Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Pass by Asteroid - On May 31st an asteroid known as
1998 QE2 zipped past Earth without causing a problem. Although
the asteroid was fairly far away from our planet (3.6 million
miles or 15 times the distance of the moon) it was significant
because of the object's large size: 1.7 miles wide. It would
cause a global catastrophe if it smashed into our planet
that might be comparable to the crash that wiped out the
dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The giant space rock was
also unusual in that it had its own moon. This 2,000 foot-wide
chunk of rock by itself alone could easily take out a city
if it hit Earth. NASA tracked the pair using radar as a
part of its Near Earth Object Project to identify potentially
dangerous asteroids that swing by our planet.
Mammoth a Bit Closer - There is a new chapter in the
never-ending saga of scientists trying to clone a wooly
mammoth. Researchers from the Northeast Federal University
in Yakutsk have found the remains of a 10,000-year-old female
mammoth buried in ice on the Lyakhovsky Islands, off the
coast of Russia. The find is significant because the animal
still has some liquid blood. "The blood is very dark, it
was found in ice cavities below the belly and when we broke
these cavities with a poll pick, the blood came running
out," said Semyon Grigoriev, the head of the expedition
and of the university's Mammoth Museum. "Interestingly,
the temperature at the time of excavation was -7 to -10║C.
It may be assumed that the blood of mammoths had some cryoprotective
properties." He went on to call the find "the best preserved
mammoth in the history of paleontology." The blood will
help in the university's joint project with South Korean
scientists who are hoping to clone a woolly mammoth. The
creatures have been extinct for around 10,000 years.
Reveal Earhart's Plane? - The International Group for
Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has published an image
which they think maybe the remains of Amelia Earhart's plane.
Earhart disappeared in 1937 over the Pacific while trying
to fly around the world. TIGHAR has long suspected that
Earhart and her navigator were forced down on Nikumaroro
Island and then the plane was swept out to sea. Expeditions
to the island have found some tantalizing clues, but no
proof of this story. The sonar image was recorded by search
teams scanning the ocean floor nearly a year ago near the
island. TIGHAR stated in its news release, "It's the right
size, it's the right shape and it's in the right place."
The object appears to be 32 feet in length and Earhart's
Lockheed Electra was 38 feet long. The group admits that
the object, however, could be many other things including
a submerged ridge. It will require another expedition out
the Nikumaroro to find out.
Mayan Capital Found - Archaeologists have discovered
a lost Mayan city deep in the Mexican jungle of the southeastern
state of Campeche. The city named Chact˙n, meaning "Red
Stone" or "Great Stone," covers more than 54 acres and is
likely to have been the seat of government in the region
between 600 and 900 A.D.. Archaeologists had to cut a path
to the ruins through the thick jungle after finding the
site using aerial photography. At the remote location they
discovered a number of buildings, plazas and pyramidal structures.
The largest pyramid rose to more than 75 feet. "We realized,
with big surprise, that the site was even larger than we
had expected. What impressed us most were the volumes of
the buildings - they are not extremely high, but very massive,"
stated archaeologist Ivan Sprajc .
Found Deep Under the Sea Bottom - "Life finds a way,"
is a famous line from the film Jurassic Park. While
it might be true of the fictional dinosaurs in that movie,
it is certainly true of certain bacteria buried two and
half football fields deep under the ocean bottom off the
coast of Peru. Scientists drilling below the seafloor have
found an active, mysterious ecosystem 521 feet (129 m) under
ocean sediment. The inhabitants include bacteria, fungi
and other microorganisms living in the five-million-year-old
seabed. "We knew that all of these cells were buried, but
we didn't know if they were doing anything," said co-author
Jennifer Biddle, assistant professor of marine biosciences
at the University of Delaware. The microbes eat both sulfur
and nitrogen containing chemicals, as well as the dead bodies
of other microorganism buried in what is known as the deep
biosphere. "By the time you get 100 meters down, the bacteria
are eating the leftovers of the leftovers of the leftovers
of the leftovers - and they are still yummy for bacteria,"
Quote of the Month - Science
is what you know. Philosophy is what you don't know. - Bertrand
New at the Museum:
Flight of the Norge (Part II) - In May of 1926 a
group of sixteen fearless adventurers boarded a small dirigible
to fly over the North Pole. The group successfully crossed
the pole, but on the way to Alaska found themselves taken
off course by the taunting vision mountains on the horizon.
