swam through the water like penguins.
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Flew though the Water Like Penguins - A recent study
concludes that Plesiosaurs, marine reptiles with four flippers
and saucer shaped bodies that lived when the dinosaurs did,
moved though the water much like penguins by using their
flippers to "fly" underwater. Scientists used computer simulations
based on the anatomy of a Meyerasaurus (a type of
plesiosaur from 180 million years ago) to find the best
swimming strategy the creature's body. They concluded the
fastest forward speed was achieved by flapping the two front
flippers up and down similar to the method used by penguins
and sea turtles. "What was unexpected was that no matter
what motion we simulated for the back flippers, they could
not substantially contribute to the plesiosaur's forward
motion," said Georgia Institute of Technology computer science
professor Greg Turk who worked on the study. The paper was
published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.
Planet in Our Solar System? - Does our solar system
have a new planet? Researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter
Array think they may have found a "super Earth" on the edge
of our solar system. The team was observing the Alpha Centauri
star system, when they saw a fast-moving object pass through
the field of view. Its brightness and speed eliminated it
from being a star. Instead they believe it is a Trans-Neptunian
Object (TNO) orbiting somewhere between 10 billion and 2
trillion miles from the sun (at least more than twice the
distance of Pluto). Many in the science community are skeptical
of the super Earth idea as the chance of the team stumbling
across a planet with the small field of view there using
seems unlikely. Most skeptics suggest that it may be a much
smaller, icy body more similar to Pluto. Further observations
may reveal the truth.
Shark - A newly discovered species of shark with jet-black
skin, bulbous eyes, and special cells that allow it to glow
in the dark has been given the common name "Ninja Lanternshark."
Researcher Vicky Vásquez said the name came to mind after
she described the shark's capabilities to her 8-year-old
cousins. The shark, which is about a foot and a half long,
uses it's dark skin and ability to glow slightly in the
dark, to camouflage it at the deep, dark ocean depths at
which it lives. This helps the shark sneak up on small fish
or shrimp while also eluding larger predators. "We don't
know a lot about lanternsharks. They don't get much recognition
compared to a great white," says Vásquez, who is a graduate
student at the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) in California.
"So when it came to this shark I wanted to give it an interesting
Than a Diamond - Researchers at North Carolina State
University have created a substance harder than diamonds.
Q-carbon, created by blasting a thin sheet of carbon film
with a 200-nanosecond laser burst heating it to 6,740 degrees
Fahrenheit, is 60 percent harder than diamonds because of
tighter bonds between the atoms in material's structure.
Q-carbon is a new solid phase of carbon (a different way
of arranging carbon atoms) previously unknown. The other
two known arrangements are graphite and diamond. The laser
technique is relatively fast, allowing the production of
a carat of the material in about 15 minutes.
Quote of the Month - "It
requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of
the obvious." - Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
New at the Museum:
Great Eastern - It was the largest ship of its era.
So massive it was renamed the Leviathan for its 1858 launch.
Though the vessel was a failure at the Far East passenger
trade that it was designed for, it later achieved great
success as it laid the first fully effective underwater
Atlantic cable while operating under its proper name, The
Great Eastern. > Full
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Hole Collisions - Black holes devour everything in
their path, even light, but what would happen if 2 black
holes suddenly met each other? - Damien
is a question that scientists have been pondering for a
while now. It is inevitable that somewhere in the universe
two black holes will eventually meet and merge. However,
it is unlikely to be "sudden" as the distances between them
are vast and because of the tremendous gravity of these
objects have they would start to have gravitational effects
on each other millions of years before they actually came
fact, scientists are waiting with bated breath for two very
large black holes in a quasar named PG 1302-102 to collide
so they can see what happens. Well, bated breath might be
an exaggeration as these holes, though they are the closest
that we know about - only about a light week apart - are
still about 100,000 years away from coming in physical contact
with each other.
prediction is when they do, there will be a tremendous,
violent release of energy. Fortunately, PG 1302-102 is 3.5
billion light-years away from us (technically they have
already collided, but we won't see the results for a 100,000
years or so) and we won't feel much of the effects of the
explosion. What scientists are hoping to be able to detect
from such a collision, however, are gravitational waves.
waves - ripples in space and time - are predicted by Einstein's
theory of relativity, but have not yet been found, though
scientists are working on building devices that might detect
them. The hope is that somewhere in the universe two black
holes with collide and we will be able to detect these waves
as they radiate out from the event.
it will be a long wait before the pair of holes at PG 1302-102
send us any waves, scientists may have noticed something
while watching them that may help identify other pairs of
holes a lot closer to collision.
holes are located in a quasar. A quasar is a galaxy which
is radiating a lot of energy. This energy comes from matter
being accelerated to high speeds as it is sucked into the
holes. Normally the energy from a quasar varies randomly
over time getting brighter and dimmer. At PG 1302-102, however,
it follows a pattern of getting brighter and dimmer every
five years. This is due to the interaction of the two holes
as the smaller one orbits the larger one. Scientists think
the speed of the variation will be a good indication of
how close the holes are to colliding. The closer they get,
the shorter the interval of brightening and dimming should
be. If they find a quasar where that interval is very short,
it may mean that two holes are on the verge of collision
and may help scientists get ready to detect those gravitational
waves they have been looking for.
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Moon Shot - On January 2, 1839, Louis Daguerre, a French
pioneering photographer, took the first photograph of the
moon using silver-plated copper sheet. This first photograph
of the lunar surface was lost when in March of that year,
however, a fire broke out in Daguerre's laboratory burning
it to the ground. The earliest surviving photograph of the
moon was taken by John Adams Whipple in 1851.
Meteor Shower - The Quadrantids shower is expected to
have up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. The result of
dust grains left in the trail of an extinct comet known
as 2003 EH1, the shower appears annually from January 1-5.
The peak this year will be on the night of the 3rd running
through morning of the 4th. The best time and place to see
the shower will be from a dark location after midnight.
Meteors will appear to come from the constellation Bootes.
Who is Under the Mona Lisa - Is there another portrait
hiding beneath the surface of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece,
Mona Lisa? Pascal Cotte, co-founder of Lumiere Technology,
a Paris-based company which relies on multispectral imaging
to digitize artworks, thinks so. "We can now analyze exactly
what is happening inside the layers of the paint and we
can peel like an onion all the layers of the painting. We
can reconstruct all the chronology of the creation of the
painting," Cotte has stated. Using a method called Layer
Amplification that projects intense light onto the painting
and measures the reflections, Cotte has reconstructed what
was between the layers of the paint. He thinks it a portrait
of another woman who is not gazing at the viewer, but looks
off to one side.
and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place
we feature highlights from their past adventures.
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