Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

April 2004

In the News:

Chicxulub Impact Did Not Extinct Dinos - A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month suggests that the asteroid that landed in Mexico near Chicxulub and is commonly blamed for the extinction of the dinosaurs 65.3 million years ago probably didn't do the deadly deed. A core sample extracted almost a mile below the crater's surface seems to show that Cretaceous dinosaur fossils were embedded in rock layers for almost 300,000 years after the asteroid hit. The scientists suggest that another impact, perhaps one known to have landed in India, might be the culprit. The Mexican asteroid, however, along with volcanic activity, probably contributed to the decline of dinosaur population prior to the final extinction event.

Mars Was Once Wet - For years scientists debated whether the planet Mars ever had free flowing water upon it's surface. NASA announced last month that it had brought this discussion to an end when it's rover, Opportunity, discovered clear evidence that the place were it stood once was, as a NASA scientist put it, "soaking wet." The evidence is based on rocks examined by the rover showing distinct layering and pockmarked indentation. According to a NASA spokesman, "This distinctive texture is familiar to geologists as the sites where crystals of salt minerals form within rocks that sit in briny water." The fact that Mars once had plentiful water is a sign that it may have once sustained some primitive form of life.

No Moon Means No Life? - Richard Lathe, a molecular biologist at Pieta Research and Edinburgh University, has advanced a theory that without the moon no life would have developed on Earth. According to Lathe's ideas, without the tremendous tidal forces that the moon caused early in its existence, the Earth's seas would not have been stirred up enough to create sugars, bases, amino acids, and other basic components necessary for life. Since most scientists think the association of a large moon with a small planet like Earth is a very rare event, it could mean that life is equally rare throughout the universe.

Asteroid has Close Encounter with Earth - An asteroid one-hundred feet in diameter passed close by Earth on March 18th. The space rock went by at a distance of 26,500 miles, a very close encounter by astronomical standards. Its path brought it closest to Earth over the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Even though the asteroid passed close, there was no danger of a collision with our planet and such encounters happen on the average of once every two years. "This particular close approach is unusual only in the sense that scientists know about it," said a NASA spokesperson.

NASA Scramjet Test Successful - NASA got an unpiloted aircraft to fly at speeds in excess of seven times the speed of sound last month. The 12-foot long X-43A was launched from a B-52 aircraft and was boosted to a speed of March 5 and a height of 100,000 feet by a rocket. Then craft's experimental SCRAM jet started and the vehicle achieved a speed of over 5,000 miles-an-hour. After the test was completed, as planned, the unmanned craft plunged into the Pacific Ocean.

The SCRAM jet engine being tested may allow aircraft to fly at speeds and altitudes only achievable now by rockets.


What's New at the Museum:

Phantom Ships - They come sailing though the night into sailors' nightmares. Some are legend, some are illusion, but a few of these "ghost" ships are for real - >Full Story


Ask the Curator:

Bird Migration - I have got a question. I was studying about migratory birds and was wondering how can they find the right direction? Do they use the sixth sense? Thank you Sincerely - Deepesh S.

If you list the ability to sense Earth's magnetic fields with your brain as a sixth sense, I guess you could say that they do. Homing pigeons use this technique. It's a bit like have a built in compass. To prove this is how they navigate scientists put little hats on the pigeons heads with attached magnets designed to confuse the natural magnetic field and the birds flew off in the wrong direction.

Other species use different methods. Some birds navigate by using the sunset and stars. Buntings put in a room with an artificial sky projected on the ceiling will head one way with a fall star projection and the opposite with a spring star projection. Geese use landmarks to do their migration and must learn the route the first time they fly it with their parents. Because of their dependence on seeing the ground geese can get easily confused in fog and land in unexpected places.

It is likely that some species use a combination of the above methods. There may also be methods used by birds to navigate that science has not yet discovered.


In History:

Congo Close Encounter - In April of 1984 a member of a government expedition was washing himself in a lake near Tele in the Congo when he saw a remarkable sight: About a thousand feet away in the water was a brownish-black creature with a long neck, long tail and four legs. Unfortunately, the only camera available had its film completely exposed so no photograph was taken. For this reason the incident will go into history as another unproved close encounter with mokele-mbembe, the dinosaur-like creature that supposedly inhabits the remote reaches of the Congo.


In the Sky:

Lyrid Meteor Shower - On April 21 the Lyrid meteor shower will be reaching its peak. Expect to see a shooting stars every one to five minutes. Viewing should be especially good towards midnight after the moon has set.



Aztec Crash Conference - UFO investigators met in Aztec, New Mexico, for the seventh annual Aztec UFO Symposium last month. Attendees at the conference exchanged information and ideas about the supposed crash of a UFO in Hart Canyon about 12 northeast of Aztec in 1948. The spaceship was said to be 100 feet in diameter and contained 16 dead humanoids. As the story goes, military personnel removed the bodies to a secret location. Among the topics at the conference besides the purported crash were contacts with extraterrestrials, government cover-ups of UFO reports, and the crop circle phenomenon.


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.

NOVA: Ancient Creature of the Deep - Meet the coelacanth, a bizarre fish and "living fossil" that has changed little in its 400 million years on Earth.. On PBS: April 6 @ 8PM; ET.

NOVA: Lost Treasures of Tibet - A crack restoration team tries to prevent priceless medieval Buddhist murals from crumbling into dust. On PBS: April 27 @ 8PM; ET.

Noah's Ark: The True Story- Search for the truth behind the story of Noah and his ark. Find out how Noah could have built such a structure and whether or not a great flood took place on the earth. The search for remains of the ark continues today. On the Discovery Channel: Apr 04 @ 10:00 PM; Apr 05 @ 01:00 AM; ET.

Ancient Evidence: Viking Voyages - Celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Leif Ericson's discovery of North America. He sailed from Iceland, via Greenland, to New Foundland to build the first "European" settlement on the new continent almost 500 years before Columbus arrived. On Discovery Channel: Apr 15 @ 09:00 PM; Apr 16 @ 12:00 AM; ET.

Ancient Evidence: Building the Impossible - Explore the wide context of the ancient wonders for the modern world. Revisit the historical significance of the pyramids, Babylon's hanging gardens, the temple of Artemis, the statue of Zeus, the Mausoleum, the Colossus and the Pharos of Alexandria. On Discovery Channel: Apr 22 @ 09:00 PM; Apr 23 @ 12:00 AM; ET.

Great Sphinx - The brooding figure of the Great Sphinx stands guard over the pyramids of Giza. With the head of a man and body of a lion, this 240-foot ruin may depict Pharaoh Khafre, son of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid. But speculation still abounds as to its birth. We'll use computers to flesh out its possible original face. On History Channel: April 6 @ 6pm ET/PT.

Bible Code - Is there a prophetic, highly accurate code locked within the Bible that outlines past and future events? Does the Code contain hidden messages about people like Napoleon, Einstein, and Hitler, and key world events like WWII, the Kennedy brothers' assassinations, and 9/11? More frightening are references to future events--including Earth's impending end. We take a balanced look through the eyes of Code supporters and critics and let viewers determine its accuracy in predicting the future. On History Channel: April 11 @ 7pm ET/PT; April 15 @ 8pm ET/PT.



Science over the Edge Archives

LGM Archive 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

Copyright Lee Krystek 2004. All Rights Reserved.