Over the Edge
Roundup of Strange Science for the Month
that also Guards Privacy - Worried about losing your
privacy to facial surveillance systems like Facebook's auto-tagging
feature? Simone C. Niquille, a student at the Sanberg Instituut
in Amsterdam, may have the product you need. Realface Glamoflage
are T-shirts with the faces of celebrity such as Michael
Jackson, Barrack Obama and Brittney Spears, embedded on
them. Niquille designed the shirts with the idea that the
multiple faces would confound any facial recognition system.
"I was interested in creating a tool for privacy protection
that wouldn't require much time to think in the morning,
an accessory that would seamlessly fit in your existing
everyday. No adaption period needed," Niquille said. If
you are interested the T-shirts, they can be custom printed
for around $65 dollars. Check out http://realface.s-c-n.biz/
of Old Massacre Found in Sweden - Researchers in Sweden
have found the remains of what they think is an ancient
massacre. On the island of Öland, off the southeast coast
of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, archeologist have discovered
the remains of a 1,500-year-old fort filled with bodies.
The human remains seem belonging to a people who met a sudden
death. "I think they were surprised," Helene Wilhelmson,
an osteologist at Lund University said. She explained that
two of bodies were found lying close to each other near
a the door as if they were running out to escape when they
were killed. The location is also surprisingly undisturbed.
" I don't think anyone dared to go near it for a very long
time," added Wilhelmson. "It's more of a frozen moment than
you normally see in archaeology," Wilhelmson also added.
"It's like Pompeii. Something terrible happened and everything
just stopped." As they work to excavate the site, scientists
are entering the locations of the bodies and artifacts into
a computer system that will eventually create a 3D visualization
of the fort. This will better help them understand what
may have happened there.
Expedition to Solve Earheart Mystery - Starting in August
of 2014 a 30-day expedition sponsored by The International
Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) will visit
the tiny Pacific island of Nikumaroro. TIGHAR believes that
the isle might be there final resting place of pioneering
aviator Amelia Earhart, her navigator, Fred Noonan, and
their twin-engined Lockheed Electra. Earhart had been attempting
an around the world flight when the plane ran out of fuel
somewhere over the Pacific on July 2, 1937. TIGHAR thinks
that Earhart made an emergency landing on Nikumaroro some
350 miles southeast of their target destination. On Nikumaroro
they survived as castaways "for a matter of weeks, possibly
more," said Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR.
"The plan for Niku VIII is built on the hard data gathered
and the hard lessons learned during the previous expeditions
carried out in 2010 and 2012," said Gillespie. The team
will be equipped with high definition video, still cameras,
mechanical arms and recovery baskets mounted on subs that
will search the area around the island to a depth of more
than 3000 feet looking for evidence of the plane.
Preserved as Rare Fossil - It isn't quite time to buy
tickets for a real Jurassic Park yet, but scientists have
found blood from an animal preserved in the body of a blood
sucking, ancient mosquito. The little insect came to its
end about 46 million years ago shortly after making a blood
meal out of some unknown animal. It fell into a lake and
was fossilized in by sediments deposited at the bottom which
later turned into shale. "The chances that such an insect
would be preserved in shale is almost infinitesimally small,"
said Dale Greenwalt, a researcher at the National Museum
of Natural History in Washington, D.C.. (Usually small insect
fossils are only preserved in amber). Greenwalt saw the
fossil when it was given to the museum and recognized its
rarity. He and his collaborators use bismuth, a heavy metal,
to bombard the sample and vaporize chemicals found in the
fossil. These chemicals were then analyzed by a mass spectrometer
to see what was inside the insect without damaging the priceless
artifact. They were able to detect some of the components
found in blood. While this is far from extracting DNA to
rebuild extinct animals, it does demonstrate that complex
organic molecules, besides DNA, can be preserved in a fossil
for a long time. It also shows that blood-filled mosquitoes
were already feeding at that time, which means that they
might have been around even earlier and could have fed on
Skill Found - A prehistoric, hominid skull found in
the European nation of Georgia has created some controversy.
