Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

July 2000

In the News:

Tyrannosaurus Rex to Lose Name? - Perhaps the most famous name in paleontology may go by the wayside soon. Tyrannosaurus rex,, "tyrant lizard king," could become the less inspiring Manospondylus gigas which means "giant, thin vertebra." The problem, according to Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute, is that they have discovered the rest of a T-Rex that may have been named by the famous paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope in 1892. Cope only had one bone, but he tentatively named the species. If the bones found by Larson are part of the same animal as Cope found, the rules of paleontology suggest that the earlier name would prevail.

In order to make the change the evidence they are the same creature would have to be overwhelming. Tests on trace-elements found in the bones will be conducted to find out, but these tests are not always reliable.

This is not the first time a major dinosaur name has been dropped. The popular Brontosaurus became Apatosaurus when scientists realized they were not two separate species, but one.

Hunt for Nazi Lake Treasure Begins - Divers from the company Oceaneering are exploring the bottom of Lake Toplitz near Salzburg, Austria, looking for Nazi war treasure that legend says was dumped to the bottom of the lake during the closing days of WWII. The divers hope to find a horde of top secret Nazi records of great historical value. Stories have also been circulated that a large quantify of gold was also sent to the bottom of the 338 foot deep lake. It is hoped that the cold water and high salt content of the lake may have preserved any documents there. The lake will be initially surveyed with sonar and remote video cameras. Any recovery will be done by a mini-submarine.

In 1959 a diving team discovered 700 million pounds of forged British banknotes in the lake which were part of Hitler's scheme to ruin the British economy during the war.

A Pair of Martian Water Discoveries - Water figured in two separate discoveries about the planet Mars this month. NASA announced that it had found small gullies and deltas on the red planet that seem to have been formed by flowing water in the "recent" past. These formations could have been formed "a million years ago, a thousand years ago, or perhaps yesterday," said a NASA spokesman. If liquid water is on Mars it would make more likely life could survive there.

Scientists have believed for a long while that billions of years ago Mars had rivers and seas. Now according to a team at Arizona State University those seas were warm and salty. Analysis of a meteor that came from Mars and crashed to Earth in Egypt in 1911 show that it contained water-soluble ions that most probably were deposited by evaporating saltwater. This leads the researchers to believe those ancient Martian seas were much like our own.

Oldest North America Giant Sloth Found - After over a decade of study, huge fossil bones found in Florida have turned out to be a completely unknown species of the prehistoric giant ground sloth. The animal, which died around 2.2 million year ago, was up to 17 feet tall and weighed 5 tons. Its age makes it the oldest so far found in North America. The bones were discovered in a limestone quarry in 1986 by a geology student. Scientists think this particular species of sloth was very primate having 5 fingers and 4 claws instead of the unusual 4 fingers with 2 or 3 claws. The animal has been named Eremotherium eomigrans.

Speed of Light Barrier Broken - Scientists believe they generated light pulses that traveled at up to 300 times the speed of light. The experiments were carried out by Dr. Lijun Wang of the NEC research institute in Princeton, NJ, USA. The light traveled so fast that it seems to have shot forward in time. This bothers scientists as it would seem to contradict Einstein's theory of relativity which seems to say nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Some scientists say the theory is intact since it actually indicates that no information can travel faster than the speed of light and any information sent on the accelerated light pulses would take so long to decode that any savings would be lost.

Adopt Your Own Mummy - Looking for that perfect gift? How about a mummy? The Adopt-a-Mummy program at the Animal Mummy Project, Cairo, Egypt, will send you a picture and a X-ray of your mummy along with its history. The money collected will be spent on mummy research and restoration. For $150 you can get a dog, cat or falcon. One-hundred dollars will get you a crocodile, and fish and small mammals go for $75. "Mystery package" mummies which have not yet been X-rayed, go for $50. For more information check out


In History:

The Mansi Photo - It was in July of 1977 that Sandra Mansi had an encounter with something in that waters of Lake Champlain which lies between Vermont and New York. She snapped a photograph of it that has become known as the best picture of "Champ", the Lake Champlain lake monster. Was it a plesiosaur that escaped extinction? Or an old log thrown to the surface by turbulence in the lake?


