Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Is Your Pit-Bull Having an Out of Body Experience? -
In his new book, Kevin Nelson, a professor of neurology
at the University of Kentucky, claims that some animals
are capable of having spiritual experiences just like humans.
"…it is still reasonable to conclude that since the most
primitive areas of our brain happen to be the spiritual,
then we can expect that animals are also capable of spiritual
experiences." Nelson, author of "The Spiritual Doorway in
the Brain," points out that since something like an "out
of body experience" is probably produced by brain's arousal
system and many animals have that same system "there is
absolutely no reason to believe it is any different for
a dog, cat, or primate's brain." The same thing may be true
for near-death experiences where people believe they are
traveling down a long tunnel. Nelson says the illusion "is
caused by the eye's susceptibility to the low blood flow
that occurs with fainting or cardiac arrest. As blood flow
diminishes, vision fails peripherally first. There is no
reason to believe that other animals are any different from
us." He added, however, "What they make of the tunnel is
Dinosaurs Even Bigger Because of Cartilage -
Dinosaurs may have been even taller than scientists originally
thought according to a new study. "Most estimates of dinosaur
height simply stack the limb elements on top of one another
without accounting for the soft tissues that were once present
in the living animal," said the study's lead author Casey
Holliday. The researchers, by analyzing the cartilage present
in ostriches and alligators and comparing them to fossilized
limbs of different dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus rex,
Allosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Triceratops determined that
size estimates are probably off by about 10%. They have
used a "cartilage correction factor" to determine that while
a Tyrannosaurus only gets a modest boost in size, large
sauropods, such as Triceratops and Brachiosaurus, may gain
a full foot in height. These animals, said Holliday,"had
really, really thick cartilage caps -- thicker than 3 to
More Geoglyphs in Peru? - Amelia Carolina Sparavigna,
assistant professor at the department of physics of Turin's
Polytechnic University, believes she has spotted previously
unknown giant geoglyphs in the area of Titicaca Lake in
Peru. The Italian scientist used Google satellite maps and
an image processing program she developed to find the shapes
in the landscape. She believes that the shapes, representing
birds, snakes and other animals, were built by Andean communities
centuries ago. Peru's Nazca desert plain is already known
for similar geoglyphs and lines. Some other scientists are
skeptical of Sparavigna interpretations finding the identifications
of particular symbols such as birds, snakes, etc. as not
convincing. They suggest that the shapes are only an unintended
result of earthworks used for farming and irrigation.
Neanderthals May Have Victims of Eruptions -
A recent study suggests that Homo sapiens may have
inherited the earth instead of Neanderthals because of the
chance eruption of some volcanoes. About 40,000 years ago
three massive volcanic eruptions devastated Neanderthals''
western Asian and European homelands. This may have caused
their demise and allowed Homo sapiens to easily take
over their territories according to a team led by archaeologist
Liubov Golovanova of the ANO Laboratory of Prehistory in
St. Petersburg, Russia. The study focuses on soil, pollen,
animal bones and stone tools from a cave in Russia's Caucasus
Mountains that was occupied by Neanderthals. Analyses of
the soil in the cave found two types of volcanic ash suggesting
two separate volcanic eruptions around 45,000 and 40,000
years ago. The pollen found in the cave suggests that conditions
were very dry and cold at that time. The event may have
created a "volcanic winter" that devastated ecology in the
region and wreaked havoc on the Neanderthal population.
Modified Worms Produce Spider Silk - Scientists
have modified silkworms to spin a new hybrid of silkworm
silk and spider silk. Malcolm Fraser, a scientist from the
University of Notre Dame and Randy Lewis from the University
of Wyoming, developed the genetically modified silkworms
in an effort to combine the silk spinning capacity of the
worms with the strength of spider silk. Spiders use silk
to build their webs, but do not produce enough for humans
to economically turn it into cloth. The new hybrid silk
can be produced by the worms in commercial quantities and
is stronger and finer than silkworm silk, but not quite
as strong as most spider silks. "It would definitely be
stronger (than a normal silk shirt)," said Lewis. "But it
wouldn't flow like silkworm silk does." The researchers
are pleased with these early efforts, however, and hope
to be able to tweak the process to make even stronger and
softer silk. Some spiders, like Darwin's Bark Spider (Caerostris
darwini), produces silk more than 10 times stronger
than Kevlar, a fabric commonly found in bulletproof vests.
A strong material like that if it could be produced in enough
quantities would have a wide variety of applications.
