Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) "flying
saucer" for putting payloads on Mars. (NASA)
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Tests "Flying Saucer" - NASA sucessfully tested a "flying
saucer" over the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range last
month. Unlike those alien vehicles that float through the
sky in SciFi films, this saucer is being designed for Mars.
The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) is for landing
heavy payloads on Mars and other planetary surfaces. In
its test over Hawaii it was attached below a gigantic helium
balloon which carried it about 23 miles above the islands.
Then saucer separated from the balloon and using rocket
motors climbed into the stratosphere. The rarified air up
high there is the closest earthly match to the atmosphere
of Mars. From the stratosphere the saucer tested several
new braking technologies before eventually parachuting into
for the "Lucky Strike" - A team of German scientists
have found evidence that the moon was created when a Mars-sized
body hit the proto-Earth in the early solar system. The
theory, which has been around for a while and looks mathematically
sound, suggests that the debris from this crash, thrown
into orbit, eventually coalesced into our moon. To help
prove this scientist have looked for evidence that the moon
was made up from two different bodies with two different
amounts of chemical isotopes. Early experiments that used
lunar meteorites failed to show this with the moon rocks
just looking exactly like Earth rocks. This most recent
set of tests, however, used samples from the Apollo 11,
12 and 16 missions and did show the sight differences in
the isotopes of oxygen, suggesting the collision theory
is true. The tests also suggest that the body that hit the
Earth (which has been given the name Theia) was rare
kind of meteorite known as an enstatite chondrite.
Some scientists have named the collision the "lucky strike"
as they believe without it conditions on Earth for life
to develop would not have been very favorable.
Didn't Need Facebook - New evidence shows that Pterosaurs,
winged reptiles from the age of the dinosaurs, were very
social creatures. Scientists have uncovered a disaster site,
described in the journal Current Biology, where eggs, thousands
of fossilized pterosaur bones, and pterosaur skulls have
been found. The location, near the edge of an ancient lake
in what is now northwestern China, appears to be Pterosaur
colony. According to study author Xiaolin Wang, "Based on
the discoveries, we know that this pterosaur lived together
with other pterosaurs and laid its eggs in the bank of the
ancient lake, similar (behavior) to that of some modern
birds, such as flamingos." The evidence clearly that Pterosaurs
did not like to live alone. Adults and youngsters must have
lived a crowded space that would have been vibrant with
Shark had Teeth on Lips - Scientists have found the
remains of a 300-million-year-old shark, which they have
dubbed the "Godzilla shark" because of its huge dorsal fin
spines and general reptilian appearance. Perhaps the oddest
thing about this shark, however, is that it had teeth on
its lips. "Unlike a lot of modern sharks, which can fully
or partially suck in prey when they open their jaws, these
primitive sharks had to ram their jaws into their prey,"
said John-Paul Hodnett, who discovered the shark in the
Monzano Mountains east of Albuquerque. Because of the way
the mouth on this shark operated it had a weak 'suck-in'
bite noted Hodnett. "So having teeth on the outside of the
lip of the shark may of helped in grasping and securing
prey in the mouth as they rushed forward for the kill,"
he added. "To put it simply, the extra teeth on the outside
of the mouth gave Godzilla-shark a better bite with the
jaws it had."
White is Sea Monster Snack - Scientists are wondering
what kind of sea monster could gobble-down a 9 foot long
Great White Shark. The story started when researchers tagged
the shark with a tracker off the coast of Australia. Four
months later the tracker was found a couple of miles away
on a beach. Data captured on the device showed that the
shark had been subject to a rapid rise in temperature along
with a sudden, 1,900-foot plunge into the depths. Scientists
attribute the rise in temperature to the shark entering
another creature's digestive system. But what animal would
be able to eat a 9 foot Great White? Godzilla? Another giant
Great White? The story is detailed in the Smithsonian Institute's
documentary film "Hunt for the Super Predator."
Quote of the Month -"Equipped
with his five senses, man explores the universe around him
and calls the adventure Science." ~ Edwin
New at the Museum:
Great Red Spot of Jupiter-
most well-known feature of our solar system's biggest planet,
what is this gigantic, crimson oval and is it about to disappear?
