Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Giant Eagle Might Have Preyed on Humans - Researchers
have determined that Haast's eagle, which lived in the mountains
of New Zealand up to 500 years ago, was a predator that
occasionally might have eaten humans. The giant bird, which
weighed up to 40 pounds and could strike its prey at 50
miles per hour, primary ate large, flightless moa birds.
Scientists have argued whether the eagle was a predator
or scavenger. Using a CAT scan, the researchers examined
several skulls, a pelvis and a beak so they could reconstruct
the size of the bird's brain, eyes, ears and spinal cord
and compare them to modern predator and scavenger birds.
The data showed clearly that the eagle was an active predator.
"The science supports Maori mythology of the legendary pouakai
or hokioi, a huge bird that could swoop down on people in
the mountains and was capable of killing a small child,"
said Paul Scofield of the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand
and one of the authors of the study.
Eggshells Yield Ancient DNA - According to a
paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society, scientists have
successfully recovered DNA from fossilized eggshells from
Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar. Eggshells turn out
to be a good source of protected DNA because they are made
of calcium carbonate and an organic matrix which breaks
down very slowly and wards off decay protecting the contents.
Researchers have already collected DNA for the elephant
bird Aepyornis (the largest bird that ever lived) which
stood 10 feet tall and weighed close to 880 pounds. Earlier
attempts at collecting DNA using Aepyornis bone had failed.
Lead author Charlotte Oskam, a researcher at Murdoch University,
suspects eggs found in cold polar areas could lead to "DNA
of much greater antiquity." The recovered DNA could be used
to clone extinct animals, though Oskam herself is not interested
in such as applications for ethical reasons.
Leonardo Da Vinci's Giant Horse Statue Feasible
- A new study has shown that "Il Cavallo," the giant
horse statue that was a project of Leonardo Da Vinci that
was never completed, would actually have been successful.
The statue was commissioned in 1482 by Lodovico Sforza,
duke of Milan, in honor of his father. Engineers have argued
for years whether it would have been possible to cast the
70-ton bronze statue in one pouring as would have been needed.
"How would you handle such a large quantity of hot bronze,
and how would balance a huge structure weighing many tons
on three legs?" said Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Institute
and Museum of the History of Science and leader of the study.
Galluzzi team used Leonardo's notes and computational fluid
dynamics software to simulate the creation operation. According
to their calculations the 24-foot-high statue would have
only taken 165 seconds to pour. Despite 17 years planning
the work and the completion of a full-sized clay model,
Leonardo had to give up the project when the bronze needed
to make it was used for creating cannons for war against
France. "Now that our research has proved that Leonardo's
project was feasible, we are planning to finally cast his
horse right in the town where he wanted it to stand," Galluzzi
Scientists Put Macro Object in Superposition - Researchers
have completed a new experiment where they have been able
to put an object large enough to be visible to the naked
eye into quantum superposition. Superposition allows an
object to be in multiple places or states and the same time.
This is easily demonstrated at the microscopic level for
objects consisting of a small number of atoms. The scientists
at University of California, Santa Barbara, have now achieved
this with a mechanical resonator that is around a trillion
atoms in size and 40 µm in length (a human hair is about
100 µm thick). To get the experiment to work the scientists
had eliminate any heat exchange between the resonator and
the outside world that would destroy or mask the superposition
state. They did this by lowering its temperature to less
than one tenth of one degree above absolute zero. They were
then able to use a device called a superconducting quantum
bit to see the resonator both vibrating and not vibrating
at the same time similar to the cat which is both dead and
alive in Schrödinger's famous thought experiment. Scientists
hope that experiments like these will help to illuminate
the boundary between the quantum physics and classical physics
which is one of the least understood areas in science.
Queen's Tomb Found - French archaeologists have
found a burial chamber believed to be that of a 4,000-year-old
Egyptian queen. Scientists suspect that the badly damaged
chamber belonged to Queen Behenu, wife of either King Pepi
I or Pepi II of the Sixth Dynasty. Researchers discovered
the tomb as sand was being cleared from Behenu's pyramid
in South Saqqara, west of the pyramid of King Pepi I. Though
the mummy of the queen was destroyed and little remains
of the burial goods, the team did find intact hieroglyphics
engraved on the walls known as the "Pyramid Texts." Pyramid
Texts represent the oldest form of Egyptian religious writings
and are special prayers to protect the dead.
