Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

October 2001

In the News:

Rocket Makes Fiery Reentry - At first the fireball seen streaking through the east coast's sky last month was thought to be another meteorite, but Navy officials said it was a Russian rocket that reentered the atmosphere after orbiting Earth since 1975. The SL3 rocket body reentered the atmosphere about 100 miles off Delaware, according to a Navy spokesperson. He went on to state that the object was one of 8,300 that the U.S. Space Command tracks in space. Some 17,000 such objects have reentered Earth's atmosphere since the late 1950s.

Hungarian's Claim Life on Mars - A team of Hungarian scientists claim they have found evidence of living organisms on Mars in photos taken by the Mars Global Surveyor probe. The photos show thousands of dark spots that appear similar to organisms found near Earth's South Pole. According to team member Tibor Ganti these dark spots are organisms living below the surface of the ice in Mars' southern polar region. During the harsh winter the creatures are protected by ice and during the summer they are uncovered and dry out to be reactivated by the next winter. A similar mechanism works for organisms in ice covered lakes at the Earth's South Pole. The European Space Agency may include experiments in their Mars probe, which is planned to launch in 2003, to test the Hungarian theory.

Spend More on Tracking Dangerous Asteroids, says Researcher - Not enough is being done to track asteroids or other near-Earth objects which could cause a catastrophe if they hit Earth says British physicist Duncan Steel, of the University of Salford. Scientists are already tracking very large near-Earth objects which would cause the most damage and kill millions, but the chances of these few big objects hitting the Earth are slim, he says. Steel argues that there should be more funding to track the more numerous smaller space objects which would cause less damage but have a higher risk of colliding with the our planet. As evidence of such a risk Steel cited the case of what was thought to be an asteroid that explored over Tunguska in Siberia in 1908. Huge areas of forests were flattened with a force equivalent to a 10-megaton hydrogen bomb.

Deep Space 1 Probes Comet - From 137 million miles away NASA's Deep Space 1 craft began transmitting black-and-white images of the comet Borrelly last month. The probe flew within 1,240 miles of the frozen ball of dust and ice making it only the second such a flyby has been achieved. "The images are coming along fantastically," said an excited NASA spokesman. The probe transmitted information about the comet's surface including measuring and identifying gases it gives off. Adding to the scientists enthusiasm was the fact that the probe was never designed to intercept the comet. Its original main mission was to test new propulsion systems and researchers view this flyby as a bonus.

Octopus Impersonator - Scientists have found an octopus that lives off the coasts of Bali and Indonesia that protects itself by mimicking a host of dangerous sea creatures. This makes it the only known species that can imitate more than one organism, says says Tom Tregenza, a zoologist at the University of Leeds. The 24-inch-long invertebrate, which has not yet been given a name, can impersonate sea snake, a sole fish and a lion-fish, probably for the purpose of evading predators. For example, to imitate a sea snake it hides its body in a hole in the ocean floor then waves two tentacles around mimicking the motion of two individual snakes. The discovery was announced in an article in September issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society written by London B. Tregenza, Mark Norman, and Julian Finn.

Dinos Fed Like Ducks? - Researchers have found two dinosaur skeletons with beaks built like those of modern ducks. The beak has a unusual sieve-like structure inside that may have been used for filter-feeding. Paleontologist Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History, and his colleagues, writing in the British journal Nature, reported they discovered the beaks while examining two ornithomimid dinosaur skeletons, one found in the Gobi Desert last year, the other found at Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada.


What's New at the Museum:

Sea Monsters On Your Computer - What's that in the water? A log? A fish? A sea serpent? Find out by watching our latest ten minute long mini-documentary There be Sea Monsters Here. Make sure your sound is on and your computer has a flash player: There be Sea Monsters Here

Those Fabulous and Foolhardy Flyers III - The newly invented airplane shows its darker side as the First World War brings the globe into conflict. Read the final installment in our series: Those Fabulous and Foolhardy Flyers.


In History:

Bigfoot in New Hampshire? - In October of 1987 Walter Bowers, Sr. was hunting near Salisbury, New Hampshire, when he spotted a creature "at least nine feet tall" watching him from between two trees. Bowers claimed that the thing's "the whole body was covered with a gorilla, but this here wasn't a gorilla." Bowers ran for his car, and the creature ran for the swamp, never to be seen again.


