If you’ve seen photos of the Los Angeles reservoir covered in millions of black balls, you might have wondered two things. One: what the heck are they? And two… could you swim in them? Derek from Veritasium recently answered the first question in a video that went viral, with more than 32 million views
Why zebras evolved to have their distinctive stripes has long puzzled scientists, with one of the leading hypotheses the idea that the stripes are a temperature control mechanism. A study last year suggested that wasn’t the case, but now there’s new evidence on the table. In this latest study, researchers measured temperature differences between
Opportunity’s final message home is not much to look at on its own. If you’re old enough to remember film cameras, it looks like the final exposure on a roll of film, developed but partly missing. It’s a suitable epitaph for Opportunity’s mission. Opportunity captured this image with the left half of its PanCam,
The origins of the Solar System’s heavy elements such as gold and platinum have been a source of great interest to astronomers. One of the most popular theories is that they were scattered into space by neutron star collisions. New research, however, has found another origin: an oft-overlooked type of star explosion, or supernova.
The particle known as a Majorana fermion is as mysterious and uncontrollable as it is unique. It’s the only known particle that is also its own antiparticle, and has properties that make it an alluring candidate for qubits, the basic unit of information in a quantum computer. Harnessing that potential, however, is easier said
Late last month scientists undertook a pretty amazing feat, successfully installing five automated weather stations across the Himalayan region, including the highest weather station in the world, near the very top of Mount Everest. In a long-form feature by National Geographic writer Freddie Wilkinson, the international team explain how they battled extreme weather, record
Earth’s temperatures are on track to blow past the objectives set in the Paris climate agreement. Last year was the fourth warmest on record for surface temperatures and the hottest ever for oceans. A recent report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that nations around the globe must implement
Smartphone addiction does not seem like a questionable thing to believe in. It exists. Surely it does, doesn’t it? After all, there’s a Wikipedia page on it. The New York Times writes about it. There are even claims it’s killing us, that smartphones are destroying an entire generation. But while nobody is saying we should be
It’s really not uncommon for human babies to be born with extra fingers or toes. The mutation is called polydactyly, and around one in 500 babies has it. These extra digits are considered useless, and usually amputated not long after birth – but as new research has shown, they may not be quite so bad
A new superconducting magnet has briefly sustained an astonishing 45.5 tesla magnetic field intensity. For comparison, your flimsy fridge magnets have about 1 percent of a single tesla. The measurement, achieved by researchers at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) at Florida State University resets the bar on what’s possible in direct current
Breast feeding can be difficult for many new mums, but it could be argued that a 29-year-old in Austria had it much worse. It wasn’t just her breasts that were swelling, sore, and producing milk – it was also her vulva. The doctors at the Obstetrics and Gynecologic Endocrinology section of the Kepler University
Carnivorous plants are known for being brutal and opportunistic predators, but an unexpected and fascinating discovery in Canada has proved especially gruesome. Described as a “WTF moment” by researchers, it appears that pitcher plants in the wetlands of Ontario are not just luring in insects and spiders. They are also regularly capturing and devouring vertebrates.
As rain deluged the Midwest this spring, commercial fisherman Ryan Bradley knew it was only a matter of time before the disaster reached him. All that water falling on all that fertilizer-enriched farmland would soon wend its way through streams and rivers into Bradley’s fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Mississippi coast.
Bitcoin and the blockchain may seem like puzzling new technological concepts, but the central tenet of this cutting-edge cryptocurrency goes back way longer than you might believe. Strange as it may seem, bitcoin has a kind of bizarro historical analogue in an ancient currency system dating back hundreds of years: giant stone disks called
We know humans have been using cannabis for various purposes for thousands of years, but its history as a drug has been a little harder to pin down. Now have a new point of reference: Around 2,500 years ago, the people of Central Asia were smoking psychoactive cannabis at funerals. Specifically, archaeologists have found
In the beginning, life was simple. Then, about half a billion years ago, biology got complicated. Identical cells shrugged off the shackles of conformity and divided up the chores between them, evolving into the first members of the animal kingdom. Exactly what this animal prototype looked like has long been the subject of debate.
