Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

November 2001

In the News:

One Big Croc- Paul C. Sereno, a paleontologist from the University of Chicago, said in an interview with the journal Science last month that he and his team have discovered the remains of crocodile longer than a school bus and weighing about 10 tons. The giant animal lived in Africa 110 million years ago, during the age of the dinosaurs, and Sereno believes that the creature could have easily eaten a good-sized dinosaur. The animals name, Sarcosuchus imperator, means flesh crocodile emperor. The species was first identified by French scientists in 1964, but the Sereno team's find is the most complete fossil skeleton of the creature found yet. The animal's eye sockets are rotated upward which suggests to Sereno that the croc was an ambush predator, hiding under the water and then rushing out onto land to grab anything on the shore. A small sauropod, 30 feet in length, would have been "no problem," to bring down concluded Sereno.

Baby Dino Skin Discovered in Patagonia - Scientists in Argentina have found the remains of dinosaur embryo skin inside fossilized eggs. "If the discovery of these eggs is a rarity, then finding skin is a bombshell..."said paleontologist Rodolfo Coria. The eggs were discovered in Neuquen, a province in Argentina's southern Patagonian desert. The eggs are the first found from a sauropod, a class of dinosaurs with small heads, long necks and bulky bodies. The particular species of sauropod appears to be titanosaurs according to Coria. Titanosaurs roamed what is now modern-day Argentina some 80 million years ago. Coria along with paleontologist Luis Chiappe of Los Angeles' Museum of Natural History and Leonardo Salgado of Neuquen's Museum of Comahue University are now preparing an article on the 1997 discovery for a scientific journal.

New Smithsonian Solar System Exhibit is too Big for Building- More than six football fields in length, the Smithsonian's new exhibit "Voyage: A Journey Through the Solar System," will be displayed outdoors along the national mall in Washington. The exhibit is designed to demonstrate to visitors the scale of distance between the planets relative to their size. The sun, which is size of a grapefruit in the exhibit, is located some 650 yards from Pluto, the outer most planet, which is smaller than a poppy seed. On the same scale the nearest star to our solar system would be the size of a cherry and located across the country in California.

Baboons Deeper Thinkers than Previously Thought - According to research published in the October issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology baboons have shown they maybe capable of abstract reasoning. The work was conducted by Joel Fagot of the Center for Research in Cognitive Neuroscience with Edward Wasserman and Michael E. Young of the University of Iowa. The experiments used images on a computer screen to see if the baboons could demonstrate the kind of "this-is-to-that" comparisons that are fundamental to reasoning. During one test a set of images was shown, and the baboons had to pick out other images similar to or different from the originals. If they were successful, they were rewarded with food. Previously, chimpanzees were the only non-human primates to show similar skills in such testing.

Space Colonies May Save Mankind says Hawking - Humans are likely to be wiped out by a doomsday virus before this millennium is out unless we colonize space the famous British scientist Stephen Hawking said last month. "I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet," he told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper. Hawking's comments came as the United States was dealing with concerns over the deadly anthrax virus that is being mailed through the postal system to high-profile media and political leaders.

Purple-Necked Wallaby Does Exist - Researchers from the Macquarie University in Sydney have discovered that the legendary purple-necked wallaby does exist. Witnesses have claimed for years that the creature was for real, but whenever one was shot the purple color would disappear before it could be shown to skeptical scientists. Now the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie has found out that the color is secreted through the skin and rapidly fades once the animal is dead. Why the animal has the strange markings is still a mystery. Using genetic technology Macquarie has been able to verify that these animals are an entire new species.


What's New at the Museum:

Crossing the Atlantic By Air - On July 25th, 1909, Louis Bleriot stunned the world by using an airplane to cross the English Channel. Only ten years later the first men to fly the Atlantic would tackle a distance of over one-hundred times greater than that of the Channel flight and incalculably more dangerous. Read their story: Crossing the Atlantic By Air

The Mystery of the Hindenburg Disaster - It was the biggest thing that ever flew. Was its fiery end the result of an accident or sabotage? The Mystery of the Hindenburg Disaster.


To Listen to:

UFO Reality - Pop rocker Dean Wolfe writes us that his CD Reality is available online at and contains a song, Unidentified Flying Objects, that was inspired by a sighting he had when he was a teen. Flying saucer aficionados may want to download it off the net at or buy the whole album.


