5 A Fish Tale of a Missing Link
Scientists have unearthed fossilized remains of an ancient fish that might fill a gap in the evolutionary chain. When we say ancient, we mean it: the Entelognathus fish is nearly twice as old as even the earliest dinosaurs! This species of “armored” fish lived nearly 420 million years ago, and is perhaps the oldest creature yet discovered with a recognizable jaw. The Entelognathus helps to explain a gap between the ancestors of modern fish and the placoderm class of sea creature, a class thought to have died out before the evolution of today’s fish rather than fed into the process.
4 A Bionic Breakthrough
Bringing hope to patients afflicted with everything from traumatic amputations to degenerative diseases, a team comprised of everything from software engineers to surgeons to neuroscientists has created a robotic leg that can be controlled by its wearer’s mind. The remarkable prosthetic was fitted to a patient named Zac Vawter, who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. Aided by software, a series of electrodes and Vawter’s own nerves, he can control the leg much like he would were it the one he had grown himself.
3 Microbial Forensics Fight Crime
Scientists may soon allow detectives able to use microbes in solving crimes. Every person sports their own unique blend of microbes and identifying an individual’s personal “microbiome” can act like a fingerprint. Now a team of researchers is taking the use of microbial forensics to the next level, studying how bacteria changes over time following a person’s death. Accurate study of microbial decay could help to pinpoint a person’s time of death, and might even help to reveal the death’s cause, too.
2 Blame the Weather on the Jet Stream
It seems like the weather has been wild in recent weeks. And now meteorologists know why: it’s the jet stream acting up. The jet stream is the series of wind currents moving around at high altitude and usually in a predictable pattern. It regulates the weather in much of the northern hemisphere, and it makes the weather wacky when it diverts from its usual currents. Over the course of the past few months, the jet stream actually separated into two currents, producing heat waves across much of the southern US and in the northern provinces of Canada, while causing unseasonable cold weather in the northern United States and dumping torrential rain across Colorado and in parts of Europe. One potential cause for the jet stream’s new flow? Global warming leading to changes in arctic temperatures, which affect the jet stream’s power and patterns.
1 Scientists Have (Sort of) Created a Lightsaber
The iconic Jedi weapon (a more elegant weapon from a more civilized time, yes, we know) is almost a reality. Or at least the matter that constitutes its deadly “blade.” A team of physicists from Harvard and MIT have isolated an apparently new form of matter they are calling “photonic molecules.” That essentially means particles of light, AKA energy, that bind together and have mass. If we could learn to control it, perhaps we could indeed create a lightsaber.