It was the year 2000 and scientists had never seen anything like it: astronomers reported evidence of “superflares” on distant stars – solar outbursts many thousands of times more energetic than typical solar flares. As researchers observed over subsequent studies, these intense eruptions were more common on young, rapidly rotating stars, and on stars
The Moon is home to one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System. At 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) across, the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the Moon’s far side covers nearly a quarter of the lunar surface – and there’s something massive buried beneath it. We can’t see it from here on
A huge wolf head preserved since the last Ice Age has been found in incredible condition in Siberia, an estimated 40,000 years since being entombed in frozen wilderness. The giant head, discovered by a local man in 2018 along the shores of the Tirekhtyakh River in the Russian Republic of Sakha (aka Yakutia), measures a
To sleep or to snooze? You probably know the answer, but you don’t prefer it. Most of us probably use the snooze function on our alarm clocks at some point in our lives. Just a few more minutes under the covers, a time to gather our thoughts, right? While such snoozing might seem harmless,
Whenever scientists announce an upcoming close encounter with an asteroid, certain corners of the internet light up like the synaptic rush that accompanies a meth binge, with panicky headlines shouted straight from the brain stem. But never mind that. We’re not that corner of the internet. We’re sober, yo! The fact of the matter
For nearly 20 years, scientists have debated the viability of an EM Drive, a hypothetical type of engine that could propel a spacecraft without the need for any fuel. If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it probably is – a working EM Drive would literally break one of the foundational laws
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says there’s a very simple reason his other company, Blue Origin, is working on a giant lunar lander to make moon travel as easy as an aeroplane flight: Humanity’s very survival relies on colonizing space, starting with the moon. So he told attendees during his time on stage Thursday at
Meteorologists in Southern California got a strange surprise on Tuesday night when they spotted a huge blob on the National Weather Service radar. Appearing to be about 130 by 130 kilometres (80 miles), it was moving southward over San Bernardino County. “It was very strange because it was a relatively clear day and we
New research has revealed a previously unknown source of magnetism deep within our planet’s stupidly hot, squishy layers. Far from being magnetically dead, some of Earth’s mantle might have pockets of iron oxide (Fe2O3) with enough magnetic pull to have a real effect. A research team made up of scientists from around the globe
Imagine being a jellyfish just swimming along, minding your own business, when suddenly you’re taken for a nauseating ride in a wildly spinning vortex. This is exactly what happened to a poor creature in Spain, and photographer Victor Devalles managed to capture every moment of it. In fact, Devalles is the one who sort
On average, 8.8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean every year. The maximum amount could be closer to 14 million tons – about the weight of 2 million elephants. Most plastics take hundreds of years to break down. And even then, they just splinter into very small pieces called microplastics, which will likely never
The dragonfish is a top predator at the bottom of the sea. A bioluminescent lure on its head and spots on its belly beckon prey, like a lantern draws in moths. The rest of its body, as long as a pencil and almost as slender, is an inky black that blends in with water deeper
As a rule, your brain’s activity doesn’t influence the physiological development of your sex cells. In simpler terms: What you ‘think’ can’t be inherited. But now it looks like we may need to rethink this rule for at least one species. The activity of nematode neurons has been shown to influence the foraging behaviour
A colossal magnetic field stretching between two clusters of galaxies has been observed for the first time. Roughly a billion light-years away, the ‘bridge’ of radio-emitting plasma spans 10 million light-years, following a filament in the mysterious cosmic web that connects the Universe. The space between clusters of galaxies isn’t completely dark and empty.
Humans have spread microplastics to virtually every ecosystem on the planet, from the deepest chasms in the sea to the most remote wilderness on land. Today, there is nowhere left to hide, and each year, we humans receive a hearty dose of our own medicine. From what little we know about microplastics in air, food and water,
How far can the human body be pushed? It’s a question you might ask yourself on a 5K run, or an early morning gym session, but a new study says there is a definite limit to human endurance – beyond which our bodies start breaking down. For long-term levels of exertion, that limit is
Not everything on Earth has sex. While the vast majority of creatures on the planet reproduce this way, some animals prefer to go it alone. Sometimes when they do this, they thrive – successfully rejecting sex for millions of years. Sometimes animals even switch between sexual and asexual reproduction. So, sex is a tricky thing.
