Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Giant Eye Identified - Experts have determined that
a huge eyeball found by a Florida beachcomber belongs not
to a giant squid, but a swordfish. The finder of the softball-sized
eyeball reported it to police and it was taken to the state
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for identification.
Experts believe that because of its size, color and structure,
the eyeball is from a swordfish that was hooked by a fisherman
off the coast. Angular cuts around the eyeball suggest it
was removed by a sharp knife, then probably thrown overboard
washing up on the sands at Pompano Beach, Florida. Swordfish,
which can grow up to a half-ton in size, are regularly found
off the coast of Florida this time of year.
Sound Barrier Broken Again - Famed Pilot Chuck
Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier in level
flight on October 14, 1947, repeated his performance in
an F-15 on the 65th anniversary of this historic event.
Yeager, 89, riding in the back seat, took the controls from
the pilot over the Mojave Desert to follow the same course
he had more than six decades ago, flying at a speed of Mach
1.3. "We had to keep it below Mach 1.4. If you want to go
Mach 2, you start breaking glasses and cracking roofs,"
he laughed. Yeager then buzzed the control tower, at Nellis
AFB. Yeager's original record breaking flight used an experimental
rocket-propelled Bell X1 aircraft dropped from a B-29 bomber
at an altitude of 45,000 feet.
Scientists Working on Star-Trek-Like Engine -
University of Alabama-Huntsville engineers working with
NASA, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are trying to
build an "Impulse Engine" to drive a ship through space
at unprecedented speeds. The terminology sounds like something
out of the iconic series Star Trek, but the engine is real
and will use fusion to generate the necessary power. "Star
Trek fans love it, especially when we call the concept an
impulse drive, which is what it is," laughed Ross Cortez,
a Ph.D. candidate on the team. Even more strangely the fuel
used by the engine is deuterium and Li6 (an isotope of the
metal lithium) in a crystal structure which the scientists
have named dilithium crystals just like the critical
engine component of the fictional starship Enterprise. The
design calls for a powerful magnetic field to squeeze the
dilithium until the atoms fuse, releasing the energy needed
to drive the ship forward. Though there are still many technical
problems to solve before the fusion impulse engine becomes
practical, researchers hope that it might be able to power
a spaceship from Earth to Mars in just three months in 2030,
when the two planets are only 51.4 million miles apart.
Planet Found with Four Suns - A pair of "citizen
scientists" participating in the Yale-lead Planets Hunters
program have discovered a new exo-planet. It is the first
planet identified through the "crowd sourced" program that
makes data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft available to the
public. The planet wasn't just an ordinary one, either,
but the first one found to have four suns. The planet, designated
PH1, is thought to be a gas giant about the size of Neptune
that orbits a pair stars once every 137 days. In turn the
planet and the two central suns are orbited by another pair
of stars. Kian Jek and Robert Gagliano, who discovered the
planet lurking in the Kepler data, are amateur astronomers.
Marine Reptile had "Teeth that Would Make a T. Rex Whimper"
- A new giant, marine reptile from the Jurassic-era
ocean has been identified by scientists. Named Pliosaurus
funkei, the creature was 40 feet (12 meters) in length
and had a huge 6.5-foot-long (2 m) skull. It lived about
145 million years ago. Though remains of the creature were
first found in Svalbard, Norway in 2006, it took a number
of years of painstaking analysis to confirm that it was
a previously unknown species. Scientists estimate that this
fearsome predator had a bite about four times as powerful
as Tyrannosaurus rex. "They were the top predators
of the sea," said Patrick Druckenmiller, a paleontologist
at the University of Alaska Museum. "They had teeth that
would have made a T. rex whimper."
Science Quote of the Month - "It
is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard
a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him
young." ~ Konrad Lorenz
New at the Museum:
Flawed Beauty - In 1990 an international team of
engineers, mathematicians, and historians met on the Azores
Islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Their task
was to figure out how to save an 800-year-old historic building
that was close to collapsing. The structure was then tilted
by 5.5 degrees to one side. If something wasn't done soon,
the world famous Leaning Tower of Pisa would come crashing
to the ground. >Full
Mysterious Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Germ or Virus? - Is there a difference
between a germ and a virus? - John
If we use the
dictionary the pertinent definition for the word "germ"
is "microorganism" (Especially a microorganism that causes
illness). A microorganism is a microscopic, living organism
often composed of one or just a few cells. Bacteria like
Vibrio cholera, which causes Cholera would fall into
this category. Also a fungus like Trichophyton rubrum,
which causes athletes foot would also quality, as would
a protozoa like the Entamoeba histolytica amoeba
which causes a type of dysentery.
Cleary a virus
is not exactly the same thing as germ which includes all
these other types of organisms. However, you could argue
that a virus, like a bacteria, or a protozoa is a type
So should a virus
be considered a germ? There are certainly microscopic and
many varieties of them can make us sick. But does a virus
qualify as a microscopic living organism? Well, the problem
is that not all scientists can agree that viruses are actually
alive. Generally for something to be living in scientific
terms it needs to have seven different properties. One of
the most important of these properties is the ability to
reproduce. All the microorganisms we named above, bacteria,
fungus, protozoa (and a few we didn't list) can reproduce
themselves. A virus can certainly reproduce too, but only
by invading the body of a living host cell and stealing
the use of its reproduction machinery.
For this reason
the scientific community has gone back and forth on this
issue whether viruses are alive for many years. Some scientists
make the case for viruses being living things, others argue
that they are not.
