have used the Hubble to find the "heart"
of the Crab Nebula. (NASA/ESA)
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
of Crab Nebula Observed - Astronomers have used NASA's
Hubble Space Telescope to find the heart of the Crab Nebula.
The Nebula is the remains of a large star that exploded
as a supernova in 1054 and was observed by Chinese, Japanese,
Arabic and Native American observers. The crushed core of
that exploded star is pulsar or "neutron star" only a few
miles wide and spinning around 30 times per second. "The
density of a neutron star can be approximated by stuffing
a herd of 50 million elephants into a thimble," said Frank
Summers, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science
Institute. "By studying and following the emission of the
Crab, we get a ringside seat for understanding how young
neutron stars and supernova remnants develop," Summers said.
Burial Site Found - Archaeologists have unearthed a
Philistine cemetery at a site in southern Israel. It's the
first burial ground of these ancient, biblical people that
ever has been found. "This cemetery is going to teach us
a whole lot about the Philistines that we've never known
before," said Daniel Master, professor of archaeology at
Wheaton College and co-director of the Leon Levy Expedition
to Ashkelon. "We've learned about their houses, we've learned
about what they ate and we learned about who they traded
with, but now we're seeing the people themselves." The cemetery
is about 3,000 years old and scientists have found, buried
with the people their own jugs, storage jars, bowls and
in some cases weapons. The Philistines are perhaps best
known for the biblical story of Goliath in the books of
Samuel. Goliath, a giant challenged a young David to individual
combat near the Valley of Elah.
the Brain to See Better - Zapping somebody's brain with
electricity can improve their vision according to a new
study. However, there are some caveats on this: First the
electrical stimulation must occur over the visual processing
centers of the brain. Second, the improvement only lasts
for about two hours. Finally it only seems to help about
70% of the test subjects, though those with the worse vision,
show the best improvement. The scientists stimulated the
brains of 20 subjects for 20 minutes, then used various
visual acuity tasks to test their vision. On a standard
eye chart people's vision improved by being able to see
one to two letters more, on average, though the results
varied by person. Scientists hope this work may lead better
methods to treat people with severe eye disorders.
Found in Triple Star System - Scientists have found
a really odd planetary arrangement in another solar system
where there is a planet with three suns. HD 131399Ab is
the first planet discovered in a stable orbit in a triple-star
system. Before this discovery scientists had assumed that
because of unstable gravity in such a system any planet
being quickly hurled out. "If the planet was further away
from the most massive star in the system, it would be kicked
out of the system," said Daniel Apai of the University of
Arizona. "Our computer simulations have shown that this
type of orbit can be stable, but if you change things around
just a little bit, it can become unstable very quickly."
The planet is in the Centaurus constellation, about 320
light-years from Earth, and was found using the SPHERE instrument
mounted on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large
Telescope. It is a large planet with an estimated mass of
four times the largest planet in our solar system: Jupiter.
Preserves Ancient Wings - A 99-million year old chunk
of amber is telling scientists a whole lot about early birds.
The amber (fossilized tree sap) trapped two small bird wings
from the middle of the Cretaceous period. While fossilized
feathers have been found in stone, the amber allows the
preservation of soft tissue associated with skeletal remains.
It even retained the original coloring from pale dots on
the undersides to darker browns elsewhere. The bird, probably
an enantiornithine hatchling - an early group that had teeth
and clawed wings - was smaller than a hummingbird. Enantiornithines
went extinct with the dinosaurs, but the fossil shows that
the structures and arrangements of the feathers were similar
to modern birds. A team of researchers led by Lida Xing,
a paleontologist at the China University of Geosciences
in Beijing, recovered the amber and published an article
on it in the June's issue of Nature Communications.
Quote of the Month - "There
may be babblers, wholly ignorant of mathematics, who dare
to condemn my hypothesis, upon the authority of some part
of the Bible twisted to suit their purpose. I value them
not, and scorn their unfounded judgment." - Nicolaus
New at the Museum:
from the Curators Office: A Visit to Chichen Itza -
Probably one of the most famous and most easily accessible
ancient sites in the Western Hemisphere is the Mayan city
of Chichen Itza. A few years ago I listed it as one of the
ten mysterious locations I wanted to visit during my life.
So a few months back I decided to take the plunge and hopped
on a jet for the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula with the idea
of having a little adventure at this "Wonder of the World."
