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. Plants, algae and mosses prevent 'sunburn' in that they contains a protein that wiggles when it gets too hot. As the temperature increases, the pH of the cell decreases, which manipulates the protein and allows for heat dissipation. Otherwise, the protein remains immobile and allows for photosynthesis to continue normally.
A study examining why chimpanzees (and other apes) are so much stronger than humans despite their similar (or smaller) size has discovered that chimps have a different distribution of muscle fibres. Unlike humans, which have about 70% slow-twitch muscle fibres (better for endurance) they have about 70% fast-twitch fibres. These are better for bursts of energy however they fatigue faster.
City birds in Mexico City have been seen tearing apart cigarette butts and using those contents to build their nests. It's been hypothesized that this is because the butts protect the nests from parasites that would otherwise harm the chicks.
A study has suggested the reason domestic dogs are so friendly is because they have a genetic mutation similar to Williams-Beuren Syndrome in humans. In people, this leads to developmental delay but also hyper-sociability and excessively friendly behaviour. They noted that domestic dogs (unlike wolves) have mutations in the same locations as in humans with this condition.
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.
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 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.
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