Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Sharks Operate Like Serial Killers - According
to a recent scientific study, great white sharks act a lot
like human serial killers. The study's authors used geographic
profiling to track the creatures' movements. "As predators,
they must get close enough to check out prey and figure
out their movements, but they also must be far enough way
so that they themselves won't be easily tracked," stated
co-author Neil Hammerschlag. "They must use known traveling
routes," he added. "For human killers, these would be things
like subways, buses and freeways. For great whites, these
would include channels, reef edges and other topographical
features." The study, published in the Journal of Zoology
found that experienced great whites liked to launch their
attacks from very specific locations. This information may
help determine ways of keeping the sharks and humans apart
so they avoid unfortunate encounters.
Find Makes Dino-Bird Connection More Likely - A
discovery in China could strengthen the idea that birds
evolved from dinosaurs. A team led by Xing Xu, a Chinese
paleontologist, found the remains of a creature they named
Limusaurus inextricabilis. This animal is a member of the
branch of the theropod dinosaur family called ceratosaurs.
Scientists that do not believe birds came from dinosaurs
point out that theropod dinosaurs have three fingered hands
that correspond to the first, second and third digits on
human hands, but modern birds have wings that correspond
to the second, third and fourth digits. Therefore, they
argue, one could not have evolved from the other. Limusaurus
inextricabilis however, had a shrinking first digit while
the second, third and fourth were more developed. This would
suggest that during evolution to birds for some reason the
important of digits shifted and this explains how the theropod
dinosaur line and modern birds could be connected.
Topless Mona Lisa-like Painting Exposed - A
recently rediscovered painting suggests that Leonardo da
Vinci did not take his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, quite
as seriously as art lovers do today. This newly revealed
painting, now on exhibit at the Museo Ideale in the Tuscan
town of Vinci, shows a topless woman resembling the woman
in the famous portrait sitting in front of a background
very much like that in Leonardo's best known work. "The
frontal look, the position of the hands, the spatial conception
of the landscape, with columns at the sides, show a clear
link with the Mona Lisa's iconographic theme," said Alessandro
Vezzosi, director of the museum. Documents indicate that
naked portrait once belonged to Cardinal Joseph Fesch (1763-1839)
and records from 1845 note that he purchased "the portrait
of the Mona Lisa, mistress of Francis I, by Leonardo da
Vinci," from the Rospigliosis, a rich Roman family. The
records are not enough to authenticate the painting as being
done by Leonardo himself and it is likely that the painting
was actually done by one of his students. This leads art
historians to think that, however, there may have been a
similar painting done by da Vinci himself that has been
lost. If so, it suggests that Leonardo was not above having
some fun with his most famous work.
Warp Drive Might Create a Black Hole - A recent
paper by a group of Italian physicists suggests that if
anyone built a "warp" drive, as shown in the popular Star
Trek TV shows and movies, it might result in sucking the
Earth into a black hole. In the 1990's Mexican physicist
Michael Alcubierre suggested it might possible for a spaceship
to travel faster than the speed of light by creating a bubble
of energy behind the ship and a lack of energy in front
of it sort of like a giant cosmic wave the space ship could
surf. The Italian researchers suggest that if you did this
by using dark energy their calculations show that a huge
amount of energy would be need to create the bubble and
more and more to keep it from collapsing. Eventually the
energy would run out, the bubble would rupture and either
a black hole would be created or a titanic explosion set
off. In either case the ship would be destroyed along with
anything in the immediate area, like planets. While other
scientists agree that the Italians' calculations are right
for classical physics, they suggest that string theory may
allow away around this problem.
New Flying Car to be on Market - A Boston-area
company hopes to start flight tests soon of its two-seater
airplane that also act as a car. The company, Terrafugia,
founded in 2006 by a group of MIT students, has orders for
more than 40 of these hybrids and plans to begin deliveries
in 2010. The machine drives like a traditional car to the
runway where wings unfold so it can take-off. After landing
the wings fold back up so the vehicle and it can be driven
on regular roads. The vehicle, to be named "Transition,"
will retail for $194,000. Terrafugia isn't the first group
with this idea. A company called Aerocar designed one of
the first flying cars in 1949, but it never went into production.
The company expects to be successful with the "Transition"
because of advances in materials and propulsion technologies
and an easing of government regulations on private aircraft
and pilot licensing.
Science Quote of the Month - "Great
scientific discoveries have been made by men seeking to
verify quite erroneous theories about the nature of things."
- Aldous Huxley
New at the Museum:
Shark! The Jersey Shore Attacks of 1916 -
Four are dead and a fifth maimed in the America's worst
shark attack incident. >
Air on the moon - Is it possible to channel
a pipe from Earth to Moon and pump in some of earth's atmosphere
so as to support free life? - Cheta A.
of a pipeline from the Earth to the Moon would be a difficult
and probably impossible construction problem. Though scientists
think it might be feasible to build an elevator that would
lift people and materials in earth orbit, the space station
that the elevator would be connected to would rotate in
sync with our planet so it would always be directly overhead.
The moon orbits the earth once a month, however, while our
planet spins every 24 hours, so a pipeline from earth to
moon would quickly get twisted and tangled.