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
of the Mars Born - My question is about something
that is always popping up in Sci Fi stories, and NOW it
could actually happen at some point in the future: Assuming
we eventually colonize mars, would a human being who is
born and raised on mars be taller and thinner than a human
being that is born and raised on earth? And, biologically
speaking, what could be some of the other differences be
between a Mars-born and an Earth-born?
is an interesting and complex questions that nobody has
any definite answers for at this point. We haven't been
able to do a lot of experiments with animals in low gravity
situations, so there isn't a lot of data to work with, just
speculation. Science fiction writers have often speculated
that humans born and raised on Mars would be taller and
thinner than their cousins on Earth. The idea is that since
Mars has roughly 1/3 the gravity of Earth (because of its
smaller size) their bones would grow longer and they would
need less strength (and therefore less muscle) to move around
and do things making them thinner.
is some evidence that this might be true. We know that astronauts,
living for an extended time aboard the ISS get taller. The
mechanism that causes this is similar to the change in height
many of us experience every day.
we lay down to sleep the pressure is taken off our spinal
columns and the discs (sort of shock absorbers for our body)
between each of the vertebrae swell a bit. After we get
up in the morning and stand up pressure on the discs over
the course of the day causes the discs to lose water and
compress a small amount. A typical person can lose a ˝ inch
of height over the course of a day.
astronaut during an extended stay in the ISS never experiences
anything but micro-gravity so his discs continue to swell
and he may find himself 2 inches taller in orbit, than he
was on Earth. NASA needs to design their spacesuits with
this expansion in mind.
child born on Mars would not be growing up in micro-gravity,
but he would be permanently living on a world with a much
lower gravity and it seems likely he or she would might
find their discs more permanently swollen than they would
be on Earth.
while our genes often play a part in how tall we grow, our
bodies also respond to environmental cues like gravity too.
Bones in a low gravity situation might grow longer and thinner.
We know that astronauts on the ISS living in micro-gravity
for any length of time lose bone mass making them more prone
to fractures when they return to Earth. It isn't quite clear
how this would play out for someone growing up under low
gravity on Mars but lighter, thinner bones might be the
are other factors that might play into their height beyond
gravity too. For example, people here on Earth living in
developed nations have been growing taller though the last
few centuries. This is mostly because they have been getting
more and higher quality food during childhood leading allowing
them to reach their full growth potential. Would a Martian
colony, however, be able to produce sufficient high quality
food to allow its space born members to reach their full
potential? A struggling Mars colony might find its children
shorter than their Earth counterparts, not taller.
thing we are certain off, however, is that children born
and raised on Mars would have an extremely difficult time
relocating to Earth. Since their bodies would be adapted
to the lower gravity they would not have the muscles necessary
to move around easily on Earth at three times the gravity.
It would be like an Earth resident taking a visit to a planet
with three times the mass of Earth. If he weighed 180 pounds
on our planet during his visit he would suddenly be forced
to carry around a 540 pound body. An extremely difficult
burden! It's likely if you were born on Mars you would never
be able to visit your ancestral home world.
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Trial Defendant - John Thomas Scopes was born on August
3rd, 1900 and would become a central figure and defendant
in the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. Scopes was
a high-school teacher in Tennessee when he agree to stand-trial
in a test-case that would challenge the Butler Act that
prohibited the teaching of evolution in the state's schools.
On appeal, his guilty verdict was thrown out on a technicality.
Later Scopes would earn a master's degree in geology, and
go to work for Gulf Oil as a geologist.
Meteor Shower - The Perseids meteor shower will peak
on the night of August 11 and the morning of August 12.
Best viewing will be after midnight when the moon sets.
Meteors will look like they came from the constellation
Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky. The shower
is debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered
in 1862. The Perseids are considered one of the best showers
to view as it produces a large number of bright meteors.
New Type of "Extinct" Meteorite Found - Geologists in
Sweden have discovered what they refer to an "extinct" meteorite.
The piece of black rock embedded within a 470-million-year
old limestone slab is thought to be of a type of meteorite
never before seen and one that does not rain down on Earth
anymore (therefore "extinct"). "The chromium isotopes are
the nail in the coffin. This is really, really strong confirmation
that this is something completely different than what is
known among meteorites on Earth today," said Birger Schmitz,
a geologist from Lund University in Sweden, who was the
lead author of a paper about the meteor in Nature Communications.
The rock was found by Swedish miners in a quarry with slabs
destined to be made into floor panels. It is believed that
a billion years ago, two asteroids between Jupiter and Mars
collided and some of the remains crashed in Earth's ancient
oceans were they were buried in sediment and compressed
into the limestone.
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