Science Over the Edge:

A Mix of News, Events, History and Gossip

September 1998

In the News:

Man may be able to do what the great asteroid was unable to do: make the coelacanth extinct. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute estimate there are less than 300 of these "living fossil" fish left alive in the Mozambique Channel, a decline of 350 fish since 1991. Fishing may be the cause. Though they are not considered edible the coelacanth accidentally gets caught in fish nets set for other fish, and die. Until 1938 scientists thought the coelacanths had died out with the dinosaurs.

NASA reports that two asteroids are headed for Earth. Each is a mile across and have been labeled by NASA as "potentially hazardous objects." Each, if they hit, would cause global effects. Fortunately, NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) system as determined that they will not pose a threat for at least several decades, though, on their last orbit they came within 2 million miles of Earth.

Want to read about an object that did hit the Earth? Click here!

Scientists may have discovered most of the "missing mass" of the universe. For decades scientists knew that the universe had to be more massive than it would seem to be based on observing all the stars, comets, planets, galaxies, and dust in space. There have been many controversial theories to explain this. Now a team of U.S. and Australian researchers have discovered that space seems to be filled with billions of "Massive Compact Halo Objects," or MACHOs for short. There seem to be more MACHOs than stars in the sky (400 billion vs. 200 billion in the Milky Way galaxy) and these may account for almost half of the "missing mass."

MACHOs were discovered by pointing a telescope at a star and counting the number of times the light from the star "brightens." As the MACHO passes between the star and the observer the mass of the MACHO bends light waves from the star around it and increases the apparent brightness.

Researchers in Tokyo were surprised to find that the Plesiosaur, an ancient marine reptile, ate extinct spiral shelled mollusks known as ammonites. Formally scientists thought that the reptile's teeth were too slight to crush the thick shells, but a partial plesiosaur skeleton found on an outcrop along the river in Japan shows that the creature had the beaks of ammonite jaws in it's stomach. Scientists think that the plesiosuar may have gotten around the shell problem by swallowing the mollusks whole.

In History:

September 13, 1913 is thought to be the date of the first published report about the Brown Mountain Lights. The article appeared in the Charlotte Daily Observer. Brown Mountain is situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and strange lights appearing on, or over, the peak have baffled observers for years. While some suggest that the phenomena are "spook" or "earthlights" others think they are just refractions of distant lights from towns or vehicles.

In the Sky:

The days surrounding Wednesday, September 9th should be an excellent time to observe the Milky Way. Just find a dark place and go out in the early evening before the moon rises. This band of billions of stars is the plane of our galaxy. It will stretch the SSW to the NE in the Northern Hemisphere.


What do Loch Ness, Lake Champlain and the lake in Washington Park, Denver, have in common? Reports of a lake monster!

The lake, located in an upper class section of Denver, has been the site of several reports of a monster. Park officials speculate that a caiman, a reptile that looks like a small alligator, somehow got into the lake. Perhaps it was a pet someone set free.

There have also been reports that it was a hoax perpetrated with an inflatable alligator, but officials aren't taking any chances and the lake is being drained.

On the Tube:

Only shown once this month: On September 1st at 8PM ET PBS's Nova repeats Doomsday Asteroid.

Check out the Discovery Channel's Sci-Trek on September 14 at 9PM ET/PT as it investigates The Great Siberian Explosion. Also airs on September 19th at 7PM. If you can't wait till then, check out our page with the same title.

Ancient Inventions is a short series on the Discovery Channel that takes a humorous look at modern technology and history. Airs September 13th 8-11PM and repeats at midnight. Also shown at September 20th at 3PM ET/PT..

Flying saucers down below is the theme of Oz Encounters: UFOs in Australia airing on September 20th at 9PM and repeated at 1AM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel. Also September 27th at 6PM.

TCL's Science Frontiers is running Monday-Friday at 10PM and 1AM and repeats on Sunday from 1-6PM. Of special interest are episodes on Hunt for T-Rex on September 3rd and 6th and Asteroid Impact on September 30th.

Science over the Edge Archives

Copyright Lee Krystek 1998. All Rights Reserved.