Science Frontiers
The Unusual & Unexplained

Strange Science * Bizarre Biophysics * Anomalous astronomy
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About Science Frontiers

Science Frontiers is the bimonthly newsletter providing digests of reports that describe scientific anomalies; that is, those observations and facts that challenge prevailing scientific paradigms. Over 2000 Science Frontiers digests have been published since 1976.

These 2,000+ digests represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The Sourcebook Project, which publishes Science Frontiers, also publishes the Catalog of Anomalies, which delves far more deeply into anomalistics and now extends to sixteen volumes, and covers dozens of disciplines.

Over 14,000 volumes of science journals, including all issues of Nature and Science have been examined for reports on anomalies. In this context, the newsletter Science Frontiers is the appetizer and the Catalog of Anomalies is the main course.


Subscriptions to the Science Frontiers newsletter are no longer available.

Compilations of back issues can be found in Science Frontiers: The Book, and original and more detailed reports in the The Sourcebook Project series of books.

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... : Mar-Apr 1988 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects The fault, dear reader, is not in our stars but our pigs!Fred Hoyle, in his usual maverick style, has hypothesized that some human flu epidemics are caused by new viruses in jected into the biosphere from outer space. (See his book Diseases from Space .) In yet another book, Evolution from Space , he goes further, stating that the evolution of terrestrial life can also be affected by the extraterrestrial inoculation of genetic material. But, just maybe, influenza pandemics are due to pigs! Every 10-20 years, new flu viruses seem to crop up against which humans have little resistance. The latest theory is that there exists a human-duck-pig connection. It seems that human flu viruses can multiply in ducks, but are not transmitted among ducks. It is also likely that duck viruses multiply in humans, but are not transmitted from one person to another. But enter the pigs: "There is firm evidence that pigs can become infected by and may transmit both human and avian influenza viruses not only amongst other pigs but also back to the original hosts. Therefore, pigs seem to be 'mixing vessels' where two separate reservoirs meet and where reassortment between avian and human influenza A viruses occurs, giving rise to the antigenic shift by creating new human pandemic influenza strains with new surface antigens." The article stimulating this discussion worries about new aquaculture practices, especially in Asia (the so-called Blue Revolution) ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 45: May-Jun 1986 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Platypus Bill An Electrical Probe The bill of the duck-billed platypus has always looked kind of dumb -- as if Nature flushed with her success with polar bears (below) got careless when designing the platypus! How ignorant we were of Nature's genius. The platypus didn't borrow its snout from ducks but rather from the electric fishes. "That evolutionary enigma, the duckbilled platypus, has more than its egglaying to distinguish it from other mammals. It now appears that in common with some species of fish and amphibians, it can detect weak electric fields (of a few hundred microvolts or less). Not only that, but it uses its electric sense to locate its prey, picking up the tiny electrical signals passing between nerves and muscles in the tail of a shrimp." (Anonymous; "The Battery-Operated Duck-Billed Platypus," New Scientist, p. 25, February 13, 1986.) Reference. Mammal electrosensitivity is cataloged under BMO8 in Biological Anomalies: Mammals II. This catalog is described here . From Science Frontiers #45, MAY-JUN 1986 . 1986-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... , which are not as endearing as the lancet flukes. These parasites are merely bags of reproductive organs attached to a thorny probiscus, by which they attach themselves to the intestinal walls of vertebrates. Living in a sea of processed nutrients, the worms don't even have a digestive tract. Part of the life cycle of this parasite is spent in arthropods (insects, crustaceans). As with the lancet fluke, the thorny-headed worm's big challenge is getting the arthropod eaten by a vertebrate. In most instances, it alters the behavior of the arthropod in a way that makes it more conspicuous to the predators. For example, infested pill bugs do not hide from birds, as they normally do, and are snapped up. Infested crustaceans move towards the light where ducks consume them. No one knows how a parasite floating in the body cavity of its host can control the host's behavior. (Moore, Janice; "Parasites That Change the Behavior of Their Host," Scientific American, 250:108, May 1984.) Comment. One cannot but wonder if human behavior is somehow controlled by parasites. Obviously we deny such dominance. Yet, some have speculated that our urge for space travel is only DNA's way of expanding its dominion. A thorny-headed worm that cycles between ducks and crustaceans. (Adapted from Scientific American). From Science Frontiers #34, JUL-AUG 1984 . 