The almost complete skull, estimated to be 1.8 million-year-old
is by all accounts an important discovery. The finders,
writing in the journal Science, have suggested that
it is close enough in its features to belong to the species
Homo erectus. In fact, they also suggest that other
finds that were previously believed to be new species, like
Homo ergaster, Homo rudolfensis and Homo
habilis might actually be Homo erectus too. This has
ruffled some feathers in the scientific community as few
researchers in the field concur. At the moment the find
is simply labeled "Skull 5". Scientists will continue to
look for other remains at the site in Dmanisi, Georgia,
that might help in settling the issue.
Quote of the Month - "Science
never solves a problem without creating ten more." - George
New at the Museum:
Day the U.S. Air Force Almost Nuked North Carolina
- On the morning of January 23rd, 1961, First Lt.
Adam Mattocks climbed aboard his B-52G Stratofortress bomber
for a routine training mission. What would follow over the
next twenty-four hours, however, would be anything but routine.
At the end Mattocks would be the survivor of one of the
most serious nuclear weapons accidents ever and part of
North Carolina would have come unbelievably close to being
turned into smoldering, burned out, radiation-poisoned,
death zone. - Full
Picture of the Month - What
is this this?
Million Mile-Per-Hour Wind - How do the Voyager spacecraft
survive the (according to NASA) "250,000 to one million
per hour" solar winds while traversing the heliopause? Shouldn't
they be obliterated? - Maureen
Well, the first
thing we should do is define what the solar wind is. It
isn't quite like the wind we experience here on the surface
of the Earth.
The solar wind
consists of charged particles of the sun that have some
gotten so much kinetic energy (from heat of the sun's corona)
that they can escape from the sun's strong gravity. These
particles are mostly subatomic elements (pieces of atoms)
like electrons or protons. Depending on the activity around
the sun the particles, as you noted, can pick up considerable
On earth our
wind consists of air, which is molecules of gas (about 80%
percent of air is nitrogen and most of the rest is oxygen).
The air we have here on the surface is very dense because
it is under pressure. The pressure comes from the thickness
of the atmosphere above us which extends upward for around
a hundred miles. This causes the air to press against you
if you are standing at sea level at around 14.7 pounds per
square inch. You don't really notice this, however, because
it comes at you equally from every direction.
How much the
wind pushes against you (its force) isn't just a function
of the speed of the wind, it is also involves the density
of the air. The lower the density of the air, the less the
wind pushes against you.
Now if you were
standing on Earth and you were hit by a million mile per
hour wind, there wouldn't be much left of you. That kind
of pressure applied to your body would tear it apart. Even
a shock wave of pressure (let's say from an explosion) traveling
at a few hundreds of miles an hour can be very damaging
and knock down a building.
is a big difference between the density of the air at sea
level and the density of the solar wind in space. In fact
it's round a trillion to one difference. To get an idea
of what this means imagine a box one inch square filled
with air at the pressure it is at sea level. To get that
air down to the density of the solar wind you would have
to extend that box so it was still was one inch in height
and depth, but almost 16 million miles long, while still
containing the same amount of air.
So while the
solar wind can go whipping by at a million miles per hour,
the density is so, so low that it effectively creates no
pressure on something like the Voyager spacecraft. Yes,
the probe carries sensitive instruments that can detect
the wind, but if you were out there with the spacecraft
you would be unable to feel any pressure against your hand
if you were able to hold it out in the solar wind.
In fact, the
further the solar wind gets from the sun, the slower it
goes. This means that the Voyagers at the edge of the solar
system experience much less solar wind than say the Apollo
spacecraft that carried the astronauts to the moon. The
heliopause, which one of the Voyager spacecraft just crossed,
is actually the boundary where the solar wind is so far
from the sun that slows to a complete stop, blocked by the
interstellar medium (which is really the result of solar
winds from surrounding stars).
This might lead
you to ask the question, "What happened to Voyager when
it hit the interstellar medium?" Well, the answer is "not
much," because it, like the solar wind, has an extremely
the solar wind is has little density, however, doesn't mean
that it can't have a big effect on the solar system. Most
of the effect it has, however, is due to the electrical
charge of the particles. A good solar flare can send a shock
wave of highly charged particles close to the earth that
can damage the electronics inside satellites and upset radio
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Return of the King - November 4th 1922 marks the day
that a digger working for British archeologist Howard Carter
stumbled across a step carved into a rock in the Valley
of the Kings near Luxor, Egypt. It led the uncovering of
the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. The location of tomb
had been lost for over a millennia. As the tomb with all
its riches turned out to be intact, it was one of the most
significant and celebrated archeological finds in modern
history. To read more about King Tut and the curse his tomb
supposedly had, check our article here.
