Environment

Earth’s sloshing molten core could give us earthquake warnings 5 years ahead

Changes in the flow of iron around Earth’s outer core are thought to contribute to very small fluctuations in the length of our days. Now researchers say the sloshing of our planet’s core could also be used for potential earthquake warnings, possibly even years ahead. You’ve probably never noticed variations in the length of a day, as they’re measured in …


Humans

13 of this year’s creepiest science stories for your Halloween enjoyment

Happy Halloween! If you’re a regular reader, you know that science isn’t all quantum entanglement – sometimes it’s spooky action at a distance. For your delight, we’ve rounded up 13 of our favourite unnerving science stories so far this year. Turn the lights out (but make sure you can still read), things are about to get eerie. This decomposing faceless …


Why climate scientists are obsessed with two mysterious boulders in the Bahamas

Atop a jagged, 50-foot-high (15-metre-high) cliff on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera sit two enormous boulders known as “The Cow and the Bull”. Each is several times taller than a person; the squatter and wider of the two, the “Bull”, weighs around a thousand tons. The boulders are a tourist attraction, but in recent years, they’ve become much more than …

‘Twisted light’ could create ultra-fast wireless and make fibre optics obsolete

A new method of using photons to carry information might provide a new wireless solution for communication. A collaborative team of researchers developed a way to ‘twist’ photons to improve on open-area quantum information transfer. Using particles of light, i.e. photons, to transmit information isn’t exactly new. Photons have seen use in a number of tests to determine the precision …

Carbon dioxide levels are the highest they’ve been in 3 million years

Earth’s concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) has hit a threshold not seen in at least 3 million years, after a record annual increase in 2016. In 2015, globally averaged concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere stood at 400 parts per million (ppm), but this surged to 403.3 ppm last year, due to human-caused emissions in parallel with a strong …

A Biblical “Miracle” Could Be One of the First Documented Solar Eclipses

A puzzling passage from the Old Testament Book of Joshua could be one of the earliest solar eclipses we have on record – and it could help refine the dates of the reign of Ramesses the Great. Using both the passage in question and an ancient Egyptian text, researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK dated the event …

Cave art has been discovered on an isolated, empty Caribbean island

Thousands of art pieces produced by a vanished civilisation have been uncovered on a Caribbean island, shining a light on a long-lost culture from the days before Europeans arrived. The mix of faces, hybrid human-animal beings, and complex geometric designs marking the walls of Mona Island’s caves has revealed details about the beliefs and lifestyle of a people whom Columbus …

This AI has learned to generate completely photorealistic human faces

Back in June, an image generator that could turn even the crudest doodle of a face into a more realistic looking image made the rounds online. That system used a fairly new type of algorithm called a generative adversarial network (GAN) for its AI-created faces, and now, chipmaker NVIDIA has developed a system that employs a GAN to create far …

A protein has been caught conducting electricity, and scientists are really excited

Proteins, the building blocks in every cell, have usually been thought of as blobs of inert organic matter. Now scientists have caught one particular protein doing something incredible: conducting electricity. If the findings can be replicated and used, we could have ourselves a powerful new diagnostic tool for medical use, capable of identifying single protein molecules with a little blip …

Scientists are literally digging through bat poop to reconstruct historic climate records

From a sample of bat guano spanning across 1,200 years, researchers have uncovered an unprecedented climate record for a large swathe of the European continent. As their findings show, digging through poop can offer a great reconstruction of climatic changes in parts of the world where researchers can’t drill for a more typical ice core or ocean sediment. In the …

This new kind of AI can breach anti-bot security by thinking like a human

One of the most widespread security systems used on the internet to prevent non-humans from accessing websites has been defeated by a powerful new kind of artificial intelligence (AI). CAPTCHAs are those frustrating online tests that challenge you to identify fuzzy-looking letters and numbers – which automated bots supposedly can’t recognise. Only now they can, thanks to a new type …

You must see what those recent insane solar flares looked like from space

We’re heading into a solar minimum, the period of the least sunspot activity in our Sun’s roughly 11-year cycle. But despite that, in September this year the Sun erupted into massive activity. From one single active sunspot region our home star belched out more than 30 solar flares, including the biggest one we’ve seen since 2005. And now we have …

