Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
New Super Crock Record - A 21-foot-long, 2,370-pound
saltwater crocodile has been captured on the southern Philippine
island of Mindinao and will soon be part of a nature park
near the town of Bunawan. A team of about 30 men had been
hunting the monster crock for 21 days. Crocodiles are suspected
to have been the cause of at least two deaths in the area
over the last few years, but there is no way of knowing
if this particular monster crocodile was the culprit. A
spokesman said that the crocodile has been named "Lolong",
after one of the hunters, who died of a stroke while planning
the operation. Lolong will now carry the record for the
largest, living croc in captivity eclipsing the record held
by an 18-footer in Australia.
Amber Holds Dino Feathers - Paleontologists have
discovered feather fragments trapped in amber since the
time of the dinosaurs near Grassy Lake in southwestern Alberta,
Canada. The find, described in the journal Science,
may include feathers that may have been sported by theropod
dinosaurs. "Short of finding a dinosaur trapped in the amber
itself," explained Ryan McKellar, a paleontology graduate
student of the University of Alberta and lead author of
the study," it's the best we can do." Some of feathers fragments
resemble "protofeathers," similar to the hair-like structures
found in dinosaur specimens from China laid down during
the Cretaceous era. Others look like they may have come
from birds. Some of the pigment remains and the dinosaur
type feathers appear to be pale to dark brown in color.
The feathers were apparently trapped in fresh tree sap about
80 million years ago. The sap hardened over time and turned
"Tatoonine" found. - Not in a galaxy "far, far
away" but only about 200 light years from Earth that astronomers
have discovered a planet like the fictional one from Star
Wars with two suns. Scientists at NASA and the Search for
Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute have nicknamed the
newly discovered world "Tatooine," as a tribute to Luke
Skywalker's home planet. Its official name is Kepler-16b.
Though astronomers have long-thought that such a planet
with a binary star was possible, the $600 million Kepler
telescope now orbiting the sun has given them direct proof
as they were able to watch the shadow of a planet as it
crossed in front of its two suns. Unlike the fictional Tatoonine,
this planet is unlikely to be able to support life because
of its size and distance from its suns. If an astronaunt
could someday visit this planet he would find it would have
spectacular sunsets with one of the suns appearing orange
and the other red. Because of the orbital motions of the
suns no sunset would ever be exactly the same as any other.
Particles Defy Einstein - After an experimental
result which seems astonishing if it holds up to further
testing, Swiss scientists have announced that it appears
tiny particles, known as neutrinos, can travel faster than
the speed of light. When scientists sent neutrinos 730 kilometers
(453.6 miles) between laboratories in Switzerland and Italy
they arrived a fraction of a second sooner than would have
been expected if they were obeying the "cosmic speed limit."
Einstein's special theory of relativity seems to forbid
faster-than-light travel, so if the results are true the
experiment will force a revolution in the field of physics.
The researchers carefully checked their equipment and methods
looking for problems that would cause an error in their
results but have found nothing. In their report the scientists
working on the Opera experiment, based at the European Organization
for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, are asking the
wider scientific community to confirm their results. This
may not be easy as only a couple of laboratories in the
world, including J-Parc in Japan and Fermilab in Illinois,
have the resources to set up such a test.
Can Spaceflight Lead to Blindness? - NASA has
found new concern for astronauts that might be taking long
space voyages. In addition to possible radiation exposure
and bone loss they may suffer from blurry vision. A study
shows that one-third of U.S. astronauts on the space station
crew returned with impaired vision. In one case the problem
was permanent. The vision loss seems to be due to a swelling
of the optic nerve, a condition similar to a disease on
Earth called pseudotumor cerebri. In space it is
thought to be a result of long exposure to zero gravity.
