Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

April 2001

In the News:

What to do with "Seahenge"- Scientists are divided on what to do with the remains of "Seahenge" a 4000 year old monument discovered buried in the beach near the village of Holme-next-the-Sea along England's east coast. The timbers that composed "Seahenge" were transported to the prehistoric center at Peterborough in 1999 and placed in fresh water tanks to protect them from decay while they were being studied. It was hoped that a museum would preserve the remains permanently, but none has shown interest. Now scientists from English Heritage have suggested that the timbers should be reburied where they were found as the best and cheapest way of saving them. Archaeologist Martin Jones of the University of Cambridge, however, warns that there is no evidence that such a scheme would protect the remains.

Afghans Destroy Historic Statues - The Tabeban, which currently rule Afghanistan, have destroyed two immense and historic statues of Buddha that have stood guard over the Valley of Bamiyan for more than 1,500 years. Afghanistan, which is now a Islamic country, in the past supported a large Buddhist population. The Tabeban destroyed the statues because they found them "un-Islamic" despite pleas to preserve the ancient monuments by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Reports say that the Afghans first tried to destroy the statues, which stood 175 and 120 feet, high by using cannon fire. When that was not successful they drilled holes into the statues and placed explosives. The statues were listed as among Asia's greatest archaeological treasures.

In a related story, Buddhists in Sri Lankan are planning to build scaled down replicas of the statues so that succeeding generations will be able to see what they looked like.

Japanese Team Concerned About Machu Picchu Collapse - A Japanese survey team from Kyoto University claims that the famous abandoned Inca city, Machu Picchu, is in danger of collapse. The team, lead by Professor Kyoji Sassa, has discovered that the backslope of Machu Picchu is moving downward at a rate of 0.4 inches a month. The team is concerned that an earthquake, like those that occurred in 1950 and 1986 could trigger a landslide destroying the ancient city. Peruvian authorities remain unconvinced, however, pointing out that Machu Picchu has survived 500 years of natural phenomena and visitors should not panic.

NASA Shoots Down X-33 - NASA has decided to cancel the billion dollar X-33 program which was considered to be a potential replacement for today's space shuttle. The X-33 was a rocket shaped like a flat arrowhead with fins at the bottom. It was to be launched vertically using a new nozzle-less engine, and then return to earth to land on a runway like an airplane. After 5 years of development NASA decided that the X-33 program would not lead to the creation of a workable rocket because of technical problems and soaring costs. The X-33, designed by Lockheed, was selected by NASA in 1996 over two competing designs.

Fake Fossil Revealed - Scientists have used a CAT (Computer Aided Tomography) scan to show that a fossil of a creature they called Archaeoraptor was actually a fraud. In 1999 the fossil was hailed as the "missing link" between dinosaurs and birds, but within a few months Chinese paleontologist Xing Xu said that he believed the fossil was a composite of several animals. According to an article in this month's Nature, the CAT scan machine, which uses powerful X-rays and computer processing to reconstruct a three dimensional image of a solid object, has shown that the fossil was actually composed of several species. There were four dinosaur species and one unknown species of bird. The bones were glued in position by the hoaxer by using a kind of grout. There is no word on who perpetrated the hoax.

Stun Weapon - The Pentagon has developed a weapon that seems like something out of a scifi television show. The device, named "Active Denial," is designed to stun enemies instead of killing them. The weapon uses low-energy microwaves that heat the skin up like it was touching a hot light bulb. Because the waves penetrate only 1/64 of an inch into the skin they do not do permanent damage. The heat will encourage affected individuals to move out of the beam, though. The device consists of a large dish antenna that is mounted on a military vehicle.


What's New at the Museum:

The Coelacanth - Check out our newly revised Coelacanth page with new pictures and new text including the story of the discovery of the first Coelacanth, a fish thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs. The Coelacanth.

Mummy Case Markings - Ever wonder what those markings are you see on Egyptian mummy cases? Well, even if you don't you might find still this page enlightening. Mummy Case Markings.


In History:

Dinsdale's Monster - On April 23, 1960, Tim Dinsdale filmed what is probably some of the best evidence for something truly strange in Loch Ness. Dinsdale was on the last day of a 6-day surveillance when he filmed a hump, between twelve and sixteen feet long and three feet high, moving across the water surface. Later the British Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Center analyzed the film and concluded the object was "probably...animate" and was not a boat.


In the Sky:

Leo, the Lion - As April draws to a close look for the constellation of Leo, the Lion, which will stand high in the sky at twilight. Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation, can be found 2/3s of the way up to the sky's zenith in the south. Regulus is the dot in the "backward question mark," that forms the head of Leo.

Lyrid Meteor Shower - The Lyrid meteor shower isn't as spectacular as some of the others, but if you want to take a look at it, the shower will peak around midnight on April 21st. The almost-new Moon means dark skies giving almost ideal conditions to observe. Meteors can appear anywhere so watch from a location where you can see most of the sky.



Champ Sighted 16 Times - The nonprofit group Champ Quest reported that there were sixteen sightings last year of Champ, the supposed creature that lives in Lake Champlain, according to an article in the newspaper Press Republican. One of the most spectacular sightings occurred on November 26th when seasonal resident Elizabeth Wilkins reported seeing, though binoculars, a crocodile-like animal swimming in the lake. The creature appeared to be 30 or 40 feet long and was observed for 20 minutes.

Golf on the Moon - Members of the Eariston Golf Club of Scotland have announced their intentions to build a new course on the moon. The club, whose original course was destroyed in W.W.II and never rebuilt, purchased land though a website called sells land on the moon by exploiting a loophole in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that bans nations from claiming extraterrestrial property, but not individuals or corporations. The club, which purchased the land from MoonEstates for $145, has admitted that the announcement is a stunt designed to promote the identity of the club.


On the Tube:

Currently we are only able to give accurate times and dates for these programs in the United States. Check local listings in other locations.

Allosaurus: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special - In 1991 a complete skeleton of a male allosaurus was found in Wyoming. Watch as scientists use his fossil remains to explore this Jurassic era creature's life. On the Discovery Channel. Airs April 8 at 9:00 PM and April 9 at 1:00 AM, ET/PT.

Sabretooth - With teeth like daggers, the now extinct sabretooth cat was one of the most vicious predators ever. Learn about them on the Discovery Channel: April 8 at 10:00 PM and April 9 at 2:00 AM, ET/PT.

Roswell: Secrets Unveiled - In 1947, a strange object crashed near Roswell, New Mexico. Was it a 600-foot long balloon train with classified acoustic devices, like the Air Force says, or a alien flying saucer? On the History Channel: April 06 8:00 PM, April 07 12:00 AM, ET/PT.

Egypt: Beyond the Pyramids: Behind the Scenes - The History Channel lets you take a sneak peek at their upcoming series, "Egypt: Beyond the Pyramids". April 14 11:30 PM, and April 22 9:30 AM ET.

Haunted Ships - Part of the History Channel's Haunted History series. Sailing the world's oceans these ships are said to be harbingers of doom for those who cross their bows. Are these ships ghosts or mirages? Airs April 13 10:00 PM, April 14 2:00 AM, April 15 4:00 AM, ET/PT.

Raising the Huntley - It was the first submarine to win a battle, but within minutes it went down itself. Scientists try to raise the civil war submarine "The Huntley" On National Geographic's Explorer April 8 at 8PM on CNBC.



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Copyright Lee Krystek 2001. All Rights Reserved.