Worlds - On your quantum physics exhibit, you briefly
touched on the multiple realities theory. I was wondering
if you could go into a bit more detail.- Quinn
unfamiliar with quantum physics may want to visit our page
to get some background before reading this answer.
idea that we may live in a multiverse (multiple-universes)
has gotten increasing attention in the last few years. There
are several different reasons scientists think that we may
live in a multiverse. One multi-verse theory arises out
of the idea that the universe is infinite, and therefore
everything eventually repeats itself. Another theory is
that since laws of physics that make life in our universe
possible are improbable, there must be infinite other universes
with different laws where life could not arise. However,
today we will talk only about multiple universes that arise
out of quantum theory, as that was the subject of the original
mechanics is the physics we use to deal with the smallest
things in the universe such as electrons, protons and other
sub-atomic particles. One characteristic of these particles
is that we know that they can exist in "superposition."
That is they can be in two or more possible locations or
states at the same time.
have been puzzled by this. We never see this kind of thing
in the world of macro objects. (The paper weight on your
desk is always in only one location at a time) We also know
that whenever one of these particles in superposition is
observed (or measured) they seem to suddenly decide to jump
into one definite state/location or another. But how do
the particles know they are being observed?
another level, do we even care if they are in superposition
or not? After all they are just tiny, little things.
the problem is that we are made up of just tiny things like
atoms and molecules. So it seems that is possible that we
might be able to exist in two different states/locations
at the same time too. Yet, again, we never see this in our
idea that observation somehow causes the particles to jump
into a definite states/locations has bothered a lot of scientists.
Why should this happen with an observer? Why is he special?
And if the observer is also made of things that can be in
superposition too, what does that mean? American physicist
Hugh Everett III suggested that rather than these particles
collapsing into definite states, maybe instead the universe
actually splits. One new universe for each possible state
or location that the particle could be in. This gets rid
of the whole concern about the particle jumping into a state
and the need for it to be observed (or measured) to do that.
idea of multiple universes, which has gotten the moniker
the "Many Worlds Interpretation" (MWI), clears up a lot
of problems with quantum mechanics, so many of physicists
think it might be right.
as one person pointed out, the accuracy of a theory is not
determined by polling scientists. However, many people are
highly skeptical about MWI. Since there are countless particle
collapses going on every second of everyday this easily
means that there an infinite universes. Many of them only
slightly different than the one we live in. What's more,
it implies that if anything could happen, then it does indeed
happen in at least one universe. A lot of people think that
this is just too crazy to be true.
peoople that find MWI crazy argue that Occam's Razor (a
rule of thumb that suggests the least complicated explanation
is the right one explaintation) indicates that MWI must
be wrong. Proponents of MWI, however, argue that describing
the rules for one particular universe is a lot more complicated
than describing the rules for all possible universes and
that Occam's Razor actually favors MWI.
crazy possibility that comes out of this kind of MWI is
that idea of Quantum immortality. The idea that at
every point where a person might die, the universe will
split into a least two: one with the person alive, the other
one with the person dead. Since (barring an afterlife, which
if it exists would probably be outside a universe anyway)
a person can only consciously experience life, he will only
ever find himself in a universe where he survived. This
means he will be immortal from this own perspective (though
he would be dead in many other versions of the universe).
Because there would be at least one universe where that
person lived an immensely long life, and that person would,
from their own point of view, would experience only that.
However, let's note, this effect, if true, would not protect
one from growing old and increasingly infirm, so it is not
necessarily a good, healthy immortal life.
controversy surrounding MWI will probably never be resolved
until somebody can figure out how to do a scientific experiment
that will prove if other quantum universes exist or not.
In fact, some people argue that since MWI cannot be tested,
it is wild speculation, not science. A few people have suggested
an experiment that might prove MWI, but we do not currently
have the technology to carry it out.
rather bizarre way of proving MWI is through a process that
has been nicknamed "Quantum Suicide." In this odd approach
a brave (or perhaps foolish) physicist creates a gun that
has a 50% chance of firing based on some quantum event.
When he pulls the trigger it either goes off, or he hears
an audible "click." He then uses it to attempt to kill himself
multiple times. If the MWI is correct he will (from his
own perspective) never succeed and will always only hear
the "click." As in quantum immortality his conscious will
not continue in any of the worlds where he dies, only in
the worlds where he lives, so he will be able to prove,
to at least himself, that the MWI is correct. (It should
be noted, however, that he leaves a string of dead copies
of himself in other universes, each with a bereaved relatives
controversy around the MWI has not kept it from showing
up in popular culture. Typical of these is the classic Star
Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror" in which Captain Kirk finds
himself accidentally transferred to a different universe
where the typically good Federation of Planets is replaced
by a brutal empire.
are we living in the MWI of quantum physics? Hopefully some
bright physicist will come up with an experiment that we
can accurately do that will tell us for sure.