Science Quote of the Month - "Science
is facts; just as houses are made of stones, so is science
made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house and a
collection of facts is not necessarily science." -
Chupacabra Visions - Artists and writers
Jesus Riddle Morales, David Arshawsky and R.M. Hamilton
set out to produce some credible designs and stories based
on "Chupacabrids" tales from around the globe. The result,
an on-line book called "Chupacabra Visions" Illustrated
is an interactive venture that allows viewers to post their
comments beneath each page. According to Morales "It was
difficult merging designs from often very different and
abstract witness accounts of some of these odd beasts. However,
I was able to compile the first bestiary of the 12 most
notable Chupacabra's on the planet." The group hopes that
readers take some time to view the art and read the book,
which they feel whether readers think is credible or not
factually, will still be entertaining. http://darkriddle1.wetpaint.com/photos/album/153960/Chupacabra+Visions
New at the Museum:
from the Curator's Office: Ten Mysterious Places I'd
Like to Visit Before I Croak -
The curator tells us about ten anomalous places he'd like
to visit before it is too late. >Full
Nazca Lines Remix -
Check out our updated page on the mysterious Nazca lines
of Peru. Did the ancients use them as temples for human
Many Channels - Two Wires? - A cable
vision wire for a TV only has two wires in it. But it can
have over a hundred different signals(channels) coming through
it at the same time, even more if you count the sound and
picture as separate signals. How can all those different
signals come through at the same time? - John.
This is really
the same question for a number of similar problems: How
can we have get signals from multiple radio stations all
coming through the same airspace at the same time? How can
we have multiple video channels on a single fiber optic
cable? How can we hear different sounds at the same time
with our ears? The answer in every case is because the information
is coming at us as waves vibrating at different frequencies.
Let's take the
simple case of two musical instruments: A tuba and a piccolo.
A tuba produces long, waves of sound. We hear this as a
low pitch. Because the waves are far apart they reach us
less quickly than closer waves so we call this a low frequency
A piccolo produces
a high pitch which means it sends us shorter waves that
come at us more often giving us a higher frequency.
If we could see
these waves as they come to our ears we would see that they
appear not as separate waves, but as two sets of waves piled
on top of each other. However, our ears can easily separate
the sounds by wavelength so we tell the tuba apart from
In the case of
radio waves it is an electric field that carries the waves.
Different radio stations operate at different frequencies
and the electronics in the radio, like our ears do with
sound, separate them so the radio tune into just one station
while ignoring the other.
Now one caution
here: radio waves are slightly different than sound waves
because radio waves act as "carrier" waves that transport
the information on them by changing the height of the waves
(amplitude modulation or AM) or changing the frequency just
slightly higher or lower (frequency modulation or FM). Because
radio waves are used as carriers they transport all kinds
of information on top of them including music, cell phone
conversation, and video. Much of the information carried
is now coded digitally on top of the signal, such as in
the case of HDTV.
information that is carried, at the bottom level it is still
the fact that the waves are transmitted and received at
different frequencies that allow them to be separated.
This is also
the case with cable TV. The waves are transmitted through
wires by electricity, but are very similar to the radio
waves that move through the air. Your cable box sorts out
the channels by frequency so you can then select one to
appear on your TV.
In many places
the older cable systems that depended on wire and electricity
are now being replaced with fiber optic lines that carry
light. What's the advantage? Well, light signals operate
at higher frequencies than radio signals. This means more
information can be carried on a fiber optic line allowing
for more video channels.
Crash at Aurora - On April 19th of 1897 the
Dallas Morning News reported that an airship had crashed
in the small, northern Texas town of Aurora. There was only
one person on board, supposedly a Martian, who was buried
in the local cemetery. Though the article was eventually
attributed to a case of hoax journalism, it caught the interested
of UFO researchers in the 1960's and 70's who wanted to
exhume the non-existent body.
Lyrid Meteor Shower - Check out the Lyrid meteor
shower this month. It starts on April 19 and runs through
24, but the peak of activity is on April 22 when you may
see as many as 12 meteors per hour. All meteor showers are
the result of Earth crossing the path of a comet that leaves
tiny particles in its trail. This shower no exception and
the responsible party is Comet Thatcher discovered by A.
E. Thatcher in 1861. The meteors will appear to come from
the constellation Libra, so be looking in that direction.