1984-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 22: Jul-Aug 1982 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Dark Secret Behind Jupiter When Jupiter's satellite Io ducks into Jupiter's shadow, something mysterious happens. Some of the time, but not always, Io emerges from the shadow about 10% brighter than when it entered. In 10-20 minutes, its brightness decays to normal levels. One suspicion is that SO2 in Io's atmosphere condenses on the planet's surface when it is in the cold shadow, thus coating some dark areas with a bright sulfurous 'frost.' However, a recent measure of Io's post-eclipse brightness detected no brightness change whatsoever. Apparently we have a real but rather unreliable phenomenon. (Morrison, Nancy D., and Morrison, David; "Io; Post-Eclipse Brightening Still Mysterious," Mercury, 11:27, 1982.) Reference. Io's post-eclipse brightening is cataloged at AJX6 in The Moon and the Planets. To order this book, visit: here . From Science Frontiers #22, JUL-AUG 1982 . 1982-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Ape, reviews new evidence supporting the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis. Sir Alister Hardy suggested this hypothesis in 1960 in an attempt to account for several human characteristics that are unique among primates but common in aquatic mammals. Some of these are: position of fetal hair, loss of body hair, subcutaneous fat, face-to-face copulation, weeping, etc. The combination of hairlessness and subcutaneous fat seems almost totally confined to aquatic mammals and humans. Two other characteristics are covered in some depth in this article: The discovery that some prehistoric shell middens consist of deep-water shellfish, which must be the result of breath-held diving. This human skill, again unique among primates, is obviously quite ancient. Furthermore, recent experiments suggest that in humans, in addition to seals and ducks, vascular constriction is not limited to the arterioles but extends to the larger arteries, too. This indicates some degree of specialized adaptation to a diving life. Most animals with a sodium deficiency display an active craving for salt which, when satisfied, disappears. In humans, salt intake has little or no relation to the body's needs. Some Inuit tribes avoid salt almost completely, while people in the Western world consume 1520 times the amount needed for health. In other works, a single African species (assuming humans have an African origin) possesses a wildly different scheme of salt management. Humans are also the only primates to regulate body temperature by sweat-cooling, a system profligate in the use of sodium. Proponents of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis believe that sweat-cooling ...
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... Science Frontiers ONLINE No. 119: Sep-Oct 1998 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Murder In The Nest In a recent issue of BioScience, R.B . Payne authored an excellent review of brood parasitism in birds. Brood parasites lay their eggs in the nests of other species, which then incubate the eggs and raise the alien chicks. The parent parasites are thus free to forage, hang out, and parasitize more nests. Brood parasitism is such a successful and easy way of life that 136 species of cuckoos, 5 species of cowbirds, 20 finches, and South America's Blackheaded Duck have adopted it. Brood parasitism fascinates ornithologists because it involves war between the parasites and their hosts. Since host species may eject parasite eggs or fail to nurture parasite chicks, brood parasites have evolved mimicry as a powerful weapon in these battles. Mimicked are host eggs, host nestlings, and host vocalizations. But the most insidious weapons of all involve the outright murder of host chicks. To this end, parasite chicks have evolved some special weapons and behaviors. Some cuckoo chicks evict host eggs or chicks by squirming under them and positioning them in a specially configured hollow on their backs. Then, pushing upward and outward to the rim of the nest, they dump their cargo over the edge. Other brood parasites are more direct and bloodthirsty. "Nestling African honeyguides have bill hooks to stab and kill their nestmates and the brood parasitic American striped cuckoos have independently evolved hooks and pincers to kill." (Payne ...
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... , now at Oregon State University, found that a virus causing lesions and spontaneous abortions in California sea lions was 'indistinguishable' from one that ravaged pigs nationwide in 1952. New varieties of the culprit -- called a calicivirus -- have since turned up in diverse hosts: whales, cats, snakes and even primates. To reach such a variety of hosts, they either jump from organism to organism, Smith proposes, or they escape from bubbles popping on the ocean surface, waft ashore and enter a food chain. If he is right, the seas may be a bottomless reservoir for viruses -- and our attempts to combat diseases on land may be nullified by legions of new strains waiting to come ashore. In fact, some flu viruses are said to be spread by wild ducks." (Anonymous; "Are the World's Oceans a Viral Breeding Ground," Science Digest, 92:20, February 1984.) Comment. We leave it to the reader to fit this piece of the jigsaw to the preceding and following pieces. From Science Frontiers #32, MAR-APR 1984 . 