The condition is unlikely to cause blindness over short
exposures, but it has raised NASA's concern about what might
happen to astronauts during a three-year mission to someplace
Science Quote of the Month - "I
think science has enjoyed an extraordinary success because
it has such a limited and narrow realm in which to focus
its efforts. Namely, the physical universe." ~Ken Jenkins
New at the Museum:
Draucla: Vlad the Impaler -
One of the most influential books in the horror genre
is Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula. The Vampire
Count may be a fictional character, but he is based of a
very real, and terrifying, human being. >Full
- This megadam has put out more electricity
than any other dam in history. Another in our series on
Mysterious Picture of the Month - What
is this thing?
German Strategic Bombing - I came across
a reference to a General Walther Wever. He seemed to be
the main proponent of [German] strategic bombing until he
died (some say mysteriously) in 1936. My question is what
do you think would have happened had he lived? Might he
have convinced Germany of the need for powerful long range
bombers, like the ones the Allies used on Germany, sooner
rather than later? What effect might it have had if the
Germans could do the same to the Allies as they did to them?
Let me start
by giving a little history of General Wever for those not
familiar with him. He was born in 1887 and served as a German
staff officer in WWI. During the period in between the war
he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe and was
a proponent of a balanced German air force that was both
capable of tactical operations in support of front line
troops and strategic operations designed to destroy an enemy's
resources and ultimately his ability to make war. Wever
died in 1936 flying back from Dresden to Berlin when the
plane he was aboard crashed shortly after takeoff. An examination
of the wreckage revealed that locks designed to keep the
control surfaces of the plane from being damaged by high
winds while parked had not been removed during the pre-flight
check. This rendered the plane uncontrollable in the air.
Wever had prevailed in convincing the Germans to build more
strategic bombers it would have changed the course of the
war. Wever recognized that the Soviet Union would be a particularly
hard enemy to beat if the Russian industrial production
located beyond the Ural Mountains could not be damaged.
This required a bomber capable of flying at least 1,240
miles carrying a bomb load of 3,300 pounds (a type of plane
nicknamed the "Ural Bomber"). Wever got two prototypes of
such a bomber ordered before his death: The Dornier Do 19
and the Junkers Ju 89. By the time they were delivered,
however, Wever was dead and, Albert Kesselring had taken
his place. Kesselring didn't see a need for Germany to invest
in heavy bombers and convinced his boss, Hermann Göring,
Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, to cancel the program.
Perhaps Göring felt that such bombers would be of limited
use against a strong air defense. He seemed to think Germany
would be able to fend them off. In 1939 he boasted "The
Ruhr will not be subjected to a single bomb. If an enemy
bomber reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Hermann Göring!"
It seems as if Göring regretted his decision as time went
on, however, when the Allies started reducing German cities
to rubble. He blamed the bad call on his advisors who said
heavy bombers weren't as effective as medium ones, "Well,
those inferior heavy bombers of the other side are doing
a wonderful job of wrecking Germany from end to end," he
If Wever had
lived could he had talked Göring into seeing the need for
strategic bombing? Perhaps. Working against him was the
general belief, however, that the German's had that the
war would be relatively short. Only three years. They didn't
expect it to drag out and become a war of attrition. This
timeline colored the German thinking in many ways including
the decision not to invest heavily in the atomic bomb (which
was a four or five year-long project).
Wever had lived and convinced Göring to build a heavy bomber
force it might have actually shortened the war dramatically
by tipping the scales in Germany's favor during the Battle
of Britain. The German air force was ill equipped for the
job of gaining air superiority over Britain by destroying
its aircraft industry and fighter squadrons. The Junkers
Ju 87 "Stuka" dive bomber, in which the German's had heavily
invested, and which had performed so well during the blitzkrieg
victories early in the war, were easy targets for the well-organized
British fighter defense and had to be withdrawn from the
One can only
wonder what might have happened if Wever was around and
his heavy bombers had pounded Britain the way the Allied
bombers pounded the Germans later in the war. If the Germans
had managed to gain air superiority, Operation Sea Lion,
the invasion of Britain, would have followed. If successful
this would have stopped the British strategic bombing of
Germany before it really got started and deprived the U.S.
of airbases it needed to attack Germany with its B-17 squadrons.
