This Hubble deep field image shows a few the trillions of galaxies in our universe. Image credit: NASA


Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

November 2016

In the News:

Universe has more Galaxies that Previously Thought - According to a study published in the Astrophysical Journal, the Universe has 10 to 20 more galaxies than previously thought: At least two trillion. Also about 90 percent of all galaxies are too far away or too faint to be visible from Earth even with our most powerful telescopes. "We are missing the vast majority of galaxies because they are very faint and far away," said Nottingham Astrophysics Professor Christopher Conselice. "The number of galaxies in the universe is a fundamental question in astronomy, and it boggles the mind that over 90 percent of the galaxies in the cosmos have yet to be studied. Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we study these galaxies with the next generation of telescopes?" The researchers came to this conclusion by using the Hubble Space Telescope to peer back to the earliest history of the universe. The study also concluded that the number of galaxies has been shrinking as galaxies have collided and merged over time.

Drones Drop Blood - Though military drones have become infamous for dispensing death from the skies, a fleet of drones in Rwanda's Muhanga District has been saving lives. The need for blood in remote locations has led to a partnership between Zipline, a California-based robotics company, UPS, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Rwandan government to operate a fleet of 15 drones. A medic at a remote locations uses an app to place a request for blood and at the home base the drone is loaded with the delivery and sent into the air. The drone carries it's payload of up to 3.5 pounds, and drops it by parachute to the waiting medics below. It is hoped that this new system will address the problem postpartum hemorrhaging is the leading cause of maternal death in the country. If the system proves successful the designers hope to also transport other vital medical supplies, like vaccines by this method too.

Future Astronauts on the Moon May Need to Worry about Rocks from Space - A study of the moon has found that it's getting hit by space debris at a much higher rate than previously thought. Scientists compared detailed pictures of the moon taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and on different dates and looked for changes to the surface. Researchers found 222 craters on the moon that appeared between the before and after photos which is 33 percent more that expected. This is a consideration for any future moon missions. The chances of a direct hit on a moon installation is still very small, but the impacts ejected material from the surface that traveled more than 18 miles before coming back to the moon's surface. "For example, we found an 18-meter (59-foot) impact crater that formed on March 17, 2013, and it produced over 250 secondary impacts, some of which were at least 30 kilometers away," noted study author Emerson Speyerer, a planetary scientist at the Arizona State University at Tempe. "Future lunar bases and surface assets will have to be designed to withstand up to 500 meter per second (1,120 mph) impacts of small particles."

Dinosaur with Three Eyes - Did your mother tell you she had an eye in the back of her head and you better not try to get away with anything? If your mother was a Triopticus primus, a Triassic era dinosaur, maybe she was telling the truth. Scientists writing in last month's issue of Current Biology may have found a dinosaur with a primitive third eye on the back of its skull. Triopticus looks a lot like the pachycephalosaurs, the bone-headed, dome-head dinosaurs of the Cretaceous that were featured in the movie Jurassic Park II. From the fossil scientists can't be sure that this pit at the back of the dinosaurs head is an eye, it might also be an epiphenomenon which is an area of the skull roof that never expanded. If it is an eye it might have been what's known as a pineal eye, a light sensing patch of skin that communicates with the pineal gland in the brain. Certain species of frogs and lizards have them and it helps control their circadian rhythms.

Hawking Speaks on Artificial Intelligence - Stephen Hawking spoke at the opening of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) at Cambridge University last month. Hawking has long been concerned about the possibility of Artificially Intelligent (AI) machines doing in the human race (Think of Skynet in the Terminator series). CFI will assess the impact of A.I. on civilization and recommend appropriate public policy. In his address Hawking noted "The rise of powerful A.I. will be either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which." Some of the topics CFI will be focusing on are: "Science, value and the future of intelligence," "Policy and responsible innovation," and "Autonomous weapons - prospects for regulation."

Science Quote of the Month - "There is no adequate defense, except stupidity, against the impact of a new idea." - Percy Williams Bridgman


What's New at the Museum:

An Art Project for a Favorite Novel II: War of the Worlds- Back in 2009 I paid tribute to one of my favorite books, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by creating a piece of art for it. Now seemed a good time to do it again honoring the H.G. Well's classic novel about an alien invasion. - Full Story

Mysterious Picture of the Month - What is this this?

