Mysterious News Briefly — January 5, 2021
2021 is starting out as banner year for big asteroids, with the 32-meter (in diameter) asteroid 2021 AB, the 11-meter 2012 BT1, the 62-meter (half the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza) asteroid 2021 AC, the 270-meter (almost the Eiffel Tower) 260 2016 CO247 and the 32-meter 2018 KP1 buzzing past Earth in the first few weeks, while a prediction by Nostradamus forecasts a catastrophic one sometime this year. With sports still hampered by the pandemic, is it time for Vegas bookies to start an asteroid line?
Two new research papers published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics show that astronomers can finally agree on something – the universe is definitely 13.77 billion years old, with a 40 million year margin of error. Think about how the universe must feel every time you tell someone reaching a birthday milestone that age is just a number.
Using a new satellite system that sends alerts when changes in forest cover are detected, deforestation dropped by 18 percent in two years in parts of Africa. Can this be modified to send alerts when political speeches are detected?
In the first Elon Musk story of 2021, the CEO of SpaceX announced plans to try to catch the Super Heavy Booster rocket – powered by 28 Raptor engines — with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load, in order to reuse it in future launches. Is this a sign that rocket scientists will slowly be replaced by retired football wide receivers and baseball outfielders?
The French army used a 350-year-old fort design to build two new bases in Mali with star-shaped moats surrounding pentagon-shaped forts, allowing forces to fire on attackers from multiple directions. Moats? Are they sure this isn’t a set for a French Monty Python movie?
As if their massive size isn’t scary enough, new observations of giant huntsman spiders in Madagascar show them sewing leaves together with silk to create shady shelters for frogs which are actually sophisticated traps that double as huntsman dining rooms for frog dinners. If you’re living in Madagascar and you notice a new green umbrella on your patio … run!
Engineers looking for better designs for land-sea robot are studying the movements of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) as they gallop on land by pulling their hind flippers under their bodies so they can fast-walks like a land animal. Even it never becomes a robot, Galloping Sea Lions is still a great name for a band.
Black-footed ferrets – the only ferrets native to North America and once considered extinct – were administered experimental vaccines to protect them from the virus that causes Covid-19 in humans and in minks, a close relative of ferrets that have been decimated by the coronavirus. Before you start yelling about how unfair this sounds, keep in mind that the ferrets are already wearing masks.
Cuttlefish may be the ugly cousins of octopuses, but a new study found they may be more intelligent as they can master the famous “marshmallow test” – choosing a single shrimp rather than two because they’ve learned to be patient in order to receive a bigger reward later. They also prefer shrimp to marshmallows, proving they haven’t learned the lesson about hot chocolate.
You may be tired of baking pandemic sourdough, but scientists have turned to the internal structure of bread to create scaffolding used to support mammalian cells for applications in biomedicine and for growing organic meat in a lab. If the bread surrounding the meat can then be grown into a roast beef sandwich, this sounds like a winner.