smiling at the Hubble Space Telescope? (Courtesy
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Aliens Giving Us a Giant Smiley Face? - The Hubble Space
telescope had spotted what appears to be an emoticon of
a smiling face in space. What the picture actually shows
are two galaxies (the eyes) surrounded by a strange effect
called "gravitation lensing." Gravitational lensing is the
result of light passing near an object with high gravity
which can stretch and distort it. In this case the gravity
is provided by galactic cluster SDSS J1038+4849. The light
has been stretched into an arc that appears as the face's
mouth and outer edge of its head.
on Titan - NASA has unveiled a design for a robotic
submarine that would explore the seas of Saturn's moon Titan.
Building such a robot would be a challenge as Titan's seas
are not composed of water, but liquid methane with an estimated
temperature as low as -298 degrees Fahrenheit. These low
temperature make engineering such a craft extremely difficult.
It is likely it would be powered by a radioisotope generator
that converts the heat produced by radioactive pellets into
electricity. The robot would probably be sent to Kracken
Mare, the largest of Titan's polar seas. The Mare has a
depth of up to 525 feet and the submarine would probably
take samples at different levels and also analyze sediment
off the bottom. Though the mission has no definite timeline
the concept of exploring an alien sea seems extremely enticing
Big Bang? - Some headlines are suggesting that a new
theory indicates that the big bang at the beginning of the
universe did not actually happen. This is actually a misunderstanding
of the work by Saurya Das from the University of Lethbridge
in Canada and Ahmed Farag Ali from Egypt's Benha University.
The pair created a new model of the universe where they
applied quantum corrections to terms in Einstein's theory
of general relativity. With this correction the numbers
suggest that the universe had no beginning and will have
no end. However, it does not eliminate the big bang. It
simply suggests that the bang did not start as an infinitely
dense single point known as a singularity and that the universe,
in some form existed forever before that point.
Insulating Material: Water - One enterprising Hungarian
inventor believes he has found a way to reduce heating costs
in a home: build the walls out of water. Matyas Gutai's
idea is to have the wall of a building be composed of tanks
of water (in his demonstration unit he created them using
two glass panes with the space between filled with liquid).
The water absorbs heat during hot spells and distributes
it out during cold periods. A monitoring system checks the
temperature and pumps it where it is needed. Excess heat
can be transferred to a storage tank in the foundations
and then sent back up to the walls later when it gets colder.
The system reduces the need for external energy so it is
carbon friendly. The wall of such a house can be much thinner
than those for similar energy efficient designs.
of Holes in Skull Solved - For many years a skull has
sat in a glass cabinets in the Cathedral of Otranto. The
skull is one of many there but it is the only one that has
sixteen perfect round, conical holes drilled into its cranium.
Now researchers at the University of Pisa, Italy, think
they have solved the mystery. The skulls are part of a group
of martyrs killed in the 15th century. "The perfectly cupped
shape of the incomplete perforations leads(us) to hypothesize
the use of a particular type of trepan, with semi-lunar
shaped blade or rounded bit; a tool of this type could not
produce bone discs, but only bone powder," observed Gino
Fornaciari, professor of history of medicine and paleopathology.
It is likely that such bone powder would be used as an ingredient
in pharmacological preparations as it was believed that
the bodies of martyrs had healing powers.
Quote of the Month - "Science
may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to
imagination." - Bertrand Russell
New at the Museum:
of the Solar System: Enceladus -
Ocean in the Strangest Place.
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Memory - I'm a big fan of the Assassin's Creed series,
which says that inside our DNA we carry genetic memories;
the memories of our ancestors. Is this based in a true thing?
Is genetic memory real? - Jonathan
In the game the Assassin's Creed a machine called the Animus
is supposed to be able to tap into hidden memories in a
person's DNA and let them play out their ancestors past
as waking "dreams." But do we really carry anything like
these genetic memories in our DNA?
famous, early 20th century Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung,
suggested that such a thing did exist. He called it racial
memory. Jung thought that feelings, patterns of thought,
and fragments of experience could be transmitted from generation
to generation in humans creating a "collective unconscious"
we all share.
Jung's thinking these "memories" deeply influence people's
minds and behavior. An often cited example is fear of snakes.
Most people have a fear of snakes, even though they haven't
personally had a bad experience with them. One way to explain
this fear is that earlier generations of humans have had
bad incidents with snakes and this memory is passed down
to their children.
If Jung's racial memory is true, how might it work? It seems
the most likely suggestion is that somehow these memories
are incorporated into our genome over long period of time
so that these memories are carried in our DNA.
Jung's idea of "collective unconscious" has been a popular
idea with writers and those with a new age bend, most scientists
are skeptical that such a mechanism exists in DNA. Do we
fear snakes because of an instinct encoded in our genes,
or because we were taught to fear them by instruction or
if it did work Jung's racial memories do exist they seem
much too vague (like a general fear of snakes) to create
the "waking dreams" seen in the Assassin's Creed game.
scientist have done intriguing work with something known
as epigenetics. It was believed until recently that genes
controlled only what was passed down from parent to child
and the behavior of the parent would not affect those genes.
New studies, however, suggest that what a parent does can
change how that gene is expressed in the following generations.
In one experiment scientists used a strain of mice known
for having a gene that gave them fat bodies and yellowish
color. However, by giving a mother mouse a healthier diet
they could cause the gene not to be expressed in the next
generation giving them sleeker bodies and a normal brown
interesting as it is that some of these "genetic memories"
can indeed be passed down from parent to child, they still
fall far short of the type of memories found the game and
the Animus machine in the story, I'm afraid, will ever be
a question? Click here to
send it to us.
Bravo Accident - On March 1st, 1954, at the Bikini Atoll,
in the Pacific Ocean, the United States tested a hydrogen
bomb code-named Bravo. The yield greatly exceeded predictions
causing fallout that contaminated many residents of the
islands in the area, and the crew of a Japanese fishing
boat, causing an international incident. It was the largest
bomb ever tested by the United States (15 megatons) and
the accidental contamination eventually led to a ban on
above ground nuclear weapons tests. It also help inspire
Japanese filmmakers to create Godzilla. For the full
story see our video.
March Conjunction - A conjunction is an astronomical
term that refers to two celestial objects appearing close
to each other in the sky. This month the planet Saturn with
have a conjunction with the moon. They will be closest on
Thu, 12 Mar 2015 at 04:36 EDT. Look for the moon that evening
and the bright object nearby will be Saturn.
a Human Head - Sergio Canavero, a doctor from the Turin
Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, is thinking about
transplanting a human head. According to New Scientist,
Canavero will announce his project in June at the American
Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons' annual
meeting. Although successful head transplants have been
done in animals as early as 1970, such an operation in humans
would carry immense medical and ethical concerns. The biggest
problem would be to get the two spinal cords to fuse and
Canavero would rely on a substance called polyethylene glycol
to encourage that to happen. Many doctors are dubious about
such a project, however, considering too far out to even
and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place
we feature highlights from their past adventures.
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