Science Over the Edge:

A Mix of News, Events, History and Gossip

October 1998

In the News:

Last month we reported that they were in a decline, and this month they've made a come back. The coelacanth fish, a species scientists had thought went extinct with the dinosaurs until pulled into a fisherman's net off the coast of South Africa in 1938, has been found also in southeast Asia. Mark Erdmann, a scientist on his honeymoon in Indonesia, hopped out of a Taxi into a local market place and spotted the ugly, four foot long fish being wheeled by in a handcart. Later he returned and obtained a live fish from local fishermen.

A survey of these rare fish indicates that their population is declining in the area where they were first discovered and scientists were concerned that the rare fish would die out. This new find, though, suggests that the coelacanth is not as rare as once thought.

The lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, will be rebuilt if plans by the Cardin Foundation pan out. The new tower will be approximately the same size as the original, but be constructed of glass coated concrete. The Alexandria government has given the okay to the $70 million project and it should be completed sometime in the next few years so it can "herald the third millennium" according to publicity..

A U.S. government research lab at Lawrence Livermore has come up with a new design for a hypersonic aircraft that would fly at ten times the speed of sound. The "HyperSoar" design avoids excessive heat build up on the craft by "skipping" along the edge of the Earth's atmosphere, much like a rock can be skipped across the water. The time spent beyond the atmosphere, in space, would cool the aircraft.

Reports indicate that a military hypersonic aircraft may be under test already at Area 51 or other secret government test sites in the western United States.

Interested in building a robot to help you shovel snow or rake leaves? LEGO has just released a toy that may get you started on way to building your own R2D2. The LEGO MindStorms Robotics Invention System sounds like it maybe as much fun for adults as it is for kids. The $200 package comes with modular units that include motors, sensors and a computer programmable controller to give the android creations brains.

In History:

At 6:30 PM on October 8, 1919 "ball of fire as large as a washtub floating low in the air" appeared in a downtown intersection of Salina, Kansas. It struck the side of a building ripping out bricks and then exploded. Witnesses said the thing filled the air "with balls of fire as large as baseballs and, which floated away in all directions." Reports indicated that some of the balls followed trolley and electric-light wires while others floated of in independent directions.

Was this a case of ball lightning? For more information on the ball lightning phenomena, click here!

In the Sky:

This is a good month for Jupiter watching, it appears in the SE sky at dusk and will appear higher off the horizon as the month goes on. If you have a pair of binoculars you may be able to spot some of Jupiter's outermost moons like Callisto or Ganymede.

Feel lucky? Twice this century, in 1933 and 1946, the Draconid Meteor Storm has produced spectacular displays. There is no way of knowing if it will happen again this year, but if you want to take a chance find a dark place during the early evening of October 8. Look for the meteors to appear from the head of the constellation Draco in the NW sky.


On September 6, 1998, a family of four reportedly observed a hovering metallic shiny sphere near the town of Grenoble in the French Alps. The father grabbed his video camcorder and reportedly filmed two minutes of tape as the object departed. SEPRA, a French government agency that handles UFO reports, investigated the report and obtained the tape. The agency has not issued a statement on what they believe the witnesses observed.

On the Tube:

Lost Warriors of the Clouds, the story of mummies recovered from a high mountain ledge in Peru, airs on the Discovery Channel on October 19 at 9PM and 1AM. Repeats on October 24 at 6PM and October 30 at 10PM and 2AM. ET/PT.

Check out the Discovery Channel's Sci-Trek on October 12 and 17 at 9PM ET/PT as it considers how one might go about Resurrecting the Mammoth. If you want to learn more about Mammoths in the meantime, click here.

In the Halloween spirit TCL is doing a series of shows on places that are allegedly haunted. Appears October 25 at 8PM-2AM, and repeats October 31 at 5PM-8PM. ET/PT.

TCL's Science Frontiers is running Monday-Friday at 10PM and 1AM and repeats on Sunday from 1-6PM. ET/PT.

Science over the Edge Archives

Copyright Lee Krystek 1998. All Rights Reserved.