arrives at Mars. (Courtsey NASA)
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Arrives Over Mars - Last month NASA's MAVEN space probe
enter orbit around the planet Mars. The spacecraft, after
a 10-month journey to the red planet, will be exploring
the planet's upper atmosphere in hope of answering such
questions as why Mars is so cold and dry. "Where did the
water go? Where did the CO2 (carbon dioxide) go from that
early environment?" wonders MAVEN's lead scientist Bruce
Jakosky, with the University of Colorado. "It can go two
places -- down in the crust or up to the top of the atmosphere
where it can be lost to space." MAVEN, which stands for
Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, will be measuring
the atmosphere now looking for clues to what processes have
been taking place on Mars for previous millions of years.
"By looking today, we can understand the processes ... and
extrapolate backwards in time," says Jakosky.
Dinosaur that Feared Nothing - They keep finding bigger
and bigger dinosaurs: In an article in Scientific Reports
researchers described finding one of the largest land
animals of all time. "Dreadnoughtus schrani was astoundingly
huge," said Kenneth Lacovara, PhD, an associate professor
in Drexel University's College of Arts and Sciences, whose
team found the dinosaur's fossil skeleton in Argentina.
"It weighed as much as a dozen African elephants or more
than seven T. rex. Shockingly, skeletal evidence shows that
when this 65-ton specimen died, it was not yet full grown.
It is by far the best example we have of any of the most
giant creatures to ever walk the planet." The Dreadnoughtus,
which means "fears nothing" lived 77 million years ago and
was 85 feet (26 m) long. It was one of a class of supersized
sauropod dinosaurs (those with four legs, long tails and
long necks) named the titanosaurs. The remains that Lacovara's
team found is the one of the most complete set of titanosaur
skeletons ever discovered with more than 45% of it bones
recovered. Scientists think the herbivore had a huge appetite.
"Every day is about taking in enough calories to nourish
this house-sized body. I imagine their day consists largely
of standing in one place," Lacovara said. "You have this
37-foot-long neck balanced by a 30-foot-long tail in the
back. Without moving your legs, you have access to a giant
feeding envelope of trees and fern leaves."
Asteroid Pass - On September 7th a 60 foot wide asteroid
whizzed past our planet at less than one tenth the distance
from Earth to the Moon. Though it missed, asteroids of similar
size have done significant damage to our planet. One that
entered the Earth's atmosphere over the Russian city of
Chelyabinsk last year and exploded with the force of about
30 nuclear bombs in a blast that injured about 1,500 people.
This rock, named 2014 RC, was discovered by the Catalina
Sky Survey on August 31st. Although the asteroid was not
visible to the naked eye as it swept by it, did give astronomers
and scientists a chance to study it. NASA hopes someday
to develop methods to divert dangerous asteroids away from
Study May Help Us Regrow Limbs - Researchers at Arizona
State University have been studying lizards called green
anoles trying to figure out how they manage to regrow lost
limbs. The scientists have identified 326 genes used in
the process. It turns out that 302 of them are very similar
to those in mammals. The researchers think that because
of this we may be able to switch on these genes to allow
the regrowth of needed tissues in humans. The research isn't
just applicable to limbs, however, but might allow the regrowth
of the spinal cord which would restore movement to people
with spinal cord injuries. Even if full regrowth of a limb
is not possible, the research will be valuable in helping
doctors come up with methods that will heal wounds more
Battery Outperforms Lithium - Scientists have demonstrated
a sugar 'biobattery' that can convert chemical energy stored
in sugar into electricity. "We are the first to demonstrate
the complex oxidation of the biobattery's sugar, so we achieve
a near-theoretical energy conversion yield that no one else
has reported," said Y H Percival Zhang, chief science officer
of Cell-Free BioInnovations (CFB) at Virginia Tech. While
the idea of a sugar battery is not new, the group was the
first to make one so efficient that it can store 15 times
more energy and run for 10 times longer than a similarly-sized
lithium-ion battery. In addition, the materials used such
a battery are environmentally would be environmentally friendly
Quote of the Month - "If
the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts." - Albert
New at the Museum:
Monster of Monsters -
Japanese film producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was pondering the
recent, accidental exposure of some fishermen to radiation
from an American H-bomb test when suddenly he had an idea
for a film. It would feature an aquatic, lizard-like creature
grown to gigantic proportions by atomic radiation. His beloved
skyscraper high creation would eventually be featured in
over 30 films and be adorned by monster movie fans around
the world. Full Story
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Dorado and Lost Gold - I would like to know if there
WERE any "Lost Cities of Gold", like the fabled El Dorado,
ever discovered or if they were just tales the natives told
to the better-equipped Spaniards to get rid of them. - David
the term "El Dorado" originally referred to not to a city,
but to a man. Translated it means "the gilded one" and is
the result of an ancient ritual done by a people that lived
in the Andes mountains in what is now part of Colombia.
The new king of this people as part of his coronation rites
would dust himself in gold and head out into the middle
of the local lake where he would throw gold and valuable
jewels into the water to appease the god who lived there.
This ritual ended before the Spanish arrived, but they were
still fascinated by the story and somehow came to believe
that if there was so much gold involved, it must mean there
was a rich, golden city somewhere in the area. Somehow this
city came to be called as El Dorado.
Dorado spawned a lot of expeditions that cost a lot of lives.
In 1617 Sir Walter Raleigh, the Englishman, though he knew
where it was and mounted an expedition. Raleigh stayed at
the base camp while he sent his son, Watt, into the jungle
to look it. Unfortunately Watt's party found the Spanish
instead of the city and in the resulting clash the younger
Raleigh was killed. The father himself, heartbroken, returned
to England where the King had him beheaded for making trouble
with the Spanish.
there is no truth to the El Dorado story. The Spanish did
find the lake involved in the original tale, Lake Guatavita,
and managed to drain part of it in 1545 and found gold pieces
along the edge. Some people still think there maybe gold
in its depths, but the government banned treasure hunters
from hunting in lake in 1965.
