Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

November 2006

In the News:

Mars Rover Gets Ready for New Challenge - The Mars rover Opportunity has is about to embark on a new exploration. The rover, which has already outlasted its expected life by over 10 times, has made it to the edge of a massive impact crater named Victoria. The rover will start a descent as soon as possible. Scientists are concerned that the rover, because of its age, could have a fatal system failure at anytime. Researchers hope that if the robot is able to get to the bottom of the crater it might be able to examine rock layers billions of years old. These old rocks might have been soaked in water sometime in the planet's distant past and show traces of life, if it had ever taken hold there. Opportunity will be guided on its journey by the new NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which has just arrived at the red planet. The orbiter has camera so powerful that they not only can show details of the crater needed to guide the rover, but it has spotted the rover itself standing on the rim.

Oxygen Rich World Explains Big Insects - A new study shows that dragonflies, millipedes and other insects that lived 300 million years ago grew to gigantic sizes because of a rich oxygen atmosphere. This explains why fossils of 4-foot-long millipedes, 4-inch cockroaches and dragonflies with 2 1/2-foot wingspans have been found in the Paleozoic period. The study's conclusion was that in the oxygen-rich atmosphere of those ancient times, insects needed less air to meet their oxygen needs and could afford smaller trachea (the tubes that transport air throughout the bugs) than modern insects. Though these insects had the same basic body structure as modern versions, their maximum size could be larger because the smaller trachea left additional room for the other body parts.

Scientists Recover Rare Meteorite - A wheat field in Kansas had yielded a rare meteorite thanks to new ground penetrating radar. The space rock, a pallasite meteorite, has crystals embedded in iron. Scientists estimate that only 1 percent of meteorites that fall to earth of this unusual type. A careful investigation shows that the meteorite landed about 10,000 years ago and Native Americans may have seen it land. There is evidence that they traded the pieces as jewelry and ceremonial artifacts. Scientists have found pieces of the shower as far away as the Indian mounds in Ohio. This meteorite, the second largest of this type ever found, was probably part of a larger meteor that shattered and more than 15,000 pounds of material have been recovered from this location, a third of them just in the last year.

Real Tomb Raiders - Tomb Robbers have led officials to the site of some previously unknown tombs deep in the desert of Egypt. Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters, that the thieves had started an illegal excavation on three tombs last summer. One of the tombs was sealed with a curse declaring that a violator would be eaten by crocodile and a snake, according to Hawass. The tombs, near the Step Pyramid of King Djoser, were meant to honor Egypt's chief dentists, Kem Msw and Sekhem Ka who treated the pharaohs and their families. Hawass said that archeologists have the thieves, who are now in jail, to thank for the discovery.


What's New at the Museum:

The Witches of Salem Part II: Threories and Speculations- In the year 1692 a number of young girls started to show bizarre behaviors in the quiet village of Salem. Why? >Full Story

From The Curator's Office: Whatever Happened to the Monorail? - It was the wave for the future, but so far it hasn't hit the beach. >Full Story


Ask the Curator:

Reversed Gravity - I was wondering if you could help me to track down a hill I remember reading about as a young boy. In the article it mentioned that you could roll a vehicle up the hill without any mechanical assistance. - Ian W.

There are a number of these locations throughout the world going under names like "Gravity Hill," "Mystery Hill," "Confusion Hill," "Magnetic Hill," "Spook Hill," etc.. Some are just locations along the road. Others have become commercialized. Basically they all work the same way: They are natural optical illusions. The horizon in these places is obscured, or partly obscured so that it can't provide a reference to your eyes about what is level. The objects in the area the might tell you want is straight up or down (like trees) are slightly off-kilter giving you a false impression.

While your inner-ears gives you some clues to what is level, they are not very exacting and can be fooled if what your eyes see convinces you otherwise. Because you can't really tell what level is, the hill appears to be going up hill, when it is really going down, so your car looks like it is rolling up, while it is actually moving downhill.

Some of these have gotten reputations as places where there is a gravity anomaly or some paranormal energy, but in truth they are just really cool natural illusions. For more information and a list of locations check out this webpage:


In History:

Great Ball of Fire - The crew of the British steamer Siberian reported that on November 12, 1887, they saw an enormous "large ball of fire" rise out of the water to a height of fifty feet, approach the ship moving against the wind, and then fly away. No explanation for this event has ever been found.


