Science Over the Edge

A Mix of News, Events, History and Gossip

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

April 1999

In the News:

Join the SETI Search - Want to search for aliens from your home computer? The SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute is introducing SETI@home, a screen-saver program that uses the idle cycles on your computer to search data collected from the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico for signs of an E.T. transmitter. Currently much more data is collected by the disk than can be searched by the project's supercomputer. The goal of the project is to get the extra processing necessary from thousands of home computers while involving the public in the search. Those interested in joining the hunt for E.T. can download the software and data from later this month.

One Big Croc - Back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, so did gigantic prehistoric crocodiles that measured more than 30 feet in length. These croc's, whose skulls were up to 6.6 feet in long, were capable of capturing and eating a medium sized dinosaur with their huge jaws. The creatures, which weighed as much as 11,000 pounds (five times the size of current crocs) had posed a mystery to science: How did they grow so big? Scientists at Stanford University and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago think they have found the answer. The crocs simply did not stop growing when they reached adulthood. Most dinosaurs reached adult size in eight or ten years, then stopped growing. The giant crocodiles just kept on going for their entire lifespan which was estimated to be 35 years.

More Life on Mars? - They are at it again! The same scientists that saw life signs in a Martian meteorite three years ago say they have found two more rocks from Mars that contain similar micro-fossils of what look like bacteria. One of the rocks fell to Earth in Egypt in 1911 and the other in India in 1865. Other experts aren't so sure that the structure in the rocks really indicate life once thrived on the red planet. David McKay, one of the researchers who believes in the evidence says he hopes a probe planned to travel to Mars and get soil samples sometime in the next decade might settle the issue.

Martian Airplane - To pick a better landing site for the soil sample mission NASA is hoping to send a unmanned aircraft that could fly over the Mars giving scientists an aerial tour. The agency has included the plane in its year 2000 budget request at a price of $50 million dollars. If things go as planned the drone aircraft will be sent on its way atop a French Ariane 5 rocket sometime in the year 2003. It would fly through the Martian atmosphere for about 3 hours and go over 1,000 miles.

In History:

Entombed Toad - Undoubtedly one of the strangest of reported phenomenons is that of entombed animals. On April 7, 1865, workers excavating near Harlepool, England, broke open a block of magnesium limestone. Within it was a living toad. There was apparently no entrance or exit to the toad shaped hole which it had occupied. "The toads eyes shone with unusual brilliancy, and it was full of vivacity on its liberation," reported the newspaper Free Press. "The claws of its fore feet are turned inwards," the article continued, "and its hind ones are of extraordinary length and unlike the present English toad."

How did it get sealed in a rock millions of years old? Unknown.

In the Sky:

Daytime Planets - This month brings the chance to see some planets in the daytime! You may need binoculars to get a good look. On Sunday April 17 look for the moon in the afternoon sky. Venus will be visible just 7 degrees above the moon then moving to the moon's upper right as evening approaches. On Thursday the 29th look for Mars about a quarter hour before sunset. Find the moon and look 3 degrees to the Moon's right.


Flying Saucers for the Fashion Minded - MetalImages ( is offering sterling silver UFO earrings. The little flying saucers retail for $65 and are also available in pewter. According to Lori Elder, owner and metalsmith, this is just the first in a series of similarly themed jewelry.

On the Tube:

Lost City of Arabia - Trek with Nova explorers as they use high tech methods to find the lost city of Ubar in the desert of Arabia. The city's destruction is the one of the tales in the Arabian Nights. Did the it really exist? April 20, at 8PM ET on PBS.

Blast Off - True Stories From the Final Frontier - TLC takes you beyond the thin veil of our atmosphere is a new frontier, explored by only a few daring souls. Saturday, April 3, at 9 p.m. and midnight; and Sunday, April 4, at 6 p.m. ET

Titanic - Answers From the Abyss - The Discovery Channel tries to solve the riddle of the sinking of the Titanic with the help of marine architects and the National Transportation Safety Board. Sunday, April 25, at 8 p.m. and midnight; Sunday, May 2, at 6 p.m.; Monday, May 3, and Wednesday, May 12, at 9 p.m. and midnight; and Saturday, May 15, at 3 p.m. ET/PT

Lost at Sea - A look at disasters at sea. Episodes are "Shipwreck - The Mystery of the Edmund Fitzgerald" airs April 26 and May 2 at 4 p.m., "U.S.S. Indianapolis - Tragedy at Sea" airs April 27 and May 2 at 3 p.m., "Shipwreck - The Lusitania" airs April 28; and May 2, at 2 p.m. ET/PT

Secrets of Soviet Space Disasters - The History Channel looks at never-before-seen footage from Russian sources to tell the shocking truth about Soviet space disasters. Airs: Sunday, April 18 at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT


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Copyright Lee Krystek 1999. All Rights Reserved.