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The times would soon be a changin' for the dinosaurs. Cold weather ahead.(Copyright Lee Krystek)

 

Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

February 2017

In the News:

Dinosaur Asteroid Chilled Earth More than Previously Thought - A new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters suggests that the environment disasters following the asteroid impact that is thought to have killed the dinosaurs was longer lasting than first thought. Using a sophisticated computer model, scientists with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PKI) believe that droplets of sulfuric acid forming high in the air after the impact absorbed sunlight a cooled the earth causing sub-freezing temperatures three to 16 years. It may have taken the environment as long as 30 years to recover. The dinosaurs needing more temperate temperatures to thrive, died. "The long-term cooling caused by the sulfate aerosols was much more important for the mass extinction than the dust that stays in the atmosphere for only a relatively short time," said author Georg Feulner. "It was also more important than local events like the extreme heat close to the impact, wildfires or tsunamis." The team thinks that the environmental change also led to massive algae blooms that could have created toxic substances that poisoned life along the coastlines.

Vampire Bat Wants to Drink Your Blood - Scientists were surprised to find that D. ecaudata, a blood drinking, vampire bat from South and Central America, drinks human blood. It was thought that the animals only preyed on birds until the team checked their feces and found the presence of human blood. D. ecaudata is just one of three species that live on blood and was thought to have the most restricted range of prey, but it appears that the vampires have put humans on the menu. This is a concern as the animals can transmit rabies. "The record of humans as prey and the absence of blood from native species may reflect a low availability of wild birds in the study site, reinforcing the impact of human activities on local ecological processes," the scientists noted in the article in the journal Acta Chiropterologica.

Drug May Eliminate Drilling and Filling - Don't like going to the dentist? You may find that the process will require less drilling and filling if a new drug finds its way into offices in the next few years. Researchers have found that a new drug, originally developed to treat Alzheimer's disease, stimulates the body to fill in cavities by itself. It consists of biodegradable sponges packed with stem cells and a matrix of materials that is inserted into a crack or cavity in the tooth. The stem cells then change the matrix into dentin, the calcified material that forms the center of the tooth around the pulp. At the same time the sponge dissolves away. The beauty of this idea is that the drug is already approved for clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease, which should speed the adoption of the therapy for teeth.

Fake News that Looks Real to the Eyes and Ears - The problem with fake new that impacted the last presidential election maybe even worse in the future. German and American researchers have created a technology that can take the expressions and mouth movements from an actor and impose them over a video clip of another person. The source actor stands in front of a standard web cam that tracks his facial movements and the software manipulates the target video. The result is both real-time and photo realistic. This, coupled with new software that can read a voice and manipulate it to make the person say whatever the program operator wishes, opens the door for some extremely serious abuse. Check out these technologies at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmajJTcpNk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3l4XLZ59iw

Megalodon Went Extinct When Its Prey Did? - The Megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived, went extinct about two and a half million years ago, and now scientists think they know why. A study published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology shows that the 50 foot plus shark was a big fan of the baleen whale Piscobalaena nana and the early seal Piscophoca pacifica. They made up a large part of the super shark's diet. The researcher dug up bones of these animals (each growing as long as 16 feet in length) that had clearly been attacked by Megalodon at an excavation near Aguada de Lomas in southern Peru. The scientists think that as these animals died out at the end of the Pliocene Epoch, their deaths have helped drive the Megalodon into extinction.

 

Science Quote of the Month - "It is strange that only extraordinary men make the discoveries, which later appear so easy and simple." - Georg C. Lichtenberg

 

What's New at the Museum:

The Mandela Effect - Is this a serious scientific enigma, or just another internet conspiracy theory? - Full Story

Mysterious Picture of the Month - What is this this?

Ask the Curator:

Bones of the Minotaur - Was there actually a minotaur under the Knossos' temple, and if so could we find bones? - Sean

The story of the Minotaur comes from Greek mythology. In the story the King of Crete, Minos, by tradition sacrifices his best bull to the sea god, Poseidon, each year. Then one year the god sent him a perfectly white bull to use in the sacrifice. Minos is so taken by the bull he decides to keep it and sacrifice a lessor animal.

