Mysterious News Briefly — July 7, 2021
A decade-long investigation of Leonardo da Vinci's DNA identified 21 generations in his family tree, including five family branches and 14 living descendants. And the fight over which one gets the Mona Lisa begins.
Scientists at American University have sequenced the genome of the devil worm (Halicephalobus Mephisto), which lives at the bottom of 1.5 km (.9 miles) deep mines in South Africa in temperatures exceeding 40ºC (104ºF) with no oxygen but high amounts of methane, and found it makes its own copies of two known cell survival genes. The Devil Worms would make a great band name but Halicephalobus Mephisto would be more impressive.
On July 3rd, 2021, the Sun erupted its first X-class flare of Solar Cycle 25 -- the most powerful flare measured since September 2017 – indicating it is emerging from the quiet period of the 11-year solar cycle. Sounds like a good time to up your investment in aluminum foil makers.
Inspired by cockroaches, engineers from the University of California at Berkeley have developed a small bot with the same speed and squashability as roaches – it can survive the stress of up to a million times its own weight or the weight of a foot belonging to the foot of a 132-pound human. Are cockroaches ready to bow down to their roach-bot overlords?
Seven 1,000-year-old Viking tombs holding well-preserved skeletons, including possible twin infants, discovered in the Swedish town of Sigtuna show signs they received Christian burials, indicating they were likely Vikings who had converted to Christianity. Wonder if they were disappointed when they found out “pillage” and “steal” meant the same thing.
In a tweet, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk offered to help clean up the ever-growing amount of space junk his company contributes to by saying, “We can fly Starship around space and chomp up debris with the moving fairing door.” Bezos and Branson better make sure their capsules are clearly marked “Not junk!”
A University of Minnesota researcher studying an exceptionally preserved Heterodontosaurus (in the Triceratops family) fossil from South Africa discovered that it expanded both its chest and belly in order to breathe, indicating that not all dinosaurs breathed in the same way. Humans are still the only creature able to breathe in deeply and say, “That wasn’t me.”
Behavioral ecologists from the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague found that brown trout who spent eight weeks in a waters containing high levels of methamphetamine became addicted to it the drug and suffered from withdrawals and became lethargic when moved to freshwater. And their street value dropped.
A study of New Zealand sheep found that castrating males caused them to live substantially longer than females, and the researchers offer this as a solution to shorter lifespans in male humans. Even more surprising, not all of the study’s authors were women.
The US Department of Defense has officially cancelled the $10 billion contract to develop the JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) cloud computing software because it no longer met its current needs due to the "shifting technology environment". The Moore’s Law of government computing still holds true – the cost of keeping ancient government computers working doubles every couple of years while their ability to compute is cut in half.