1984-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Goethe's optics reevaluated "It is beyond dispute that the main objective of the polemical part of Goethe's Farbenlehre, namely, the refutation of Newton's Obticks, was a misguided one. Many consider it to be inexplicable that a man of Goethe's intellectual standing should have behaved in such an apparently irrational manner. It so happens, however, that the characteristics of the subjective spectrum are more akin to Goethe's model than to Newton's . It is true that Goethe put an incorrect interpretation upon what he saw -- and was the first to see -- but a careful scrutiny of his scientific method reveals that his reasoning was far from irrational." (Duck, Michael; "The Bezold-Bruecke Phenomenon and Goethe's Rejection of Newton's Opticks," American Journal of Physics, 55:793, 1987.) Comment. Goethe just did not see what Newton saw, and their feud was rather bitter. To illustrate, Goethe considered the subjective aspects of his optical experiments, while Newton neglected them. For example, in the Bezold-Bruecke phenomenon, reds became yellower with increasing brightness -- or seem to with human observers. Goethe's theory of color took such effects into account. Once again, one person's reality can be different from another's . From Science Frontiers #55, JAN-FEB 1988 . 1988-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... , by standing on one leg and occasionally switching, the flamingo prevents blood from collecting in its feet. L.J . Los replied with reference to a phenomenon of which we were unaware: "Farm animals are well known for letting sleep be linked to half of their brain at a time. In this way they can maintain a measure of alertness -- even while looking fast asleep. "Flamingos roost upon one of their legs while the other half of their body is in the sleep stage. When the other half of their brain and body earns a rest, they change legs. A leg that is in the sleep stage would not support the bird as a whole." But P. Hardy had the best answer: "Why do flamingos stand on one leg? So ducks only bump into them half the time." (Various authors; "Flamingo File," New Scientist, p. 52, August 17, 1991.) From Science Frontiers #78, NOV-DEC 1991 . 1991-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... enables one to describe an explosion better than those whose experience is limited to Guy Fawkes' Day. This seemed to me about the same as an air-burst from a German 88 mm high velocity gun. My friend and I took it to be lightning; but neither of us saw any flash -- perhaps because we were both looking downwards at the time. "Shortly afterwards, my wife appeared, dazed and shaken. The explosion had evidently been closer to her, for she (having served in the WRNS) was reminded of an ammunition ship blowing up 'whoosh,' suggestive of a very high speed aircraft flying very low. That is what she momentarily thought it was, coming from the ridge of the Cotswold escarpment, under which this house lies; and she instinctively ducked. Immediately before the detonation, there seemed to her to be a sound not unlike machine-gun fire; and there was a movement of the air which disturbed the surface of the soil where she was working. She also saw no flash. For some hours afterwards she had a massive headache. "Two near neighbors of ours observed the explosion, which they too assumed to be lightning. One of them, about a quarter of a mile away, says he saw a flash. The other saw none." (Carter, G.; "Two Unusual Lightning Events on 22 August 1987," Weather, 43:58, 1988.) From Science Frontiers #59, SEP-OCT 1988 . 1988-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... , and darkness. The eggs of all five species commonly parasitized in Britain are much smaller than a bird the size of the cuckoo would normally lay; but the cuckoo still manages to lay eggs of just the right size. When the bona fide eggs of the five parasitized species are placed side-by-side with the mimics layed by the cuckoos, the matches are uncanny - except in the case of the dunnock, which the cuckoo doesn't try to mimic at all. The question, of course, is how the cuckoos do it. American cuckoos rarely parasitize the nests of other birds; but the American cowbird is notorious in this regard, although it does not indulge in egg mimicry. On other continents, cuckoos, honeyguides, finches, a weaverbird, and a duck have learned how to slough off parental duties. (Brooke, M. de L., and Davies, N.B .; "Egg Mimicry by Cuckoos Cuculus canorus in Relation to Discrimination by Hosts," Nature, 335:630, 1988. Also: Harvey, Paul H., and Partridge, Linda; "Of Cuckoo Clocks and Cowbirds," Nature, 335:586, 1988.) From Science Frontiers #61, JAN-FEB 1989 . 1989-2000 William R. Corliss ...