This displeases Poseidon and he causes the king's wife, PasiphaŽ, to fall in love with the bull. She develops complex plot (involving a hollow, fake cow) to mate with the bull. Nine months later she gives birth to a horrible man/bull hybrid monster which is named the Minotaur.

The word, Minotaur, is actually a proper name, by the way, meaning "bull of Minos." It has been more recently been used, however, as the designation of class of bull/man creatures found in fantasy stories and games.

The Minotaur turns out to be a powerful and angry creature with a taste for human flesh. He is traditionally depicted as a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. Minos builds a maze (called the Labyrinth) for him under his palace where he is confined. At the time of the story the city of Athens is under the control of Crete and is forced to send as tribute every year (or every seven years depending on the version of the story) seven young men and seven maidens to be sent into the maze to be consumed by the monster.

The King of Athens son, Theseus, volunteers to be in the group. He enters the Labyrinth and slays the beast with the help of Minos' daughter, who has fallen in love with him.

So is there some basis for this myth? Was there really a Minotaur? For that matter, was there even a Labyrinth?

If you discount the supernatural, it seems unlikely that the union of a bull and a woman would result in the birth of a living creature. Certainly animal hybrids exist (For example, the half lion, half tiger, liger). However, most scientists agree that humans and cattle would be too far apart on the genetic scale to make this combination work. (For some insight on this check our page on the likelihood of a human/chimp hybrid).

Could the Minotaur been a man that was born deformed with bull-like features? Or perhaps a man who was simply physically powerful with a raging temper? These seem like more realistic possibilities.

If we accept that, can we find his remains in the Labyrinth? Well, that's another problem. Nobody can say for sure where the Labyrinth was. The explorer Arthur Evans excavated the ruins at Knossos. He didn't find an underground maze underneath and came to the conclusion that the Knossos palace itself, with is many complex rooms and passageways, was the inspiration for the Labyrinth. If this is that case, however, it would seem to make the story of the Minotaur simply a legend.

Other people argue, however, that a site some 20 miles from the palace, called the Gortyn caves on the coast of Crete is the site of the ancient Labyrinth. The caves are about three miles of interlocking tunnels with different chambers and dead ends. The caves have been explored and used for many years now (the Nazi's utilized it as an ammo dump during World War II) but no remains of the Minotaur have ever been found. However, if you wanted to look for creature like that, the caves might be the logical place.

Have a question? Click here to send it to us.

In History:

First Soft Moon Landing - On February 3rd, 1966, the Soviet Union managed to make a safe landing on the moon with an unmanned probe named Luna 9. The probe, which touched down in the Ocean of Storms, was the first to make a soft landing on any celestial body. The probe ejected a 250-lb capsule which took pictures of the lunar surface and sent them back to Earth till its power ran out on February 6th.

 

In the Sky:

Ring of Fire in the Sky - If you are living along a narrow path in the Southern Hemisphere you may get to see a "ring of fire" solar eclipse on February 26th. This phenomenon is also known as an annular solar eclipse and is caused by the moon passing in front of the sun, but not covering the entire disc of the sun as with a total eclipse. The result is a bright ring around the shadow of the moon. The path starts in the Pacific Ocean, crosses over South America, and ends in Africa.

 

Observed:

CIA UFO Reports - The CIA released millions of pages of previously confidential documents last month including some historical UFO sightings. The Central Intelligence Reading Room allows users to query on any subject and putting "UFO" gives you 1738 items to check including a report from August the 3rd, 1966, which details an "unusual phenomenon" on the border between Iran and the USSR. "We suddenly observed a brilliant white sphere approximating the coloration and intensity of [a] full bright moon. The sphere appeared suddenly and at the first sighting was approximately three times the size of a full moon," says the report. To try it yourself go to https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/

LGM:

Zeep and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place we feature highlights from their past adventures.

Science over the Edge Archives

LGM Archive 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

Copyright Lee Krystek 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

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