Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Is New Exo-planet a Waterworld? - A team of international
astronomers has discovered what appears to be a planet made
almost entirely of liquid water, with perhaps a small rocky
core. The exo-planet, called GJ 1214b, was found by David
Charbonneau and colleagues at Harvard University along with
researchers in the US, Denmark, Switzerland and France.
It orbits a nearby "M dwarf" star that is much smaller than
our Sun. The planet is about 2.5 times the diameter of Earth
and about 6.5 times Earth's mass with a density almost exactly
that of water. It is much closer to its star than the sun
is to the Earth, with a much higher temperature. Despite
that high temperature, however, the water remains liquid
because of the higher gravity (and resulting pressure).
Scientists find the idea of a planet with liquid water very
interesting because they believe liquid water is a necessary
precursor for the development of life. The team is requesting
time on the Hubble Telescope to find out more details about
this new planet.
Revolutionary Paper Battery May Have Many Applications
- Experiments by Yi Cui and scientists at Stanford University
show that paper can be used as a cheap and effective option
for energy storage. The paper is coated with a mixture of
ink, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and silver nanowires
and then sealed. The result is material that could be used
as a rechargeable battery or supercapacitor. The material
retains its properties even if it is folded or rolled up
into a narrow tube, which will allow it to be applied to
a wide range of applications. "If I want to paint my wall
with a conducting energy-storage device, I can use a brush,"
Cui says. Scientists cite electric and hybrid cars as possible
More of the Dino Warm/Cold Blooded Debate -
The debate over whether dinosaurs were warm or cold blooded
has raged for years. Recently a study by Herman Pontzer
and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis has
added more fuel to the fire. The scientists used a combination
of computer modeling techniques and physiology to try and
predict the energy cost of dinosaur movement. Earlier research
by Pontzer's group discovered there was a strong correlation
between leg length and energy requirements in most animals:
A longer distance from the hip joint to the ground usually
means more energy will be required for movement and it will
be more likely the animal will be warm blooded. After studying
anatomical models of 14 dinosaurs, they determined dinosaurs
as a group would have used more energy than a cold-blooded
animal would've been capable of producing. This makes the
scientists believe that many dinosaurs were probably athletic,
Recently Found Fragments Open Questions about Shroud
of Turin - Fragments of a burial cloth from the time
of Jesus discovered in a Jerusalem cemetery known as Akeldama,
may cast doubt upon the authenticity of the famed Shroud
of Turin. The Shroud of Turin, thought by some to be the
burial cloth of Jesus, has been at the center of controversy
for decades. Radiocarbon-dating tests in 1988 indicated
that the fabric was of medieval origin dating to the 11th
or 12th century suggesting the relic was a fraud. The recently
found shroud fragments actually known to be from Akeldama
during the right period may be further evidence that the
Turin relic is a fake. The Shroud of Turin is a single linen
cloth with an intricate twill weave, while the recently
found fragments are made up of a simpler two-way weave constructed
in two pieces: one for the head and one for the body. If
the newly found artifacts can be shown to be typical construction
for burial cloths from this era, it makes it less likely
that the Turin Shroud actually originated from 1st century
HARPS Finds 32 Planets - An international team
announced last month that the High Accuracy Radial Velocity
Planet Searcher, or HARPS, installed at European Southern
Observatory in Chile has discovered thirty-two exoplanets
in the last five years. The device can detect slight wobbles
of stars as they respond to tugs from the exoplanets' gravity.
The instrument is so sensitive it can detect movements as
small as 2.1 mph, a slow walking pace. "HARPS is a unique,
extremely high precision instrument that [is] ideal for
discovering alien worlds," said Stephane Udry of Geneva
University. Currently there are 400 known exoplanets and
a HARPS instrument is responsible for discovering 70 of
them. The team says they are aware of many additional planets
found by the instrument, but the rest need additional observation
before they can be formally announced.
Science Quote of the Month - "Anybody
who has been seriously engaged is scientific work of any
kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the
temple of science are written the words: 'Ye must have faith.'"
- Max Planck
New at the Museum:
Close Encounter with Ball Lightning - I
write a lot about people who have encounters with anomalous
things, but rarely do I just stumble across someone in my
everyday life that tells me they encountered a rare electrical
phenomenon called ball lightning. >Full
Stars or Galaxies? - When I look up at
the night sky, how many of those stars are really stars
and how many are galaxies? - John
start with defining the difference between a star and a
galaxy, for those not familiar with these terms. A star
is a giant ball of hydrogen gas massive enough support a
fusion process that generates heat and light. Our local
example is the sun. There are also dimmer white and brown
dwarf stars and these are usually stars that have burned
off enough of their material that they can no longer really
galaxy is a group of stars bound together by their gravity.
A galaxy often takes the shape of a flattened, rotating
disc (left). The stars are pulled into arms that give the
galaxy the appearance of a whirlpool when viewed from above.
Not all galaxies have this shape. Scientists speculate that
galaxies with other shapes may be the result of a collision
between two galaxies. Galaxies typically are composed of
billions of stars. Scientists all speculate that most galaxies
may have a supermassive black hole at the very center.
On a good, dark
night if your vision is exceptional, you might be able to
spot some 2,500 stars in the sky with your unaided eyes.
However, only a handful of galaxies can be seen without
binoculars or a telescope. There is, of course our own galaxy
(the Milky Way) and if you live in the Southern hemisphere
you may be able to spot the large and small Magellanic Clouds.