After changing course to investigate these hills, the mysterious
mountains suddenly disappeared - just a trick of the air.
Could the Norge find its way back on course safely?
- Full Story
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Egyptian Lights - I have seen and heard many
crackpot ideas about Egypt and the most absurd to me is
the assertion that they had and used electric lighting.
Yes, I know about the Bagdad Batteries but I already know
they don't have enough power to light a modern LED, much
less a normal incandescent lamp. My question is this...
Is there anything found among ancient ruins confirms that
they had access to electricity OTHER than the batteries?
look at ancients pictures or reliefs and see something that
looks very modern. People have seen rockets, spacesuits
and airplanes in art work thousands of years old. The problem
is, of course, that just because an object looks familiar
to our modern eyes, doesn't mean that that our interpretation
is what the ancients' had in mind when the created the artwork.
the case of electric lights in Egypt two Austrian proponents
of the idea, Reinhard Habeck and Peter Krasa, wrote a whole
book about their theories called, Lights of the Pharaohs
based on some odd looking reliefs. (Unfortunately it appears
that it is no longer in print and can't be found on Amazon).
The most significant of these are found at temple of Hathor
at Dendera, which is about ten miles north of the ruins
at Luxor. The relief shows what appears to be a huge bulb
(over six feet long when compared with the associated human
figures) mounted sideways. Something that vaguely resembles
a squiggly filament runs through the bulb. At the base of
the supposed bulb is what might be interpreted as a cord
that connects that "light" to a box, which is apparently
the source of the power.
have built what they consider to be replicas of what the
relief shows and have actually gotten them to work as electric
lights. But is there any evidence beyond this artwork, which
could be interpreted in several different ways, that what
was being depicted was actually a giant light bulb?
Habeck and Krasa
argue that one of the reasons that no soot from candles
or oil lamps are found in Egyptian tombs, even though it
must have taken many hours of work in the dark rooms to
create the decorations there, is that the Egyptians used
electric lights to illuminate these areas (a competing theory
is that they used sunlight reflected into the tomb by a
system of mirrors).
However, if you
have electric lights, as point out, you need a power source.
Nobody digging in Egypt has ever found anything resembling
an electric generator. No artwork shows the details of such
a generator and no writing supports information about using
or building any kind of generator, either. So we are left
with the concept of batteries.
As you mention
many of those supporting that idea of ancient lights in
Egypt point to existence of the so-called "Baghdad
Batteries." There is much conflicting opinion on whether
these objects found in Iraq actually are batteries or simply
jars. People have built reconstructions of them and actually
gotten them to produce low voltages. Most of the people
that conjecture that the "Baghdad Batteries" were actually
used to create electricity, however, think that they were
used in the process of galvanizing metals an activity which
only requires a very low voltage. One of these batteries
by themselves doesn't nearly produce enough electricity
to power a six foot long lamp (in fact they don't really
produce enough electricity to power a standard flashlight
Yes, you could
make bigger batteries, or hook a bunch together to get more
power, but that causes other problems. Frank D÷rnenburg,
who did some experimentation with such a battery, estimated
you might need around 40 of these batteries (with a weight
of nearly 200 pounds) to produce enough wattage to run a
Also after about
8 hours these primitive batteries will run out of power
and have to be replaced. This also causes additional problems.
In this simple battery design like this iron is a required
component. Iron, however, was extremely rare in Egypt. It
would need to be imported. There is no indication in any
of the ancient Egyptian records of large amounts of iron
being transported into the country to make hundreds of batteries.
Nor has anybody found the remains of the hundreds of thousands
of old batteries that would have accumulated from a single
The truth is
that Egyptians really didn't need the headache of making
all these batteries to produce a little light. They had
a simple lamp (a wick floating in olive oil) that was easy
to build. Why don't we see soot in the tombs? Well, first
of all olive oil burned in the lamps produces very little
soot. Secondly, the tombs are not actually soot free. In
many tombs soot on the ceiling can be seen. If not from
the Egyptians' lamps, then from the candles and torches
of the many people who visited the tombs during the centuries
before the electric light became common in the modern world.