Science Quote of the Month - "It
would be possible to describe everything scientifically,
but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning,
as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation
of wave pressure." - Albert Einstein
New at the Museum:
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon - The city of
Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar II, must have been a
wonder to the ancient traveler's eyes. "In addition to its
size," wrote Herodotus, a Greek historian in 450 BC, "Babylon
surpasses in splendor any city in the known world." Strangely,
however, one of the city's most spectacular sites is not
even mentioned by Herodotus: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon,
one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Our classic
page updated. >Full Story
Mysterious Picture of the Month - What
is this thing?
The Fate of the Young Duchess - I have
recently been researching the Romanov family out of curiosity.
I have heard the legends about Anastasia or one of the other
children surviving. I was wondering if it was likely that
a Romanov child really did escape the firing squad. Thank
you! - Kelsey
at age five in 1906.
to Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, youngest daughter
of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, was a mystery through
much of the 20th century. Nicholas II was forced to abdicate
his throne on March 15, 1917 after a series of governing
missteps threw the country into chaos. Nicholas' family
- his wife Alexandra, daughters Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia
and son Tsarevich along with several personal servants -
was moved for safety by the provisional government to a
residence in the Ural mountains. In October of 1917 the
Bolsheviks seized power and imprisoned the family over several
months in different locations. In April of 1918 they were
moved to a house in the city of Yekaterinburg. At 2 AM on
July 17, they were awoken and told to get their things as
they were being moved to a new location. The family and
servants were taken to the building's basement, where the
Bolsheviks, fearing that the White Army (which was loyal
to the throne) would soon take the city, had them executed
by gunfire and bayonets.
just turned 17 at the time. She was by all accounts a vivacious
and energetic girl with blue eyes and strawberry-blonde
hair. Growing up she was given to pranks and misbehavior
and according to one source "undoubtedly held the record
for punishable deeds in her family, for in naughtiness she
was a true genius." During World War I she was too young
to serve as a nurse, but with her sister Maria visited the
nearby military hospital and played games of checkers and
billiards with the injured to lift their spirits. One soldier
who knew her noted that she had a "laugh like a squirrel."
It isn't clear
how the rumor that Anastasia and possibly other members
of the family, survived the execution started, but it may
have been a result of the Bolsheviks trying to cover up
the murders. Since the princesses were of German blood,
the German government sent telegrams to Russia demanding
their safety. Since this was several days after the murders
the demand was too late to save their lives. The Russians,
not wanting to upset the Germans, with whom they had just
signed a peace treaty, did not acknowledge the executions,
but told them that the girls had been moved.
Over the next
few decades as many as ten women came forward and claimed
they were Anastasia. The most famous of these was Anna Anderson,
who said she had faked death by lying still among the bodies
of her family and was rescued later by a sympathetic guard.
She fought a legal battle with the German government for
recognition from 1938 to 1970, but was never accepted as
the missing woman. Though Anderson was cremated after her
death, in 1994 DNA was obtained from a tissue sample gathered
during a hospital stay and compared to Prince Philip, Duke
of Edinburgh, a known Anastasia relation. The results clearly
proved that Anderson was not the missing Duchess.
In the early
1980's the graves of the family were found, but kept secret
until after the fall of the Soviet government. The find
was officially announced in 1991, but the grave was missing
two bodies: That of the son, Tsarevich and one of the sisters,
either Maria or Anastasia. This gave hope that perhaps the
story of an escape from the execution was true. However,
in August of 2007 a Russian archaeologist discovered two
burned skeletons at a bonfire site near Yekaterinburg. They
were the right age to be Tsarevich and the missing sister.
This was later confirmed by DNA, though scientists still
disagree on whether the body at the bonfire site was Maria
matches records that had been locked away for most of the
history of the Soviet Union. A report by Yakov Yurovsky,
who was in charge of the execution, to his superiors indicated
that all the family and servants were killed that night.
Initially the bodies were dumped down a mineshaft, but when
rumors started to spread about that as a possible burial
location, Yurovsky said that he had the bodies moved and
finally buried at a site 12 miles outside the city. Later
two of the bodies were removed and destroyed in a bonfire.
This was done so that if the burial site was found, the
remains there would not match the expected number of bodies
leaving some doubt as to whether it really was the Romanov
The mystery has
finally been solved and the bodies of all four daughters,
the former Tsar and his wife and son have been accounted
for and confirmed by DNA testing. As much as the story of
the young princess escaping death may engaged our imaginations
over the years, history has spoken and her life, along with
that of her family, was cruelly ended on that cold morning
Rain of Rocks - In November of 1921 the owner
of a grain warehouse in Chico, California noted that rocks
were falling out of the sky and hitting his building. It
seemed like a harmless prank until several months later
when the amount and size of the stones increased damaging
parts of the structure. According to a local newspaper "Fire
Chief C. E. Tovee and Traffic Officer J.J. Corbett had the
scare of their lives while prowling about the Charge warehouse
in an endeavor to sight the direction from which the rocks
come. They had just approached the south end of the warehouse
and were looking skyward when a fair-sized boulder struck
the wooden wall above them with a mighty force and rebounded
to the ground at their feet, leaving a dent where it had
struck the timber." At least one investigator noted that
the stones seem to fall directly down from the sky. By the
end of March the rain of stones ceased and was never explained.