This would have
left the United States and Germany peering at each other
across the Atlantic. Germany could have then proceeded with
its "Amerika Bomber" program
and the U.S. would have been forced to develop its own trans-Atlantic
bomber. How the war would have ended is anybody's guess,
but whoever invented the atomic bomb first probably would
have been the winner.
Flying Cigar - Before flying saucers were all
the rage, people saw large cigar-shaped airships in the
sky. These "flaps" of sightings periodically erupted across
the United States and Europe in the late 19th and early
20th centuries. In one well-known sighting in Manchester,
England, on October 10th 1914 a man said that he saw an
"absolutely black, spindle-shaped object" that crossed the
face of the sun. For more airship stories check out The
Mysterious Airship of 1896.
Moon Interferes with Two Showers - October has
two meteor showers you might want to take a look at, but
in both cases you will be getting interference from the
moon. The Draconids (which radiate out from the head of
the constellation Draco) are appearing on Oct. 8 and should
put on a strong show as earth will be hitting them nearly
head on. Some predictions estimate a rate of 750 meteors
per hour. The only problem is a waxing moon that will wash
out much of the view. The Orionids will appear the night
of October 21 and radiate out from Orion. After midnight,
when the shower reaches its peak, a waning moon will rise
and again causing some wash out.
Titanic Necklace Stolen - A necklace worn by
a Titanic survivor has been stolen from a display at Copenhagen's
Tivoli Gardens amusement park. The necklace, which was owned
by Eleanor Elkins Widener of Philadelphia was part of a
show entitled "Titanic - The Exhibition." Eleanor was travelling
on the doomed ship with her husband George Dunton Widener
and their 27-year-old-son Harry Elkins Widener, when it
hit an iceberg on April 14th, 1912. Eleanor at first wanted
to stay with her husband instead of abandoning the ship
with the other women, but he insisted she get aboard a lifeboat.
Her husband and son died in the sinking. The stolen necklace
is valued at about $19,000 and will be difficult to sell
as it is known internationally. A $1,350 reward has been
offered for information leading to its return.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
NOVA: Finding Life Beyond Earth - Scientists
are on the verge of answering one of the greatest questions
in history: Are we alone?
On PBS: Oct. 19 at
9 pm; ET/PT.
NOVA: Iceman Murder Mystery - A
new forensic investigation of a 5,000-year-old mummy reconstructs
his death and reveals an ancient way of life.
On PBS: Oct. 26 at
9 pm; ET/PT.
Egypt: What Lies Beneath - Egypt - What Lies Beneath looks at the ancient Egyptians beyond the
well-known face of monuments such as the Pyramids, the Sphinx
and the tombs of the Pharaohs. On The Discovery Channel:
Oct 09, 8:00 pm & 11:00 pm; ET/PT.
Chasing Giants: On the Trail of the Giant Squid - Ageless tales of sea monsters include reports of an eight-legged beast
with eyes the size of volleyballs-the giant squid. New Zealand
scientist Steve O'Shea attempts to track this elusive creature
and to provide the first image of the animal alive. On The
Oct 03, 8:00 pm; Oct
03, 11:00 pm; Oct 05, 3:00 am
Ancient Aliens: Aliens and Deadly Weapons - Iron swords forged in blazing hot fires... Gunpowder with the power
to tear apart human flesh... And rockets capable of destroying
entire cities... Throughout history, advances in technology
have lead to the development of powerful weapons--each more
deadly than the last. But were these lethal weapons the
product of human innovation--or were they created with help
from another, otherworldly source? On The
Channel: Oct. 5 at 8 PM; ET/PT.
Brain Games: Watch This! - Hack into the ultimate supercomputer the human brain as Hollywood filmmakers
use color, light, motion, depth and sound to create mind-bending
sensory illusions. On The
Oct 09 8:00 PM &11:00PM;
Oct 13 8:00 PM & 11:00PM
Murder in the Roman Empire - An ancient murder mystery plays out like an episode of C.S.I. When human
bones are found hidden under the floor of an old army barracks,
a homicide detective is called in to examine the evidence.
Oct 20 8:00 PM
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