The LES1 zombie satelite comes back to life.


Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

December 2016

In the News:

Satellite Abandoned Nearly a Half Century Ago Still Lives - An abandoned U.S. satellite from 1967 has been detected still transmitting a signal after 46 years. LES1 was a satellite designed by Lincoln Laboratory at MIT for testing communications techniques. It was one of a series of such devices launched into space for this purpose. LES1 never achieved its intended orbit and was left tumbling in space. It was this spinning, however, that clued Phil Williams, an amateur radio astronomer in the UK, into what he was hearing. The tumbling of the satellite causes the sun light on the solar panels to fade in and out on every four seconds causing the power to waver. "This gives the signal a particularly ghostly sound as the voltage from the solar panels fluctuates," Williams said. If nothing else it proves that the electronics they built 50 years ago, before the invention of microprocessors, still works.

Stone Toilet Supports Bible Account - A recent archeological find may support the story of King Hezekiah in the Bible. Hezekiah was a prominent king of Judah that banished cult sites and centralized the worship of God in Jerusalem in the 8th century B.C.. It is thought that Hezekiah had a limestone toilet, fashioned in the shape of a chair with a hole in its center, installed at 2,800-year-old pagan shrine at the ancient city of Tel Lachish to desecrate the site. The procedure of abolishing cult sites by installing toilets in them is found in sections of the Bible. According to archaeologists at the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the toilet appears to have been a symbolic gesture, and was never apparently used.

Legendary Well Found - A Medieval well, noted for its healing powers, has been rediscovered in England. The well is on the border between the townships of Rainhill and Sutton St Helens, near Liverpool, UK. Pilgrims would come to St. Anne's Well to submerged themselves with the hope of healing from eye and skin diseases. Over time the well, which was constructed of limestone blocks in a 6.5 foot square that is four feet deep with steps, was ploughed under by local farmers. Legend has it that the well was on the land of a monastery, but was the subject of a land dispute between the monks and a neighboring land owner in the 16th century. The landowner seized the well from the monks, but was later found dead in it. The well was located and excavated by the Historic England Heritage who will take steps to preserve it.

"Vampire" Bacteria Kill Pneumonia - Antimicrobial resistance to existing drugs is a major problem these days with more and more diseases withstanding our medicines. Some scientists, however, hope to fight fire with fire as they unleash "predatory bacteria" on unsuspecting nasty microbes. Like vampire's these predatory bacteria attack other microbes and suck their insides out. After consuming other bacteria the predators use the energy gained to reproduce. According to a paper, authored by Daniel Kadouri of the Rutgers Medical School, his team was able to insert predatory bacteria into the lungs of a rats and it killed the pneumonia microbes inside, curing the animals. Unfortunately trials with humans are years away. Some of the problems that need to be solved are how to get the predatory bacteria to target the desired disease and figuring out if there any long term negative effects to the human body from having predatory bacteria inside of us.

Power Dams Generate More Green House Gases than Previously Thought - Power dams are often thought to be one of the best example of renewable energy. A new study says, however, that they produce a surprising amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that may add to global warming. It's not the dams themselves that generate the gas, however, it's the reservoirs behind them. The cause is microbial decomposition of organic material in the water. While this happens in natural bodies of water too, the reservoirs are subject to more changes in level, which increases the release of the gas. It is estimated the water behind dams adds 100 million tons of methane to the atmosphere per year and over a century would contribute about 1.3 percent of the total amount of human-generated greenhouse emissions. This is perhaps 25% more than previously thought. This information is of considerable concern as many as 3,700 hydroelectric dams are planned or being built across the planet.


Science Quote of the Month - "The black holes of nature are the most perfect macroscopic objects there are in the universe: the only elements in their construction are our concepts of space and time." - Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar


What's New at the Museum:

NORAD's Santa Tracking - At the climax of the holiday movie, Miracle on 42nd Street, an old man finds himself in a competency hearing because he has had the audacity to claim he is Santa Claus when, of course, everybody knows Santa Claus doesn't exist. The old fellow gets off the hook, however, when the US Postal Service delivers to him a truckload of sacks filled with letters addressed to Santa Claus. The idea is that if the US Postal Service - part of the United States government - thinks Santa is real, then he must be real. We all trust the government, right?- Full Story

Mysterious Picture of the Month - What is this this?

Ask the Curator:

Weird Findings - What do you do if you find pieces of a creature unlike that of anything of this earth? - Charlie

Probably your best bet, when trying to identify an unknown animal (extraterrestrial or not) is to contact a biologist professor at a local college or university. They will be familiar with animals in your area and can eliminate some possibilities of an unusual, but earthly species. Most scientists would jump at the chance to identify a new species (even an earthly one) if given the chance. If they find one, they get to write a paper on it and they become famous (at least within the biology world).

This goes for fossils too. If you find a fossil, which you think might be something significant you can contact a geologist or paleontologist at a local college or university. It could be an important find. It has happened before:

In 1974 a contractor working on a housing development in South Dakota came across some strange bones. His son, who was a college student, recognized them as fossils and contacted a university. Scientists came out and examined the location and immediately discovered the remains of at least four Columbian Mammoths. Later excavations revealed that the location was an ancient sinkhole which had trapped mammoths for centuries and was a treasure trove of important fossils. The housing project was abandoned and a museum built on the location: The South Dakota Mammoth Site near Hot Springs. It's great place to learn about mammoths while visiting South Dakota.

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In History:

Construction on the "Chunnel" Starts - On December 1st, 1987 construction was started on the train tunnel under the English Channel (sometimes referred to as the "Chunnel") that would, exactly three years later, connect Briton with France when workers broke though the final stone linking the separate efforts of two crews coming from opposite directions. On May 6th 1994 the tunnel was finally completed and opened for traffic after more than six years of work. This achievement was considered a technical triumph of the 20th century and one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. For more information check our page on this subject.


In the Sky:

Geminids Meteor Shower - This year the Geminids Meteor Shower runs from December 7th - 17th with the peak occurring the night of 13th to the 14th. A nearly full moon over that time may make the falling stars more difficult to see, but the Geminids are so brilliant that you can still observe them even under those conditions. Best viewing will be after midnight. The shower is the result of debris left behind by an asteroid 3200 Phaethon and will radiate from the direction of the Constellation Gemini.



Is Skeleton Earhart? - In 1937 pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart was trying to become the first female aviator to fly around the world when her Lockheed Martin Electra disappeared over the Pacific. There have been many theories about what happened to Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, since then. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) thinks that she landed on remote Nikumaroro Island and has organized several expeditions to the area looking for clues. Their theory has been bolstered by the recent reevaluation of a skeleton found there in 1940. At the time a doctor analyzed it and came to the conclusion it was male. However, scientists in 1998 took a look at records of the examination and declared that the bones were actually from a female of about Earhart's size. In a recent development anthropologist Richard Jantz noticed that the skeleton's forearms were considerably larger than average. Working from photos of Earhart he was able to conclude her arms had a similar radius-to-humerus ratio. It's not proof that the skeleton is Earhart, but TIGHAR hopes that this will be one more clue to solve the mystery of what happened to her.



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

Science over the Edge Archives

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Copyright Lee Krystek 2016. All Rights Reserved.


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