Comet - The end of November comes with a chance to see
a comet. ISON will come closest to the sun on November 28th
but be too near our star for safe viewing. You can start
looking for it, however, a week or so before Thanksgiving
in the pre-dawn hours, but expect it to be the brightest
and easiest to find a week or so afterwards. How bright
will it get? It's very hard to say. Early reports had it
light up the sky as bright as a full moon, but as time has
gone by the comet seems to be outgassing less material making
it less visible. In fact there is even a chance it could
disintegrate completely as it goes by the sun on Thanksgiving.
Mystery Solved by DNA? - Bryan Sykes, a professor of
human genetics at Oxford University, may have unlocked the
mystery of the Yeti (sometimes known as the Abominable Snowman).
Last year he put out a call for people to submit hair or
other tissue samples from "cryptids." He got about 30 items
to test. Two of them supposedly were associated with the
Yeti and turned out to be a genetic match for an extinct
polar bear from Norway. It is thought that the bear had
died out at least 40,000 years ago. Sykes is skeptical that
the polar bear is still around, however. "I don't think
it means there are ancient polar bears wandering around
the Himalayas," he commented He does think there is a possibility
that there might be a subspecies of brown bear in the High
Himalayas that has descended from the ancestor of the polar
bear. Sykes says he has submitted the DNA results for publication
in a peer-reviewed science journal.
check local listing for area outside of North America.
Cold Case JFK - Can modern forensic science uncover
fresh clues about the assassination of JFK? On PBS November
13 at 9 PM ET/PT
At the Edge of Space- Can scientists unravel the mystery
of sprites, a phenomenon that lurks between Earth and space?
On PBS November 20 at 8 PM ET/PT
Asteroid: Doomsday or Payday?- Will future asteroids
trigger massive extinctions—or be mined for precious minerals?
On PBS November 20 at 9 PM ET/PT
Universe- The strange notion of parallel universes is
gaining strength in the scientific community and may solve
our most basic questions about the universe, including the
origins of the Big Bang itself. On the Science Channel:
Nov. 1st 10:00AM; ET/PT.
the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman: Nothingness- Can there
be such a thing as nothing? Scientists are looking for answers
in the mind-bending science of Quantum Mechanics. Their
work may uncover what our cosmos is made of, how it came
from nothing and when it might collapse into an empty void
again. On the Science Channel: Nov. 4th 9:00 PM;
Signs of the Apocalypse Seven Signs of the Apocalypse -
We will be struck by deadly plagues, famines and earthquakes...
The sky will turn dark and oceans will turn to blood...
And the antichrist will emerge to fight the final battle
between good and evil. Could this all be true? Experts decode
this powerful prophecy and come to a startling conclusion:
there is now scientific evidence that many of these catastrophes
could, in fact, be occurring. A star falling from the sky
could be one of thousands of rogue asteroids that may be
approaching earth. The plague foretold in the Bible could
be a deadly strain of avian virus that researchers fear
could kill millions. Oceans turning blood red could be triggered
by microorganisms that release dangerous neurotoxins that
have the same effect as nerve gas. To reveal the ultimate
truth behind the prophecy, this investigation will turn
to the past to reveal why the prophecy was written, and
why it keeps such a powerful hold on our imagination today.
On the History Channel: November 7, 9:00 PM ET/PT.
Waves Rogue Waves- Join us for the amazing story of
one of nature's most terrifying forces. With striking visuals
from ships in storm-tossed seas, the special presents dramatic
tales of rogue wave disasters throughout history, and explores
the astonishing scientific discoveries surrounding this
deadly phenomenon. Aided by mind-blowing CGI footage from
the motion picture Poseidon by Wolfgang Petersen, director
of The Perfect Storm, we reveal the awesome power of this
ocean menace as it really is--a monster rising from the
deep! On the History Channel: November 7, 11:00 PM;
Bear of the Arctic - In April 2006, an American sports
hunter shot and killed a mysterious bear in the arctic which
unleashes a scientific investigation and a criminal inquiry
into the exact nature of its identity. On the National Geographic
Channel: Nov. 17th 6PM;
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