In the Sky:

Leonid Show is Weak - Leonid meteor shower, usually a crowd pleaser, will be sparse in North America this year, but may be very visible in Europe and Africa. The shower is a trail of dust released by Comet Tempel-Tuttle that crosses earth orbit. What can be seen from North America will be best observed at 11:45PM on November 18th by looking into the ENE sky.



Museum Buys Chupacbra - The Lost World Museum in Phoenix, N.Y. ( have bought the remains of what some people claim is a Chupacabra. The Chupacabra (roughly translated as "goat sucker") has been a semi-mythical creature rumored to live in Puerto Rico and parts of South America. In the last 10 years, however, it has been occasionally reported in North America. The body the museum purchased was from an animal shot in New York near the town of Berkshire. Individuals who tracked and shot the creature claim that the animal was indeed a Chupacabra, though experts from Cornell University identified it as a mutated fox with mange. The creature will go on display at the Lost World Museum when it opens in the spring of 2007.


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.

NOVA: Wings of Madness - The flamboyant rise and tragic death of aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont On PBS: November 7 at 8 pm; ET/PT

Einstein's Beautiful Equation - Scientific genius can change the world, but at what price? Albert Einstein's theory E=mc2 ultimately led to creation of a weapon of mass destruction. He considered the atomic bomb his biggest blunder and spent years promoting disarmament and peace. On the Science Channel: NOV 05 2006 @ 10:00 PM NOV 06 2006 @ 01:00 AM NOV 06 2006 @ 05:00 AM NOV 06 2006 @ 11:00 AM NOV 06 2006 @ 03:00 PM; ET/PT

Parallel Universe - The strange notion of parallel universes is gaining strength in the scientific community and may solve our most basic questions about the universe, including the origins of the Big Bang itself. On The Science Channel: NOV 12 2006 @ 10:00 PM NOV 13 2006 @ 01:00 AM NOV 13 2006 @ 05:00 AM NOV 13 2006 @ 11:00 AM NOV 13 2006 @ 03:00 PM; ET/PT.

T-Rex: New Science, New Beast - For the first time ever, we'll travel into the past and re-write the history of T. rex, we'll turn over every little child’s imagination and introduce the world to The Real T. rex! On The Science Channel: NOV 26 2006 @ 09:00 PM NOV 27 2006 @ 12:00 AM NOV 27 2006 @ 04:00 AM NOV 27 2006 @ 10:00 AM NOV 27 2006 @ 02:00 PM ; ET/PT.

MythBusters: Explosive Decompression - Jamie and Adam shoot a bullet hole into the shell of an aircraft to see if that single shot will cause explosive decompression and destroy the aircraft. Find out if two hunters could use a loaded .22 gun cartridge as a car ignition fuse. On The Discovery Channel: NOV 15 2006 @ 09:00 PM NOV 16 2006 @ 01:00 AM NOV 18 2006 @ 07:00 PM ; ET/PT.

Before the Dinosaur - Welcome to Earth -- before the dinosaurs. The creatures may look strange, but they mark the beginning of life as we know it. Learn how some of the characteristics that helped them survive millions of years ago make humans what they are today. On The Discovery Channel: NOV 25 2006 @ 08:00 PM NOV 26 2006 @ 12:00 AM ; ET/PT.

Hangar 18: The UFO Warehouse - What happens when a UFO crashes? Some experts claim that the UFO wreckage and even the pilots are transported to a top-secret facility in Dayton, Ohio called "Hangar 18" located on Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Declassified Government documents prove that the "disk" from the famous Roswell event and fragments of other mysterious crashes were shipped to Wright Patterson. Hear stories involving elected officials, UFO researchers, and former base employees, some of whom are going on the record regarding "Hangar 18." They spin a tale of flying saucer debris, alien bodies, cryogenic chambers and a vast underground network that may hold the secrets to the UFO mystery. Is there a conspiracy to hide UFO evidence from the highest branches in the U.S. Government, or is it all just a myth? On History Channel: Monday, November 06 08:00 PM Tuesday, November 07 12:00 AM Sunday, November 19 06:00 PM ET/PT.




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