Howard Carter examines Tut's mummy and the mysterious
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Tut had an Out-of-this-World Knife - X-ray analysis
of a blade buried with Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen shows
that it was made from iron that came from outer space. The
weapon, described by discovering archeologist Howard Carters
as "a highly ornamented gold dagger with crystal knob,"
was made from meteoric iron. "Meteoric iron is clearly indicated
by the presence of a high percentages of nickel," researcher
Daniela Comelli, from the department of Physics of Milan
Polytechnic. Comelli and a team of scientists, from Milan
Polytechnic, Pisa University and the Egyptian Museum in
Cairo, gave their results in an article in the journal Meteoritics
and Planetary Science. The team used non-invasive, portable
X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to make the determination.
"The nickel and cobalt ratio in the dagger blade is consistent
with that of iron meteorites that have preserved the primitive
chondritic ratio during planetary differentiation in the
early solar system," Comelli said. The knife is now on display
at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
City is Not What It Seems - A set of underwater features
off the Ionian island of Zakynthos which were originally
thought to be the remains of a sunken city, now appear to
be natural in origin. A paper published by a team from the
University of East Anglia and the University of Athens in
the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology suggests
that the features that look like circular column bases and
paved floors are actually gases that escaped from the sea
floor and turned into rock. "The disk and doughnut morphology,
which looked a bit like circular column bases, is typical
of mineralization at hydrocarbon seeps - seen both in modern
seafloor and palaeo settings," said Julian Andrews, from
UEA's School of Environmental Sciences. Andrews also noted
that no pottery fragments or other tools, which should have
been found in an ancient city, were present. The main gas
which is escaping from the sea floor is methane. "Microbes
in the sediment use the carbon in methane as fuel. Microbe-driven
oxidation of the methane then changes the chemistry of the
sediment forming a kind of natural cement, known to geologists
as concretion," Andrews said. Andrew also noted that it
was important to review underwater stonework to see it really
what it appears to be.
Base Tunnel Finished - Last month the longest rail tunnel
in the world, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, opened. The tunnel,
which runs 35 miles (57 km) under the Alps has been under
construction since 1999. The tunnel shortens the train trip
from Zurich to Milan to only two hours and 40 minutes, about
an hour less than the current time. The tunnel cost 12 billion
Swiss francs ($12 billion or 11 billion euros) to build
and will open to full traffic in December. The tunnel supplements
the original 9 mile Gotthard Tunnel opened in 1882. The
new tunnel allows trains to avoid climbing into the Alps
at all, but instead go through the "base" of the mountains.
Praying Mantis Named for Justice - Ilomantis ginsburgae,
a newly identified species of praying mantis from Madagascar,
has been named for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Why? They both wear frilly collars. In the case of Ginsburg,
that's simply a fashion choice. For the mantis it's a series
of prominent neck plates. This insect, collected in 1967,
but not identified as a new species till this year, is also
unique because it is the first to be classified based on
its female genitalia. In the past, biologists have used
male genitalia to classify a species. "Developing new characteristics,
especially from female specimens, helps us not only test
the validity of species, but makes identification much easier,"
said study co-author Gavin Svenson, curator of invertebrate
zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. "Many
praying mantis species have males and females that look
very different. If a person finds one sex, they may only
be able to identify the specimen if their specimen's sex
matches what is known from previous research. Our work reduces
this impediment by characterizing both sexes for praying
Yet "Tatoonie" Planet Is Found - After several years
of work scientists have been able to confirm the existence
of the largest planet yet found orbiting in a binary star
system. Kepler-1647 b is about the size of Jupiter and orbits
in a solar system with two stars: one slightly smaller than
our sun and one slightly larger. Such planets are are called
circumbinary planets (or sometimes "Tatoonie" planets after
the doubled sunned home of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars)
and are found by observing the dips in a star's light as
the planets transit the star. "But finding circumbinary
planets is much harder than finding planets around single
stars," said SDSU astronomer William Welsh, one of the paper's
coauthors. "The transits are not regularly spaced in time
and they can vary in duration and even depth." The planet
is the largest circumbinary ever found. "It's a bit curious
that this biggest planet took so long to confirm, since
it is easier to find big planets than small ones," said
SDSU astronomer Jerome Orosz, another coauthor on the study.
"It took so long to confirm because its orbital period is
Quote of the Month - "Great
scientific discoveries have been made by men seeking to
verify quite erroneous theories about the nature of things."
~ Aldous Huxley
New at the Museum:
the Trans-Continental Railroad -
As the middle of the 19th century loomed, there was no good,
efficient way to cross North America from coast-to-coast.
