Science Over the Edge

A Mix of News, Events, History and Gossip

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

April 2000

In the News:

Take a Mastodon Home with You - The department of vertebrate paleontology at Cornell University is looking for "citizen scientists" who can comb through five pound bags of "Mastodon Matrix" to look for tiny fossils and send a report on the University on what they find. The matrix (about seven tons of it) was recovered with the bones of a mastodon in a bog. The stuff, mostly ancient mastodon fecal material, is 12,000 years old and has the smell of potting soil.

The project is ideal school classes, scout troops, senior centers, and any group with an interest in earth sciences. To get your bag proceed to the Cornell mastodon website and send John Chiment a note with the address of where you would like to have the bag sent.

Neanderthals Not in Human Line - Two Scientists working with DNA from a baby that died some 29,000 years ago have concluded that humans are not descended from Neanderthals. Writing in the magazine Nature, William Goodwin of the University of Glasgow and collaborators from Russian and Sweden report that the baby Neanderthal's DNA was much more similar other Neanderthal DNA discovered in 1997, than to modern human DNA. Scientists think that the short, squat Neanderthals died out about 28,000 years ago.

T-Rex's Big Cousin - Tyrannosaurus rex's position is slipping as the king of the meat eating dinosaurs. New fossils discovered in Argentina suggest that a 45-foot long carnivore lived there some 100 million years ago. The creature is four feet longer than the Giganotosaurus which held the previous record for meat eaters and five feet longer than T-Rex. The creature had long sissor-like jaws sporting very sharp teeth and a long snout. Scientists are withholding the proposed name of the creature until they can publish their findings.

Bambiraptor: Bird/Dinosaur Link? - A 75 million-year-old skeleton of a roadrunner-like dinosaur with clawed wings may be the best evidence to date that birds developed from dinosaurs. The three foot-long fossil was discovered in 1994 by a fourteen-year-old boy hiking near Glacier National Park in Montana and will go on exhibit soon at the Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History in Dania Beach Florida. Bambiraptor feinbergi has several traits usually only found in birds, according to scientists such as wishbone instead of a full breastbone and arm bones similar to those on bird wings.

NASA Testing Device to Make Oxygen on Mars - NASA engineers are testing a device designed to make oxygen from the local atmosphere on Mars. If the experiments are successful it may mean that the amount of oxygen carried on any future manned flight to Mars might be reduced. An identical device is scheduled to travel next year on the unmanned Mars Surveyor 2001 mission to the red planet to see if it works on-site.

New Mammal Discovered - A new mammal has been discovered high in the Peruvian Andes. Cuscomy ashaninka is a animal about the size of a fox squirrel and weighs around two pounds. Zoologist Louise Emmons, of the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History was trapping small rodents when she stumbled across the creature lying on a path, where it had just been killed by a weasel. Scientists had seen skulls of these creatures like these in Inca tombs, but assumed that the animals were extinct.

In History:

Triangles in the Clouds - On April 8, 1912, Charles Tilden Smith observed two triangle-shaped shadows in the clouds. "Although I have studied the skies for many years," wrote Smith in the British journal Nature, "I have never seen anything like it before." The shadows stayed motionless as the clouds moved on by, leading Smith to observe that they appeared to be "heavy shadow cast upon a thin veil of clouds by some unseen object."

In the Sky:

Rare Planet Show - April represents a rare chance to see a conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. They have not been this close in the sky together since 1901 and will not be again till 2080. The three planets will be visible in the western sky shortly after sunset most of this month. On the nights of April 14th and 15th they come within five degrees of each other. Jupiter is the brightest, followed by Saturn and Mars. Miss it this month and you will have an 80 year wait to see it again!


Burglar Blames Aliens - A 37-year-old man being held by police for breaking into a home claimed that he wound up in the house because aliens kidnaped him and dropped him off there. Police in Des Moines, Iowa, were not convinced of his story and charged the man, Brian Waddington of Davenport, with second-degree burglary. Police promised that if they find any aliens in connection with this case, they will drop the charges.

On the Tube:.

Mars: Pioneering a Planet - The discovery of possible fossils in a meteorite that came from the Mars sparked renewed interest in our neighboring planet. This show gives you a chance to see the astronauts, scientists and engineers involved in Mars space projects along with the NASA laboratory that some of them use. On TCL April 2 at 8PM and 11PM. Repeats April 5 at 8PM and 11PM and April 8 at 5PM.

Ancient Aliens - Since the dawn of time, stargazers have looked to the sky wondering if earth has had heavenly visitors. Scientists investigate ancient ruins, artifacts, and texts from around the world exploring the possibility of previous extraterrestrial visits and plausibility of future stopovers! On the History Channel, Wednesday, April 5 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM, midnight and 4AM.(cc)

The Shroud of Turin: Is the ghost-like image of a man imprinted on a linen burial cloth that of Jesus Christ? For centuries, the Shroud of Turin has mystified the world, inspiring worship and controversy. Recent tests conclude that the shroud originated between 1260 and 1390 AD, but other studies have questioned the validity of those tests. Explore the mystery behind the shroud and why it remains one of the most contentious and cherished relics in history. On the History Channel Monday, April 3 at 8pm, midnight and 4AM ET/PT

Roswell: Secrets Unveiled- In 1947, a strange object fell from the sky near Roswell, New Mexico, and the lives of many civilians and military personnel would never be the same again. Hear the Air Force's key players' version--600-foot long balloon trains with classified acoustic devices--and learn why Roswell locals and UFO believers don't buy it! On the History Channel, Monday, April 17 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM (cc)

Walking with Dinosaurs - This series uses the technology developed for recent Hollywood dino flicks to show what dinosaurs would have looked like in their natural habitat.Sections include New Blood, Time of the Titans, A Cruel Sea, Giant of the Skies, Spirits of the Ice Forest, and Death of a Dynasty. Premires on the Discovery Channel April 16th from 7PM to 10 PM ET/PT. Repeats April 23 from 5PM to 8PM. Also see The Making of Walking with Dinosaurs April 17th at 9PM repeating April 23 at 4PM ET/PT.


Science over the Edge Archives

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Copyright Lee Krystek 2000. All Rights Reserved.