Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Planet from another Galaxy Discovered - A world
orbiting the star HIP 13044 has become the first planet
found that originated in a galaxy beyond our own. The star
and its planet were once part of a dwarf galaxy that was
absorbed by our Milky Way galaxy billions of years ago.
The planet, according to a report in the journal Science
is slightly bigger than Jupiter and has a year just 16 days
long. HIP 13044 is an old star that was once like our sun,
but has since swelled up into a red giant star and then
shrunk back down to its present size. Most planets are burned
up when a star becomes a red giant, but this one managed
like the one HIP 13044 belonged to, are thought to be poor
in certain heavier elements like oxygen, carbon and iron.
Stars without these elements seem to form less planets and
it was thought that star from such galaxies might only rarely
have worlds orbiting it. It makes it surprising that the
discoverers, Johny Setiawan and Rainer Klement, of Germany's
Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, found one so quickly.
"Either they were incredibly lucky," says Eric Ford, an
astronomer from the University of Florida, "or planets aren't
uncommon around stars like these."
Researchers Make Progress on "Telepresence" Screen
- Long the darling of science fiction movies, scientists
have made progress toward creating color 3-D "holograms"
that float in the air. Two years ago researchers led by
Nasser Peyghambarian made a break through that allowed them
to produce a one color, 3-D object on a screen that did
not require special glasses for the viewer to see it. The
picture took about four minutes to update, however, so it
was far short of real-time motion. Their newest break through
can display a 17 inch picture in full-color and can update
every two seconds. This is much faster, but still short
of the speed and size needed for commercial applications.
The team's goal is to produce a screen that would allow"
telepresence:" the illusion that someone or something was
actually in the room with the viewer. "If you want a true,
real-time telepresence you need to go to at least 6-8 feet
by 6-8 feet [screen], so that the human person can be demonstrated
as they are," according to Peyghambarian. The system works
by using a polymer that can send light rays of different
colors and intensity off in different angles so that it
recreates the light that would reach the viewers eyes if
that object or person was actually in the room.
Detecting a Landslide by Listening for It -
Researchers in the UK think they have found a way to predict
landslides based on sound. Scientists have placed microphones
into hillsides before to try and detect the sound of soil
moving, but the low frequency signal is too similar to other
natural sounds and leds to a lot of false alarms. The new
technique uses microphones in steel pipes filled with a
granular material and buried in the hillside. If the slope
slips the movement of the pipe and the material inside creates
a higher frequency sound that is unique and can be used
to set off a warning. The system is in testing now and if
successful it is hoped that it can reduce the significant
number of deaths and large amount property damage associated
with landslides around the world.
New Lizard Found on Menu - Researchers in Vietnam
have discovered a new species of lizard when they noticed
it was on the menu of a local restaurant. Reptile expert
Ngo Van Tri of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology
noticed that all the lizards in a tank waiting to be served
at a diner in southern Vietnam cafe seemed to be female.
He contacted Dr. Lee Grismer, an American colleague. Grismer
was so interested he flew to Vietnam to have a look. On
close examination Grismer decided that the species was previously
unknown and apparently reproduces by cloning so there are
no males. "It's an entirely new lineage of life that was
being eaten and sold in restaurants for food," says Grismer.
"But it's something that scientists have missed for hundreds
of years." The animal, Leiolepis ngovantrii, may
be the hybrid of two other local lizards, but while most
hybrids are sterile and cannot reproduce, these lizards
do so by cloning themselves. This type of reproduction is
rare, but not completely unknown. Certain species of lizards
and fish can use parthenogenesis(self-fertilization) when
faced with adverse environments caused by pollution or over-hunting.
Did Michelangelo Give David A Secret Weapon? -
According to a controversial new theory Michelangelo, when
he caved his famous status of David, gave the young warrior
a "secret weapon." According to the biblical story David
defeated the giant Goliath using a sling. Art historians
Sergio Risaliti and Francesco Vossilla suggest that Michelangelo
depicted David as holding part of a fustibal, or
staff-sling instead of a regular, simple sling. With a simple
sling a projectile, like a rock, is placed in a leather
cup with two straps. The sling is then spun over the head
and one strap is released to let the projectile fly to its
target. With a staff sling the straps and cup are attached
to the end of a staff which is then whipped over the head
to send the projectile to its target. The staff sling gives
the user greater range with larger projectiles, but needs
more skill to operate. The fustibal was used as a
weapon since at least Roman times, and, according to the
researchers, would have been known to Michelangelo when
he began sculpting David in 1501.
Science Quote of the Month - "Science
is what you know, philosophy is what you don't know." -
New at the Museum:
Making of a Christmas Classic - It's the time
of year when TV stations reach back into their vaults and
pull out holiday classics. There is one film that has a
longevity that most Christmas films can only hope for. It's
known as Babes in Toyland or March of
the Wooden Soldiers.. >Full
Mysterious Picture of the Month - What
is this thing?