Astronomers peering into the dark heart of the Milky Way galaxy have seen a vast, rotating disc of cool gas, circling the supermassive black hole that therein resides. Long has this disc been hypothesised; now, it is revealed in all its turbulent glory. “We were the first to image this elusive disk and study
New results from the Large Hadron Collider have confirmed it. The mysterious five-quark subatomic particle – the pentaquark, only discovered a few years ago – really is composed of two sets of quarks. One is a meson, a type of particle that contains a quark and antiquark pair; the other is a three-quark baryon: the
Scientists have demonstrated a lightweight type of foam made of hollow metallic spheres that can withstand the incredible impact of .50 calibre rounds: the kinds of bullets fired by heavy machine guns and sniper rifles. While weighing only about half as much as conventional steel armour, this engineered material – called composite metal foam
Electric car motors, iPhones, military jet engines, batteries, and satellites all have something in common: They require rare-earth elements to function. Rare-earth elements are a group of 17 metals that – as their name suggests – form under the Earth’s surface and are difficult to find and extract. But they are crucial to the
Humanity has been climbing a treacherous path, and now, looking down from such great heights, our footprints are clear to see. In the middle of May, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in our planet’s atmosphere climbed over and above 415 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since the dawn of our species. That was a
PDS 70, the star that last year gave us the first ever confirmed direct image of a planet being born, had an extra trick up its protoplanetary disc. In follow-up observations, astronomers have found a second planet – and managed to take photographs of both. This gives it the added honour of being only
New York is one signature away from becoming the first state in the country to ban cat declawing, a practice advocates say serves no benefit to felines and is done typically out of convenience. The bill, which passed by a wide margin Tuesday in the state’s majority-Democrat Assembly and Senate, would impose a US$1,000
The world has learned many lessons from the Chernobyl disaster, a devastating nuclear power plant accident that recently rejoined our cultural conversation thanks to a new series on HBO. Though many elements of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery, we know a few things for certain: On April 26, 1986, the core of a
If the dating of a number of East African artefacts turns out to be correct, the emergence of our genus might have been given a boost when hominids literally gave tools an edge. Systematically flaked stones buried in sediment dated from 2.58 to 2.61 million years ago were uncovered at an Ethiopian dig site
A doomsday ending to climate change is not inevitable, but the situation is becoming ever more desperate. Without immediate and drastic action, reminiscent of efforts during World War II, a new analysis predicts that by 2050, climate change could become an “existential threat to human civilisation” that can never be undone. The new report,
Retelling the 1986 Chernobyl disaster is an exercise in unburying the truth. In the wake of the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident, which forced the city of Pripyat in what was then part of the Soviet Union to evacuate after being exposed to toxic levels of radiation, Soviet officials publicly downplayed the incident.
The famous cat-in-a-box thought experiment by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger is an illustration of one of the defining characteristics of quantum mechanics – the unpredictable behaviour of particles at the quantum level. It makes working with quantum systems incredibly difficult; but what if we could make quantum predictions? A team of physicists believes it’s
It was built in the early 12th century by King Suryavarman II, one of the most famous kings of the Angkorian civilization that lasted from approximately the ninth to 15th centuries. The structure is so strongly associated with Cambodian identity even today that it appears on the nation’s flag. For many years, historians placed
The first film of a total solar eclipse has been restored by specialists at the British Film Institute (BFI) and made available for viewing. The film was taken in North Caroline in 1900 by Nevil Maskelyne. Maskelyne was a British man who was a magician turned film-maker. He took the film as part of
Plasma, that super-hot mix of electrified atomic particles, plays a key role in the evolution of stars, black holes, and other cosmic elements. For closer study though, plasma needs to be recreated in a lab – and researchers have just managed to generate a particular type of plasma jet for the first time. The