So what do the
reliefs at Dendera actually show? Most archeologists think
they are a lotus flower, spawning a snake inside, which
represents certain aspects of Egyptian mythology. Their
argument is supported by a close look the object inside
the bulb that Habeck and Krasa claim is a filament. It has
eyes and a mouth. Something a snake has, but a filament
What's more while
no Egyptian writings have been found that support the idea
of giant light bulbs, batteries or generators, we do have
records from the Valley of the Kings that show how many
wicks and how much oil were issued to workers for their
lamps during construction.
So, as many people
argue that the ancient Egypt used the electric light, the
proof is just not there.
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Boom - On July 3rd, 1969, one of the largest human made,
non-nuclear explosions occurred in the Soviet Union when
a N-1 heavy lift rocket exploded 23 seconds after launch.
The N-1 was being tested as part of a secret Russian lunar
landing program. The rocket failed when a loose bolt was
sucked into an oxygen pump, which blew the pump apart causing
the missile engines to shut down. The rocket fell to the
ground and exploded with almost completely full fuel tanks.
It is estimated the explosion was equal to that of an atomic
bomb 3 to 7 kilotons in size. It destroyed both the rocket
and the launch complex. This test was one of four conducted
with the Soviet moon rocket. All of them were failures and
the program was secretly scrapped.
Out Saturn - This is probably a good month to take a
close look at the planet Saturn. It is the most visible
member of the local planetary club in the night sky this
month as all the other planets are only visible as early
morning or early evening objects. If you have a small telescope
you may be able to pick out Saturn's famous rings. The rings
are composed of individual particles, that range in size
from micrometers to meters. They are composed mostly of
ice with a bit of rock. The first person to notice the rings
was Galileo Galilei in 1610.
Shutdown UFO Investigations Because They had "No Defense
Purpose." - The UK Ministry of Defense closed down its
UFO desk because it served "no defense purpose" and was
taking staff away from "more valuable defense-related activities"
according to recently released files. The desk was closed
in December 2009 despite an increase in the number of reported
sightings during that period. In a document dated November
2009, Carl Mantell of the RAF's Air Command, recommended
that the Ministry of Defense should try to significantly
reduce its UFO work. He said it was "consuming increasing
resource, but produces no valuable defense output". He went
on to say that "no UFO sighting reported has ever revealed
anything to suggest an extra-terrestrial presence or military
threat to the UK". The reasons given by Mantell are very
similar to those expressed by the USAF when they closed
down their own investigation, Project Blue Book, several
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Nova: Building Pharaoh's Chariot - A team uncovers the advanced engineering behind an ancient Egyptian
On PBS: July 10 at 8 pm; ET/PT.
Ghosts of Machu Picchu
Why did the Incas abandon their city in the clouds? On The Science Channe
PBS: July 17 at 9 pm; ET/PT.
3D Spies of WWII
With 3D graphics, NOVA reveals how the Allies used special aerial photos
to deal a dire blow to the Nazi rocket program. On The Science
PBS: July 24 at 9 pm; ET/PT.
Brink of Disaster
Raging forest fires are decimating the landscape and a super volcano
is waiting to be unleashed. Researchers at Yellowstone National
Park use state of the art technology to understand the deadly
triggers of an extinction level event.
On The Discovery Channe
July 4tht 1:00 PM;
Freeman's Through the Wormhole: Can Our Minds Be Hacked?
Our minds store our entire lives, our memories and our deepest desires
and our brains are biological computers. Could brain hackers
someday be able to rewrite our thoughts similar to how computer
hackers hack email? On The
July 3rd 10:00PM;
Lines: The Buried Secrets
Are they ancient road maps or messages for visiting aliens? Lying at
the foothill of Peru's Andes Mountains is the site of one
of the world's greatest mysteries. Etched, as if by giants,
onto its arid, moonscape plains are immense lines that stretch
for miles, forming strange shapes recognizable only from
the air. Now, a team of specialists from around the globe
has come to southern Peru to investigate the Nasca Lines
in the hope of uncovering their secrets On The
July 12, 8PM;
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