There would be
little point in building one, anyway, in an attempt to pressurize
the moon and give it a breathable atmosphere. The moon already
has an atmosphere, (mostly created by out gassing from the
underground chemical reactions) but the atmosphere is so
thin it almost does not exist. The gravity of the moon,
only one-sixth that of Earth is too weak to hold any significant
amount of gas on the surface. Most of it drifts into space
to be swept away by the solar wind.
Of course we
still might have an interest in putting stations and maybe
even cities on the moon. (These would probably be airtight
and partly or completely underground. By putting a couple
of meters of rock above the habitations you can protect
life from the stray radiation that often bombards the lunar
surface) If we do build underground cities we will need
air for the inhabitants to breath. Rather than pipe it up,
or even bring it up in large cargo spaceships, it would
much more efficient to create it from materials already
on the surface. There is plenty of oxygen and nitrogen (to
major components of air) locked up in lunar rocks and soil.
Getting these out of the rocks will require energy, but
there is plenty of that on the moon. It gets lots of sunlight
(no cloudy days) that can be turned into electrical power.
For that reason NASA is thinking of locating the first lunar
stations near the poles so they can get an almost continuous
exposure to energy from the sun.
It's Raining Worms! - Occasionally strange,
unexplained items fall from the sky. On July 25, 1872, a
small cloud appeared on the horizon, according to a report
in Nature magazine. Fifteen minutes later it was
raining worms. "...black worms the size of an ordinary
fly." The article goes on to say that soon the streets
"...were strewn with these curious animals" to
the horror of the local inhabitants.
Solar Eclipse - This month features a total solar
eclipse on July 22nd. To see it, however,you need to be
in either in parts of India, China or out in the Indian
or Pacific Oceans. For readers living near these locations,
or rich enough to get there, they will find it a spectacular
site with the sun disappearing behind the moon for just
over six and one-half minutes.
Conspiracy Theorist sees Aliens in NASA Mars Photos
- A self-styled Mars researcher and conspiracy theorist,
Andrew Basiago, has been accusing NASA of hiding evidence
of Martian life in photos taken from the Spirit rover. Basiago,
whose full time job is as a lawyer, has even asks the National
Geographic Society to publish his "evidence" of human and
animal life forms he's located. Basiago's critics contend
that the aliens he sees are nothing more than strangely
shaped rocks and shadows. So far the NGS has not agreed
to do a story, but who knows?
check local listing for area outside of North America.
NOVA: Secrets of the Samurai Sword - Examine
the thousand-year-old art and science behind the making
of a Japanese warrior's key weapon. On PBS. Tuesday, July
7 at 8 pm ET/PT.
Humanzee - Humans and chimpanzees share an estimated 98% of genetic material. Oliver
is a unique chimpanzee. He walks upright on two legs, he
has a pronounced nose and 47 chromosomes midway between
a human and a chimpanzee. Could he really be a chimp-human
hybrid? On the Science Channel. Jun 29, 9:00 pm; Jun 30,
12:00 am; Jun 30, 4:00 pm; Jul 01, 4:00 am; ET/PT
Unearthing Ancient Secrets: The Spinx Unmasked - Dr Vassil Dobrev sets out to discover the truth about the Sphinx. Does
it really represent the pharaoh Khafre? Using scientific
techniques, Vassil finds a different explanation. That the
Sphinx was created by a by a pharaoh that history forgot:
Djedefre. On The Science Channel. Jul 06, 11:00 pm; Jul
07, 3:00 pm; Jul 08, 3:00 am; ET/PT.
The Mystery of the Giant Sloth's Cave - A team of world renowned palaeontologists uncover a prehistoric sloth
cave which could hold the answers to the extinction of the
giant sloth over 10 thousand years ago. On The Science Channel.
Jul 11, 8:00 pm; Jul 11, 11:00 pm; ET/PT.
Secrets of the Founding Fathers - Investigates the history and symbology so prominent in the creation
of the United States, and traces the intricate connections
of the Founders with Freemasonry, other secret organizations
and between each other. How did the trademarks of the highly
secretive Masons become integrated into the Great Seal,
and on the dollar bill containing the All-Seeing Eye? Did
the grid design of the nation's capital--commissioned by
George Washington and completed by Pierre L'Enfant--contain
occult symbols embraced by the Illuminati in 1776? Did Benjamin
Franklin and George Washington deliberately enlist 33 Freemason
generals from France to grow the fraternal brotherhood among
Masonic nations? Explore the secret (and secretly dark)
sides of the men responsible for laying the foundation of
the United States. On The History Channel. Friday, July
03 08:00 PM; Saturday, July 04 12:00 AM; ET/PT.
Ancient Aliens - What if life on Earth began in outer space? Millions of people accept
the theory that intelligent life forms visited Earth thousands
of years ago and were worshiped as gods by primitive man.
Are monuments like Stonehenge and Easter Island the last
remains of an ancient alien visitation? From unexplainable
super structures, to knowledge of the solar system, mathematics,
and even the ability to make electricity, this special explores
evidence of super-human influences on ancient man and embarks
on an around-the-world search for answers. It's an investigation
into a theory some believe cannot be true, but many agree
cannot be ignored. On The History Channel. Friday, Tuesday,
July 07 08:00 PM; Wednesday, July 08 12:00 AM ; ET/PT.
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Copyright Lee Krystek 2009. All Rights Reserved.