Ask the Curator:

The Berkeley Horror - I have a book by Daniel Cohen called Worlds Most Famous Ghosts. In it is a chapter on something called the "Berkeley Square Horror" in London. It is something about a room at 50 Berkeley Square that if anyone stays one night in there they will either be dead or have gone insane. Supposedly this has happened several times. I have searched several sights including and I have found nearly no info. It would be much appreciated if you could help me out. - Frank

There are multiple stories about 50 Berkeley Square, many of them contradictory. The house was constructed in 1740 and for a number of years was the home to British Prime Minister George Canning. The source of the haunting stories starts around 1830 with either young woman who committed suicide by jumping from the top floor, or a Mr. Myers was preparing the house for the just new bride and went insane after he was jilted. Or maybe the haunting really comes from a Mr. Dupre, who confined his insane brother in an upper story room. Or maybe the story about the little girl who was tortured to death by a sadistic servant is what started it. Well, take your pick. According to the story after Mr. Myers/Dupre/young woman/little girl was gone and a new family had moved in, a maid was found in a third floor bedroom screaming and muttering she has seen something "horrible" there. The story continues next with a Captain Kenfeild, fiancée, to the family's daughter (In other versions this is a young aristocrat named Robert Warboys) who decides to challenge the apparition by staying in the room overnight. He sees something that either kills him with fright (in some versions) or leaves him crazed.

Another tale connected with the house brings the story into the 20th century with two sailors in 1943 who break into the long empty house to stay overnight and encounter a monstrous, shapeless, oozing mass in the third floor room. One sailor escapes to tell the tale while the other jumps out the window to his death (speared on the points of an iron railing) to avoid the horror.

The house became famous for these stories and by the beginning of the 20th century and was listed by some authors as "the most haunted place in Britain." The current owners still get visitors from time to time curious about the house. The stories were also an inspiration for a 1947 movie "The Ghosts of Berkeley Square."

As far as I am aware nobody has carefully researched the history of the house to determine if any of the 18th century stories are real. This could probably be done by checking records to see who owned the house, who died there, and going though police reports associated with the house, etc. Clearly there are problems with the 1943 story as it indicates the house was empty, but history shows that in 1938 Maggs Brothers Rare Books moved into the location. The company reports no ghostly incidents since they have been there even though there were many all-night fire watches held during the Second World War.

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In History:

The Spruce Goose Hatches - On November 2nd of 1947, Howard Hughes tested his huge wooden airplane, known as the "Spruce Goose" on its only flight over Long Beach Harbor in California. The plane, which had a wingspan of 319 feet, 11 inches was designed so that the airframe and surface structures were composed of laminated wood because aluminum and steel were in short supply during World War II. With the war over there was little need for the wooden behemoth, however, Hughes kept it in a hanger, flight ready for decades. The aircraft now rests in a museum in Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon.


In the Sky:

Orion the Hunter - Late November is a great time to check out one of winter's most visible constellations, Orion. Orion the Hunter is easily recognized by its three bright stars forming the figure's belt, but stars in the locations that would be shoulders and feet are also highly visible. Look for it in just above eastern horizon by about 8 p.m..



Sub Sunk by 'Sea Monster' Found - The remains of a German World War I submarine - the U-85 - has been found by marine engineers laying a cable beneath the Irish Sea. The story has it that while recharging its batteries on the surface, the sub was attacked by a huge beast with large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull. According to the Captain "Every man on watch began firing a sidearm at the beast." It sank back into the sea, but not before some of the deck plates had been damaged, forcing the submarine to remain of the surface. It was caught there by the British patrol boat, the HMS Coreopsis, and sunk. The remains of the boat, which were detected by sonar, are on the sea bottom in the North Channel, off the coast of southwest Scotland. Scientists will try to determine what made the U-85 go down, though they seem skeptical that was really a sea monster. Read about the U-85 on our sea monster tales page.



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

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