Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

October 2000

In the News:

Ballard Found Noah's Flood? - Dr Robert Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic, has found the remains of settlements at the bottom of the Black Sea under 300 feet of water. These settlements were thought to have been covered over some 7,000 years ago when the waters of the Mediterranean Sea overflowed into the Black Sea causing an enormous flood. Some researchers have speculated that the flood may be the one referred to in the Bible story of Noah's ark.

NASA Space Elevator - NASA scientists are starting to look at how a 'Space Elevator' might be built. David Smitherman of NASA/Marshall's Advanced Projects Office has compiled a publication called Space Elevators: An Advanced Earth-Space Infrastructure for the New Millennium based on findings from a conference last year. A space elevator would consist of a long cable extending from Earth's surface to a space station in geostationary orbit some 35,786 km overhead. Rather than using expensive rockets to put people and materials into orbit, space elevators would climb the cable at a fraction of the cost. Such a project is still beyond current technology, but might be possible at the end of the century after new high-strength materials are developed.

British Scientists Warn of Asteroid Danger - Britain's Task Force on Near Earth Objects reports the threat to Earth by a large asteroid hit is very real and concludes the British government should take some steps to prevent it. The Task Force recommends the development of an asteroid early warning system using British telescopes. In response to the report the minority Liberal Democrat Party called for 70 million pounds to be spent over the next ten years on technology to track asteroids. Such a system could give Earth a five to one-hundred year warning of such an impact, therefore giving scientists a chance to design a system to divert the asteroid before it hits.

Comet Responsible for Dark Ages?- Professor Mike Baillie of Queen's University in Belfast thinks that something very, very bad happened to the Earth around 540 AD and whatever it was might be responsible for the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Dark Ages. Baillie bases his theory on tree rings. Trees he has examined show a slow down of growth at that time. Baillie thinks this was due to a bombardment of cometary debris onto Earth. Many historians are reluctant to accept Baillie's idea because no written records during that period tell of such an event, though there are legends from that time telling of a comet that seemed to set the sky on fire.

Early Sauropod - Eric Buffeaut of France's National Center for Scientific Research reports in an article in Nature that a sauropod dinosaur skeleton has been discovered in Thailand. The bones are significant because they date from the boundary of the Triassic/Jurassic period. Scientists knew that sauropod dinosaurs, which have long necks, long tails and four feet, lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous period, but this is the first evidence they also lived earlier in the Triassic period. The animal discovered has been given the name Isanosaurus attavipachi.

Moldy Army Not Under Threat - Authorities have refuted earlier reports that mold on China's 2,200-year old terra cotta army are causing them to decay. The army of 8,000 life-sized figures of warriors and horses are part of the tomb of China's first emperor, Qui Shihuang, who died in 210 BC. Officials of the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum have said there is "No danger" and that the blue, white and yellow-colored molds were common at sites worldwide and did nothing to damage the famous statues. The army, which was meant to protect the emperor in the afterlife, was discovered in the 1970's by farmers digging a well and has become one of China's top tourist attractions.

Lost World found in Cambodia? - Scientists have identified a mountainous region of Cambodia filled with previously unknown creatures and creatures thought to be extinct. Jenny Daltry, a biologist, led an expedition sponsored by Fauna and Flor International of Cambridge to this remote region where they discovered the once thought extinct Siamese crocodile and also the Wolf Snake. They found large numbers of frogs, moths and subspecies of birds that are new to science. Scientists hope that the Cambodian government will legally protect the area and preserve the wildlife.


In History:

Star Jelly - On the evening of October 8, 1844 two men were walking in a field near Coblentz, Germany, when they observed something luminous fall to the ground. It was too dark to see the object, so the men marked the spot and came back by daylight to look at it. What they found was a mass of gray jelly which quivered when they poked it with a stick.

This report is a classic case of Pwdre Ser which is also known as "star jelly." This phenomenon has been reported many times through the years, but never fully explained.


In the Sky:

Krell Homestar - Early this month try and see if you can identify some well-known stars in the sky. Not too long after dark step outside and look for a bright star high in the western sky. This will be Vega. Look even higher in the sky, almost directly over your head, for the star Deneb. It's just a little bit dimmer than Vega. Finally look a little lower down in the sky and toward the south/southwest to see the star Altair.

For science-fiction fans Altair is the home of Krell in the classic movie Forbidden Planet.



Fake Moon Dirt for Sale - Authorities in Phoenix, Arizona, want to extradite a man being held in Canada for allegedly selling fake moon soil for $100,000. The man, Richard Mountain, was arrested in Surrey, British Columbia, for also selling phony signed prints of the astronauts. According to a Royal Canadian police spokesperson he was running a fraudulent children's charity.


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.

Places of Mystery- Check out some weird places on this Travel Channel series. On October 17 at 9PM and 12AM see Chitchen Itza and Coral Castle and at 10PM and 1AM watch Machu Picchu and Nasca. All times are ET.

Lost Tombs of Peru - Archaeologist Izzumi Shimada goes to the north coast of Peru where he opens up some of the richest and most spectacular tombs known in the new world. Discovery Channel on October 4th at 9PM and 1AM, October 7 at 2PM ET/PT.

Bonehead Detectives of the Paleoworld -Some dinosaurs sported very strange accessories: exposed bones, horns and even musical instruments. This Discovery channel offering asks the question "Why?" October 8 at 9:30AM.

The Desert Mummies of Peru - Sonia Guillen, bioanthropologist and mummy expert leads a team to the vast desert of southern Peru. There they unearth 18 tombs belonging to a little-known Peruvian people. Discovery Channel October 14 10PM and 1AM, October 15 at 7PM, October 18 at 9PM and 1AM, and October 21 at 2PM ET/PT.

UFO Invasion Week - Check out these History Channel special episodes on History's Mysteries: Area 51: Beyond Top Secret on October 9th, 8PM repeats October 15 at 11AM ET/PT. Secret UFO Files October 10 8PM repeats October 22 at 11AM ET/PT. Ancient Aliens October 11 at 8PM ET/PT. Roswell: Secrets Unveiled October 12 8PM ET/PT.

Raising the Huntley - History Channel on October 16 8PM ET/PT. In 1864, the Huntley became the first submarine to torpedo an enemy ship, but sank itself before it could return to base. Why? Archaeologists bring the boat to the surface after over a century to find out.

The Haunted History of Halloween - Discover how Halloween has been celebrated over time, from its origins as a Celtic festival to today's popular traditions. History Channel 10PM on October 27 ET/PT.

Amityville Horror Special - A two-part History's Mysteries that looks into the dark shadows of a seemingly idyllic suburban town to determine if its horror tales are true. Amityville Horror: The Haunting October 30 8PM ET/PT and Amityville Horror: Horror or Hoax? October 31 8PM ET/PT. On the History Channel.


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Copyright Lee Krystek 2000. All Rights Reserved.