Mars and Mercury Come Close - This will be a
bit of a challenge, but on November 20, if you look hard,
you will have a chance to see Mars and Mercury, the 4th
and 1st planets in our solar system, in a close encounter.
They won't be that close in actual distance, but they will
appear close as viewed in the Earth's sky. You will need
to have good view of the western horizon just at sunset.
You should see two bright dots just for a few minutes before
they set. The brighter one is Mercury and the dimmer one
is Mars. In this conjunction they will be less than 2 degrees
apart in the sky (The full moon is about ½ degree wide).
Titantic Sunk Because of Miscommunication? -
A British writer and granddaughter of Charles Lightoller,
the most senior officer to have survived the Titanic sinking,
claims that the ship's fate was caused by a misinterpretation
of orders. Louise Patten in her new book "Good as Gold"
states that her grandfather told her grandmother that the
helmsman of the Titantic turned the ship the wrong direction
when the iceberg was sighted. At the time there were two
different steering command systems in place. One for sailing
ships and the other for steamships. A command to turn the
ship would resulted in opposite movement of the ship's wheel
under each of the systems. The First Officer 's "hard a-starboard"
order was wrongly interpreted by the Quartermaster Robert
Hitchins, who was at the wheel. In panic he followed the
sailing ship procedure instead of the steamship procedure,
accidently turning the ship into the iceberg. Lightoller
kept quiet about the error fearing that if the facts became
public the White Star Line would be sued and many of the
employees would lose their jobs. Other experts doubt the
story, noting that the man at the helm, Hitchins, was very
experienced and had been on duty steering the ship for a
number of days before the accident.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: Secrets of Stonehenge - New
archeological finds shed light on the most misunderstood
monument of the ancient world. On PBS: November 16 at 8
Nova:Quest for Solomon's Mines - Archeologists
seek the truth about the Bible's most famous king and his
legendary riches. On PBS: November 23 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
On the Discovery Channel
Engineering the Impossible - A team of experts probes the mysteries of the Roman Colosseum, the world?s
most infamous arena, and perhaps the most elaborate death
machine ever devised.
Nov 13, 8:00 pm; Nov 13, 11:00 pm; ET/PT
Sci Fi Science: Holodeck
On the Science Channel
Dr. Michio Kaku believes we can build one of sci-fi's most imaginative
creations: Star Trek's Holodeck. He's on a mission to create
an imaginary world indistinguishable from the real thing.
Nov 03, 10:00 pm; Nov 04, 1:00 am; Nov 05, 5:00 am; ET/PT
On the Science Channel
Moon for Sale - As the world's space powers gear up for what's been dubbed the 'second
moon race', there's another, parallel, race to cash in on
its resources and potential. Take an off-beat look at Russian,
Chinese and American plans to return to the moon by 2020.
Nov 08, 8:00 pm; Nov 08, 11:00 pm; Nov 10, 3:00 am; ET/PT
The Apocalypse Code - Sir Isaac Newton is one of the greatest geniuses in history, but few
know that he also predicted a shocking new date of the Apocalypse.
Though famous for discovering gravity, calculus, and the
basic laws of universal motion, Newton possessed a very
dark and mysterious side. Thousands of his private papers,
only recently made available, reveal a man secretly obsessed
with alchemy and Biblical prophecy. On The History Channel:
Nov.7 11:00PM; ET/PT.
Nazi Supership - Hitler's "unsinkable ship," the Bismarck, settled on the ocean floor
after just nine days at sea. NGC investigates: Who really
sank the Bismarck? On The
Channel: Oct 1st 9:00 PM; ET/PT.
Snakes That Fly - Snakes don't just slither to survive - they fly. NGC tracks scientists
who create a unique outdoor laboratory in the rain forest
to capture 3-D images of snakes nearly bending the rules
of nature. On The
Channel: Nov. 5 9:00 PM; ET/PT.
Unlocking the Great Pyramid - A revolutionary theory that the Great Pyramid at Giza was built from
the inside out. On The
Channel: Nov. 10 7:00 PM; ET/PT.
Lost Gold of the Dark Ages - Lost Gold of the Dark Ages chronicles the amazing story of how an amateur
metal-detecting enthusiast discovered a gold hoard of more
than 1,500 artifacts dating back a millennium, and valued
at over $5 million. On The
Channel: Nov. 15 10:00 PM; ET/PT.
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