In the 19th
century when viruses where first identified by scientists
they figured that they must be the most diminutive members
of the family of life. They clearly seemed to act like bacteria,
but they were just much, much smaller.
It wasn't until
1935 that a researcher named Wendell M. Stanley was able
to crystallize the tobacco mosaic virus and take a close
look at it. Stanley realized that though the virus contained
complex biochemicals it couldn't carry out the normal metabolic
functions that most living organisms did. Since metabolism
(which is the chemical reactions necessary to sustain life)
is one of the seven qualities of a living organism, Stanley
made the case the viruses were simply inert chemicals.
Not all scientists
are comfortable with this however, and argue that viruses
really span the region between the living and the non-living.
Alone they are just packages of inert chemicals. When they
enter a cell, however, suddenly they take on many of the
characteristics of a living organism. A few researchers
like to compare virus to vampires: like the legendary nosferatu
viruses are dead, unless they use living cells and drain
them of their energy.
So is a virus
a germ? The truth is you can make the case that it is or
it not depending on your whether you think viruses are alive.
Have a question?
Click here to send it to us.
The Horror of the Heights - In the November
1913 issue of the magazine The Strand, famed author Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle penned a fictional story entitled The
Horror of the Heights. In the story creatures that lived
in the upper atmosphere attacked and killed pilots. The
story expresses in fictional terms one of the early theories
about UFOs: that they were creatures living in the sky.
Though it is no longer considered a likely possibility,
Conan Doyle's story reminds us of some of mankind early
attempts to explain these mysterious "flying saucer" sightings.
Leonid Meteor Shower - Between midnight and dawn
on Saturday, November 17, should be the best time to view
the Leonid meteor shower. The moon will set just after sunrise
that night leaving dark skies that should make for good
viewing. The shower is named after the constellation Leo
the Lion where the shooting stars appear to come from.
Italian Scientists Get Jail for Failing to Predict
Earthquake - Six scientists were sentenced six years
in jail after they failed to predict an earthquake that
flattened the Italian town of L'Aquila. The group was also
fined $12 million. The 6.3 earthquake that occurred in 2009
killed 309 people and left 40,000 homeless. Only six days
before the group of scientists had announced that the tremors
that were shaking the town were probably decreasing the
chances of a devastating quake as they were relieving stress
in the earth's crust. Supporters of the scientists point
out that earthquake prediction is not an exact science and
the verdict is likely to discourage other scientists from
sharing their expertise to the determent of the public.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: Mystery of Easter Island - A team of scientists and volunteers test a theory on how the ancient
stone statues were moved, using a 15-ton replica. On
PBS: November 7, 2012 at 9 pm; ET/PT.
Nova: Ultimate Mars Challenge - In its search for life beyond Earth, NASA employs a "sky crane" maneuver
to land the Curiosity rover on Mars. November
14, 2012 at 9 pm; ET/PT.
America's Doomsday Plan - On Doomsday, what will the U.S. do to safeguard the President, the military
and government officials? America's Doomsday Plan goes behind
the scenes to reveal the secret plans and facilities standing
by, 24/7, to ensure the homeland survives disaster.
Nov 04, 10:00 pm; Nov 05, 1:00
Code, Broken Genius
The story of the last eighteen months of the life of Alan Turing, the
father of the modern computer, whose brilliance at breaking
Nazi codes saved thousands of British lives and made him
a hero, until his own people turned their backs on him.
Nov 09, 9:00 pm; Nov
10, 12:00 am; Nov 11, 4:00 am;
A Place Like Home?
Titan, Saturn's moon, along with Earth, Mars and Venus is one of only
four astral bodies in the Solar System to have an atmosphere.
Titan's is very similar to that of Earth 4 billion yrs.
ago as life began. Could Titan hold the key to the origins
of Life? On The
Nov 07, 8:00 pm; Nov
07, 11:00 pm; Nov 09, 3:00 am;
Book Of Secrets: The White House
An inside look at the secret protocols, elite security and hidden history
of the world's most public of private residences. What is
the most secret room in the White House and what makes it
so powerful? What secret visitors have been to the White
House--invited or not? What kind of background checks are
needed to work at the White House? What security measures
go into effect if the White House is under attack? For over
200 years, the White House has functioned as a Presidential
residence, Executive Office and national command center.
But more guarded than the White House itself--are its secrets.
Secrets that have remained untold...until now. On The
Nov. 11 11:00 pm;
It's the most famous military installation in the world, yet it doesn't
officially exist. Area 51-- a site for covert Cold War operations--
has long been a magnet for crackpots, conspiracy theorists,
and the overly curious. While there may not be truth to
the rumors that Area 51 is a haven for UFO's and extraterrestrials,
it's clear that our government has been up to something
in Area 51 for decades, and it turns out there is a kernel
of truth to even some of the wildest speculation. Underground
tunnels? Hidden enemy aircraft? Secret government UFO files?
Now, after years of silence, for the first time Area 51
insiders spill their secrets and reveal what's really been
going on inside the most secretive place on earth. On The
Nov. 18 8PM;
As Felix Baumgartner broke the world record for a free fall jump from
higher than 120,000 feet in space—becoming the first person
to free fall while breaking the sound barrier—the National
Geographic Channel and BBC detailed every second with more
than 20 cameras. The footage will be combined with exclusive
behind-the-scenes access following Baumgartner's four-year
metamorphosis from an elite BASE jumper to an extreme altitude
specialist who can think and act like an an astronaut. On
Nov. 11 7PM;
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Copyright Lee Krystek 2012. All Rights Reserved.