International Space Station is testing a new way to
clean its water. (NASA)
Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
Gets Experimental Water Filter - The International Space
Station (ISS) is testing a new water filtration system.
In the past they have recycled their water using carbon
filters. However, the carbon filters have to be replaced
at a regular intervals and also allow the buildup of diethyl
phthalate. Diethyl phthalate is not dangerous to human health,
but the "new car smell" it gives off can mask other chemical
smells that might be of concern. The new filtering system
uses an aquaporin membrane which is similar to tiny channels
in living cells, that only allow water molecules to pass
though. The new filters should do a better job of cleaning
up the water and should not need regular replacement. Not
having to replace filters is a big advantage for any long
term space flight out of earth's orbit, like a trip to Mars.
Nazi Treasure Train Found? - A train carrying 300 tons
of gold missing since the end of World War II may have been
found in the mountains outside of Walbrzych, Poland, according
to two treasure hunters. The men, one a German and the other
a Pole, have requested a guarantee from the government that
they will be rewarded 10% of the value of any contents of
the train before they reveal its location. The story of
the train is a local legend in the area, but according to
historians, lacks documentary proof that it is true. Supposedly
the train left the city of Wroclaw for Walbrzych at the
end of the war as Red Army troops were closing in, but never
reached its destination. Speculation has been that it could
have been hidden in one of the many rail tunnels in the
mountainous area, then sealed off. The train, if it exists,
may carry unexploded munitions as well and gold which would
make it hazardous to anyone attempting to recover the treasure.
Footprint Found on UK Beach - It pays to keep your eyes
open at the beach. Ask Sam Davies of the University of Portsmouth.
He was fossil hunting on the beach at Lavernock, Vale of
Glamorgan, in Wales, when he noticed a foot print in rock.
"It was obvious the fossil was fingers or toes, because
there were three in a row…" said Davies. At first the student
thought that he had found the footprint of a plesiosaur,
but analysis by paleontologist David Martill indicates that
it was the footprint of the "Welsh Dragon" a small dinosaur
discovered just three years earlier on the same beach. The
Welsh Dragon was a carnivorous dinosaur that was a predecessor
to Tyrannosaurus rex. and lived about 200-million-years
ago. It stood about 20 inches tall.
Powered by Two Black Holes - Some 600 million light-years
away two massive black hole are slowly spiraling into each
other releasing immense amounts of energy. The result: A
quasar. Scientists studying galaxy Mrk 231 observed a disk
of superheated gases in the center. They were surprised
to see that the disc, however, had a hollow center. Computer
studies revealed that the shape of this hollow was consistent
with two black holes, one in orbit around another. "We are
extremely excited about this finding because it not only
shows the existence of a close binary black hole in Mrk
231, but also paves a new way to systematically search binary
black holes via the nature of their ultraviolet light emission,"
said Youjun Lu, of the National Astronomical Observatories
of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of the authors
of the report. Scientists have been curious about quasars
(which can radiate huge amounts of energy) for some time
and Mrk 231 gives them the chance to study one at a relatively
close distance. It is estimated that the larger black hole
is 150 million times the mass of our sun and the smaller
one is 4 million times the mass of our sun.
Heart Failure - The oldest case of heart failure may
have been found in a 3,500-year-old Egyptian mummy. The
remains of an Egyptian dignitary named Nebiri, the "Chief
of Stables," shows severe periodontal disease with massive
abscesses. A Multidetector Computed Tomography (MDCT) was
used to scan the heart and skull. The scans also showed
calcification in the right internal carotid artery, consistent
with a mild atherosclerosis. "Our finding represents the
oldest evidence for chronic heart failure in mummified remains,"
said Raffaella Bianucci, an anthropologist involved in the
Quote of the Month - "Somewhere,
something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan
New at the Museum:
Brooklyn Bridge: A Wonder from the Age of Steam-
In the 19th century, the booming New York communities
of Brooklyn and Manhattan were divided by the East River.