In addition if you know where to look you might be able
to find the great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the Triangulum
Galaxy (M33) and the Centaurus A Galaxy (NGC5128).
That's at best
six compared to twenty-five hundred. And not all of those
galaxies can be seen from one location on the Earth.
That, of course,
doesn't mean there are not a lot of galaxies in the sky.
They are just mostly too dim to be seen without a telescope.
A related question
might be, are there more stars in own galaxy that galaxies
in the visible universe? Current estimates put the number
of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy at around 100 billion.
That's a lot, but it's only a drop in the bucket when compared
to the estimated number of visible galaxies: Over seven
And that's, only
those galaxies we can, in principal, see with our telescopes.
There may be trillions beyond the reach of our current equipment.
In fact, many astronomers suspect the universe, and the
number of galaxies, is infinite.
Cloud-like UFO? - On January 7th, 1970, two
men were out skiing in Finland when they noticed a mysterious,
glowing, red cloud that approached them. When it got within
fifty feet of them they realized it was a domed disc that
was generating smoke. The device hovered near them and in
the mist they could make out the image of what seemed to
be a three-foot tall hominoid figure on the ground beneath
the machine. This continued for about 20 seconds, and then
the red fog, the humanoid and the object suddenly disappeared.
There is no explanation for this strange sighting.
Quadrantid Meteor Shower - January brings us
the Quadrantid Meteor Shower which peaks overnight from
January 3 to 4. Look toward the north as soon as it gets
dark to see some "shooting stars" as they fall to Earth.
The Quadrantid meteor show is named for an extinct constellation
was in the region of Hercules, Bootes, and Draco.
Visit Italy on the Cheap - If you always wanted
to visit Pompeii, the Roman town preserved by when it was
buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., but
couldn't afford the plane ticket, try visiting Google Maps.
Google's Street View now gives virtual visitors 360-degree
panoramic street-level service though the ancient town.
Temples, Statues, amphitheaters, as well as close-up views
of houses, bakeries and baths are now available on the search
engine's free mapping service. Unlike other computerized
virtual tours of ancient sites, the Google's photographic
approach provides a realistic experience making the visitor
feel as if they were walking down the ancient byways along
with other tourists. Give it a try at
check local listing for area outside of North America.
NOVA: Killer Subs in Pearl Harbor - Dive
beneath the surface to discover an untold story of WWII.
January 5 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
Seven Wonders of Ancient Egypt - The ancient Egyptians showed the world how boundless ambition and vast
quantities of human labor could transform rock and stone
into the most incredible monuments ever created. Meet the
pharaohs, engineers and laborers who built the wonders of
Egypt. On The Science Channel: Jan 05, 6:00 pm ET/PT.
On The Science Channel:
The Day the Earth Nearly Died - The Permian mass extinction was the worst disaster ever to hit Earth.
It shattered ecological order and changed evolution forever.
Now, scientists shed new light on the mystery of the most
destructive event in the planet's history.
Jan 05, 7:00 pm; Jan 06, 2:00 am; ET/PT.
On The Science Channel
Dive to the Bottom of the World - The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has assembled a team
of experienced scientists and engineers to explore the 'Challenger
Deep' which lies in the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific.
At 35,000 feet, it is the deepest place on Earth.
: Jan 11, 8:00 pm Jan 11, 11:00 pm Jan 12, 4:00 pm Jan 13, 3:00 am; ET/PT.
On The Science Channel
The Death Star - For decades, scientists have been baffled as to the origins of extraordinarily
violent explosions that blast through the universe. Hypernovas,
the death of massive stars 20 times the size of the sun,
might be the key to one of creation's mysteries.
Jan 03, 8:00 pm; Jan 03, 11:00 pm; Jan 05, 3:00 am; ET/PT
On The Science Channel
Sci Fi Science: How to Build a Starship - Hurtling across the galaxy in a starship powered by anti-matter isn't
some sci fi writer's impossible dream, as Dr Michio Kaku
proves when he reveals his blueprints for a spacecraft that
can journey to the stars. Alpha Centaurii is nearer than
Jan 05, 10:00 pm;Jan 06, 1:00 am;Jan 07, 5:00 am ; ET/PT
Cosmic Collision - Right now, massive meteors and asteroids are orbiting dangerously close
to Earth. Some may even be poised to hit us in the foreseeable
future! Where are they? What type of damage will they cause?
What can we do stop an asteroid that's headed towards us?
On The Discovery Channel: Jan 10, 8:00 pm; Jan 10, 11:00
Earth 2100 - Easter Island, the Mayan ruins, and the abandoned pueblos of Chaco Canyon
all stand as haunting monuments to extinct civilizations.
Each of these societies collapsed because of man-made ecological
disasters. Each confronted choices chillingly similar to
the ones we face today. Are we living in the last century
of our civilization? Many of the world's top scientists
say yes, unless we quickly learn the lessons of the past.
This two-hour special examines the current path of our modern
world. Top U.S. Army, intelligence, and policymakers who
have modeled a scenario of the next century say that if
we continue on this trajectory, over the next hundred years
the "perfect storm" of population growth, resource depletion,
climate change, terrorism and disease will converge in an
unstable world with catastrophic results. What lessons of
the past must we heed to survive? On The History Channel:
Thursday, January 07 09:00 PM; Friday, January 08 01:00
AM; Saturday, January 09 05:00 PM ; ET/PT.
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Copyright Lee Krystek 2010. All Rights Reserved.