Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

June 2004

In the News:

Moon Rock Stolen - A moon rock valued at $5 million dollars was stolen from the Museum of Natural History in Mdina, Malta last month. The plastic display case had been forced open and the rock, which was about the size of a raisin, was removed. The museum has no guards or surveillance cameras, only a ticket taker. The rock was brought from the moon by Apollo 17 in 1972 and given to Malta by President Richard Nixon. Experts speculate that the thieves may have hard time disposing of the rock unless they manage to sell it to a private collector.

Oldest University Found - Archaeologists from Poland have discovered traces of what is being called the "oldest university ever found." The remains of 13 lecture halls have been located in Egypt at Alexandria. The university apparently operated there from the 5th century to the 7th century AD. Scientists estimate that the lecture halls found could accommodate some 5,000 students seated on rows of semicircular benches. There were also raised seats for the lecturers. Ancient Alexandria was long a center of knowledge and learning because of it's library founded in 295 B.C. that operated until the 4th century.

Warm Climate Makes Too Many Male Dinos? - Two many male dinosaurs may have brought the animals to extinction according to a theory being researched by scientists at the University of Leeds, in England. Some reptiles use temperature to determine whether their eggs turn out male or female. If this was true of the dinosaurs a rise in temperature at the end of Cretaceous Era, 65 million-years ago, might have produced too many male dinosaurs. With not enough females the animals would soon be extinct. The theory isn't knew, but this is the first time the problem has been looked at closely by fertility experts. The possibility of extinctions of species via this mechanism is of great interest to experts as there seems to be a trend toward global warming going on today.

Neanderthals Grew Up Fast - Spanish paleotogists examining teeth from ancient remains have come to the conclusion that Neanderthal man matured much more rapidly than modern man. By examining ridges laid down in the teeth during growth they estimat that Neanderthals reached adulthood at the age of 15 years as opposed to Homo sapiens who became adults between the ages of 18 and 20. According to the researchers such a difference suggests that Neanderthals were not closely related to Homo sapiens and probably did not interbreed with them.

Monster on Endangered Species List - Officials in Sweden want to know how the lake monster of Storsjoe, a creature with a semi-mythical status like the Loch Ness Monster, wound up on the nation's endangered species list. The monster apparently has been on the list since 1986, but was only noticed when a businessman recently applied for a permit to collect and hatch the monster's eggs. Records show that the creature was placed on the list by an environmental court so it could deny a building permit to a developer who wanted to put up a resort up along the edge of the lake.


What's New at the Museum:

Classic Graphic Novels - Check out the first chapter in our classic graphic novel version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. - >Full Story


Ask the Curator:

Face on Mars - One night I saw a show saying that they found a face mounded on Mars. Is that true, and if so how much information do they have on it? - Rachel.

In 1976 the Viking Mars Orbiter captured an image of a Martian surface feature that resembled a human face. NASA released a picture of it figuring it would get people's attention focused on the space program. Soon some people were suggesting it was some kind of "alien artifact" perhaps similar to the giant drawings found on the Naza plain in Peru. Subsequent photographs have been taken of the area in the 90's by the Mars Global Surveyor probe. These pictures taken under different lighting conditions, angles and resolutions seem to show that the object is a natural hill or ridge, and it's resemblance to a face is only a coincidence.

For more information check out:


In History:

Big Black Cats - On June 2nd, 1963, a hunter in Illinois observed a strange animal. It was catlike, about five feet long and 14 inches high at the shoulder. The animal had jet-black fur with two streaks of tawny at the jaw. This animal might have been a panther except that panthers (also known as cougars, pumas or mountain lions) have been extinct east of the Rocky Mountains since the 19th century. Also, mountain lions are almost never black (animals usually referred to as black panthers live in Asia and are a completely different species). Despite this, reports of these strange black cats seem to pop up all the time, even in places (like the British Isles) were no known big cat species has ever existed.


