Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Link Clearance! Old Links at Low Prices!

Here some science related articles I've had sitting in my bookmarks waiting to be unleashed on my unsuspecting readers at just the right time. Tremble, pitiful mortals! Mwwoooo-hoooo-haaa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!

:: Alien hunters get new respect. After years of being seen by many as a "fringe" activity, SETI research is finally emerging as legitimate scientific inquiry. Where is Dr. Sagan when we really need him?

Someday I hope to see the new Allen Telescope Array, once it's built. When I was in second grade and my family lived in West Virginia, we once drove by the radio observatory at Green Bank (back before they built the new Robert Byrd telescope). I find something beautiful, in a ghostly way, about large radio telescopes -- these giant lattices of steel and mesh through which we have deepened our knowledge of the Universe.

:: Archaeologists recently uncovered evidence that the Amazon basin may not have been an unexplored and pristine jungle before the arrival of the Europeans after all. Evidence shows that the natives of that region were far from stone-age savages, working the region into a network of villages and even building roads.

:: If you like whiskey, you're in pretty good company -- no less a personage than George Washington, hero of the Revolutionary War and First President of these United States, drank the hard stuff now and then. In fact, Washington had his own distillery at Mt. Vernon, and a group of whiskey makers recently used the distillery to recreate General Washington's own whiskey recipe (although, contrary to Washington's likely practice, they're going to age the stuff to make it taste better).

:: Here's a new theory as to why ships disappear at sea without trace or reason: they are swamped, unawares, by giant methane bubbles rising from the ocean floor. What happens is that the pressure at the ocean bottom causes methane to form ice-like structures, like the orange blob in this picture:

But these structures can break off and head for the surface, and as they "thaw", the methane reverts to gaseous form, making a huge bubble that can swamp an ocean-going vessel on the surface if it breaches at just the right spot relative to the unfortunate ship. If this turns out to be true, I wonder if the Bermuda Triangle is merely a region whose sea-bed produces a lot of methane.

:: If you plan to make an Egyptian-style mummy in the future, you'll be happy to know that the secret ingredient in mummification that allows preservation on the millennial time frame has at last been identified: an extract from the cedar tree. (To this day, my favorite bit of the mummification process is when they use a really long needle to pull the cadaver's brain out through the nose. Yeah, I'm warped.)

:: I'm not sure what the environmental implications are, especially for biodiversity, but an ongoing process to take a "census" of the oceans is revealing three new fish species a week, such as this new variety of scorpionfish:

Representatives of Red Lobster could not be reached for comment.

:: Applying Pat Robertson logic, maybe our abandonment of Sun-worship wasn't such a good idea....

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