Humans

20+ Science Facts We Didn’t Know at The Start of 2017

1. The speed of gravity is pretty much identical to the speed of light! This year, for the first time ever, scientists were able to photograph a collision between two neutron stars. By conducting simultaneous optical and gravitational wave observations, they were able to accurately measure the speed of gravity for the first time.  2. A brand new human organ has …


Humans

The best New Year’s resolutions according to science

The most common New Year’s resolutions tend to be vague goals intended to “get your life together” by losing weight, eating healthier food, or exercising more. But most people don’t successfully follow through on their resolutions – largely because they’re so general and non-specific.   That’s where science can help. Using specific, science-backed resolutions, you can boost your chances of …


A high-school student just won $250,000 for this incredible explanation of relativity

The German physicist Albert Einstein needed complex equations to describe his theory of relativity, but 18-year-old Hillary Diane Andales of the Philippines does just fine with a pick-up truck, a few cell phones, and Usain Bolt.   Andales is the winner of the 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge, an annual competition that calls on teenagers across the world to submit videos no …

This ingenious Artificial Island Will Collect Wind Energy and Divert it to Shore

The winds of change are blowing towards renewable energy, and nations are becoming increasingly more creative in how they can capitalise on the growing trend. At present, the most popular sources of renewable energy come from either solar or wind. Both, however, require tracts of land for their infrastructure. With real estate for wind farms becoming increasingly expensive and scarce, …

The first supermoon of 2018 will appear on New Year’s Day

On January 1 – New Year’s Day – we’ll see the first supermoon of 2018. Different cultures around the world have given various names to each full moon of the year. The first full moon of the year is called the wolf moon after the idea that wolves howl at the Moon.   And in this case, it’s also a supermoon, …

Physicists Test a Strange Nuclear Sphere That Could Revolutionise Fusion Energy

It’s well established that nuclear fusion – the reaction that powers our Sun – could be the key to unlocking clean, limitless energy here on Earth. But one of the biggest challenges of modern science is how to harness the fusion reaction so that it produces more energy than it consumes. And a new paper claims to have found a way to …

New device lets scientists explore the weird physics near absolute zero

Scientists have long been intrigued by the physics near absolute zero – the temperature 0° Kelvin, or -273.15°C, where particles reach the lowest possible amount of movement – ever since this limit was theorised.   Yet reaching absolute zero has been called impossible: as you continue to remove heat from a gas to cool it, the work needed to remove the heat …

Scientists have discovered a brand new species of giant octopus hiding in plain sight

Octopuses are masters of camouflage, but have you ever heard of an octopus that is so good at disguising itself as another octopus that marine biologists didn’t even know it was a separate species?   What scientists are now calling the “frilled giant Pacific octopus” has been right under our noses the whole time – mistaken for the giant Pacific …

Here’s why some people turn super-red after drinking alcohol

If your face goes red when drinking alcohol, you’re not alone. More than one in three people with East Asian heritage (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) experience facial flushing when drinking beer, wine, or spirits. In Asian populations, it is due to an inherited deficiency in one of the enzymes involved in the breakdown of alcohol: aldehyde dehydrogenase. This type of …

We finally have evidence that black holes drive winds shaping their entire galaxy

Black holes are so weird and so mysterious, it’s possible we’re never going to unravel all their puzzles. But this new one is pretty fantastic – the first evidence that supermassive black holes at galactic cores actively shape their environments, something suspected but never before confirmed.   Not just that, but they way they do so – by generating powerful …

NYC is finally taking down its old, misleading ‘fallout shelter’ signs

More than 50 years after they first went up, thousands of faded, obsolete FALLOUT SHELTER signs remain bolted to New York City’s buildings, pointing the way to safety bunkers that haven’t existed for decades.   Now, in the first coordinated effort to remove this weathered, misleading signage, city officials are taking down these bleached and peeling relics of the Cold …

Several people are claiming they own this escaped mystery croc found in Australia