An overland trip using horses and wagons across the Great
Plains was long, arduous and dangerous. Going by ship meant
a six-month trip around South American's Cape Horn, risking
storms and ship wrecks. A combination of the two, a ship
to the Isthmus of Panama with a land crossing there of the
jungle and another voyage to San Francisco, was fraught
with the possibility of contracting malaria or yellow fever.
What was needed was to build a railroad across America,
but that seemed an impossibility. > Full
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Wonder Door Number Two - Which is the Second Wonder?
wonders, I assume you are talking about the Seven Wonders
of the Ancient World. This is the first and probably
most famous list of wonders, though people have come up
with others like The Seven Wonders of the Modern World,
The Seven Wonders of the Natural World, The Seven Wonders
of the Solar System and The Seven Wonders of the Medieval
of the rest of the lists of wonders are collections people
came up within the last century or so. Usually some organization
will create the list (The Seven Wonders of the Natural
World came from CNN) and decide what should be on it.
list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, however,
stretches back for a least two millennia into antiquity.
It was a Greek invention. The Greeks loved lists of things
and like many ancients thought seven was a magical number.
Exactly why they thought seven was so special isn't clear,
but it could be because it was the number you got when you
counted the sun, moon and five known planets (Mercury, Venus,
Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. (Uranus wasn't discovered until
1781 after the telescope had been invented).
the list was made by the Greeks, the items on the list limited
to things they knew about. None are particularly far from
the region of Mediterranean Sea.
tend to think of the list of the seven wonders as a single
item, but the truth is that many Greek writers made different
versions of the list. Antipater of Sidon, and Philon of
Byzantium, drew up two of the most well-known lists. As
time went on many of the lists started to agree on six of
the seven items. However, the finally item differed. Sometimes
it was Walls of the City of Babylon. On others, the Palace
of Cyrus, king of Persia.
It wasn't until around the 6th century A.D. that people
began to agree on the Lighthouse at Alexandria as the last
there where many different writers, each with their own
list, there is no particular order to the items, other than
the Lighthouse at Alexandria being the last added. So, there
is no item there is considered "the second wonder." However,
if you wanted to order the list chronologically the oldest
would be the Great Pyramid at Giza. The second oldest would
be the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were thought to
have been built around 600 B.C. This was followed by the
Statue of Zeus (432 B.C.), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
(350 B.C.), The Temple at Ephesus (323 B.C.) and at about
the same time, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse
at Alexandria around 280 or 270 B.C.). Arranging things
that way would make the Hanging Gardens of Babylon the second
wonder on the list.
If you had lived in ancient times and had been rich enough
to travel the world so see the wonders, you would have had
a hard time getting a glimpse of them all. The Colossus
of Rhodes only stood for a little over 50 years. While
most of the other of the ancient wonders still existed during
this period the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were thought
to be destroy by an Earthquake sometimes during that same
period, so you might have been stuck seeing the ruins, not
the actual place.
a question? Click here to
send it to us.
Zeppelin Takes to the Air - On July 2nd of 1900 the
first controlled flight of a Zeppelin, The LZ-1, was made
in Germany. Invented by Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, it
flew for 18 minutes above the Bodensee (Lake Constance)
in Germany. Zeppelins differ from blimps because they have
a rigid internal structure containing multiple cells of
hydrogen or helium gas balloons where a blimp body is just
a big gas bag. The LZ-1 was 416 feet (120m) in length and
shaped like a cylinder with rounded ends. The era of Zeppelin
travel ended in tragedy some three decades later with the
crash of Zeppelin's The Hindenburg.
Aquarids Meteor Shower - The night of July 28th through
the morning of July 29th will be the best time to see the
Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The shower, caused by debris
left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht, will best be seen
after midnight and will radiate from the constellation Aquarius,
though you might see them appear anywhere in the sky. Expect
to see 20 meters an hour under best conditions.
Scientists Dress as Polar Bears - Think your job is
tough? How you like to put on a polar bear costume and crawl
around the Artic in front of a herd of big, nervous muskoxen?
This is what scientists have been doing on Wrangel Island
in the Arctic. The researchers, funded by the Trust for
Mutual Understanding and the National Park Service's Shared
Beringian Heritage Program, are interested in how more polar
bears hunting on land (with decline of sea ice because of
global warming) will effect predator-prey dynamics. With
no trained polar bears available for such a study, a costumed
scientist seemed like the best simulation. The muskoxen
generally fled the area when they spotted the "polar bear"
in the vicinity, though sometimes they also acted aggressively.
"We believe that once our analyses are complete, we'll come
away with much greater insights about the novelty of prey-predator
interactions that result from climate change and what this
means more broadly across the Arctic," said project leader
Joel Berger of the Wildlife Conservation Society Arctic
Beringia Program and Colorado State University.
and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place
we feature highlights from their past adventures.
Archive 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007,
Copyright Lee Krystek 2016. All Rights Reserved.