Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

June 2001

In the News:

Life from Outer Space?- Scientists claim to have found evidence that life here on Earth came originally from outer space. The Italian Space Agency announced last month that Bruno D'Argenio, a geologist working for the Italian National Research Council, and Giuseppe Geraci, professor of molecular biology at Naples University, revived extraterrestrial microorganisms lodged inside 4.5 billion-year-old meteorites. After they were brought back to life, the cryms (for crystal microbes) were cloned and their DNA analyzed. "Their genetic code is unlike any known on Earth," said Giovanni F. Bignami, scientific director of the Italian Space Agency. Other scientists, including Matrino Rizzotti, of the Padua University were not so sure. "Those bacteria seem to be too similar to the terrestrial ones," said Rizzotti "I can't avoid thinking about possible contamination."

Secret Project Detects Meteors - Scientists listening for secret nuclear blasts heard unexpected explosive sounds last year -- the detonation of two meteors over the Pacific Ocean. The study, conducted by researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, was designed to detect atomic weapons tests in remote locations. Instead, the listening stations picked up the sound of two large meteors, between 6 and 8 feet in diameter, as they dove into the atmosphere off the coast of Mexico. The first one created an explosion with as much energy as 2,000 to 3,000 tons of TNT and the second produced a shock wave equivalent to 8,000 tons of TNT.

Drought May Have Ended Mayans - A team led by University of Florida geologist David Hodell thinks they may have found why the Mayans civilization in the Yucatan collapsed around AD 900. The Yucatan peninsula was the site of recurrent droughts linked to changes in the sun's energy output, according to the researchers. The worst of the droughts may have brought about the end of Mayans. Hodell's team analyzed sediment from beneath Lake Chichancanab in Mexico to establish a record of changes in climate by driving a hollow 6-foot tube into the lake bottom to get a core sample of lake sediment. When rainfall decreased, evaporation from the lake concentrated salts in the water and left behind bands of gypsum on the bottom, providing a record of the periods of drought.

Planet X, Y and Z? -Scientists have recently discovered a planetary-type body beyond Pluto and are wondering if even larger objects may be found at the outer reaches of the solar system. The object, named Varuna, has been identified as the largest known body in the Kuiper Belt, besides Pluto itself and Pluto's moon Charon. Astronomers have determined that Varuna has a diameter of about 550 miles, compared to 1,350 miles for Pluto and 750 miles for Charon. This has researchers speculating that even larger objects may be wandering out in the Kuipter Belt, a ring composed of thousands of cold, dark and slow-moving objects beyond the orbit of Neptune. Varuna could be the first of many similar discoveries, predicted astronomer Steve Tegler of Northern Arizona University in an editorial entitled 'Almost Planet X' in the May 24 issue of the Nature.

NASA Says "Forget the Face"- NASA has released new photos of the long-observed Mars formation often referred to as "The Face" that show that the area doesn't really look like a hominoid extraterrestrial. The photos, taken by NASAís Global Surveyor, show greater detail than the pictures taken in the Viking 1 orbiter in July of 1976 that started the controversy. The face-like features excited the imagination of many who thought it might have been carved by an alien civilization. Michael Malin, in charge of of the Global Surveyor camera, said the photos show the area to be nothing more than a regular hill. "I have no desire to discuss it with the true believers. They canít be convinced, they donít want to be convinced," Malin concluded.

Scientists Seek Asteroid Impact Plan - Scientists are seeking a standardized protocol for dealing with the possibility of an asteroid or comet crashing into the Earth. "In some sense, it's something we know we need to worry about, but we need to decide at what level we need to worry about it -- and that's a question for everybody," said Daniel D. Durda, a research scientist in the department of space studies of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Durda, along with fellow scientists Clark R. Chapman and Robert E. Gold have written a paper on the subject hoping it will encourage discussion of how to replace the "haphazard and unbalanced" way the world today now addresses any potential impact.

UFO Witnesses Come Forward - Itís time to reveal the evidence that UFOs are real say a group of about 20 former government workers. The workers, some of them military and security officials, stepped forward this month to to say they had witnessed evidence of aliens and unidentified flying objects and called for congressional hearings on the subject. "These testimonies establish once and for all that we are not alone," said Steven Greer, director of the Disclosure Project, an organization working to reveal alleged alien sightings. Greer, who put together the program at the National Press Club, says that governments have known about UFOs for at least 50 years and have them secret. Greer said there are 400 witnesses who claim to have experience with sightings and ready to testify in front of Congress.


What's New at the Museum:

Amazing Mazes - What makes a maze different than a labyrinth? Who built the first mazes? What's a turf maze? Find out by looking at our new page Amazing Mazes.