A juvenile freshwater crocodile that showed up in the suburbs of Melbourne in Australia’s southeast has now been claimed by a number of people who have stepped forward, each saying the animal is their pet.   The 1-metre (3.2-foot) crocodile was found on a quiet street on Christmas day, chilling out on a footpath, and no one knows how it got …

Plants are better at complex decision-making than we ever realised

We know that plants can learn, and make decisions, and we now have a new level of insight into the decision-making process plants go through when put under pressure, vying with competitors for limited access to sunlight.   It turns out our flora friends can react to the size and strength of their nearby neighbours, deciding how best to survive …

Potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid is even bigger than we thought

New imagery suggests the near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon is bigger than previously thought – and considering it’s ranked as the second largest of the asteroids potentially hazardous to our planet, that’s worth noting.   Don’t run for cover just yet though, because we’ve got a very good lock on where 3200 Phaethon is going. It won’t be coming anywhere close …

Scientists observe bizarre ‘double whirlpools’ in the ocean for the first time

For the first time, scientists have recorded a bizarre phenomenon in fluid dynamics, which up until now had only ever been theoretically predicted, but never observed in the wild.   In the ocean, vast whirlpools called eddies span up to hundreds of kilometres across and are a relatively common event. But now researchers have observed these giant vortices swirling in …

2017’s total solar eclipse created bow waves in Earth’s atmosphere

The phenomenon of “bow waves” has been long hypothesised, but proven quite elusive. Now, using sensors from 2,000 sites across the US, researchers have what they are claiming is the “first unambiguous evidence” of upper atmospheric bow waves in the wake of an eclipse.   They were seen during the total solar eclipse that spanned coast-to-coast of the US in …

Scotland is starting a universal basic income experiment in 2018

People living in the Scottish cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, and North Ayrshire may soon receive an unconditional monthly sum as part of a series of universal basic income pilots currently being explored with support from the local government.   Although still in its infancy and rife with controversy, the idea has already attracted £250,000 (nearly US$334,500) of public funding …

Our Top 13 Predictions For Science in 2018

The world of science is unpredictable and ever-changing, but as a team that writes about science day in, day out, we can’t help but notice certain trends in research. So this year – which also happens to be ScienceAlert’s 10th anniversary – we thought we’d try our hand at predicting some of the big science news of 2018 before they happen for …

Physicists have created a set of conditions in which time seems to run in reverse

While we all take for granted the fact that time’s arrow forever points towards the future, physicists have always had trouble showing why this is necessarily the case. A mix of chloroform and acetone might seem like an odd place to hunt for clues, but researchers have used just such a combination to create conditions where for some purposes time …

Study says some men avoid being eco-friendly because it looks ‘less manly’

It’s no secret we all need to pull together to help ease pressures on the environment, but there could be a compelling psychological basis for why many of us aren’t doing everything we should to help save the planet.   A recent report based on seven studies involving a total of more than 2,000 subjects found that both men and …

Amputee bear rescued from cruelty gets to live in sunlight for the first time

A bear that spent 10 years locked away in a bile farm and had her front paws amputated has started a new life in a sanctuary in Vietnam. Rescued in November by global animal welfare organisation Four Paws, Asian black bear Hai Chan has now ventured outside, and is experiencing the sun, trees, grass and water for the first time …

Here’s how your ‘cyberloafing’ at work makes life easier for hackers

The biggest threat to an organisation’s cyber-security comes from within, according to a growing body of evidence. Employees are frequently putting their companies at risk of hacking by sharing their passwords, using public WiFi networks to send sensitive information, or not protecting the privacy of social media accounts.   But there’s another threat that at first seems innocuous and that …

A Fossilised Skull Has Revealed When The Last ‘Siberian Unicorn’ Lived on Earth

For decades, scientists have estimated that the Siberian unicorn – a long-extinct species of mammal that looked more like a rhino than a horse – died out some 350,000 years ago. But a beautifully preserved skull found in Kazakhstan has completely overturned that assumption. Turns out, these incredible creatures were still around as recently as 29,000 years ago. Yes, that …