The Cruelest Pirate of Them All - I've
recently became interested in piracy. Can you tell me who
the cruelest pirate was? - Anonymous.
Before we try
an answer who was the cruelest pirate, maybe we should explore
why pirates seem to be associated with being barbarous at
all. Yes, they were "bad guys" clearly breaking the laws
of their time, but did they needlessly inflict pain and
suffering? Were they really any crueler than the "good guys?"
The truth is
that many seamen became pirates often to escape the difficult
conditions on other ships. The British Navy was perhaps
one of the fiercest opponents of the pirates during the
Golden Age of Piracy (1500AD to 1750AD) and life on a British
Naval ship was no picnic. The captain had absolute power
on the vessel and could have his men whipped and beaten
at his whim. Most regular sailors in the British Navy got
only half as much as was paid for seamen on a merchant ship.
Of the money they did get, much of was taken away in deductions
to pay for the ship's chaplain and/or doctor. Oh, and by
the way, the Navy withheld your pay for six months to keep
you from deserting the ship.
With pay so low
and bad conditions you might wonder why anybody would want
to join the British Navy at all. Well, many people didn't.
To fill out their ranks ships would send ashore a "press
gang" that would, capture men and force them back to the
vessel where they would be working away from their families
and homes for years at a time. You didn't even need to be
a British citizen to have this done to you and the practice
of pressing American sailors into service on British Naval
ships was one of the causes of the War of 1812.
this to conditions on pirate ships. Almost always everyone
on a pirate ship was a volunteer. The ships were usually
democracies and the crew would elect the captain and the
quartermaster who would then appoint the rest of the officers.
The pirates would often have a code of conduct and rules
agreed to by the crew before the voyage started. The system
also had a set of checks and balances to make sure that
nobody had too much power. The Captain was often in charge
in battle, but at other times the Quartermaster was in charge
or could at least veto the Captain's orders.
The pay was better
on pirate ships too. Whatever loot was captured was split
equally among the crew with responsible officers getting
a double share. Some of the money was set aside in a primitive
type of insurance policy to make sure that crew members
that lost a limb or eye in battle would get compensated.
also very equanimous accepting people on the crew from many
nationalities and races. Often almost half of pirate crews
were often made up from escaped slaves.
So how did pirates
get the reputations a being cruel even to one another? Well,
often this was a result of public relations. The pirates
wanted everybody to think they were tough so that no ship's
crew would challenge them in battle. Some of them used the
rule "No quarter after first blood" which meant if a ship
put up a fight instead of surrendering immediately, the
pirates would show no mercy when they won.
Movies and books
often pictures pirates as loving a good fight, but the truth
is they much preferred it if the ship simply surrendered
to them. If it did, the crew and passengers were usually
treated well and not killed. However wealthy passengers
might find themselves guests of the pirates until a ransom
was paid. Any pirate that was foolish enough to have a policy
of not taking any prisoners alive would find himself in
constant battles as the crews of the merchant ships would
then be forced to fight to the bitter end.
people think of cruel pirates the name Blackbeard comes
to mind. Blackbeard, whose real name is thought to be Edward
Teach, was well-known pirate that roamed the coast of the
Americas in the early 18th century. Blackbeard, who was
tall and powerfully built, cultivated a fearsome image to
scare his enemies. Many strange stories grew up about Blackbeard
after his death, but there is no record that he ever mistreated
or murdered his captives. Blackbeard, like almost all pirate
Captains, was elected by his crew.
were a few pirates that did act in a cruel manner toward
their prisoners. One name stands out among these and that's
Roche Braziliano. We are not sure of Braziliano's real name
and his nickname is translated as "Rock the Brazilian,"
though Braziliano was actually Dutch. He apparently acquired
his name after being exiled to Brazil for an extended length
numerous conflicts with the Spanish and hated them. There
are stories of Braziliano taking Spanish prisoners, tying
them to a spit set between two fires and roasting alive
them like they were pigs. Braziliano's cruelty didn't stop
there, however. He was a drunkard and would wander the streets
of Port Royal, a notorious pirate haven, assaulting people
and threatening them if they refused to have a drink with
If these stories
are true then indeed Braziliano certainly ranks up there
as one of the cruelest pirates of all time.
Communion with Aliens - On December 26, 1985,
writer Whitley Strieber was spending the night with his
wife at his remote cabin in upstate New York when he believed
he was visited by small, almond-eyed, gray-skinned humanoids
from a UFO. Strieber and his wife said that they could not
recall the incident consciously, but went through hypnosis
to access the memories that had been repressed. Over the
next few months Strieber wrote his story down in book form
and in January 1987 it was released under the title of Communion
and it became one of the most successful books on UFOs ever
published. The book was later made into a movie starring
Christopher Walken. Critics have claimed that Strieber just
made up the story to cash in on the UFO craze, but the author
was examined by psychiatrists and took polygraphs. The results
showed he was both sane and truthful.