These spooky space sounds compiled by NASA will make your skin crawl

Just in time for the culmination of this year’s spooky season, NASA has debuted a playlist of sounds from space. And even though we know none of it is aliens, those noises are creepy as. From cacophonic plasma waves to eerie Saturn radio emissions and whispers caught off Jupiter’s moons, this playlist of space sounds is weird, beautiful, and a …

We now have an explanation for that mysterious orb of light floating above Siberia

At first, a spectacular glowing orb of light seen floating above Siberia on Thursday night sparked fears of an alien invasion. But thanks to physicists, we now have a more down-to-Earth explanation after all. The sensational light show, which was visible over a large area of northern Siberia, was witnessed by multiple people in the Yamalo-Nenets region, including photographers out …

A team of octopuses has been caught crawling out of the sea in Wales

Octopuses have been filmed taking night-time strolls out of the water and onto the shore on the coast of Ceredigion in Wales, UK. More than 20 of the brainy cephalopods were spotted crawling out of the water after 10pm on Friday, when a local tour company manager and a group returned from a sunset trip. “They were coming out of …

A scientist trained an AI to invent Halloween costume ideas, and they are so good

It’s hard coming up with clever new Halloween costume ideas, so why do all the work yourself? Research scientist Janelle Shane decided to enlist her computer to help with the annual task, and she’s built a first-of-its-kind neural network that can spit out brand-new Halloween costume ideas. First, she fed her computer data on 4,500 Halloween costume names she crowdsourced …

A Scientist Trained an AI to Invent Halloween Costume Ideas, And They Are So Good

It’s hard coming up with clever new Halloween costume ideas, so why do all the work yourself? Research scientist Janelle Shane decided to enlist her computer to help with the annual task, and she’s built a first-of-its-kind neural network that can spit out brand-new Halloween costume ideas. First, she fed her computer data on 4,500 Halloween costume names she crowdsourced …

The Nibiru “apocalypse” apparently coming in 2017 was just pushed back… again

In September, to much fame, a man who claimed to have studied astronomy in Kentucky and deciphered the Book of Revelation predicted an ominous sign would appear on September 23 and foretell the world’s end. “It’s a very biblically significant, numerologically significant number,” David Meade told The Washington Post then. A series of catastrophic events would follow the omen, he …

Something is making Jupiter’s gravitational field ‘askew’

Since it established orbit around Jupiter in July of 2016, the Juno mission has been sending back vital information about the gas giant’s atmosphere, magnetic field and weather patterns. With every passing orbit – known as perijoves, which take place every 53 days – the probe has revealed more interesting things about Jupiter, which scientists will rely on to learn …

Scientists Have Discovered a Material that Could Store Quantum Information

In recent years, a great deal of progress has been made toward the first large-scale, universal quantum computer. However, there are still many problems to solve, like creating a method to store quantum information for extended periods of time. Now, scientists have discovered a material that might be up to the task. The challenge in this type of storage is …

7 things that predict divorce, according to science

No one can say with 100 percent certainty that a couple is heading for disaster. But social scientists have gotten pretty good at predicting who’s most likely to wind up there. These couples share certain commonalities – in the way they fight and the way they describe their relationship, but also in their education level and employment status. Below, Business …

Apparently weed smokers have more sex than the rest of the population

Regular marijuana users have about 20 percent more sex than abstainers, according to a new study from researchers at Stanford University. The study analysed data on 28,000 female and 23,000 male participants in the National Survey of Family Growth, a nationally representative CDC survey of Americans age 15 to 49. It found that women who smoked marijuana daily had sex …

We might finally know what triggered Yellowstone’s massive crater

The thinking has always been that one giant volcanic eruption created the Yellowstone Caldera or volcanic crater in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – but new research suggests we might have been thinking too small. By studying layers of ash and sediment off the California coast, scientists have been able to find evidence of not one, but two eruptions, a short …

Weird growths appear before batteries explode, and scientists finally got a close-up look