This Princeton professor’s amazing CV of failures is something we should all learn from

Searching for a job requires the perfect résumé or CV, and there are countless online guides dedicated to CV-crafting that promise to get you to the second round of the hiring process. But if there’s one thing you’d never do, it’s list your failures on there, right? Well, that’s exactly what one esteemed Princeton University professor has done, and a …

Here’s what happens to your brain when you die

You might picture yourself walking through a field, or surrounded by loved ones. Or perhaps making your way down a long, dark tunnel, towards a brilliant, beckoning light. When the end comes, what you experience will be a veiled secret known only to you – but whatever it is, scientists say those closing moments of consciousness could be powered by …

Elon Musk’s South Australian battery responded in just 140 milliseconds after a coal-fired power plant failed

Elon Musk’s giant lithium ion battery in South Australia has responded in record time to the first power failure since it was installed as a back up power source. It comes just weeks after Musk won a $US13 million bet that he would supply South Australia with the Tesla battery within 100 days or it was free. State Energy Minister …

Physicists Just Discovered a Way to Track Unobserved Quantum Particles

One of the underlying principles of quantum theory is that quantum objects can exist as waves or particles. But, they do not exist as either until they are measured, making it seemingly unachievable to identify or track quantum objects when they’re not being observed. But recently, physicists faced this issue and proved that it is not an impossibility to track …

The Oldest Mummies in The World Are Turning Into Black Slime

A collection of mummified human remains found in northern Chile is turning into black slime due to rising humidity levels, and researchers are at a loss for how to stop it. More than 100 of these mummies – which are at least 7,000 years old – have started to turn gelatinous, and last year local officials applied to the United …

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch just created an eerie light show over Southern California

SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket on Friday night, creating a dazzling display in the sky above Southern California, and baffling some people who had no idea what was happening. Watch some of the reactions from the ground: Some people were unsure what was happening. “What did I just witness,” one man asked: What did I just witness?? pic.twitter.com/JsHfqTsxm0 — …

Scientists Have Built a Robot That Actually Sweats While Exercising

Kenshiro and his younger “sibling” Kengoro are two robots that were built with unprecedented similarity to human anatomy at the University of Tokyo. Their unique design make them able to move in ways looking closer to natural human movement than any preceding robot.   In fact, Kengoro’s exercising ability likely rivals many human couch potatoes. The robot can do sit-ups, …

Meet Baby Emma – She Was Frozen for 24 Years as an Embryo

A “snowbaby” is a term used to describe an embryo that is frozen in storage and preserved for potential future birth. In November 2017, the longest frozen embryo ever held in storage was successfully born in Tennessee. The embryo, created from anonymous donors, was frozen on October 14, 1992, just one year after mother Tina Gibson’s own birth. The 24-year-old …

Thinking about God might make you sweat, even if you’re not religious

Sick of tinsel, carols and talk of virgin birth? In New Zealand, Australia and many other countries, it’s hard to escape Christmas in December. But even if you don’t believe in Christ or a God, religion can still be a powerful force. Research shows that even nonreligious people may hold unconscious beliefs linked to religion that can affect their psychology. …

Vampire Bats are Killing Hundreds of Cattle In Peru Every Year

Vampire bats have long been suspected of passing on rabies to humans and livestock in Latin America, but up until now solid statistics have been hard to come by. A new study gives us some idea of the problem – and it’s not looking good. The study, carried out in Peru, estimates that more than 500 heads of cattle each …

A mysterious winking star could be gobbling up the remains of planets

A strange “winking” star called RZ Piscium could be devouring the remains of busted planets, according to new research, solving a long-standing mystery around the star’s age and surrounding activity. Using 11 hours of telescope readings, astronomers have established that RZ Piscium is a young-ish star, similar to our own Sun – but given that it’s a toddler in star …

