Cool facts on just about everything
A controversial study suggests humans reached the Americas 100,000 years earlier than thought! Broken mastodon bones, large broken rocks and worn rocks suggest hominid activity. Dating was challenging due to the inability to use radiocarbon however it was a method using radioactive uranium and thorium suggesting the bones were 130,000 years old. The claim is contentious with experts questioning why there was no evidence of scraping or other tool use on the bones to remove the meat.
Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, could support life! Huge plumes that went into the upper atmosphere are found to be molecular hydrogen has been found that could feed microbes, similar to Earth. The only likely source are hydrothermic reactions between hot rocks and the water in the moons oceans. The oceans are likely liquid due to the gravitational influence of Saturn.
Scientists have finally created metallic hydrogen! Using two artificial diamonds with flat bottoms, they squeezed super-cooled hydrogen to 500 GPa (5 millions times atmospheric pressure). Observations with lasers suggest that the gaseous hydrogen has solidified to a metal as shiny as aluminum.
An excavation in France has found Neanderthals 50,000 years ago were using chunks of manganese oxides likely for its ability to reduce the auto-ignition temperature of wood thus making it easier to start a fire. Manganese dioxide has found found in fire places further supporting their argument.
Sherpas are an ethnic group living in the Himalayan region of Nepal. Their incredible endurance at this elevation has been studied and it's been discovered that the mitochondria in their cells is uniquely superior at producing energy compared to lowlanders. It was initially hypothesized that they had more red blood cells to deliver more oxygen. This isn't the case. They instead have higher levels of NO2 which dilates blood cells and they burn more sugar and less fat, which requires less oxygen.
A study from Florida State University found that water can be found 400 - 600 km into the Earth's mantle! It was initially thought increasing pressures would break down the water molecule. However, minerals such as brucite can store water and allow for "flow" of the earth's crust. It's hypothesized an entire ocean of water is composed within the earth's crust.
During WWII, German soldiers constructing a bunker in Greece found a fossilized jawbone. New investigations of the jawbone suggest that it's possible humans split from apes in Europe instead of Africa.
The Cockeyed Squid, Histioteuthis heteropsis, lives deep in the Pacific ocean's 'twilight zone', just before light disappears completely. The squid has two very different eyes. One is flat and black and mostly looks down to keep an eye out for high-contrast flashes of bio-luminescence. It's unusual, yellow eye looks upwards. It's been found to have increased sensitivity to the faint sunlight above. It's yellow colour filters out the blueness of the ocean which makes prey easier to detect.
The oldest record of life on Earth was found in Northern Quebec and dates back to 3.8 billion years (300 million years older than the previous record holder)! Found in Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt, small tubes of hematite (iron oxide) were found and they are similar to tubes currently existing around deep sea thermal vents today. Extremophiles such as these reinforce the possibility of finding similar examples of life on Mars.
Monkey Cups (Nepenthes) are a pitcher plant that trap bugs to digest for nutrients. They have been found to have the ability to digest gluten! This could potentially spell significant relief for those with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.
NASA's Messenger spacecraft found a valley on planet Mercury that's 1000 km long, 500 km wide with sides that are up to 3 km high! It was likely created as Mercury cooled, causing the planet's crust to shrink and contract. This process suggests that Mercury is still warm inside which is counter to previous understanding.
Manta rays have the highest brain to body mass ratio of all fish.
In the middle ages, based on a mistranslated Arabic term for 'bitumen', it was thought mummies had healing properties. They were ground into a powder and sold as medicine (one source cites 5 sterling/pound of ground mummy). Once mummies became harder to find, sun-desiccated corpses were used as substitutes.
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