We’ve learned so much already.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. A brand new human organ has been classified, and it’s been hiding in plain sight this whole time. Everyone, meet your mesentery.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. After 130 years, we might have to completely redraw the dinosaur family tree, thanks to a previously unimportant cat-sized fossil from Scotland.
13. Polycystic ovary syndrome might actually start in the brain, not the ovaries.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. Turns out, narwhals – the precious unicorns of the sea – use their horns for hunting. But not how you’d think.
17. 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.
18. Farmers routinely feed red Skittles to their cattle, because it’s a cheap alternative to corn. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
This piece first appeared in ScienceAlert.
(Top image: Courtesy Getty Images.)
All views expressed are those of the author.