Coolest Science Stories of the Week
By Live Science, 7 July 2012.
By Live Science, 7 July 2012.
From amazing discoveries to spurned myths, broken records to unbelievable statistics, we brought you some cool stories this week. Check them out.
[Pictured here [top image], a simulation of a particle collision inside the Large Hadron Collider. When two protons collide inside the machine, they create an energetic explosion that gives rise to new and exotic particles - including, perhaps, the Higgs boson.]
10. Possible Higgs Boson Discovered
Physicists are more than 99 percent sure that they've found a new elementary particle that is likely the long-sought Higgs boson.
Evidence for the new particle was reported today (July 4) by scientists from the world's largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Researchers reported they'd seen a particle weighing roughly 125 times the mass of the proton, with a level of certainty that all but seals the deal it's the Higgs boson.
9. Mermaids Don't Exist, NOAA Says
The National Ocean Service's June 27 posting that mermaids don't exist may seem an odd fit for a government agency that focuses on real ocean phenomena. But according to a spokesperson the mermaid posting is just one way to educate people, and perhaps bust some mermaid myths.
The timing of the post seems to coincide with the Animal Planet show "Mermaids: The Body Found," which came out at the end of May and explored whether there is "a kernel of truth that lives beneath the legend of the mythic mermaid," according to the show's description.
[Full Story: Mermaids Don't Exist, NOAA Website Notes]
8. How Bizarre 'Zombie' Worms Eat
Deep in oceans around the world lurks a type of worm without a mouth, anus or gut that makes its living by eating the bones of whales and other deceased sea creatures. But how does an animal without a mouth penetrate bone? That's just what a group of researchers aimed to find out.
The so-called zombie worms break down bone by excreting acid, according to research just presented at the Society for Experimental Biology's meeting in Salzburg, Austria. It was previously unclear how the worms did it, since they lack any organs for "drilling," said researcher Sigrid Katz of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.
[Full Story: Bizarre 'Zombie' Worms Use Acid to Eat Whale Bones]
7. Heat & Drought Break Records This Week
The United States is parched, with more than half of the land area in the lower 48 states experiencing moderate to extreme drought, according to a report released today (July 5).
Just under 56 percent of the contiguous United States is in drought conditions, the most extensive area in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. The previous drought records occurred on Aug. 26, 2003, when 54.79 percent of the lower 48 were in drought and on Sept 10, 2002, when drought extended across 54.63 percent of this area.
[Full Story: Drought Reaches Record 56% of Continental US]
6. Evidence of Martian Water Found
New evidence that water on Mars existed deep underground during the first billion years of the Red Planet's history has been found in rocks blasted out of Martian craters by ancient collisions, a new study finds.
Researchers using observations from the European Space Agency's Mars Express probe and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) studied rocks on Mars that were ejected from impact craters. They found that underground water persisted deep below the planet's surface for prolonged periods during Mars' early existence.
[Full Story: Ancient Mars Water Existed Deep Underground]
5. Tiniest Fly Decapitates Ants
A new fly discovered in Thailand is the world's smallest. It is five times smaller than a fruit fly and tinier than a grain of salt (0.4 millimetres) in length - half the size of the smallest "no see-ums." It probably also feeds on tiny ants, likely decapitating them and using their head casings as its home.
"It's so small you can barely see it with the naked eye on a microscope slide. It's smaller than a flake of pepper," said Brian Brown, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who identified the fly as a new species. "The housefly looks like a Godzilla fly beside it."
4. UFO Sightings 3,615 Time More Common than Voter Fraud
People are 3,615 times more likely to report a UFO sighting than they are to commit in-person voter impersonation, according to national data.
The striking statistic has surfaced at the same time as the news that a new voter ID law in Pennsylvania could render nearly 10 percent of the state's residents ineligible to vote in the presidential election this fall.
3. Black Widow Spiders Meet Their Match
Black widow spiders seem to be universally feared. But who's scared of a brown widow? The black widow should be quaking all eight of its boots, a new study suggests. In the United States, there's a new widow in town. The brown widow. And scientists say it may be taking over some native western black widow territory.
That may be good news in one sense: Brown widow spider bites are less toxic than those of black widows, researchers say.
[Full Story: Black Widow Spiders May Have Met Their Match]
2. Rover Nearing Mars Landing
The biggest rover ever launched to another planet is just one month away from its target: the Red Planet, Mars.
NASA's huge Curiosity rover is hurtling toward a planned late-night landing on Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (early Aug. 6 EDT), and the anticipation on the science team is high. The reasons are clear: At 1 ton, Curiosity is the largest rover ever aimed at Mars. It will land in a completely new way, using a giant parachute and a rocket-powered sky crane. And it is carrying a sophisticated set of tools to find out if its Martian drop zone could once have been home for life.
But that's all in the future. First Curiosity has to reach Mars in one piece.
[Full Story: Huge Mars Rover One Month from Red Planet Landing]
1. Giant Dark Matter Bridge Spied
A giant string of invisible dark matter has been discovered across the universe between a pair of galaxy clusters.
The filament forms a bridge between two huge clusters called Abell 222 and Abell 223, which lie 2.7 billion light-years away. The universe is thought to be filled with such strings of dark matter, a mysterious substance that cannot be seen, only sensed through its gravitational pull.
[Source: Live Science. Edited.]