Tuesday, 19 December 2017


Weird science stories that grabbed our attention in 2017
By Jacqueline Gulledge,
Mother Nature Network, 18 December 2017.

Science can be weird sometimes. (And no I don't mean two teenage boys building the woman of their dreams and watching as she come to life like the '80s flick "Weird Science" - though that would really blow people's minds.)

I'm talking about bulging methane bubbles, mysterious booms in the sky and glowing orbs. These science stories of 2017 may surprise or confuse you - but there's nothing boring about them!

1. Mysterious loud booms are being heard around the world, but why?


You may have heard of a sonic boom - when an object travels faster than the speed of sound and shock waves create a loud sound. But what if no plane or jet was flying?

Around the world, reports emerged of booming sounds of mysterious origin echoing from the sky, from Colorado and Alabama to the Middle East, United Kingdom and Australia, according to News Corp Australia.

In Alabama, a thunderous noise shook houses and frightened residents on Nov. 20 and remains unexplained.

One theory is the booms are caused by meteors exploding in the sky. The Leonid meteor shower has coincided with the hysteria. This theory would certainly explain why the phenomenon is global, though astronomers have insisted that meteors produced by the Leonids are way too small for this to happen.

There are several other theories roaming about out there, but so far there's no singular explanation for these mysterious sounds.

2. Spider drinks graphene, spins web that can hold the weight of a human

Photo: Chen-Pan Liao/Wikimedia Commons

These are not your friendly neighborhood spiders: scientists have mixed a graphene solution that when fed to spiders allows them to spin super-strong webbing. How strong? Strong enough to carry the weight of a person.

And these spiders might soon be enlisted to help manufacture enhanced ropes and cables, possibly even parachutes for skydivers, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

Graphene is a wonder-material that is an atomic-scale hexagonal lattice made of carbon atoms. It's incredibly strong, but it was definitely a shot in the dark to see what would happen if it was fed to spiders.

So far it doesn't seem as if the spiders can continue to spin their super-silk without a steady diet of graphene. That might offer some solace those concerned about getting ensnared in next spider web they walk through.

3. Giant glowing orb appears over Siberia

Photo: The Siberian Times/Twitter

Has E.T. finally arrived? That's what thousands of locals in northern Russia recently feared after the sudden appearance of an enormous glowing orb in the Siberian night sky, which briefly stirred up a "War of the Worlds"-esque frenzy on social media.

"The glowing ball rose from behind the trees and moved in my direction," said one witness who thought the end of the world was at hand.

As pictures poured into local social media circles, so did the theories. Alien invasion pronouncements were especially rampant; others speculated about a rip in the spacetime continuum, or about wormholes to another dimension.

Official word from the Russian Defense Ministry later confirmed that the event was caused by a test launch of the country's much-hyped Satan 2 Topol-M rocket.

4. Thousands of bulging methane bubbles could explode in Siberia


Siberia's frozen landscape, locked in time for thousands of years, may be coming back to life in violent fashion.

Scientists using both satellite imagery and ground-based surveys discovered more than 7,000 bulging bubbles of gas on Siberia's Yamal and Gydan peninsulas. These potentially dangerous protrusions contain mostly methane and create a surreal ripple effect on the ground when stepped on.

Because methane is extremely flammable, there is increasing concern that these bulges will begin to explode. One such explosion happened at the end of June on the Yamal Peninsula. Witnesses to the explosion reported fire shooting up in the sky and chunks of permafrost popping up out of the ground. The result was a 164-foot-deep crater on a river near a reindeer encampment.

5. What caused this strange code-like pattern to form on an Icelandic lake?

Photo: Thingvellir National Park/Facebook

A strange pattern on a frozen lake left residents baffled in Iceland. Could it be a message from an alien life form? Some kind of Icelandic version of crop circles? Is there a message in the pattern that can be deciphered?

Though the pattern looks eerily unnatural, as if written by an intelligent designer, it's probably nothing too spooky. In fact, the design looks suspiciously like a natural phenomenon known as "finger rafting," which can happen when two expanses of sheet ice converge toward another, and one of them slides smoothly on top of the other.

However, finger rafting hasn't been confirmed as the cause of the strange pattern yet, and the conditions present on the lake aren't usually conducive to generating this phenomenon, but it's still the leading theory about what's going on here, according to Ice News.

Top image: An example of a crater formed after an explosion of underground methane on Siberia's Yamal peninsula. Credit: Video screenshot Science and more/YouTube.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Some images added.]

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