Best viewing will be early in the morning after the moon
New Smithsonian Exhibit Draws Protestors - You
might expect that the new Smithsonian National Museum of
Natural History's state-of-the-art, $20.7 million, "Hall
of Human Origins," exhibit might draw a crowd of creationist
protestors on it's opening day, but it didn't. Instead a
group of Greenpeace's activists with signs showed up. What
does Greenpeace have against the "Human Origins? Well the
exhibit was co-funded by oil billionaire David Koch who
opposes regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, something that
Greenpeace supports. Greenpeace's Kert Davies admitted that
the group bore no ill-will toward the museum itself. "We
are not opposed to the Smithsonian," Davies says. "I hear
the exhibit is fantastic."
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: Hunting the Edge of Space - How
telescopes have expanded our view of the universe. On PBS:
Hour 1: The Mystery of the Milky Way; April 6 at 8 pm; Hour
2: The Ever-Expanding Universe, April 13 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
On The Discovery Channel:
Life: Creatures of the Deep - Deep-sea marine invertebrates are extraordinarily diverse. In this episode,
Humboldt squid change color like flashing neon signs and
attack a school of fish, while vast numbers of giant spider
crabs emerge and congregate in the shallows to molt.
Apr 04, 9:00 pm; Apr 05, 12:00 am; Apr 05, 12:00 am; Apr 11, 7:00 pm;
On The Science Channel
Sci Fi Science: How to Blow Up a Planet - The crosshairs are lined up, a death ray is fired and a planet is vaporized.
Sci fi fantasy? Not according to Dr Michio Kaku, who draws
up blueprints to show how a real death star might work.
The technology could be here sooner than you think!
: Apr 04, 4:00 pm; ET/PT.
On The Science Channel
Can We Make a Star on Earth? - Three minutes after the Big Bang, something remarkable happened. A phenomenon
emerged that would go on to forge all matter in the universe;
a kind of nuclear reaction that millions of years later
would light the up first stars...Nuclear Fusion.
Apr 04, 9:00 pm; Apr 05, 12:00 am; Apr 06, 4:00 am; ET/PT
On The Science Channel
The Next Megaquake - Earthquake preparation has become a normal part of life for West Coast
residents. But scientists believe a quake far stronger than
ever before may be on the way. The "megathrust" quake could
unleash volcano eruptions, landslides and tsunamis.
Apr 11, 8:00 pm; Apr 11, 11:00 pm; ET/PT
On The Science Channel
Neanderthal: The Rebirth - Ever since the first Neanderthal bones were found, they have posed fundamental
questions for scientists. Were these beings almost identical
to us, or were they crude and primitive creatures, an evolutionary
Apr 05, 10:00 pm; Apr 06, 1:00 am; Apr 07, 5:00 am; ET/PT
Nazi Secret Weapons - Just prior to the end of WWII, the German military secretly undertook
a massive push to design miracle weapons - colossal tanks,
the world's first guided missiles and long-range bombers
that could attack New York. On The National Geographic Channel:
April 1st., 9:00 PM; ET/PT.
Making the New Earth - Using photorealistic CGI visualizations, we'll make a science fiction
dream of Mars -- a world of trees, rivers and blue skies
-- a plausible future. On The
Channel: April 5th, 8:00 PM; ET/PT.
Hitler's Hidden City - Go deep beneath Berlin to explore a vast network of nearly 25 miles
of secret tunnels built by Adolf Hitler sealed since World
War II. Direct evidence for Hitler's architectural dream
of Germania remains today. On The
Channel: April 8th 7:00 PM; ET/PT.
Explorer: Easter Island Underworld - A team of National Geographic explorers undertakes a groundbreaking
expedition: to map a vast cave system that became the last
refuge of the people who carved these iconic statues. On
Channel: April 18th 7:00 PM ; ET/PT.
The Real Face of Jesus? - As the Shroud of Turin is put on public display for the first time in
10 years, new data reveals more than just a flat image embedded
in the ancient cloth, but an astonishing, three-dimensional,
sculpture-like figure. Using the principles of physics,
cutting-edge digital technology, and the revolutionary CGI
process pioneered in Stealing Lincoln's Body, HISTORY brings
that image to life, unveiling the most accurate representation
ever seen of what many believe to be Jesus Christ. On The
Channel: Apr 3, 8:00 PM ; ET/PT.
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