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Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

October 2009

In the News:

Massive Wall Discovered in Jerusalem - Archaeologists in Jerusalem have dug up a 3,700-year-old stone wall that is the largest and oldest of its kind found in the area. The wall is 26 feet (8meters) high and composed of boulders weighing 4 or 5 tons each. "To build straight walls up 8 meters ... I don't know how to do it today without mechanical equipment," said the site's director, Ronny Reich. "I don't think that any engineer today without electrical power [could] do it." The exposed section of the wall is 79 feet (24 meters) long, but continues an undetermined length underground. The wall was apparently built by the Canaanites, an ancient pagan people who the Bible says inhabited Jerusalem and other parts of the Middle East, before the Hebrews took over the region. The wall was part of fortifications designed to protect a spring. According to archaeologists its discovery marks the first time "that such massive construction that predates the Herodian period has been discovered in Jerusalem." The discovery gives hope to scientists that other unfound structures might be found in the area.

Rat as Big as Cat - Measuring 32 inches from nose to tail and weighing over 3 pounds, a newly discovered rat from the Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea is among the largest of these type of animals in the world. "This is one of the world's largest rats. It's a true rat, the same kind you find in the city sewers," stated Kristofer Helgen, from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The find was made inside the crater of the extinct volcano, Mount Bosavi . "The animals inside this crater were unafraid of humans, pretty much because they hadn't seen them very much," observed a researcher. Most local inhabitants, says the scientist, hunt outside the crater. "They don't really go into the crater to hunt because it's such a trek up and back down from it." The team from the BBC also found, according to another scientist, "sixteen new frog species, one new bat species and at least three new fish, and this giant bloody rat -- the size of a cat. Amazing!"

Rat Eating Plant Found - Scientists have discovered a new carnivorous planet which is large enough to eat a rat. Nepenthes attenboroughii, named in honor of the world-renowned natural history presenter Sir David Attenborough, has a pitcher that is almost a foot in diameter making it the second largest known meat-eating plant. According to botanist Stewart McPherson, "around the mouth of the pitcher are secretions of nectar which attracts insects and small animals. The rim has lots of waxy downward-pointing ridges which help prey fall directly into the pitcher. The pitchers are half full of a liquid consisting of acids and enzymes which help break down its prey." This helps the plant thrive in areas with poor soil which are scare in necessary nutrients. The plant was among a number that McPherson and his partners, Alastair Robinson and Volker Heinrich, have discovered during recent expeditions to Southeast Asia.

Super Subs will Open Ocean Floor to Amateur Explorers - Submarine designer Graham Hawkes company, Hawkes Ocean Technologies, is working on new designs of submarines that would let amateur explorers check out the sea bottom 37,000 ft below the surface. These new submarines differ from the ones used by entities like the U.S. Navy in that they are light enough to launch from a yacht. One of Hawkes' customers was the late billionaire Steve Fossett. He bought an experimental prototype, "Deep Flight Challenger," which could dive to 37,000 ft.. Unfortunately, when the craft was only four weeks away from delivery Fossett died in a plane crash. Unlike conventional subs which must get heavier than water to submerge, Hawkes' new designs have to "fly" down into the depths like an "airplane in reverse." This is a safety feature as the sub will simply float back up to the surface should the power fail. The subs have life support good for 24 hours and a range of 10-20 miles.

Tiny T-Rex. Startles Scientists - Paleontologists discovered a fossil they believe was a miniature version of Tyrannosaurus Rex. The animal, nicknamed Raptorex, stood about 9 feet tall, weighed about 143 pounds and lived China some 125 million years ago. Scientists are surprised to see the same features that are found in the full sized T-rex, in such a small animal. The jumbo version of Tyrannosaurus rex, which would not appear in the fossil record for another about 60 million years, weighed over 5 tons. The discovery shows that "these features did not evolve as a consequence of large body size but rather evolved as an efficient set of predatory weapons in an animal that was 1/100th the size of Tyrannosaurus rex and that lived 60 million years before Tyrannosaurus rex" said Stephen Brusatte, one of the authors of the article about the creature in last month's Science.


Science Quote of the Month - "Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination." - Bertrand Russell


What's New at the Museum:

The Science of Ghosts - They are called phantasms, specters or spirits. Most people just call them ghosts and are either fascinated by them, or are terrified of them, or sometimes both. >Full Story


Ask the Curator:

Please how old is the Earth? Biblically it is accurately about 6042 to 7000 years and scientifically it counts on millions. Should we believe in God's wisdom or mere knowledge of man? - Cheta A

There has been a dispute going on in some circles between some biblical fundamentalists, who argue that science is wrong about the age of the planet because the Bible says that the Earth is only 10,000 years old; and some scientists who claim that the Bible must be inaccurate because clearly the Earth is millions of years old. There are, however, a number of people who hold the views that these differences are not irreconcilable. Though I am not a theologian, I will endeavor to give you the highlights of some of these ideas.

Age/Day View - One of the major reasons that science doesn't seem to match up with the Bible is the creation story in Genesis that seems make the universe and the earth appear in only 6 literal days. This view says that the days mentioned in Genesis are not 24 hour days, but "ages." These "ages" might have lasted millions of years or even billions of years and may have also overlapped. Though some critics argue that a "day" in this context in the Bible must only be 24-hours long, others argue that this alternate interpretation is not really inconsistent with some Biblical understandings of the word "day."