Geysers and Hot Springs(Flash Movie) - Check out how hot springs and geyser work in our new flash movie - Geysers and Hot Springs

UnMuseum Logo and Art Store - The Museum of Unnatural Mystery has teamed up with to bring you Mugs, T-shirts and other merchandise with the UnMuseum logo. - UnMuseum Logo and Art Store


In History:

White River Monster - On June 28, 1971, a blurry photograph was snapped of a creature was known as the "White River Monster." The White River flows through eastern Arkansas and has been the source of monster reports as far back as 1915. While many monster reports around the world are never solved, this one seems to have a credible explanation. From the descriptions and the photograph cryptozoologist Roy P. Mackel identified the creature as a large male elephant seal that somehow strayed out of its normal habitat. For more about the monster, check our White River Monster page.


In the Sky:

Planetary Alignment - There will be a mini-alignment starting on June 10th as five solar system bodies nearly line up in space. As seen from above the solar system, in order they are: Mars, Earth, Mercury, Sun, Jupiter. Some people think there is a greater probability of earthquakes or other natural disasters when this happens, but no evidence has ever been found to suggest that planetary alignments are anything more than an interesting curiosity



Ghosts Stories Save Ecology - State governments North East Guwahat are turning to to ghosts stories as a way of protecting their natural resources. The governments, in an attempt to save some ecological sensitive areas, have labeled them as sacred or haunted. The Arunachal Pradesh government has used a fear the Nishi tribe has of demoniac eels to save Bek Senyik, a swampy lake important to biological diversity in the East Kameng district. The Meghalaya government has conjured up the story of a spirit called 'ryngkiew' which is the savior of Pdah Kyndeng Phud Umngei, a sacred forest in the Ri-Bhoi district.

"Monkey Man" Panics India - Reports of people being attacked by a hairy, ape-like creature that is about 4 feet tall have been coming from the residents of New Delhi, India. As strange as it seems, Delhi police have recorded 39 calls of attacks by the animal, which has been nicknamed "monkey man." In addition to the attacks two people apparently jumped to their deaths in a panic over the creature. Stories from witnesses in the local newspapers often describe the mysterious creature as a hairy ape or monkey. But other sightings include those of a feline-like creature or somebody covered from head-to-toe in bandages.


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.

Secrets of Lost Empires II - Nova is repeating its Secrets of Lost Empire II series. On June 5 it's Roman Bath. On June 12 you can see China Bridge. Both air on PBS at 9PM ET.

UFOs: Then and Now? - This comprehensive series investigating the UFO experience includes four episodes that air on after another on the History Channel on June 10: The Innocent Years at 3PM, Cause for Alarm at 4PM, Nightmare at 5PM, and Aliens and Contact at 6PM, ET/PT.

Bigfoot and Other Monsters - The mermaid, Abominable Snowman, giant squid, and dragons are all parts of myths and mysteries. But are some real? Find out through this History Channel program. June 14 8:00 PM repeats June 15 at midnight and 4AM ET/PT.

Incredible But True? - This History Channel program takes on the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. June 15 at 11AM, June 16 at 3AM and 9AM and June 17 at 5AM.

The Quest for Captain Kidd - Follow explorer Barry Clifford, famous for his discovery of the pirate ship, Whydah, to Madagascar in a quest to uncover the relics of the ship commanded by legendary pirate Captain Kidd. A Discovery Channel premier. Airs June 10 at 9PM, June 11 at 1AM, June 13 at 9PM, June 14 at 1AM, June 16 at 1PM June 23, 9PM, June 24 at 1AM, and June 24 at 4PM ET/PT.

Pyramids: Majesty and Mystery - From ancient Egypt to Central America, the world's great pyramids have long inspired and mystified scholars. Leading experts and historians explore the engineering genius that created some of the largest structures on the planet. On the History Channel June 13 10:00 PM repeats June 14 2:00 AM ET/PT.

The Bermuda Triangle--Secrets Revealed - Is it a fatal twilight zone, a graveyard for the lost, or simply stormy waters? On TCL June 10 at 10PM and 1AM, June 14 at 7PM and 2AM and June 16 at 7PM.

Quest for the Giant Squid -The Discovery Channel and Smithsonian Institute team up to find the bus-size marine monster alive in its habitat. Check out the giant squid on June 13 at 8PM and 12AM ET.

Beast of the Amazon: Dead or Alive? -Researcher David Oren ventures into the heart of the Brazilian Amazon to prove the existence of an ancient beast believed to be descended from the extinct ground sloth. Discovery Channel on June 14 at 8PM and 12AM, June 23 at 4PM, ET.

Atlantis Uncovered -The legend of Atlantis tells of a sophisticated kingdom that perished in a flood 12,000 years ago. If Atlantis really existed, the whole of human history would be rewritten. Airs on TCL June 22 at 9PM and 12AM ET.

Giants: Spiders and Bears -Get up close and personal with tarantulas the size of a dinner plate with fangs as large as a man's thumbnail. Check out some big bears too. On the Discovery Channel June 25 8PM and 12AM, June 30 12PM ET.



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