louis XIV. Louis XIV had the court jeweller, Sieur
Pitau, recut the stone into a in a 67 carats diamond which
became known as the French Blue.
During the French
Revolution it was stolen and did not appear again for twenty
years when it showed up in the collection of a London diamond
merchant named Daniel Eliason. By then it had been re-cut
into its current 45.5 carat shape. Although many suspected
the Hope was cut from the French Blue, it wasn't certain
until a lead cast of the French Blue diamond was discovered
in 2007 allowing the two to be compared, so the suspicion
could be confirmed.
It is thought
that the stone was purchased by King George IV of England,
but later sold to cover debts. By 1839, the Hope Diamond
was in the gem collection of Henry Philip Hope and it stayed
with the family until Lord Francis Hope sold it in the early
20th century to a diamond dealer. It bounced around several
dealers until it was bought by Pierre Cartier in 1910. Cartier
was able to interest American socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean
in the stone and she purchased it in 1912 and wore it at
many gatherings until her death in 1947. In 1949 it was
sold to diamond merchant Harry Winston who donated it to
the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 1958
where it has remained ever since.
As the title
of a 1908 Washington Post article, "Hope Diamond Has
Brought Trouble To All Who Have Owned It," suggests
the stone has been supposedly responsible for much calamity
for its owners. The beheadings of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
have been blamed on it, but the story seems to ignore the
dozens of other royals who didn't own the stone but lost
their lives in the French Revolution. The death of a former
owner, Selim Habib, was blamed on the diamond, but the truth
was it was actually another man who drowned in a shipwreck
who happened to have the same name. The insanity and suicide
of diamond dealer Jacques Colot has been attributed to the
Hope, but there is no historical record that he was associated
with it in anyway. The forced abdication of Turkish Sultan
Abdul Hamid is supposedly the work of the diamond, but evidence
shows that though the Sultan was interested in the stone,
he never bought it. According to the legend, Tavernier,
who brought back the stone from India supposedly died of
a fever soon afterward, but in reality lived to the ripe
old age of 84 (Quite a longevity achievement for the 17th
Actress May Yohe,
the former wife of Lord Francis Hope, helped promote the
story of the curse, not to just explain misfortunes in her
own life, but also to promote her career. In 1921 she persuaded
film executive George Kleine to produce a 15-part action
serial, The Hope Diamond Mystery, in which she played
Lady Francis Hope. She also played the same part in The
Mystery of the Hope Diamond.
Of course are
some people associated with the diamond that did have tragedy
in their life. The last private owner was Evalyn Walsh McLean.
She had a son die in a car accident and her husband ran
his business, The Washington Post, into the ground
(it was purchased and brought back to health in the 1930's).
He then left her for another woman and eventually died in
a sanitarium. Despite this McLean lived to the age of 60
and never blamed her problems on the curse.
So is there a
curse or not? It is extremely difficult to separate the
normal amount of tragedy we see in life from what might
be caused by some supernatural power. Plus much of what
is blamed on the diamond is appears to be just made up.
Perhaps it is instructive to look at the first and last
owners of the diamond to see how they fared: Tavernier and
Winston. Travernier, who is the person blamed for taking
the diamond from the idol in the first place and should
have borne the brunt of the curse, lived into his eighth
decade. Winston, the last owner, was an immigrant who moved
to the United States and built a successful jewelry business
from nothing. The business continues to be extremely profitable
even today. Winston died in 1978 at age 82 never believing
in the curse.
Of course in
any case nobody needs to worry about the curse anymore.
The Hope Diamond is the property of the Smithsonian Institution
which is a part of the United States government so there
is no concern that - hummm - Wall Street problems, housing
crisis, terrorist concerns, health care costs - perhaps
there is something to that curse after all...