At least one author, Israeli physicist and Genesis scholar Gerald L. Schroeder, argues that depending how you define "time" these days could be both 24 hours and millions or billions of years long. For more information on this idea check out his book The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom.

Mature Creation - Another view is that the Earth and Universe were created in seven days 10,000 years ago, but they have been given a whole consistent history of billions of years. This idea isn't really inconsistent with other parts of the Bible. For example, Adam is created as an adult man without the usual 20 years or so need to grow from baby to mature human under the usual laws of nature. Perhaps the earth and universe were also created in a relatively short amount of time without the 15 billion years that might normally be needed for such a process.

If you accept this view then for theological reasons the world is 10,000 years old, but for purposes of science the world is some 4.5 billion years.

Some argue that this seems somewhat disingenuous of God to create a false history. However, it isn't any more dishonest then creating Atom, calling him a man, though he never went through the normal human creation process. Indeed in our own poor attempts to create worlds and universes inside computers (i.e. video games like "The Sims") we always apply this method and it never seems dishonest to us within that context.

This isn't meant to be a complete discussion on the subject - just a starting point. Debates over this subject have already filled thousands of web pages, so I recommend you take a look at what has already been written about these ideas across the internet.


Book Review - North Amereican Primates by Shane Durgee- Red Weaver Press.

New author Shane Durgee takes the reader into the fictional adventure of Clay Sturgeon as he encounters a mysterious beast while camping in the Adirondack Mountains. It is it bigfoot or something else? Clay dives into the world of cryptozoology meeting a host of unusual characters. In the end, though, Clay finds that to prove the creatures exists, and keep its kind from going into extinction, he may have to kill it. Does the end justify the means? A great read for people looking for some sasquatch fiction!


In History:

The Stork Study - No, this was not a study about birds with long legs. The Stork Study was analysis of UFO reports handled by the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue book in the 1950's. The results were surprising: Based on the statistics there was no possibility that "unknown" (unexplained sighting) was the same as "known" (explained) sighting. That is, "unknowns" were not just simply the same as "knowns" for which there was not enough data. In fact, some "unknowns" had some of the greatest amounts of data available for them. Click here for more information on Project Blue Book.


In the Sky:

Orionid Meteors - This October brings the Orionid meteor shower. The shower will peak at about 25 meteors per hour before dawn on October 21, but for those who would rather view them after sunset, try the day before, October 20. The constellation Orion, from which meteors appear to come isn't visible until the late evening. The Orionid meteors are the debris left left in the wake of comet Halley.



Teenagers Kill Alien-like Animal - Four teenagers claim they encountered a strange, hairless creature near a cave in in the city of Cerro Azul, Panama . In fear, when the creature approached, they beat it to death with stones and a stick. Pictures of the animal show a bloated animal which vaguely resembles an alien from Steven Spielberg's movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Zoologists are trying to determine if the animal is an unknown species, or just a misshapen, hairless sloth.


On the Tube:

Please check local listing for area outside of North America.

NOVA: Lizard Kings - Meet the monitors, the largest, fiercest, and craftiest lizards on Earth. On PBS. Tuesday, October 20 at 8 pm ET/PT.

MythBusters: NASA Moon Landing - On this encore episode of MythBusters, the team tackles the tallest tale of all in Moon Landing Hoax Hour. Did NASA pull off the greatest cover-up in human history? On The Discovery Channel. Oct 11, 6:00 pm; Oct 11, 11:00 pm; ET/PT.

Atlas: Egypt Reveal - Egypt Revealed is a journey from the land of the Pharaohs into the living soul of modern Egypt; from the Sahara, to the Nile, to the Islamic heart of a nation where the roots of Christianity run deep, to the streets of Cairo - Africa's largest city On The Discovery Channel. Oct 01, 10:00 pm; Oct 02, 1:00 am; ET/PT.

America's Lost H-Bomb - A deadly threat lurks just a few miles off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. A thermo-nuclear weapon is ejected and lost during a war game between U.S. bombers and fighters. Can U.S. military experts retrieve the weapon before someone else tries to? On The Science Channel. Oct 07, 8:00 pm; Oct 07, 11:00 pm; Oct 08, 3:00 pm; Oct 09, 3:00 am; ET/PT.

Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real - Imagine dragons as real life creatures! Stunning computer-generated imagery, along with true biological science help to bring the story of one of humankind's oldest legends to life in a way that's never been done before! You will Believe. On The Science Channel. Oct 04, 9:00 pm Oct 05, 12:00 am; Oct 06, 4:00 am; ET/PT.

The Big Bang Machine - As experiments go, the Large Hadron Collider at Cern is one of the biggest. Its circular tunnel is 17 miles long, and the most expensive at a cost of six billion dollars. Presenter Brian Cox tackles the question: what exactly is it going to tell us? On The Science Channel. Oct 13, 9:00 pm; 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. Tuesday, Monday, October 05 08:00 PM; Tuesday, October 06 12:00 AM; ET/PT.

Clash of the Gods: Monsters of Middle Earth - The story behind the world's most renowned modern myth. Enter creator J.R.R. Tolkien's fantastical world of hobbits, orcs and wizards, and uncover the real life influences that shaped his epic fantasy, The Lord of the Rings. On The History Channel. Monday, October 05 10:00 PM; Tuesday, October 06 02:00 AM ; ET/PT.



Science over the Edge Archives

LGM Archive 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

Copyright Lee Krystek 2009. All Rights Reserved.


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