Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Crack Will Become New Sea - A 35-mile rift in the
desert of Ethiopia that opened in 2005 will eventually turn
into a new ocean, according to research published in the
journal Geophysical Research. The crack, 20 feet
wide in spots, was studied by a team of international team
of scientists and is thought to be identical to what goes
on at the bottom of oceans. Using seismic data researchers
reconstructed the event showing the rift tore open along
its entire 35-mile length in just days. Dabbahu, a volcano
at the northern end of the rift, erupted first. Magma then
pushed up through the middle of the rift area and began
"unzipping" the rift in both direction, according to the
scientists. Eventually in a few million years the new ocean
will connect the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, an arm of
the Arabian Sea.
Researchers find Supersize "Cosmic Web" - Scientists
have discovered a large structure of galaxies in a distant
part the universe. This structure is 6.7 billion light-years
away from earth extends over a distance of at least 60 million
light-years and appears to be part of a gigantic "cosmic
web" that forms the skeleton of the universe. "Matter is
not distributed uniformly in the universe," said Masayuki
Tanaka, an astronomer with the European Southern Observatory
(ESO) who helped discover the galactic structure. "In our
cosmic vicinity, stars form in galaxies and galaxies usually
form groups and clusters of galaxies." The distant filament
recently discovered seems to be at an even much larger scale
than the galaxy clusters."
Crash Shows That Water is On Moon - NASA has
discovered a "significant" amount of water on the moon as
the result of a planned crash of a probe into lunar crater
called Cabeus. Last October the LCROSS satellite sent a
2.5-ton empty rocket motor plummeting into the permanently
shadowed lunar crater. After observing the strike, the satellite
itself also crashed into the crater. Both the impacts were
observed by a number of space and ground based telescopes.
The results of those observations show that about 25 gallons
of water was in the plume of material rising from the crash
site, far more than scientists expected. Researchers aren't
sure where the water came from, but comets that hit the
moon may be one possibility. The water might provide an
important resource for future lunar colonists.
Brothers Claim to Have Found Mysterious Missing Army
- Two Italian archaeologists claim to have found the
remains of a Persian army that was swallowed by a sandstorm
in Western Egypt 2,500 years ago. The 50,000 strong army
belonging to King Cambyses was on a mission to attack the
Oasis of Siwa and destroy the oracle located there when
it disappeared without a trace. "A wind arose from the south,
strong and deadly, bringing with it vast columns of whirling
sand, which entirely covered up the troops and caused them
wholly to disappear," wrote the Greek historian Herodotus.
The twin brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni, both archaeologists,
have shown the evidence, in a recently released documentary,
that makes them believe they have found the remains of the
missing army. Their finds include bronze weapons, a silver
bracelet, an earring and hundreds of human bones located
in the vast desolate wilderness of the Sahara desert.
Super Volcano Eruption Destroyed Forests 3,000 Miles
Away - According to a new study a volcanic super-eruption
of Toba on the island of Sumatra about 73,000 years ago
deforested much of central India, more than 3,000 miles
from the epicenter, researchers report. The volcano ejected
an estimated 800 cubic kilometers of ash into the atmosphere,
leaving a crater 100 kilometers long and 35 kilometers wide.
Ash from the eruption has been found in India, the Indian
Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea. The report
goes on to say that the bright ash reflected sunlight off
the landscape, and volcanic sulfur aerosols impeded solar
radiation for six years, creating an "Instant Ice Age" that
lasted about 1,800 years. During this period, temperatures
dropped by as much as 16 degrees centigrade (28 degrees
Science Quote of the Month - "A
scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents
and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents
eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar
with it." - Max Planck
New at the Museum:
Electric: A History of Holiday Lights: Today
one can hardly find a street in North America during the
month of December where the majority of houses are not lit
up with a dazzling display of hundreds or even thousands
tiny electric lights. Where did these traditions come from
and when did Christmas become electric?
It's the Hair, Not the Humidity - I have
a thermometer hanging on the wall that also has a humidity
gauge. The humidity gauge is just a round strip of metal.
How can a strip of metal tell how much humidity is in the
air? - John
Humidity is a
measure of water vapor in the air. We usually refer to it
as relative humidity as it is measured as a percentage of
the maximum amount of vapor the air can hold. If the humidity
reaches 100 percent, it is sure to start raining as the
water in the air will condense into droplets.
device you have there is probably a mechanical hygrometer.
It's not really the metal that is doing the work, but a
small bundle of human hair (chemically treated to remove
any oil). Hair, being organic in nature absorbs water in
the air and stretches (That's why bad hair days are usually
those with high humidity).
If your mechanical
hygrometer is like others I've seen there is a needle that
points to the level of humidity. On the shaft that turns
the needle there is one spring that is spiraled around it
pulling he needle back toward zero. The shaft also has a
chain (or possibly some inorganic thread) wrapped around
it that goes from the shaft to the center of the hair bundle.
