This week in science (Feb. 15 – Feb. 22)

Graphic Illustration by Claire Roth

By Claire Roth

Graphic Illustration by Claire Roth

Astronomy – Deep space beats

Today’s music seems to be getting more and more space-age, but scientists recently came across the cause of a sound that really is out of this world.

Around 10 years ago, astronomers detected strange sounds from within the far-reaches of space. It was not until recently that scientists at Cornell University discovered that the sounds, known as fast radio bursts, had come from 3 billion light-years away.

Fast radio bursts, much like their name suggests, happen so quickly that they are oftentimes missed. They only last for several milliseconds and because of this only 18 have ever been documented. The way that the recent fast radio bursts were detected is that the bursts repeated and allowed astronomers to get a more accurate reading of where they came from. The origin of the waves is thought to have come from a dwarf galaxy outside of our own and astronomers hope to use the new data to study how radio waves move through different gases and conditions in space.

Source: The Verge


Wildlife – Crabby Potter

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Graphic Illustration by Claire Roth

A new species of translucent crab was recently given a name honoring not only the researcher who first discovered it 16 years ago but also a character in the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling.

Upon confirmation that it was indeed a new species, researchers at the National University of Singapore named the crab Harryplax severus. The researcher who had originally happened upon the crab 16 years ago off the coast of Guam, Harry Conley, unfortunately passed away in 2002 before the new species status was confirmed. The species designation of the crab, severus, was chosen as a nod to the “Harry Potter” character Severus Snape. In the book series, Snape had been seen as mysterious and villainous until the end of the series when it was revealed that he had a bigger heart than many had expected. Similarly, Harryplax severus had to wait just over a decade and half until being recognized until what it truly was – a species never before identified.

Source: ScienceNews


Environment – Chemicals in hiding

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Graphic Illustration by Claire Roth

Harmful chemicals that had been banned back in the 1970s have been detected in a place far beneath the ocean’s surface.

Research vehicles positioned over the deepest oceanic trench in the world, the Mariana Trench, and one of the deepest trenches in the world, the Kermadec Trench, were sent to monitor these areas and bring back lifeforms for testing. The lifeforms that were brought back are known as amphipods and are an order of crustacean. What troubled the scientists who led the study, a team from the University of Newcastle, was what was found in the fatty tissues of the amphipods; pollutants banned over 40 years ago.

The presence of the pollutants, polychlorinated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, could be explained by the fact that they cannot be broken down through the natural processes. Polychlorinated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers had been used as ingredients in flame-retardants and insulation for electrical units until it was discovered that they may be connected to increases in cancer rates.

The bright side of this discovery is that it may provide further proof that all parts of the world are connected, no matter how deep or seemingly isolated.

Sources: British Broadcasting Corporation, Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry


Geography – The Old Zealand

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Graphic Illustration by Claire Roth

Though there is no consensus on how many islands our planet has, scientists recently found that there may be one less major island than originally thought.

New Zealand is a country that is home to about 4.47 million people and has been defined throughout geological history as an island nation. That definition has gone without challenge until now. A research group in New Zealand known as GNS Science discovered that the landmass that makes up the island of New Zealand is actually part of a much larger, sunken landmass. If still above water, Zealandia, as researchers are calling it, would have met all of the criteria of being called a continent. Some of these criterion include the thickness of the crust of Zealandia in relation to the thinner crust of the surrounding ocean floor and also more elevated (yet still sunken) areas in relation to the surrounding oceanscape.

The discovery of Zealandia as meeting the requirements for being a continent, though under water, could better help geologists understand the history of our planet’s plate tectonics.

Sources: Phys.org, The Washington Post

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