In the Sky:

Dark Side of the Moon - Can you see the dark side of the moon? Try it on July 3rd. On that night the moon is a thin crescent. Look carefully in the area enclosed in the crescent for the part of the moon only lit by Earthlight.



Mummification Makes a Return - Last month we reported about a company willing to send your ashes to the moon as a final resting place, now we are telling you about a new fad. Be the first person on you block to be mummified. Summum, a Salt Lake City, Utah, religious group will preserve your body through mummification. The cost is about $63,000. Summum claims they are the only ones around who can do it. Although the group hasn't done any paying customers yet, they have mummified a few pets.

Lawsuit filed over Alien Attacks - A 62 year old man had filed a lawsuit in a Virginia State court alleging that Virginia governor, James Gilmore III, is not doing enough to prevent alien attacks upon the state's citizens. Larry Bryant says that he wants the governor to take action to prevent abductions and other violations of criminal statutes by space visitors. Some of Bryant's ideas to deal with the problem include convening a special grand jury to look into the matter, and formation of a "Quick Reaction Force" from the National Guard to handle hostile extraterrestrials. Bryant says the governor's current lack of action is a "dereliction of duty".

The Governor's office has not made on comment upon the suit.

Man Breaks Museum's Ming Dynasty Chair - A visitor to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts failed to notice a do-not-touch sign and sat on a 16th Century Ming Dynasty chair, valued at six figures, breaking it in three places. Museum officials examined the chair and found that it was repairable. It is being sent to a restorer in London who has repaired the chair before. Museum officials has decided the incident was accidental and no charges have been filed against the very lucky man.


On the Tube:

In Search of ... Marathon - The History Channel is featuring a holiday marathon of the In Search of series starting on July 4th at 7AM and going to 8PM ET/PT. Each episode is one half hour in length. Highlights are 12PM - UFO Australia, 2PM - Nostradamus, 5PM - Loch Ness Monster, 5:30PM - Monster Hunters, 6PM - Bermuda Triangle Pirates, 6:30PM - Money Pit Mystery, 7PM - King Tut.

Places of Mystery - A new series that will be premiering on the Travel Channel which may be of particular interest to UnMuseum patrons as the museum contributed material to one of the shows. Episodes are: Ghostly Gettysburg and Witch City. July 18 9PM ET and 6PM PT. Repeating on July 22 at 6PM ET and 3PM PT. Haunted Alcatraz and Paranormal New Orleans July 18 10PM ET and 7PM PT. Repeating on July 22 at 7PM ET and 4PM PT.

The Beast of Loch Ness -Nova goes looking for the Loch Ness Monster with two American scientists who use state-of-the-art sonar and underwater cameras in an attempt to prove the existence of the beast. Airs July 11 at 9PM ET on PBS. Rebroadcast.

Time Travel - Is time travel possible? In this Nova episode, many leading physicists say that it may be using such devices as "quantum wormholes." Other experts wonder, though, if anything larger than an electron will be able to travel back in time. Airs Tuesday July 4 at 9PM ET on PBS. Rebroadcast.

The Lost Mummy of Imhotep - The tomb of the Egyptian high preist, Imhotep, featured in the movie version of "The Mummy," has been found by scientists. Follow as they explore the mysteries of his last resting place. Part of Discovery Sunday on the Discovery Channel. July 23, at 10 PM and 2AM, ET.

UFO's & Aliens: Search for the Truth - Making Contact - For years astronomers have searched for intelligent life in space by listening for radio signals. Now anybody with a computer and modem can help. On TCL July 16 at 10PM and 1AM. Repeats July 22 at 7 PM.

Giants - The Mystery and the Myth - Go along with scientists as they examine evidence that giants may have existed in the past. Airs on TCL on July 13 at 10PM and 1AM, ET. Part of the Real History series.

History's Mysteries - Episodes: Ship of Gold on July 10. Hear the story of the SS Central America returning from California packed with tons of gold and torn apart by a killer storm. Join a group of high-tech treasure hunters 130 years later as they search for the fortune and recover the greatest treasure ever lost at sea. On the History Channel at 8 PM ET/PT.Repeats July 16 at 11 am ET/PT. The true story of Marco Polo on July 17. Everybody knows that Marco Polo traveled to China...or did he? This show will reexamine the evidence about his life and the controversy over his legend. On the History Channel 8PM ET/PT.



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