Scientists have revealed new atomic-level images of the finger-like growths called dendrites that can breach battery compartment barriers, and go on to cause short circuits or even fires. Understanding more about these tiny protrusions is not only going to lead to safer smartphones, it’s going to help us develop stable batteries for our cars, our homes, our laptops, and all …

3 in 4 reptile pets die in the first year so maybe humans don’t deserve them

A heated discussion over how humans treat their reptilian companions has flared up in a series of articles published this week in the journal Veterinary Record. As reptiles and amphibians are becoming increasingly popular pets, animal experts are calling for renewed attention to the trade to ensure we’re not hurting our slithery and scaly friends. And the issue is more …

Scientists just discovered that bacteria have a sense of touch

Bacteria may not have a central or sensory nervous system as we know it, but they can still physically “feel” the world around them, according to a new study. It turns out the tiny microorganisms don’t just respond to chemical signals – they also have a sense of touch, and can recognise surfaces and respond to them. Wow. Our sense …

There are three kinds of consciousness, and computers have mastered one, says study

Consciousness is a slippery concept to pin down, but a small group of neuroscientists just made a solid attempt at doing just that. Their goal was to determine if we’re anywhere near the holy grail of AI – artificial self-awareness. Now, the short answer is no. Sorry. But before you weep for a bleak future free of robot companions, they …

Scientists just found a serious flaw in ocean temperature calculations

Models used to estimate past ocean temperatures might be based on a flawed assumption, according to new research. If true, it would mean our ancient seas were far cooler than previously calculated, and our planet’s current warming trend is even more extraordinary than we thought. A team of scientists from some of Europe’s leading research institutes has taken a critical …

Saudi Arabia’s newest citizen is a robot and she just had a go at Elon Musk

An empty-eyed humanoid named Sophia has become the first robot in the world to be granted a citizenship. Saudi Arabia bestowed citizenship on Sophia ahead of the Future Investment Initiative, held in the kingdom’s capital city of Riyadh on Wednesday. “I am very honoured and proud of this unique distinction,” Sophia told the audience, speaking on a panel. “This is …

This feathered dinosaur had an amazing raccoon-like bandit mask

The first feathered dinosaur ever found is still spilling its secrets. Sinosauropteryx was uncovered two decades ago, when a farmer in northeastern China unearthed a remarkable fossil while digging a well. The dinosaur’s ancient feathery fluff stunned experts and helped cement the idea that birds are living, avian dinosaurs. Paleontologists continue to wring new and unusual details from Sinosauropteryx remains …

This moth with tentacles is completely real, and we are freaking out

What has six legs, two antennae, four furry appendages sprouting from its backside – and a big chunk of the Internet freaked out? The world’s most viral and terrifying moth. A man in Indonesia posted a picture and video of the insect on Facebook last week, drawing more than 40,000 comments, many from people expressing alarm and asking astute questions, …

Researchers now know in uncomfortable detail exactly what chewing does to our teeth

A new study of the nanoscale particles making up tooth enamel has given scientists the closest look yet at what chewing and eating does to the hardest tissue in the human body – our teeth. Specifically, the research looked at hydroxyapatite crystallites, the ribbon-like strings of nanoparticles that form enamel, putting them through a series of scratch and pressure tests …

Astronomers are watching an interstellar object that’s appeared in our Solar System

Up until now, all asteroids and comets we’ve seen have originated in our own Solar System. But a few days ago astronomers spotted our first visitor from outer space. Preliminary observations suggested it to be a comet with a velocity that indicated – it was flung out from a nearby star rather than getting caught in the Sun’s gravitational pull, …

Here’s why planets with loads of water don’t stay wet for long

When hunting for potentially habitable exoplanets, one of the most important things astronomers look for is whether or not exoplanet candidates orbit within their star’s habitable zone. This is necessary for liquid water to exist on a planet’s surface, which in turn is a prerequisite for life as we know it. However, in the course of discovering new exoplanets, scientists …

This incredible 150-million-year-old Jurassic ‘sea monster’ was just unearthed in India