Attached to the other side of the center of the hair bundle
is another, more powerful spring. The two springs pull the
mechanism in opposite directions. What actually controls
the position of the needle is the length of the hair. As
the hair lengthens a tiny bit, it deflects under the pull
of the powerful spring, and this, in turn, pulls the chain
to move the needle more toward 100%
This is hard
to describe, so hopefully the attached diagram will help.
Intra-Mercurial Planet - In December of 1859
astronomer Urbain Leverrier of the Paris Observatory received
a letter from a country doctor named Lescarbault stating
that the doctor had observed what he believed to be a planet
located inside the orbit of Mercury passing in front of
the Sun the pervious March. Leverrier immediately headed
out the countryside and aggressively questioned the doctor
suggesting that he was mistaken or lying. When the Lescarbault
held his ground despite the onslaught, Leverrier congratulated
him and recommended him for the Legion of Honor. The idea
of a small planet orbiting between the path of Mercury and
the Sun fit Leverrier's predictions. However, no other astronomers
could find the planet and it soon became apparent the both
Leverrier and Lescarbault were wrong: no intra-Mercurial
Blue moon - December will be one of those rare
times when two full moons will occur in the same month.
In this case it will be on the days December 2nd and 31st.
The second moon is often called a "Blue" moon (though there
is an older definition of a "blue moon" defined as the rare
case of four moons during a calendar season). As a bonus
the blue moon will also be subject to partial lunar eclipse.
The eclipse will be best visible from the Eastern Hemisphere.
Snails: Better than Beef - A nutritionist from
Nigeria suggests if you need more protein in your diet,
try a snail pie. Ukpong Udofia of the Department of Home
Economics, at the University of Uyo, in Nigeria, has tested
the protein and iron content of the giant West African land
snail comparing it to beef steak. According to Udofia snail
pie made from the land snail should be much more nutritious
than a beef pie. Her research team baked pies of both varieties
and asked mothers and their children to rate the food. Most
of them judged the snail pies to have a better appearance,
texture, and flavor than beef. "Snail pie is recommended
as a cheap source of protein and iron for school-age children
and young mothers and could contribute in the fight against
iron deficiency anaemia," Udofia said. This is important
in Nigeria were the land snail is a readily available and
iron deficiency and a lack of protein in the diet are major
check local listing for area outside of North America.
NOVA: The Spy Factory - NOVA
investigates the high-tech eavesdropping carried out by
the National Security Agency and the effectiveness of surveillance
in an age of terrorism. On PBS December 15 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
Radioactive Paradise - A team of scientists, historians and divers embark on a scientific journey
to Bikini Atoll to see the effects of 23 atmospheric atomic
test blasts. With the help of a high-tech submersible, the
Pagoo, they explore Bikini's underwater ship graveyard.
On The Science Channel Dec 06, 9:00 pm; Dec 07, 12:00 am;
Dec 08, 4:00 am ET/PT.
Parallel Universe - The strange notion of parallel universes is gaining strength in the
scientific community and may solve our most basic questions
about the universe, including the origins of the Big Bang
itself. Dec 01, 8:00 pm; Dec 01, 11:00 pm; Dec 02, 3:00
pm; Dec 03, 3:00 am; ET/PT.
On The Science Channel
Science of the Movies Puppet Meisters - The Magic Behind 'Team America:
World Police' - Nar gets a lesson in puppet sculpting from the Chiodo Brothers, marionette
makers for "Team America: World Police". Nar visits Technicolor
to get a crash course in movie coloring. Animal Wrangler
Jules Sylvester unleashes a roomful of creepy crawlers.
Dec 03, 8:00 pm; Dec 03, 11:00 pm; Dec 05, 3:00 am; ET/PT.
On The Science Channel
Science of the Movies The Magical World of George Lucas - ILM uses motion capture fx to create Davy Jones' beard in Pirates of
the Caribbean sequels; science of lighting at Mole Richardson;
Flash Filmworks creates explosive chopper crashes for The
Day the Earth Stood Still; makes low-tech squibs with Indy
. Dec 10, 8:00 pm; Dec 10, 11:00 pm; Dec 11, 3:00 pm; Dec 12, 3:00 am;
On The Science Channel
Base Camp Moon - In 2018 astronauts will once again set foot on the lunar surface. Their
mission: to develop technologies that will take them to
Mars and beyond.
Dec 08, 8:00 pm; Dec 08, 11:00 pm; Dec 09, 3:00 pm; Dec 10, 3:00 am;
Did the Mob Kill JFK? - A riveting one-hour documentary that presents compelling evidence supporting
the theory that the mob was behind JFK's assassination.
The program features a never before seen interview with
an FBI informant who shared a prison cell with a mafia kingpin.
On The Discovery Channel. Dec 10, 9:00 pm; Dec 11, 12:00
Is it True? Ghost Videos & Trick Shots - Chuck investigates a series of Internet videos of ghosts pushing cars
uphill in San Antonio, Texas. Then he teams up with an NBA
superstar to recreate some seemingly unbelievable basketball
trick shots made by skateboarders in a viral video. On The
Discovery Channel. Dec 09, 10:00 pm; Dec 10, 1:00 am; ET/PT.
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