In History:

Alien Bases on the Moon? - On November 20, 1952, George Adamski, claimed he met a Venusian flying saucer pilot in the desert of southern California. Later (in 1954) Adamski reported that the venusian had taken him on a flight around the moon showing him the extraterrestrial bases located there amid forests and lakes. Adamski was one of the first people to claim to have been "contacted" by aliens and made a small career out of it giving lectures. His claims were taken seriously by a number of his disciples at the time, though given what has been learned over the last 50 years by NASA astronauts and probes, extraterrestrial settlements on the moon and Venus seem very unlikely.


In the Sky:

Mercury in Morning - The morning of November 5th marks the best time to observe the planet Mercury this year. Look 45 minutes before sunrise in the ESE. It will be very close to a bright morning Venus.

Leonid Meteor Shower - The Leonid meteor shower peaks Sunday November 18th before dawn. In the past this shower has produced some spectacular displays. Will we see something special this year? You'll have to get up early and see. Best observed in a dark area with a wide view of the sky. A sleeping bag and lounge chair are recommended.



Python 1, Pitbull 0 - A Merced, California, man called police after coming home from work last month. He feared that someone had broken into his home and stolen his pets. The two officers who responded searched around the home and found one of the man's animals, a 18-foot Burmese python snake, curled up underneath the house. In the middle of the snake was a suspicious bulge which turned out to be the man's other pet, a 30-pound pit bull. "I guess they got in a tangle and the snake won," remarked one of the officers.


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.

Building the Impossible: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - Learn the historical background of each of the Seven Wonders of the World using information from ancient sources, modern investigations of the remains and computer animation. On the Discovery Channel Nov 21 2001 8:00 PM Nov 21 2001 12:00 AM ET.

The Mutter Museum: Strange But True Medical Mystery - Tour one of the most unusual and enlightening medical museums in the world. Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter contributed his personal collection of strange specimens, creating the foundation of a truly harrowing exhibit. Airs on the Discovery Channel on Nov 25 2001 9:00 PM Nov 25 2001 1:00 AM ET.

Burning Bodies: Spontaneous Human Combustion -Survivors and first-hand witnesses describe the horror of one of the most hotly debated topics in forensics. How can a human body self-ignite in an environment completely untouched by fire? On the Discovery Channel: Nov 25 2001 10:00 PM Nov 25 2001 2:00 AM ET.

Mysteries of the Pyramids - Discover the many puzzling and astonishing features of pyramids around the world. Engineers and astronomers attempt to find out how and why pyramids were built and what significance these massive structures held. On the Discovery Channel: Nov 30 2001 10:00 PM Nov 30 2001 1:00 AM ET.

Ten Plagues of Egypt - According to the Bible, ten plagues, from boils to locusts to slaying the first born in each household, were divine punishment intended to convince the Pharaoh to release the Jews. On TCL: Nov 30 2001 10:00 PM Nov 30 2001 1:00 AM ET.

The Lost Ark - Ancient astronauts journeyed to Earth and taught the Egyptians to make a capacitor capable of storing electricity. The search continues for the ark that worked along these electromagnetic principles. On TCL: Nov 27 2001 9:00 PM Nov 27 2001 12:00 AM ET.

Psychics, Shamans and Mystics - Explore how Philippine psychic detectives solve crimes; Holy Men of India perform what appear to be magical feats of superhuman ability; and Mudang Shamans of Korea are believed to communicate with the spirit world and change people's fortune and fate. On TCL: Nov 13 2001 10:00 PM Nov 13 2001 1:00 AM Nov 17 2001 4:00 PM 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 TLC: Nov 6 2001 10:00 PM Nov 6 2001 1:00 AM Nov 10 2001 4:00 PM ET.

History Special Presentation UFOs: Then and Now? - A comprehensive series investigating the UFO experience. On the History Channel: The Innocent Years November 05 8:00 AM November 05 2:00 PM; Cause for Alarm November 05 9:00 AM November 05 3:00 PM; Nightmare November 05 10:00 AM November 05 4:00 PM;Aliens and Contact November 05 11:00 AM November 05 5:00 PM ET.

Swamp Monster - An investigation of reports that a huge man-like beast is living in the swamps of Louisiana's bayou. Part of the classic In Search of... TV series. On the History Channel November 02 11:30 AM ET.



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Copyright Lee Krystek 2001. All Rights Reserved.