Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

July 2003

In the News:

New Dinosaur Found in Chile - Scientists have discovered a previously unknown long-necked dinosaur that roamed South America over 70 million years ago. Chilean paleontologists David Rubilar and Alexander Vargas named their discovery "Domeykosaurus chilensis" after the 19th Century Chilean scientist. The researchers say the animal is unlike any other dinosaur found so far. What makes this dinosaur so strange is that its body was elongated and thin compared to other species. The creature, which lived in the Late Cretaceous period, was about 25 feet long and its hips reached a height of about 6.5 feet above the ground. The scientists plan to publish their study of the animal's fossil remains in a Chilean geological journal later this year.

Nefertiti Found? - British scientists announced last month that they may have identified the mummy of Egyptian Queen NefertitI. Queen Nefertiti was the wife of pharaoh Akhenaten and probably stepmother to the boy King Tut. Nefertiti's likeness has become well-known through an ancient sculpture depicting her with a long swanlike neck. The famous limestone bust is now in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. The leader of the expedition, Joann Fletcher, from the University of York in England, says her team made the discovery of Nefertiti in a secret chamber in tomb KV35 of Egypt's Valley of the Kings near Luxor. They found the mummies of two women and one a young boy there. One of the women had a swanlike neck like that shown in the Nefertiti bust. The woman's mummy also had a double-pierced ear lobe. Nefertiti was one of only two Egyptian royal women thought to have worn two earrings in each ear.

Other scientists, including Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, are skeptical of Fletcher's claim.

James Ossuary Looks Fake - Israel’s Antiquities Authority stated last month that an ancient burial box that was supposed to have held the bones of Jesus’ brother, James, is a forgery. The box, called an ossuary, made the headlines last November when it came to the attention of the pubic. It is inscribed with the words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." According to a committee of experts the inscription is written in two hands and appears to be modern. The box's owner, Oded Golan, is sure that the Antiquities Authority is wrong and the box is genuine. Police are also looking into the way Golan obtained the box. If he violated Israel's antiquities law, the box may be stolen goods.

Van Gogh Mystery Solved - Astronomers have helped solve a mystery that has puzzled art historians for years. A Van Gogh painting, designated F735, depicts the moon above a harvested wheat field. It was unknown if the moon was setting or rising and on what date the picture was painted. A scientific team, lead by Donald Olson, a physics professor at Southwest Texas State University, first established, based on a letters written from Van Gogh to his brother, that the scene was painted from Van Gogh's eastward facing hospital window at the Saint-Paul monastery in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France. Then scientists were able to compare the exact position of the moon with computer simulations of the moon's motion. Only two dates match the image: May 16th and July 13th of 1889. Since the painting shows the wheat in the field has been harvested and put in stacks the painting must depict the view as it was seen rising on July 13th at 9:08 PM.

Soyuz Rocket Now Armed for Mars Exploration - Last month the British-built "Beagle-2" was sent off to Mars atop a missile that was originally designed to destroy western Europe. The Soyuz rockets were meant to carry nuclear warheads if war was ever to brake out between the former Soviet Union and the West. As it is now, the rocket and its payload has been come a symbol of the new Russian and European partnership in space exploration. The Soyuz was first successfully tested in 1957 and carried the first man, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, into space. Because of its long history of reliable launches the rocket is extremely attractive to the European space agency.


What's New at the Museum:

Was the Tyrannosaurs Really So Terrible? - Sure he was forty-feet in length with a mouthful of seven-inch long serrated teeth, but was he the killer he's sometimes made out to be? Check our recently updated page - >Full Story


Ask the Curator:

Bermuda Triangle -I have heard a lot of stories and legends saying that the many planes and boats have disappeared or have had strange sightings when passing through the Bermuda Triangle. Is there really something mysterious or is it just a place on earth were electric equipment does not work (e.g an electric/magnetic field)? - Anonymous

Over the years various scientists and laymen have speculated about the possibility of this region of the ocean, laying just to the east of the Florida coast, having some special properties that causes problems with compasses and radio transmissions. Nobody had proved that it has. In fact, the evidence seems to suggest that there is very little mysterious about the region at all. A survey of Coast Guard records show that no more ships and planes are lost in the "Bermuda Triangle" that any other location given the amount of traffic through the area. Though the loss of a flight of five Avenger planes in 1947 is the most spectacular story associated with the location (see, it is most likely that the flight's leader just got confused by certain landmarks and that led to the planes tragic disappearances.


Comet at Tunguska- A program on the Discovery Channel was aired recently that touched on the Tunguska incident. The theory bypasses the popular ufo and paranormal explanations by using a rare method known as science. Anyway, these scientists have suggested the object over Tunguska was a comet. When it entered the earth's atmosphere it began burning up, eventually exploding. The explosion occurred in midair, explaining the lack of a crater. The illuminesence that occurred over Europe in the following days are the result of infinite, tiny particles remnants from the comet which reflected light from the radiation of the explosion. I see the UnMuseum has an article on this topic but wondered if the Curator might like to comment on this theory. - Anonymous.