An ancient sea dragon buried for 150 million years has been discovered by Indian researchers, and it’s thought to be the first time an ichthyosaur (Greek for “fish lizard”) from the Jurassic period has ever been found in India. Ichthyosaurs were ocean-dwelling predators that lived alongside dinosaurs in the Mesozoic Era from around 250 million years ago, and while numerous …

10 ‘bad’ habits that are actually signs you’re smarter than you think

Here’s the thing about bad habits. Many of them can hurt you when taken to the extreme. But in small doses, those same “bad” habits can be part of a healthy lifestyle. As in, you don’t want to live like a total slob – but a desk in slight disarray could make you more creative. Who knew? Below, we’ve rounded …

Yes, that is a giant centipede eating a whole snake because why not

From the seedy underbelly of the natural world where invertebrates prey on anything they can get their fangs on, we have brand new nightmare fuel – giant centipedes crunching away on snakes. A team of biologists in Thailand has reported the “fortuitous observation” of a centipede attacking a snake, made all the more disturbing by the fact the clawed creature …

Study says that psychopaths with their lack of empathy can actually be useful for society

A cool new study using virtual reality and ethical dilemmas has discovered that those with psychopathic traits will readily sacrifice the few for the good of the many. But in a scenario that simulated inevitable harm against another human being, participants with strong psychopathic traits also used greater physical force, so we still wouldn’t really want to be friends with …

Quantum weirdness of light was just confirmed by shooting photons into space

Quantum physics’ two-faced nature has been put to the test over and over again, and every time it’s still damn weird. This time physicists have gone to some lengths – literally – by splitting and merging light and then bouncing it from a satellite before testing its odd-ball properties. And, yeah, even over a stupidly long distance, it’s still messing …

13 incredible science facts you probably didn’t learn at high school

We learn about some awesome science in high school – like Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Periodic table, and DNA replication. The knowledge we pick up there sets the foundations for all the other amazing things we go on to study. But science definitely doesn’t end at high school, and it’s once you take your learning to the next level …

This rare 6,000-year-old skull could be the earliest known tsunami victim

A 6,000-year-old skull fragment from the town of Aitape in Papua New Guinea probably belonged to the victim of a tsunami – a massive, devastating ocean wave. Researchers have analysed the geological sediment from the area where the mid-Holocene skull was found in 1929, and found strong evidence that it was swept by a tsunami – indicating a possible cause …

Yes! We are officially sending a habitat to orbit the Moon

Now that the United States is officially getting back into space exploration, the Moon now seems to be the focus – or at least the starting point – of a lot of plans involving space travel. The Trump administration has redirected NASA’s priorities to settling on our lunar neighbor before Mars, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the BFR …

Einstein’s theory of happiness just sold for US$1 million at auction

He is known as one of the great minds in 20th-century science. But this week, Albert Einstein is making headlines for his advice on how to live a happy life – and a tip that paid off. In November 1922, Einstein was traveling from Europe to Japan for a lecture series for which he was paid 2,000 pounds by his …

There’s a single molecule in blood that makes predators go crazy for it

A chemical scent contained in the spilt blood of mammals is irresistible to predator species craving fresh kill, but provokes a very different reaction in animals that are hunted. Researchers have found that E2D, a molecular component of animal blood, is as effective as actual blood in luring wolves, tigers, and wild dogs, but produces aversion in prey species who …

This poor bear’s tongue got so big, vets had to surgically remove it

A rescued moon bear in Myanmar had to have surgery after its tongue got so big it was dragging along the floor. By the time vets managed to finally remove the growth, it had swollen to over 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of tissue – long past the point of fitting in the bear’s head. Not long after he was rescued …

Constantly texting your friends about problems could be increasing your anxiety

Our culture has changed immensely as a result of the smartphone. We can get reassurance for every doubt just by texting our friends. We can feel approval by getting “likes” on our Instagram post or Facebook status. But heavy reliance on devices is responsible for a shift in how we regulate our emotions. A by-product of this instant communication is …

This study has good news for people who spend all their time daydreaming

Unable to stay focused? Frequently going away with the fairies? It may be because you have so much brain capacity that it needs to find ways to keep itself occupied, according to new research. A team of psychologists has found a positive correlation between a person’s tendency to daydream and their levels of intelligence and creativity. “People tend to think …