Lunar Eclipse - This December we will be treated
to a total lunar eclipse that will be visible though out
much of the world. This is when the Earth passes between
the Sun and the Moon throwing the Moon into shadow. The
eclipse starts at on December 21st at 1:32 AM EST in North
America and finishes at 5:02 EST. The amount of time the
moon is totally in Earth's shadow is 73 minutes from 2:40AM
to 3:53AM. During this period some light leaks though to
the Moon via Earth's atmosphere and this can turn the lunar
surface funny colors like violet, orange and blood red.
If you plan on observing the eclipse make sure you adjust
the times for your local viewing area (For example the eclipse
with start on December 20th at 10:32PM PST on the North
American west coast).
Save the Christmas Trees! - Researchers at the
North Carolina State University extension service have found
that some weird stuff makes for good deer repellant. This
is good news for commercial Christmas tree growers who,
in deer infested areas, can lose a significant amount of
trees to the creatures. Commercial deer repellants are available,
but very costly especially when applied at the level of
a large farm. Inexpensive, inedible food byproducts -- such
as dried blood and egg powder - can be used instead and
cost only a fraction of what commercial products do ($18
a pound vs. $2 a pound) while being just as effective. "These
products have an unappealing taste, but the decaying smell
actually elicits a fear response in the deer and keeps them
away from the crops," said Jeff Owen, Christmas tree production
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: Arctic Dinosaurs - Trek
through Alaska to explore how dinosaurs once thrived in
polar regions. On PBS: December 21 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
On the Discovery Channel
Secrets of the Secret Service - A no holds barred investigation of America's most mysterious law enforcement
agency. Classified technology, secret strategies, deception,
and human courage combine to provide the best protection
Dec 02, 8:00 pm; Dec 02, 11:00 pm; Dec 04, 5:00 pm; ET/PT
On the Discovery Channel
What happened to Amelia Earhart when she disappeared over the Pacific
Ocean more than 70 years ago? One man thinks he not only
knows the answer but is on the verge of proving it...and
Dec 11, 8:00 pm; Dec 11, 11:00 pm; ET/PT
On the Science Channel
Hitler's Secret Science - In the crucible of World War II, Germany's most brilliant scientists
race to create terrifying new weapons of mass destruction.
Before the war is over, Germany will produce many technological
firsts that remain the basis for many air and spacecraft
Dec 12, 8:00 pm; Dec 12, 11:00 pm; ET/PT
On the Science Channel
Jack the Ripper: New Evidence - London in 1888 was gripped by fear as the bloodthirsty maniac Jack the
Ripper was killing and mutilating women. The killer was
never caught, but with 21st century police forensic techniques
the greatest criminal mystery in history may finally be
Dec 05, 10:00 pm; Dec 06, 1:00 am; ET/PT
Ancient Aliens: Aliens and the Third Reich - If ancient aliens visited Earth in the remote past, could they have
given us advanced technology, past down through human history?
And could this technology have helped the Third Reich build
mysterious weapons and crafts far beyond the limits of 20th
century science? During World War II, there were reports
that the Germans built an operational flying saucer, known
as the Hanebu, which was said to use mythical technology
found in ancient Indian texts. Another craft was rumored
to have been constructed with the help of psychics and mediums
who claimed to have received detailed blueprints from extraterrestrial
beings. Is it possible Hitler's quest for world domination
was aided and abetted by ancient extraterrestrial technology
that was rediscovered? And could the allegedly rebuilt alien
devices developed in Germany have played a role in America's
ability to land a man on the moon? On The History Channel:
8PM Dec 16th; ET/PT.
Naked Science: Alien Fireballs - It was a real-life Alien Fireball and one of the best-documented meteorite
falls in history. A stunning sphere of fire hurtled toward
Earth and was captured by a vast network of specialized
Channel: 10:00 PM on Dec. 2nd; ET/PT.
2012: Countdown to Armageddon - Are we three years from the end of the world? Based on an actual ancient
Maya calendar that will end on December 21, 2012, NGC asks,
"What truths lie behind the fears?" On The
Channel: 8:00 PM Dec 6th.; ET/PT.
Hitler's Stealth Fighter - In the final months of World War II, American troops discovered a top-secret
facility in Germany with an advanced batwing-shaped jet
fighter. On The
Channel: 9:00 PM Dec 9th; ET/PT.
Legend of the Holy Spear - A priest and a scientist reach back through the mists of legend and
time searching for the spear said to have pierced the side
of Christ at the crucifixion. On The
Channel: 11:00 PM Dec 12th, 9:00 PM Dec 14th; ET/PT.
World's Biggest Cave - Much of Vietnam's Mountain River Cave has remained untouched by humans
until now. With exclusive footage, NGC reveals, for the
first time in history, astounding evidence that this could
be the largest cave in the world. On The
Channel: 10:00 PM Dec 20th; ET/PT.
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