Humans

Here are the most astounding science facts we’ve learnt in 2018 so far


1. SpaceX didn’t just launch a Tesla Roadster into space back in February – there was a second payload hidden inside the car. A small Arch (pronounced ‘Ark’) designed to last for millions, if not billions, of years in the extreme environments of space is now making its way across our Solar System, carrying with it a library’s worth of information about humanity.

2. Bitcoin is in a precarious legal position following the discovery of links to child pornography hidden within the blockchain code. As of right now, the legal status of the most famous cryptocurrency is unclear.

3. The largest underwater cave system exists below Mexico spanning an incredible 347 kilometres (216 miles) – and it’s filled with hidden Maya treasures.

4. It’s official – birds of prey in Australia deliberately start dangerous forest fires. This is something that’s long been observed by Indigenous populations, but only confirmed by science in January this year.

5. Scientists have identified the physical source of anxiety in the brain… and figured out how to control it with light.

6. There’s a weird anomaly underneath Africa that’s dramatically weakening Earth’s magnetic field. In case you think we’re exaggerating, the effect is so pronounced, it’s now hazardous for Earth’s satellites to enter it – the magnetic field is so weak in the area it can’t guarantee protection for electronics from damaging space radiation. More worryingly, this could be an early sign that Earth’s magnetic poles are getting set to flip.

7.  And if Earth’s poles do flip, we’re unprepared for the side effects.

8. A review of 6,000 studies across two decades has given us yet another solid, peer-reviewed verdict on the health impacts of genetically modified corn. The verdict? It isn’t bad for you.

9. For the first time ever, astronomers were able to detect planets outside our galaxy. Researchers used a technique known as gravitational microlensing to detect extragalactic planets ranging in masses as small as the Moon to as great as Jupiter in a galaxy 3.8 billion light years away. Just wrap your tiny noggin around that.

10. We were wrong – rats definitely didn’t spread the black plague back in the 14th century. After centuries of blaming rodents, science has now shown once and for all that it was most likely human lice and fleas that spread the disease, killing tens of millions of people.

11. An incredibly popular herbal supplement is actually an opioid. And a dangerous one at that.

12. Black holes are weirder than we thought. It turns out not only do they eject matter, they can belch it out twice. For the first time, astronomers have observed a black hole gobble up a star and then burp out two giant jets of particles.

13. There’s now “very strong evidence” that alcohol can directly damage DNA in crucial stem cells, which could explain the link between drinking and increased cancer risk. 🙁

14. Biologists counted all the protein molecules in a single yeast cell and the answer really is 42… million.

15. Ancient humans were super promiscuous. Not only did they have lots of sex with Neanderthals, new research has shown they also bred with a mysterious human-like species called the Denisovans. The evidence remains in our gene pool to this day.

16. Naked mole rats have yet another superpower. In addition to being immune to cancer, they also DO. NOT. AGE. If you’re a naked mole rat, your chances of dying don’t increase as you get older. As you might imagine, scientists are eagerly investigating further.

17. Scientists can now generate “negative mass” in the lab. A team of physicists says they’ve built a device that’s capable of generating mysterious particles known as ‘polaritons‘ that behave as if they have negative mass.

18. A small pebble discovered in south-west Egypt is not only extraterrestrial in origin, it doesn’t appear to come from our Solar System at all. Known as the Hypatia stone, it contains micro-mineral compounds not known to occur anywhere on Earth, not found in any other meteorites, and not known to occur anywhere in the Solar System. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

19. Speaking of Egypt, a scientist thinks he’s figured out the secret to the pyramids’ uncannily perfect alignment. By simply using shadows that fall on the autumnal equinox, the researcher showed that ancient Egyptians would have been able to align the pyramids almost perfectly along the cardinal points – north-south-east-west.  

20. Experiments have shown the effects of a fourth spatial dimension.

21. We’ve finally found something that can kill cockroaches – one of the world’s longest and creepiest worms, known as the bootlace worm. Or, more affectionately, living horror noodle.

22. In case you were wondering, we also now know exactly what deep-sea anglerfish look like after they mate, and, yeah, it’s weird.



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