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... article in Oceans, He reviews several types of luminescent displays and some of the theories-of-origin that have been proposed. We have space here for only one of the observations he records. P. Newton was the Chief Officer on the M.V . Mahsuri, which was passing through the Gulf of Oman bound for Australia. It was a dark, moonless night in May. "Then it happened. What first caught Newton's attention was a pale green glow on the horizon just ahead of the ship, but he said nothing to the cadet standing watch with him. Moments later, parallel bands of bluegreen light began to sweep silently over the water toward the ship from the southeast. Still, Newton said not a word, but he felt as if he should duck. Each light band was about 10 to 15 feet wide and at least 500 feet long, and appeared to be some 15 feet above the water. They came rapidly -- every four or five seconds. .. .. . "After the first ten minutes, the bands gave way to expanding circles of light that spread rapidly, like ripples created by a stone thrown into the still waters of a pond. The wheel diameters ranged from ten feet to more than 600 feet. "' Each wheel would last for a couple of minutes, continually flashing,' Newton recalls. Successive flashes came less than a second apart and glowed a pale green. Newton noticed that the centers of the wheels appeared to travel along with the ship; those on the beam seemed to remain ...
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... fields surrounding worms, leeches, insect larvae, and other favorite mole tidbits. This conclusion derives from experiments in which starnosed moles preferentially attacked the parts of worms that are most strongly electrical. Actually, scientists have been puzzled as to how this mole found its prey, for this mammal is semiaquatic and somehow locates its dinner in muddy water even though it has poor eyesight. Although some fish possess electrical sensors, they are uncommon in mammals. Half way around the planet, another strange creature, also classified with the mammals, frequents muddy waters looking for the same sort of prey favored by the star-nosed mole. The Australian platypus also has weak vision and employs search techniques similar to those of the mole. Instead of sensor-bearing tentacles on its prow, the platypus has a duck-like bill loaded with electrical sensors. (Gould, Edwin, et al; "Function of the Star in the Star-Nosed Mole, Condylura Crista ," Journal of Mammalogy, 74:108, 1993.) Comment. Curious, isn't it. that such distantly related animals evolve similar organs and hunting strategies when confronted with like environments? This is called "parallel evolution;" but naming the process does not tell us how nature accomplishes it. Chance mutations and natural selection? Theoretically possible, but not always convincing. Nature must still be withholding some secret from us! Reference. Electrosensitivity in mammals is rare, but we have cataloged several instances in BMO8 in our catalog: Bio logical Anomalies: Mammals II. For more information, visit here . From ...
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... : Mar-Apr 1987 Issue Contents Other pages Home Page Science Frontiers Online All Issues This Issue Sourcebook Project Sourcebook Subjects Ball Lightning Burns A Rayed Circle On A Shed Wall B. Evans sent the following account to the Editor of the Journal of Meteorology: "Your report of 26th August (1986) about the mysterious five circles which appeared in cornfields near Devil's Punchbowl, near Winchester -- the largest being 42 feet across -- reminded me of an incident during the night shift in 1980 at Shotton steelworks. "A high wind was followed by a bright light which lit up the whole area. When we looked down on the yard from our vantage point we could see that a great ball of lightning had struck. As it bounced from spot to spot, we had to duck to get out of its way, but as soon as it has passed we ran out and saw it strike the side of a scrap shed. When the sun came up, it picked out the shape of a dartboard on the scrap shed. The pattern was clear, with all the segments in place, and it was about 37 feet across." (Meaden, G.T .; "Rayed Circle Made by Ball Lightning on the Wall of a Shed," Journal of Meteorology, U.K ., 11:27l, 1986. Journal address: 54 Frome Road, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 1LD, UNITED KINGDOM.) Reference. Other examples of ball lightning with rays are cataloged in GLB3 in: Lightning, Auroras. For information ...
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... . Biofeedback is also involved as the throatsingers tweak the rate and manner in which the vocal folds open and close. (Levin, Theodore C., and Edgerton, Michael E.; "The Throat Singers of Tuva," Scientific American, 281:80, September 1999.) Comments. The human throat is obviously a complex musical instrument, but what survival value does this remarkable instrument have? Did evolution overshoot its mark? Incidentally, many birds can produce simultaneously two tones that are not harmonically related. However, these birds have a special doublebarreled organ called the syrinx. So, the avian "two-voice" phenomenon is not as unexpected as it is in humans. But, waxing skeptical, as usual, we ask why some birds would need a twovoice capability when ducks, herons, and many other birds survive very well with rather crude vocalizations. From Science Frontiers #127, JAN-FEB 2000 . 1997 William R. Corliss ...
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