Science Over the Edge

A Mix of News, Events, History and Gossip

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

September 1999

In the News:

Methane Sea on Titan - Scientists think they have discovered the first liquid sea outside of Earth on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Based on observations from a telescope atop Mauna Kea astronomers with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory believe there are seas of methane, ethane and other hydrocarbons there, but not water. At temperatures of minus 290 degrees F it seems unlikely that life exists in this frigid ocean, says Seran Gibbard, a planetary scientist affiliated with UC Berkeley.

There is a moon in our solar system that may have an ocean that might harbor life. Click here to find out about it!

Mummy's Curse Come True? - When Howard Carter opened King Tut's tomb in 1922 there were rumors that the burial chamber was protected by an ancient curse. Carter's sponsor, Lord Carnavon died just a few months later of an infected insect bite and over the years newspapers blamed a number of untimely deaths of those associated with the excavation on the curse. Still, most scientists considered the deaths a coincidence.

Gotthard Kramer, a microbiologist from the University of Leipzig, in Germany, has suggested that there is a germ, or more correctly a spore, of truth in these story. He analyzed 40 mummies and found several mold spores on each on that are potentially dangerous to humans. Kramer theories that when tombs are opened air blowing inside can stir up the spores and they can land on and enter the human body through the nose, mouth and eyes. Some of the resulting diseases can lead to organ failure or death. Long exposures to molds in a closed area, like a tomb, may cause serious problems for explorers.

Strange Celestial Light Evades Explanation - A strange light in the sky detected three years ago at Caltech's Palomar Observatory is still a mystery despite numerous tests done on the rays that reach Earth. The light was discovered during the Digital Palomar Sky Survey which has so far collected information on about 2 billion stars. The object is most similar to a Quasar (a bright spot at the center of galaxies that may be caused by matter falling into a black hole), but the composition of the light does not match those from Quasars. Because the spectrum of its light does not match any known patterns it is hard for scientists to tell if the object is close (within our galaxy) or far away.

Source of Io's Light Show - Astronomers have long wondered what causes the strange, glowing and moving light show on Jupiter's moon, Io. The Galileo spacecraft seems to have solved the mystery. As the result of data gathered from the robot probe as it passed nearby scientists believe the glow is electric (perhaps as much as 400,000 volts) and motion is the result of complex conditions in the Io atmosphere. The conditions themselves are caused by huge 500 mile high volcanoes on Io's surface and Jupiter's strong magnetic field.

NASA Invests in "Space Bubble" Propulsion System - Researchers from the University of Washington have just received a $500,000 grant from NASA to develop a revolutionary propulsion system for space probes. The system, designated "M2P2" for Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion, would create a bubble of magnetized plasma around a spacecraft. The bubble would then act like a sail to catch the "solar wind" streaming out from the Sun. While the solar wind is weak it travels very fast (at least 780,000 MPH) and may be able to drive a space probe as fast as 180,000 MPH.

For more about space propulsion systems, click here!

Cassini Spacecraft Slips Safely Past Earth - Anti-nuclear activists had been concerned that the Cassini Spacecraft, which carries 72 pounds of radioactive plutonium fuel, might go off course and hit Earth's atmosphere causing the fuel, which is deadly, to disperse across the planet. NASA scientists have maintained that such an accident was almost impossible. The spacecraft cleared the Earth, as planned, with 728 miles to spare. It is now on its way to Jupiter and then onto Saturn.

In History:

UFO Leaves Crop Circle - On September 1, 1974, farmer Edwin Fuhr reported seeing five silver spinning globes that appeared over a field on his Langenburg, Canada. The objects took off suddenly apparently flattening part of his crop in their wake. This is one of the earliest known incidents of what would eventually be called crop circles.

In the Sky:

Brilliant Jupiter - Look for the largest of the planets in our solar system rising in the east this month followed by the second largest, and slightly dimmer, planet Saturn. At the beginning of the month they will be coming over the horizon about quarter after 10:00 PM, but as the month progresses you'll see them earlier and earlier in the evening.


A Case of Mistaken Identity - Residents in Canton, Ohio, reported seeing UFOs in the sky one morning last month. The "shimmering balls" seemed to dance and move into formations. An investigation revealed that the objects were not inhabited by aliens, but the ashes of a man who's last wish was to be cremated and have his remains launched inside 50 yellow balloons tied together in groups during his memorial service.

On the Tube:.

Napoleon's Lost Fleet - Marine archaeologists search the Egyptian bay of Aboukir for the remains of L'Orient, the flagship of Napoleon Bonaparte's massive fleet. With 120 guns, L'Orient was the most magnificent battleship of its day. Airs on the Discovery Channel Sunday, August 29, at 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.; Sunday, September 5, at 7 p.m.; Wednesday, September 8, at 9 p.m. and midnight; Saturday, September 11, at 3 p.m.; and Friday, September 17, at 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET/PT

Einstein Revealed - Two-hour special from NOVA presents a profile of Albert Einstein who who contributed more than any other scientist to our modern vision of physical reality. Airs Tuesday, September 21 at 9pm ET on PBS.

UNIVERSE 2001: BEYOND THE MILLENNIUM - A world premiere series on TCL that gives an overview of the universe as it is understood today and how it will evolve in the next millennium. Airs September 12 and 13 from 9 to 11 p.m. ET.

Bloody Olde England on History's Mysteries!- It is Bloody Olde England Week on History's Mysteries. Episodes include: Sept 7: Bloody Tower of London, Sept 8: The Knights of Camelot, Sept 9: England's Lost Castles, Sept 10: Missing Princes of England. Airs on History Channel at 8PM ET.

Top Secret: Spy Planes Of The Cold War - During the Cold War, more than 10,000 spy plane missions were flown over communist territories. See what types of missions these pilots undertook, the risks involved, the results achieved. On the History Channel. Airs: Sunday, September 12 at 10 pm ET/ 11 pm PT. Repeats: Saturday, September 18 at 3 pm ET/ 12 pm PT


Science over the Edge Archives

LGM Archive 1998, 1999.

Copyright Lee Krystek 1999. All Rights Reserved.