Science Over the Edge

A Mix of News, Events, History and Gossip

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

December 1999

In the News:

Six-Story Dino - A dinosaur estimated to weigh 60 tons and standing 60 feet tall, with the longest neck in the fossil record, has been discovered in Oklahoma. Scientists from the University of Oklahoma, who will publishing a paper on the creature in the March issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, have named the animal Sauroposeidon which means "earthquake god lizard." The Sauroposeidon had a neck about a third longer than its better known relative Brachiosaurus and 30 times the length of the largest giraffe ever known.. The creature may turn out to be the largest dinosaur ever found. The fossils were orginally unearthed in 1994.

Two African Dinosaurs Found - In other dino news, Paul Sereno, paleontologist from the University of Chicago has announced that he and his collegues have found two unusual dinosaurs in Africa. One, Nigersaurus taquetti, had a strangely shaped head with 600 teeth. Fifty-feet in length, the animal must have looked like "either Darth Vader or a Hoover vacuum cleaner" said Sereno. They estimated it lived 200-135 millions ago. The other, Jobaria tiguidensis is unusual because it existed for a long period (from 200 to 135 million years ago), even after other similar sauropods had died out.

SETI at Arecibo Continues - Scientists returned to the huge Arecibo Observatory this month to continue their Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The operation, called Project Phoenix, is studying 1,000 nearby sun-like stars looking for radio emissions generated by machines. The project last observed at Arecibo in March. So far about half the survey has been completed. Engineers and scientists have been working since then to raise the chances of a successful contact by including stars on their list which are thought to have planetary systems and writing software to filter out terrestrial radio interference.

Test-Tube Heart Valve - Scientists at the Children's Hospital in Boston have grown replacement heart valves from a lamb's own cells. Later the valves were surgically placed in the lamb and performed well. Doctors hope that this will lead to using the same technique in humans. Such a development would allow the replacement valve to grow as the patient does and eliminate the need for blood-thinning drugs needed with mechanical valves. The valves are grown by attaching cells to a scaffolding of biodegradable polymers shaped like a valve. The cells multiply a cover the scaffolding which then decays and disappears.

Bad Weather Sealed Scott's Fate - In the November 9th issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists Susan Solomon and Charles Stearns report the death of Antarctic explorer Robert Scott and his party in 1913 was probably due to unusually severe weather. Scott missed being the first to discover the North Pole by several weeks and on the way back he and his team froze to death 170 miles from safety. Historians have painted Scott as rash and unprepared, but the scientists argue that Scott was pinned down by bad weather: 10 to 20 degrees colder than usual. These extreme temperatures changed the snow into unslippery crystals making Scott's sleds hard to pull and cutting his daily progress in half. Eventually the party ran out of the supplies needed to stay alive.

Want to read about difficult exploration at the top of the world? Check our Matthew Henson page.

Inca City Mass Transit - Controvery is swirling around plans to build a high-speed cable tram car in Peru to give easy access to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The ancient Incan city is perched on a 8,000 foot high mountain top and has been only accessable to tourists willing to take a 25 minute bus ride up a winding, dirt road. Supporters of the project argue that the current road is unsafe and the buses create pollution. Opponents of the project fear that the tram car will be intrusive and the large numbers of visitors it will bring, perhaps as many as five times the current number, will damage the site.

In History:

Green Fireballs - On December 5th, 1948 pilots flying over New Mexico observed two separate incidents of a pale green light that was visable for less than two seconds. The pilots inisted that the lights were not caused by meteors, but were "flares" from an unknown source. The next day, December 6th, a similar flare was reported over a secret installation at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. These reports were part of a rash of "green fireballs" that appeared over the southwestern U.S. in the late 40's and early 50's.


UFOs Around Saturn - Dr Norman Bergrun founder of the California Society of Professional Engineers Education Foundation and author of Tomorrow's Technology Today and Ringmakers of Saturn will be giving a lecture on UFOs Around Saturn on December 19th a 7PM in Berkeley, CA. USA. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. For more information call 510-664-1600 or 925-945-5500.

In the Sky:

Long Night Moon - December 22 will be the last full moon before Christmas is also known as the Long Night Moon. It rises about 20 minutes after sunset and will be particularly brilliant (A good time to check out the Moon Illusion). Earlier that day at 6AM the Moon will be as close to the Earth as it gets all year: 221,614 miles.


Blue Streak - Some Floridians suspect the visitor was a flying saucer, but scientists guess that a blue ball of fire that streaked across the sky in early November was a Bolide meteor. Police received many calls after residents of DeLand, Florida, reported seeing the object cross the sky. A search was made of the area by ground and by air, but nothing was found.

Fossil Sale Bags a Bundle - The auction house of Butterfield and Butterfield sold almost a million dollars of fossils at auction in the beginning of November. The most expensive item, a baby Ichthyosaur, went for $46,000. The items sold included meteorites, dinosaur claws, a woolly mammoth tusk and dinosaur eggs. Opponets of the sale critized the house for selling such finds, but a spokeman for the company argued that none of the material put up for sale was "new to science."

On the Tube:.

Pyramids - Standing majesticaly for centuries, the world's great pyramids have long inspired and mystified scholars. Leading experts and historians explore the engineering genius that created some of the largest structures on the planet. On the History Channel December 12, at 1PM. Repeats December 27, at 9PM and December 28 at 1:00 AM.

Roswell: Secrets Unveiled - Sort the truth from lies behind the alleged UFO sighting that spawned half a century of conspiracy theories. In 1947, the Air Force originally claimed that debris found from a crashed vehicle near Roswell, New Mexico was from a weather balloon. In fact, the debris came from the crash of a top secret Air Force experiment. Part of the History's Mysteries series on the History Channel. Airs December 13 at 8PM ET/ 9PM PT. Repeats December 18 at 2PM ET/ 11AM PT.

Time Machine: The Incredible Life & Times of Robert Ripley: Believe It or Not - This is part of the History Channel's NewYear's Eve Mega Millennium Marathon. Hear the life story of journalist, traveller and collector Robert Ripley who coined the famous term "Believe It or Not!" to cap his strange stories. Airs 6AM ET December 31.

If We Had No Moon - Without the moon, life as we know it on Earth would not exist. What luck that 50 million years after the formation of the solar system, the moon was born. Find out what Earth was like before the moon blasted into orbit, and how crucial the moon is to our existance. On the Discovery Channel December 6, at 9PM and midnight. Repeats also on December 11, at 1PM. Decmeber 12 at 6PM and December 18 at 2PM, 9PM and 1AM ET/PT.

Atlantis - The Lost Continent - The myth, history, and science fiction surrounding the legend of Atlantis is explored using computer graphics and state-of-the-art digital video. Sophisticated imagery depicts the environment on the lost continent. Airs on TCL December 2 at 10PM and 1AM ET/PT

Cracking the Ice Age - Nova investigates an intriguing idea on the origin of the Ice Age: namely, the Himalayas did it. According to the theory, the crash of the continents that produced Mount Everest also produced a complicated chain of effects that has resulted in a drastically altered world climate. Airs on PBS December 14 at 9PM ET.


Science over the Edge Archives

LGM Archive 1998, 1999.

Copyright Lee Krystek 1999. All Rights Reserved.