In the Sky:

Orionid Meteor Shower - Check out the Orionid meteor shower this month. The best viewing should start late on Saturday the 20th and peak on Monday the 22nd. The the Orionid shower doesn't produce the large number of meteors other showers do, but the lack of a moon should mean good viewing conditions. Observation is best made by lying on your back and scanning as much of the sky as possible.



British Children Make Quake - Thousands of schools around Britain had their students go outside at 11AM local time on September 7th to jump up and down for one minute to see if they could generate an earthquake. Organizers of the event called it a success pointing out that every single seismometer in the country registered something. It was estimated the energy released was perhaps one-hundredth that of a serious quake.

Icelandic Gators to Clean Up- Mayor Reinhard Reynisson of the Icelandic town of Husavik is proposing the village reduce some of the waste created by its fishing industry by importing alligators as a part of a all-natural disposal system. The cold-blooded animals would survive the town's cool climate by living in pools warmed by the region's local hot springs. They would be fed on fish heads and tails. The gators would also add to the town's coffers by becoming a tourist attraction. A similar operation has been run successfully in the town of Mosca, Colorado (7,500 feet up in the Rocky Mountains) for a number of years and this inspired Reynisson's interest.


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.

The Occult Conspiracy - The Third Reich's use of the occult to win World War II is examined. The Nazis used the mystical arts to make battle decisions, train SS officers, indoctrinate the German public, and to influence the Allies. On the Discovery Channel October 3 at 8PM and 12AM, October 6 at 12PM ET.

Mastodon In Your Backyard-- The Ultimate Guide - Learn how the mastodon evolved, migrated out of Africa, and survived in the North American forests for roughly 3.7 million years and dozens of climate changes. Explore the controversy among theories explaining how and why this species disappeared. Airs on the Discovery Channel on October 7 at 9 PM and 1AM, October 14 at 7PM, October 17 at 9PM and 1AM and October 20 at 6:00 PM, ET.

Anaconda: Giant Snake of the Amazon -Up to 30 feet long and weighing nearly 500 pounds, the deadly Amazon anaconda is the world's largest and most powerful snake. In swamps and shallow streams, it coils around prey, causing total circulatory collapse in seconds. On the Discovery Channel: October 7 at 6PM, October 15 at 8PM and 12AM, and October 20 11AM, ET.

The Secret of Stonehenge -Delve into the mysteries of Stonehenge, the monolith constructed during the same period as Egypt's pyramids. Explore how prehistoric man moved stones 100 miles for its construction and examine how it may have been used in ceremonies honoring the dead. On TCL: October 23 at 10PM and 1AM, October 27 4PM, ET.

Atlantis - The Lost Continent - Explore the myth, history and science fiction surrounding the legend of Atlantis using computer graphics and state-of-the-art digital video. Sophisticated imagery depicts the environment on the lost continent and dramatizes life as it may have existed. On TCL: October 16 at 9PM and 12AM, October 20 at 3PM, ET.

Giants - The Mystery and the Myth - Examine both credible and incredible evidence that supports the existence of giants and giant races. Explore references, from Goliath and other Biblical characters to alien giants of modern imagination, to assess the impact of this phenomenon on mankind. On TCL: October 12 at 10 PM and 1AM, ET.

The Bermuda Triangle-Secrets Revealed - Is it a fatal twilight zone, a graveyard for the lost, or simply stormy waters? Scientists employ the latest technology to search for the countless planes, ships and people that disappear each year. On TCL: October 2 at 9PM and 12AM, and October 6 at 3PM, ET.

Bigfoot and Other Monsters - Part of the History's Mysteries Series. The mermaid, Abominable Snowman, giant squid, and dragons are all parts of myths and mysteries. But are some real? The Komodo Dragon was merely the stuff of local legend--until the dinosaur-like, very real giant reptile with an orange tongue and a fierce disposition was tracked down. Giant squids, measuring as long as 100 feet, have been found to really exist. We'll explore every possible explanation for these and other legendary creatures and find out if some might really exist. On the History Channel: October 23 at 11PM, October 24 at 3AM.



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Copyright Lee Krystek 2001. All Rights Reserved.