Dorado, however, was just one of the stories of enormous
hoards of gold hidden in the new world. In North America
the Spanish found themselves searching for the Seven Cities
of Cibola. According to legend these towns were filled with
gold and gems. The search had come to naught till 1539 when
a Franciscan priest, Friar Marcos de Niza, reported to the
authorities that he had seen one of the golden cities while
wandering in what we now call New Mexico. He reported he
had seen from a distance, but was afraid to approach as
the Zuni Indian inhabitants might kill him.
1541 Francisco Vazquez de Coronado led and expedition into
the area to find this city. Unfortunately he only located
an unimpressive adobe pueblo that didn't seem to match the
description given by the priest. The expedition was a financial
disaster leaving its backers in heavy debt. Experts are
divided on what exactly the priest saw, and whether he saw
anything at all, but was just spinning a tall tale.
there is the legend of the lost gold of the Incas. In this
case it's not a city, but a cache fabulous treasures hidden
deep in the mountains of central Ecuador that the native
Americans manage to keep hidden from Spanish conquistadors.
The story started in the 16th century with the Inca king
Atahualpa. Atahualpa was captured by Spanish commander Francisco
Pizarro, who held him for ransom. The agreed upon payment
was a room full of gold. Pizarro, for some reason, however,
had Atahualpa put to death before the final and largest
payment was made. The story had it that the King's people
instead buried the treasure in a secret mountain cave.
half century after the king's death a Spaniard named Valverde
supposedly became very wealthy after finding the hoard.
In 1886 Barth Blake, a treasure hunter, also claimed he
found the cave. "There are thousands of gold and silver
pieces of Inca and pre-Inca handicraft, the most beautiful
goldsmith works you are not able to imagine," he wrote.
According to the story Blake took as much as he could carry
and headed back to civilization to raise money for a full
expedition. Unfortunately he disappeared on a ship head
to New York, perhaps thrown overboard, by those that stole
the gold he had on him.
all these gold tales, probably the last one, the story of
Atahualpa's ransom, has the most chance of being real. We
know that the cashe actually existed, because Spanish records
show that a large shipment was on its way from Ecuador when
the king was executed. What happened to the gold, however,
is an open question. Most scholars think that it was probably
looted centuries ago, but there is no way of knowing for
sure and some believe that a cave full of gold is still
somewhere out there waiting to be found.
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Home Nuc - This month in 1955 the the first domestic
microwave oven was sold by the company Tappan. Though Raytheon
demonstrated their "Radarange," earlier in 1947, it was
designed for use in commercial kitchens, not homes. The
Tappen unit, using technology licensed from Raytheon, was
a 220-volt more compact wall-unit the size of a conventional
oven with 500 or 800 watt power levels. Because of its high
price ( $1,300) however, it wasn't a very popular product.
in a Dark Sky - The night of October 20 - 21st will
be your chance to see the Orionid meteor shower. This year
appears promising for a good show as it will almost be a
new moon and the sky will be dark. Watch for shooting stars
seeming to radiate from the constellation Orion. The Orionids
come from debris left by Comet Halley.
and Pessimistic Canines - Just as some people are optimists
and others are pessimists, researchers think dogs can show
these same personality characteristics too. In a study just
published journal PLOS One, scientists taught a number
of dogs to associate one tone with a delicious bowl filled
with milk and another tone with an uninteresting bowl of
water. They then played a tone with halfway between the
two and watched how the animals reacted. Those that were
excited (hoping for a bowl of milk) were termed optimists
and those with a more guarded reaction were pessimists.
The scientists think knowing this difference in dog personalities
might be helpful in selecting dogs for different jobs. "A
pessimistic dog that avoids risks would be better as a guide
dog while an optimistic, persistent dog would be more suited
to detecting drugs or explosives," stated Dr. Melissa Starling,
one of the researchers.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Building Pharaoh's Chariot - A team uncovers the advanced
engineering behind an ancient Egyptian war machine. On PBS
Oct. 1st at 9 pm ET/PT
Why Planes Vanish - Can new technology prevent aircraft
like Flight MH370 from disappearing without a trace? On
PBS Oct. 8th at 9 pm ET/PT
Ben Franklin's Balloons - Experts recreate the French's
daring first manned flights, which Franklin had chronicled.
On PBS Oct. 22nd at 9 pm ET/PT
Book of Nostradamus - In 1994, Italian journalist Enza
Massa was at the Italian National Library in Rome when she
stumbled upon an unusual find. It was a manuscript dating
to 1629, titled: Nostradamus Vatinicia Code. Michel de Notredame,
the author's name, was on the inside in indelible ink. The
book contains cryptic and bizarre images along with over
eighty watercolor paintings by the master visionary himself.
Follow the investigative trail of how the manuscript was
found in the archives and exactly how it got there. New
insight is given into the life of Nostradamus and his relationship
with Pope Urban VIII, who knew about this manuscript and
in whose possession it was for many years.. On The History
Channel: Oct. 6th at 9:00PM ET/PT.
The New Evidence: Russian Bigfoot - The show travels
to Russia, the world's largest country, to gather evidence
on Russia's Bigfoot, the Almasty. In the south, they learn
of Zana, the so called 'Neanderthal Wild Woman' of the late
1800s's, and takes samples from her descendants. On the
National Channel: Oct 2nd 6:00 PM ET/PT.
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