Humans

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

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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 been classified, and it’s been hiding in plain sight this whole time. Everyone, meet your mesentery.

3. It is mathematically possible to build an actual time machine – what’s holding us back is finding materials that can physically bend the fabric of space-time.

4. There’s an entirely new type of diabetes, and most people wouldn’t know they have it. The newly classified type 3c diabetes is being misdiagnosed as type 2. 

5. A mysterious blob of hot rock is building up under America’s northeast. Research found a vast mass of hot rock welling up underneath Vermont and extending into other subterranean regions below New England.

6. Lungs don’t just facilitate respiration – they also make blood. Mammalian lungs produce more than 10 million platelets (tiny blood cells) per hour, which equates to the majority of platelets circulating the body.

7. It’s official: time crystals are a new state of matter, and we now have an actual blueprint to create these “impossible” objects at will.

8. The brain literally starts eating itself when it doesn’t get enough sleep. When we sleep normally, our brains clear away the neural debris from the day’s activity. But when we’re sleep deprived this process goes into overdrive, causing the brain to clear away significant amount of neurons and synaptic connections.

8. Vantablack – the blackest material known to science – now comes in a handy ‘spray-on’ form and it’s the weirdest thing we’ve seen so far this year.

9. Direct counterfactual quantum communication is possible! In 2017, scientists achieved quantum communication without particle transmission for the first time ever. It’s a big deal because this type of communication had long been theorised, but never demonstrated before. 

10. The world’s first semi-synthetic organisms are living among us – scientists have given rise to new lifeforms using an expanded, six-letter genetic code.

11. Siberia has a colossal crater called the ‘doorway to the underworld’, and its permafrost is melting so fast, ancient forests are being exposed for the first time in 200,000 years.

12. Carl Sagan was freakishly good at predicting the future – his disturbingly accurate description of a world where pseudoscience and scientific illiteracy reigns gave us all moment for pause.

13. A single giant neuron that wraps around the entire circumference of a mouse’s brain has been identified, and it appears to be linked to mammalian consciousness.

14. The world’s rarest and most ancient dog isn’t extinct after all – in fact, the outrageously handsome New Guinea highland wild dog appears to be thriving.

15. Your appendix might not be the useless evolutionary byproduct after all. Unlike your wisdom teeth, your appendix might actually be serving an important biological function – and one that our species isn’t ready to give up just yet.

 

16. After 130 years, we might have to completely redraw the dinosaur family tree, thanks to a previously unimportant cat-sized fossil from Scotland.

17. Polycystic ovary syndrome might actually start in the brain, not the ovaries.

18. Earth appears to have a whole new continent called Zealandia, which would wreak havoc on all those textbooks and atlases we’ve got lying around.

19. Humans have had a bigger impact on Earth’s geology than the infamous Great Oxidation Event 2.3 billion years ago, and now scientists are calling for a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – to be officially recognised.

20. Turns out, narwhals – the precious unicorns of the sea – use their horns for hunting. But not how you’d think.

21. Human activity has literally changed the space surrounding our planet – decades of Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio communications have accidentally formed a protective, human-made bubble around Earth.

22. Farmers routinely feed red Skittles to their cattle, because it’s a cheap alternative to corn. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

23. It’s possible to reverse some types of brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen. In July, scientists treated a two-year-old girl who had drowned in a swimming pool and been resuscitated. She had severe brain damage, but the researchers were able to significantly improve her condition thanks to a course of oxygen treatments.

 



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