This skull-shaped asteroid is coming back to haunt Earth next year

You’re probably not going to see it, but in 2018, a small Solar System object is going to pay us a second visit since its discovery in 2015. It’s called 2015 TB145, also known as the Halloween Asteroid – and for good reason. It’s just perfect. It looks a little like a human skull in certain conditions; it’s as dark …

The 10 most popular scientific papers everyone was talking about this year

In the academic world, citations matter. But thanks to the internet, the public is increasingly engaging with science too, and that doesn’t just mean reading science news, but actually looking at published research as well. Each year, the London-based analytics company Altmetric releases a ranking of the 100 most popular research articles that year, according to their data. Rather than …

Geologists think they finally know why earthquakes happen in the ‘wrong’ places

Somewhere in Eastern Tennessee the ground seems to quiver ever so gently, only to swiftly pass and leave those who felt it to question if it even happened. Seismologists record it, noting once again – far from the boundary of any tectonic plate – the soft rumble of an earthquake where none should be. Often quiet, occasionally devastating, these shakes …

A sea turtle was found tangled in cocaine bundles worth $53 million

The US Coast Guard has rescued a poor beleaguered sea turtle off the US coast after it became entangled in some unusual flotsam – US$53 million worth of cocaine, packaged in plastic-wrapped bales, strung together with rope. It was likely jettisoned by smugglers on a go-fast boat, commonly used for smuggling, when they learned the Coast Guard was nearby. “They …

American life expectancy has declined for a second year in a row

American life expectancy at birth declined for the second consecutive year in 2016, fueled by a staggering 21 percent rise in the death rate from drug overdoses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. The United States has not seen two years of declining life expectancy since 1962 and 1963, when influenza caused an inordinate number of deaths. …

7 epic science discoveries you probably missed in 2017

It’s been an excellent year for science – we had an absolutely stellar neutron star merger announcement, found the elusive time crystals, finally achieved counterfactual quantum communication, and much, much more. But even the keenest science fans wouldn’t be able to catch every single bit of the amazing science news (in fact, given that we get millions of new studies …

Where did all that Mars water go? Scientists have a new idea

Billions of years ago, scientists think Mars was much warmer and wetter than it is now, so where did all that water go? New research suggests much of it is actually locked inside the Martian rocks, which have soaked up the liquid water like a giant sponge. That teases an interesting addition to the commonly held hypothesis that the planet …

9 of the very best science and nature photos of 2017

The Arctic skies light up in a blaze of blue and green when solar wind blasts the atmosphere with charged particles. Storms and wildfires leave debris and ash in their trails. And ecosystems and fellow animals are increasingly transformed by human activity. Looking at the world through the lens of science brings into focus creatures so small they can’t be …

Hundreds of mysteriously carved Stone Age ‘sunstones’ have been found in Denmark

The Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea has turned up a cache of treasures – over 300 carved stones, dating back to the Stone Age. They’re called “sunstones” (“solsten” in Danish), and they were found at a Stone Age archaeological site on the island called Vasagård, which has been puzzling archaeologists for years. In use in the neolithic …

Epic timelapse shows the breaking of a giant iceberg in Antarctica

In July, a huge crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf calved the third-largest iceberg in recorded history. The scale of the giant ice block, dubbed A-68, is truly awesome: roughly the area of Delaware, the mass of 5.6 Mount Everests, and voluminous enough to fill Lake Erie more than twice. Adrian Luckman, a glaciologist at Swansea University, has used …

Incredible graphene sheets could turn harder than diamond when hit by a bullet

Some wonder-materials you hear from once, and that’s it. But not graphene. A month barely goes by these days without us hearing about a new use for this amazing carbon allotrope. Here’s one more potential use for this overachiever of the molecular world – bullet catcher. One day armed forces might protect themselves with layers of a material called diamene; …

Astronomers are intrigued by this weird ‘string’ at the centre of our galaxy

Astronomers have produced a clear snapshot of a 2.3 light-year long ‘thread’ snaking around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The structure itself was discovered back in 2012, but the new image reveals the long line seems to be fairly intimate with the dark heart of our galaxy. While a closer look helps narrow down …