The comet theory is very similar to the another theory described on our page and attributed to Christopher Chyba, of NASA, Paul Thomas, of the University of Wisconsin, and Kevin Zahnle, of NASA. These three scientists suggest a stony meteorite was to blame and its explosion before hitting the ground is the reason there is tremendous damage to the area with no apparent impact crater. As much as both of these theories seem to fit the facts now, its important to remember that science is not a one-step-and-you-immediately-get-the-answer operation. Many theories, including asteroids, comets, mini-black holes, antimatter and even alien spaceships were forwarded by serious scientists before an explanation that seemed fit the facts, in this almost century-long puzzle, was found.


To Read:

Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Spaceflight - This new book by Martha Ackmann chronicles the story of 13 women who secretly underwent the same testing as the male Mercury astronauts. According to Ackmann program did not garner enough political support to continue, and was canceled in 1961, allowing the Soviet Union to send the first woman into space in 1963. Ackmann is a Mount Holyoke College professor.


In History:

Roswell Crash - At the Roswell Army Air Base, at Roswell, New Mexico, on July 8, 1947, the Army Air Crop issued a most strange press release. It said that a crashed "flying disc" had been recovered by the Air Force in a local rancher's field. Within twenty-four hours the release was retracted and and Air Force had a new story: The crashed object was a weather balloon. This set in motion a controversy which still continues today: Was the object a crashed a vehicle from another planet complete with alien bodies? Was it just a plain old weather balloon? Or was it something else completely? >Full Story


In the Sky:

Aphelion - On July 4th the Earth will reach its aphelion (farthest point from the sun). At 3,105,431 miles it is farther by 3.4% than it was last on January 4th. It is obvious to anybody in the northern hemisphere that the distance to the sun has very little effect on temperatures. The seasons are actually caused by the Earth's tilted axis which allows portions of the planet to be hit more directly by the sun during certain times of the year.



Sci Fi Seeks UFO Truth - The SCI Fi Channel is campaigning to get the U.S. government to be more aggressive in their investigation of UFO sightings. The channel has hired a Washington lobbyist and is considering legal action to get to documents related to a 1965 UFO incident in Pennsylvania declassified. A spokesperson for the network said, "Our main goal is not to find a UFO. The goal is finding the truth. We're expanding and exploring the blurry line between what is science fiction and what is science fact." The spokesman wouldn't comment how much SCI Fi will be spending on its campaign.


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: Treasures of the Sunken City - Divers search the seafloor for one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the Lighthouse of Alexandria. On PBS: July 8 8:00 PM; ET.

NOVA: Nazi Prison Escape - From 1940 to 1945, Allied prisoners of war engineered spectacular escapes from Colditz Castle, the Nazis' most impregnable prison. On PBS: July 22 8:00 PM; ET.

7 Wonders of the Wild West - The wonders of the West are a testament to the endless possibilities of the American dream. From the engineering marvel of Hoover Dam to the expansive beauty of the natural landscape, explore the marvelous sights that have become a national experience. On the Discovery Channel: Jul 06 08:00 PM and 11:00 PM ;ET.

Lost Temple to the Gods - In 20 BC, the lost city of Heracleion was famous for its beaches, palatial villas, sexually charged rites, and miracle cures. It's crowning jewel, the Temple of Hercules, lay at the gateway to Egypt's Nile River ruled by Egypt's last Pharaoh, Cleopatra. On Discovery Channel: Jul 23 10:00 PM, Jul 24 01:00 AM, Jul 26 07:00 PM; ET.

Search for the Sea Serpent - For more than two centuries, residents living near a small Norweigen lake have reported sightings of a creature similar to the Loch Ness Monster. An international team of investigators arrives to end the mystery, but their work only deepens it. On Discovery Channel: Jul 31 10:00 PM, Aug 01 01:00 AM ; ET.

UFOs Uncovered Are Aliens Here? - A detailed examination of evidence seems to confirm the existence of extraterrestrial life. Such evidence is presented to experts such as Gert Binning, Roger Penrose, Lee Smollin and Richard Dawkins for professional analysis. On TLC: Jul 08 10:00 PM, Jul 09 01:00 AM ; ET.

Alien Secrets - Area 51 - What lies within the heavily guarded confines of Area 51? Rumors of a UFO, complete with alien spacecraft and alien corpses in the Nevada desert have refused to die, even becoming a part of the blockbuster hit "Independence Day." On TLC: Jul 08 09:00 PM, Jul 09 12:00 AM; ET.



Science over the Edge Archives

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

Copyright Lee Krystek 2003. All Rights Reserved.