immense Hanger One at Moffett Field is now leased
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Leases Landmark - Google has leased the giant Hanger
One at Moffett Field near its Silicon Valley headquarters
for the next 60 years. The historic hanger, a landmark in
the Silicon Valley area, was built in 1932 by the Navy to
house its airships. The facility is currently owned by NASA
who will get $1.6 billion over the life of the lease. Google
will also pay for $200 million to repair the huge structure
which is 1,133 feet (345m) long and 198 feet (60m) high.
What does Google want with such a building? Google plans
to use the space for research, development, assembly and
testing for its efforts in space exploration, aviation,
rover/robotics and other new technologies. The name on the
lease is "Google Planetary Ventures."
Ages Too Soon - Does it seem like you kids are causing
you to prematurely age? Well, a star named WASP-18 maybe
having the same problem. Scientists know that younger stars
are more active, with stronger magnetic fields, larger flares
and more intense X-ray emission. However, WASP-18 seems
to be a very young star (500 million to 2 billion years
old) but 100 times less active than it should be. Why? It
is the parent star to WASP-18b, a giant planet with a mass
10 times that of Jupiter that orbits very close to WASP-18.
Astronomers think that the planet's strong gravitational
pull may be disrupting the star's magnetic field. "The planet's
gravity may cause motions of gas in the interior of the
star that weaken the convection," said co-author Salvatore
Sciortino, also of INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo.
"This has a domino effect that results in the magnetic field
becoming weaker and the star to age prematurely."
Made in Laboratory - According to a new study published
in Current Biology it is possible to re-create the
feeling that someone gets of a ghostly presence at a haunted
house, in a laboratory. In the experiment participants were
blindfolded and asked to perform movements with their hands
in front of them. Meanwhile, after a delay, a robotic device
made the same movements while touching their backs. This
interfered with the sensorimotor input of participants'
brains causing them to perceive the presence of somebody
else in the room. "Our experiment induced the sensation
of a foreign presence in the laboratory for the first time.
It shows that it can arise under normal conditions, simply
through conflicting sensory-motor signals," explained Blanke.
"The robotic system mimics the sensations of some patients
with mental disorders or of healthy individuals under extreme
circumstances. This confirms that it is caused by an altered
perception of their own bodies in the brain."
Does Low Blow - Apparently the Stegosaurus wasn't afraid
to fight dirty. Scientists have come across an allosaurus
fossil with a circular hole in its pelvis surrounded by
a well-preserved, fist-sized abscess which was the result
of an infection. Paleontologist Robert Bakker of the Houston
Museum of Natural Science believes that only thing that
could have made such a hole was the spike from a Stegosaurus
tail driven into the groin of the allosaurus. According
to Bakker the allosaurus, a huge predator from 147 million
years ago, did not die immediately from the attack, but
probably lived for weeks limping and expelling pus. The
find give scientists a view into how dinosaurs fought each
Sabotage Each Other - Bats are famous for using sonar
for hunting down prey. They send out a sound signal (too
high for us to hear) and the echo bouncing back from some
poor moth leads them to lunch. Now a new study suggests
that other bats may use "jamming signals" to prevent their
rivals from getting a meal so that jammer has a chance of
snagging it. Scientists watching a colony of Mexican free-tailed
bats, Tadarida brasiliensis, noticed that when a
bat when after a meal, other bats would begin a vocalization
(sort of a whirring sound). The scientists recorded that
sound, then set up a lab experiments with a hungry bat and
a captive moth. If the scientists played the jamming sound
when the bat went after the moth it missed it 86% of the
Quote of the Month -"Science
can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and
outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain
necessary." - Albert Einstein
New at the Museum:
of years pundits have speculated about the nature of the
star in the Christmas story. An ecnore of our classic page
for the holidays. Full Story
Stones - Recently, on a trip to Cape Breton Island
we saw a few signs along the road saying "Warning -- Flying
Stones." What are these "flying stones?" It sounds like
a Fortean phenomenon, but I have a feeling there is another
explanation. - Alan.
As much as the phrase "flying stones" brings to my mind
a vision of boulders levitating in the sky like alien flying
saucers, I suspected that there was a more pedestrian explanation
for this warning sign, so I did some research by checking
the website for the department of roads in the Cape Breton
is what I think the signs are about: There is an inexpensive
way of coating a road called "Chip Seal." Basically you
lay down a surface of sticky tar-like material, then on
top of that a layer of stone chips, then finally another
layer on top that to seal the chips down.
method produces a road surface that is much smoother than
a gravel road, but rougher than a normal asphalt surface.
For this reason it's unpopular in urban high-traffic areas
or on high-speed roads. However, because of its low cost,
it is often found in rural areas with light traffic and
low road speeds. Chip Seal is sometimes also used as a cheap
way to patch normal asphalt road until more permanent repairs
can be made.
there are some additional disadvantages to Chip Seal beyond
the rough road surface. For the first 24/48 hours after
the surface has been laid down there is a very high chance
that stone chips will be picked up, caught in tire treads
and thrown by vehicles, especially trucks.