A bridge was the answer, but it would require an engineering
feat such as the world had never before seen. In the end,
a bridge was erected, but at the cost of the death of the
chief designer and a life of suffering for the chief engineer,
his son. - Full
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
from the Stars - I am asking this question because
I have seen several movies/cartoons/stories which feature
this: The tale is set far back in the past and somebody
sees a meteor fall to earth or discovers a meteorite buried
in the ground and recovers it and makes a weapon out of
the meteorite metal. Which in the tale is superior to all
of the other weapons made locally. My questions are these:
Could a blacksmiths furnace of those times be able to get
hot enough to melt down the iron-nickel meteorite, AND has
any weapons like swords or axes ever been found to contain
meteoric iron? - David
the history of using iron from meteorites for tools, decorative
objects and weapons goes way back. Before the beginning
of the Iron Age (around 1200 BC) when the process of smelling
was invented that allowed iron to be extracted from iron
ore, almost all the iron available for use was from meteorites.
King Tutankhamen had a metal dagger found with him that
was composed of meteoric iron.
generally come in two varieties. Most of them (94%) are
"stony" and contain no iron. However, the remainder are
either "iron" (5%) or some mixture of stone and iron (1%).
Iron meteorites also contain some nickel in them.
made from meteoric iron could be cold hammered into shape
or worked at low temperatures way before we had the technology
to create temperatures necessary to smelt ore (around 2282
Fahrenheit). However, because of the high nickel content
found in meteoric iron, weapons made from it tend to be
brittle. However, it was still tougher than some of the
alternatives available at the time like copper and bronze.Meteoric
iron was so valuable in some places during this period it
was often traded like gold.
Thule people of Greenland used the Cape York meteorite as
the source of iron for knives and harpoon tips for many
centuries. Again these were cold hammered into shape. Even
after many, many knives and harpoon tips and been made from
it, the remains of the meteorite still weighed 33 tons when
it was shipped to the American Museum of Natural History
in New York in 1897 where it remains today.
iron smelting became possible the value of meteorite iron
dropped, but was still used for its symbolic value mixed
in with regular iron or steel. There is no indication that
a weapon with some meteoric iron is somehow actually better
than a steel weapon, however. It's just the idea that the
material "came from the stars" that gets people's attention.
One example of such a weapon was created for Emperor Jahangir,
of the Mughal Empire in India. He obtained a meteorite that
fell from the sky in April of 1621 and had his smiths mix
the meteorite iron with regular iron and forge it into two
swords and a dagger.
sword smith's still make weapons with some meteoric iron
mixed into them just because they have a large wow factor.
Probably one of the most well-known examples of this was
a sword made for science fiction/fantasy writer Sir Terence
David John "Terry" Pratchett. Pratchett was knighted for
his work in 2010 and decided provide his own ingots for
the blacksmith to use to create the sword for the ceremony.
Pratchett dug his own ore and smelted it himself. He also
said he decided to add, as he put it, "several pieces of
meteorites -- thunderbolt iron, you see -- highly magical,
you've got to chuck that stuff in whether you believe in
it or not."
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Found - On September 2nd 1985 it was announced that
the wreckage of the Titanic, which sank after hitting an
iceberg in 1912, had been found about 560 miles off Newfoundland,
73 years after the British luxury liner sank, by a joint
United States and French expedition.
Eclipse - If you live in most of North America or Western
Europe you can expect to see an eclipse of the moon on the
evening of September 27th. Such an eclipses occur when the
Earth passes in between the sun and the moon and the Earth's
shadow passes over the lunar surface. Usually the moon does
not disappear completely in such an eclipse, but turns a
ruddy red color as light that is bent and colored by the
Earth's atmosphere makes it to the lunar surface.
Pterosuar Drawing Is Not - A new study may have solved
a mystery surrounding the ancient rock paintings at Utah's
Black Dragon Canyon. The vibrant red pictograph appears
to show a winged monster, possibly a pterosaur. However,
using cutting-edge technology including a portable X-ray
fluorescence device, scientists have shown it is not just
one large figure but a number of abstract humanlike figures
with elongated bodies and round heads. These long figures
also have tiny "attendants," including people, birds and
four-legged creatures, such as hoofed animals, canines,
felines, badgers and bears next to them. The meaning of
the figure has been a controversy with creationists believing
a pterosaur figure drawn by native Americans would indicate
that dinosaurs and people were alive at the same time, a
position not held by most scientists. The figure is estimated
to be between 1000 to 2000 years old while pterosaurs have
not been on the Earth for at least 65 million years.
and Meep are on a well deserved vacation. In their place
we feature highlights from their past adventures.
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