In the Sky:

Venus Transit - June 7th marks the first time in over a hundred years there will be a "transit" of Venus across the sun (A transit is the movement of Venus between Earth and the sun so that it is visible against the sun's disc). The last occurred in 1882 and they come in pairs eight years apart. Observing the transit was of supreme scientific interest in the past as the observation could be used to calculate the distance from Earth to the Sun. In 1769 expeditions were sent all over the world to observe the transit and the information recorded allowed the distance to the sun to be calculated to within 1 percent.

This transit will be in progress when the Sun rises over North America and will end at 8:25 EDT. Do not attempt to view the transit without proper filtering devices. Looking directly at the sun can cause permanent eye damage!



Students Release "UFO"- Students at the Varndeen School located in southern England accidentally caused a UFO scare last month. The students had purchased a 25 foot-long, black, plastic "Solar Airship" balloon and were flying at a field near the school when the string attached to it snapped. The balloon, which rises because of the sunlight striking the black surface and heating up the air inside, climbed to an estimated height of 1,000 feet. Residents of the next town reported it to the authorities as a UFO. The balloon stayed aloft in the area for at least three days.


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: Who Killed the Red Baron? - Forensic experts revisit the most famous aviation mystery of World War I. On PBS: June 15 @ 8PM; ET.

NOVA: Fireworks! - Pyrotechnists use hi-tech firing systems and ancient alchemy to create dazzling fireworks displays. On PBS: June 29 @ 8PM; ET.

Titanic: Answers from the Abyss- Groundbreaking deep-water tests show what's never been seen -- Titanic's fate once she slipped out of sight, beneath the chilly ocean waves. New photomosaics images show stunning views of new pieces of the submerged hull. On the Discovery Channel: Jun 05 @ 08:00 PM Jun 05 @ 11:00 PM; ET.

Seven Wonders of Ancient Egypt - The ancient Egyptians showed the world how boundless ambition and vast quantities of human labor could transform rock and stone into the most incredible monuments ever created. Meet the pharaohs, engineers and laborers who built the wonders of Egypt. On Discovery Channel: Jun 13 @ 10:00 PM Jun 14 @ 01:00 AM Jun 17 @ 09:00 PM Jun 18 @ 12:00 AM Jun 19 @ 01:00 PM Jun 26 @ 07:00 PM; ET.

Debunked! - Secrets of the Stone Spheres - In the last century, almost 300 ancient stone spheres were unearthed in Costa Rica's tropical forests. Alexei Vranich and Paul Harmon have teamed up to unravel the mystery of where the balls came from, how they were made and who made them. On Discovery Channel: Jun 17 @ 08:00 PM Jun 17 @ 11:00 PM Jun 19 @ 12:00 PM; ET.

The True Story of Troy - It's the site of history's most legendary war and the Western world's oldest adventure story. According to myth, it began with a rigged beauty contest and ended with a giant wooden horse unleashing utter destruction. Now, archaeologists, literary detectives, and military analysts are uncovering evidence suggesting the war was really waged. From archaeological trenches at ancient Troy and the citadel fortress of King Agamemnon, from Homer to Hollywood, we search for the true story of Troy. On History Channel: June 11 @ 9pm, ET/PT.

Secret Japanese Aircraft of WWII - In the 1930s, Japanese designers created a range of warplanes, culminating in the legendary Ki-43 "Oscar" and the A6M "Zero". As the war turned against Japan, designers created the rocket-powered "Shusui", the "Kikka" jet fighter, and the experimental R2Y "Keiun". We also disclose frantic preparations to assemble a secret airforce of jet and rocket planes to counter an anticipated U.S. invasion in1945, and chronicle post-war aviation and the birth of the Japanese rocket program in the 1950s and '60s. On History Channel: June 13 @ 8pm ET/PT.



Science over the Edge Archives

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

Copyright Lee Krystek 2004. All Rights Reserved.