In the Cape Breton Island area they call this phenomenon
"flying stones." I suspect the signs you saw were warning
of a section of road that was just recently been redone
with chip seal. Cars hit by flying stone chips thrown up
by other vehicles can, of course, wind up with expensive
cracked windshields or unsightly chipped paint, so the department
of road there warns driver with the "Flying Stones" sign.
Hydrogen Balloon Flight - On December 1st, 1783, the
first manned flight using a hydrogen balloon was made in
Paris by Professor Jacques Alexander Cesar Charles and Marie-Noel
Robert. (The flight came just a week after the first manned
hot air balloon flight, also from Paris). The initial part
of the flight went as high as 2000 feet (600m) with a distance
of 27 miles (43km). The balloon then landed and Robert got
out. Charles then took the balloon up to 8850 feet (2700m).
Shower - December brings us the Geminid Meteor Shower.
This year the best viewing will come on the evenings of
the 12th and 13th before the quarter moon rises. Watch for
the meteors as they radiate from the constellation Gemini.
The Geminids move slowly and are plentiful with a rate of
between 50 and 100 an hour.
Traps Found in Historic Home - Archaeologists have found
"demon traps" under the floorboards of a bedroom in one
of Britain's most historic houses, Knole. By tree ring dating,
scientists were able track the date the marks were made
to early 1606 during the reign of King James I. "King James
I had a keen interest in witchcraft and passed a witchcraft
law, making it an offense punishable by death and even wrote
a book on the topic entitled Daemonologie," said James Wright
of the Museum of London Archaeology, which is restoring
the house. It is believed the owner of the house, Thomas
Sackville, had the symbols carved into the floorboards and
around the fireplace when the room was constructed because
he expected the Kin g to use that bedroom during a visit.
The marks are in the shape of interlocking "V" which were
mean to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary toward
off evil and prevent demonic possession.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
First Man on the Moon - He risked his life for the nation
and became a world icon, but who was Neil Armstrong? On
PBS: December 3 at 9 pm. ET/PT
Making Stuff Wilder - Host David Pogue travels the globe
to explore new technologies inspired by nature. On PBS:
December 17 at 9 pm ET/PT
Gospels - Biblical Mysteries Explained examines the
lost books of the Bible. We'll travel from the desert of
Egypt to the labs of the Smithsonian Institution to uncover
the secrets of the banned gospels of Mary Magdalene, Peter
the Apostle, and Judas Iscariot. On the Science Channel:
Dec 4th. at 9:00 PM; Dec 6th at 12:00AM, ET/PT
Universe: Ancient Mysteries Solved Star of Bethlehem - What
was the astronomical reality behind the star that, according
to the Gospel of Matthew, guided the Magi to the young Jesus?
This episode examines almost 20 centuries of theories, including
meteors, novae, supernovae and comets...but is the truth
to be found in a combination of astronomy--and astrology?
Recent theories suggest that the "star" was the planet Jupiter
in a series of conjunctions with other planets, stars and
constellations, and that these conjunctions were interpreted
by the Magi--astrologers and priests of the Zoroastrian
religion--as heralding the birth of the Jewish Messiah.
On the History Channel: Sun December 7, 9:00 PM, ET/PT.
Men Hunting Nazi Submarines - Creative Arts is creating
a full-scale midget submarine, the WWII German Seehund,
for the Tampa Bay History Center. This life-sized sub will
help visitors understand the extreme conditions the Nazis
endured, both inside cramped quarters and above water at
war. It will also showcase the weaponry that threatened
America's Greatest Generation. This will be one of Creative
Art's most complicated builds to date as the team must figure
out how to best display the inside of the Seehund while
still maintaining the iconic submarine silhouette. The team
will also build a secret door bookcase for the VIP room
at Ciro's Speakeasy. Their design must match Ciro's unique
1920s ambiance, but also function smoothly as a door. On
the History Channel: Sat December 6, 10:00 PM, ET/PT.
- Albert Einstein's revolutionary theory that turned
the world upside down might have been dismissed but for
a math mistake, a cloudy sky, and the start of World War
I. This fascinating two-hour special tells the story of
Einstein's little-known, 15-year struggle to prove one of
his most radical theories -- a theory that upended Newton
and three centuries of scientific thought and called into
question the definitions of space and light and gravity
-- the game-changing concept known as the Theory of General
Relativity. Today, more than a century since the "Miracle
Year" in which he published many of his breakthrough papers,
Einstein's ideas remain a living, vibrant influence. They
continue to push scientists farther, and deeper, into the
universe than even he could have imagined. On the History
Channel: Wed December 10, 9:00 PM, ET/PT.
Zeep and Meep
will be going on a well deserved vacation. In their place
we will feature highlights from their past adventures.