Happened to Amelia? - July 3rd, 1937 marks the beginning
of a huge mystery: What happened to Amelia Earhart? Earhart,
a pioneering female aviator, was attempting an around the
world trip in her Lockheed Electra airplane with her navigator,
Frank Noonan, when the plane disappeared over the Pacific.
Numerous books and articles have been written speculating
about Earhart's fate. Did she simply crash into the sea
after running out of gas? Did she find some remote island
to land on? Was she captured by the Japanese and executed
as a spy? For more information, check out our page on this
Comes - On July 4th the Earth with reach aphelion (the
furthest point in its orbit from the Sun) though there won't
be anything really different about this day for most people.
Since this occurs near the start of summer in the Northern
hemisphere, however, it shows that our planet's distance
to the sun has little to do with the changes in its seasons
as a further distance might suggest cooler weather. The
seasons are caused by the tilt of the planet with the northern
hemisphere getting more direct sunlight on it in the summer.
The reverse is true in the southern hemisphere.
with Female Names More Deadly - According to a study
published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences researchers have found that storms given
women's names are more deadly than their male counterparts.
Since 1979 the National Hurricane Center has alternated
between male and female names for the storms based on a
predetermined list, so it seems odd that there is some kind
of pattern. Researchers think, however, that because of
social bias people (both men and woman) are less likely
to consider a storm dangerous if it has a female name, and
are therefore less likely evacuate or take shelter. Researchers
did a number of lab experiments to test this hypothesis.
In each case the experiment examined the perception of the
risk of a storm based on some of its name characteristics
like gender, popularity or likability. According to the
results the only thing that consistently influenced people's
thinking about the storm's danger was its "gender."
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Ghosts of Murdered King- Bronze age bog bodies reveal
the strange beliefs of the long-vanished peoples of Europe.
On PBS July 2 at 9 pm ET/PT
of a Masterpiece - Art experts investigate whether a
portrait sold for about $20,000 in 1998 is actually a lost
Leonardo worth millions On PBS July 9 at 9 pm ET/PT
Ancient Secret: Egypt's Mystery Tomb - When the tomb
of King Tut was found in 1922, many believed the Valley
of the Kings had given up all it's secrets. Now, archaeologists
have found a new tomb just a few metres away. We will follow
the experts as they discover just what, or who, lies inside.
On The Science Channel: July 1 12:00PM
Freeman's Through The Wormhole Season 5: Is Gravity an Illusion?-
We feel it every moment of our lives but for physicists,
gravity is the longest running unsolved mystery of the universe.
Why do all objects that have mass pull on one another? Cutting-edge
theories are proposing unexpected answers. On the Science
Channel: July 2 10:00 PM; July 3 1:00AM, 6:00PM July 4 5:00AM
of Hell - There are six places on Earth believed to
be actual entrances into Hell. They include a volcano in
Iceland, a cave in the jungles of Central America, and a
lake of fire in Africa. According to ancient myth and Christian
legend, each is a passage to a terrifying underworld for
the damned. Even today, some believe they are still portals.
Eerily, they share striking similarities. We'll visit these
six locations, and along the way, reveal how the concept
of Hell emerged in history and why it still evokes fear
today. On the History Channel: July 1, 8:00 PM ET/PT.
James' Hidden Treasure - By the time Jesse James was
killed in 1882, he'd stolen over a million and a half dollars
according to some estimates--gold, coins and cash that could
be worth over $50 million today. History often paints James
as a clever outlaw who stole money to finance a lavish criminal
lifestyle, a man whose sixteen year long crime spree came
to a dramatic halt in 1882 when a fellow gang member betrayed
him and shot him dead in the back of the head. But now,
a treasure hunt may reveal a totally new story. Was Jesse
really stealing for himself, or was he actually secreting
away large sums of wealth, in order to finance one of the
most clandestine secret societies in American history? Follow
a team of treasure hunters searching for where he stashed
his riches... and a new truth about Jesse James. Their discoveries
may not only re-write the history of why Jesse stole, it
could also raise new questions about his death. On the History
Channel: July 9, 10:00 PMET/PT.