Crashed Saucer at Wright-Patterson? - In July
of 1952 a pair of Pan American airline pilots had an encounter
with a UFO over Virginia and they were to be interviewed
by members of the Air Force's Project UFO investigation
team Project Blue Book. The pilots had heard rumors about
a crashed UFO being stored at the Wright-Patterson air base
and decided to ask the Blue Book investigators if the story
was true. Co-pilot William Fortenberry, in an interview
separate from pilot William Nash, said that he was told
the rumors were true. When Nash and Fortenberry were finally
interviewed together, however, Nash also asked about it.
He relates that some of officers were about to answer his
question when the leader of the group, Major John Sharpe
looked at the rest of the staff and told them "NO!" as if
"it appeared as if he were telling them to shut up rather
than addressing the answer to me," said Nash.
Mercury Visible - If you have never seen the
planet Mercury, this month would be an excellent chance
to view it. It will be in the evening sky just after sunset.
It will be brightest at the beginning of the month and be
increasingly hard to find toward the end. Look for it 30
minutes after sunset (or shortly after 9:00pm) it will start
low to the horizon early in the month and will it climbs
quickly every night reaching maximum altitude on July 8th.
It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's Batcopter? -
If you see a circular object hovering over your house at
night it might not be a flying saucer, but Kenn Sebesta's
Batcopter. Sebesta, a researcher at Boston University, built
the quadrotor flying device from mundane items like carbon-fiber
arrow shafts, twine, glue, zip ties, bamboo and foam. Mounted
on it are three high-speed infrared cameras that allow aircraft
to be flown by remote control at night. Sebesta and his
team of researchers hope to capture high quality video of
the bats as they swoop around the Batcopter so they can
better understand how they manage not to crash into each
check local listing for area outside of North America.
NOVA: Ape Genius- Experts zero in on what separates humans from our closest living relatives.
On PBS: July 6 at 9 pm; ET/PT.
NOVA :Kings of Camouflage - Meet the cuttlefish, one of the brainiest, most bizarre animals in the
ocean. On PBS: July 13 at 9 pm; ET/PT.
NOVA: The Great Inca Rebellion - Mass graves and forensic evidence reveal a complex truth about how the
Inca Empire fell. On PBS: July 20 at 9 pm; ET/PT.
Secrets of Seal Team 6 - For three decades, the elite government operatives of SEAL TEAM VI have
existed under the radar, but now, their cover is blown.
We'll uncover the classified information the government
doesn't want you to know and discover the SECRETS OF SEAL
TEAM 6. On The Discovery Channel: Jul 10, 9:00 pm; Jul 10,
11:00 pm; Jul 14, 9:00 pm; Jul 14, 11:00 pm; ET/PT.
Morgan Freeman's Through The Wormhole Season 2: Are There More Than 3
Dimensions? - New evidence forces us to consider a truly shocking possibility - is
our reality an illusion? On The Science Channel: Jul 01,
5:00 am; Jul 03, 10:00 pm; Jul 04, 1:00 am; Jul 05, 5:00
am; Jul 06, 9:00 pm; ET/PT.
Killer Ants - Over 8,000 species of ants cover the planet. Most are harmless, but
some have a violent streak. African driver ants have eaten
a horse in a day and suffocated a human, and the army ants
of South and Central America can wipe out entire ecosystems.
On The Science Channel: Jul 07, 8:00 pm; Jul 07, 11:00 pm;
Jul 09, 3:00 am; ET/PT.
Ben Franklin's Pirate Fleet - A lost piece of American history may have been uncovered deep in the
sea a shipwreck thought to have belonged to a fleet of American
privateers. Is it possible that this ship was on a mission
from Benjamin Franklin? On The
July 2 8:00 PM &
PM 11:00 PM
Jurassic C.S.I.: In Living Color - What colors were dinosaurs? We know little about their actual color,
and now maverick dino detective Dr. Phil Manning tries to
find out more. On The
Channel: July 7 10:00 PM; ET/PT.
The Egyptian Job - It was one of the greatest heists of the ancient world: A group of thieves
broke into the treasure-rich tomb of King Amenemhat III
and made away with a fortune. On The
July 17 11:00 PM &
8:00 PM; July 21 8:00 PM & 11:00 PM
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