Each week we uncover the most interesting and informative articles from around the world, here are 10 of the coolest stories in science this week.

A Greenland shark (<i>Somniosus microcephalus</i>), swims under ice near northern Baffin Island, in the Canadian Arctic.
A Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus), swims under ice near northern Baffin Island, in the Canadian Arctic.
Credit: Photoshot/Zuma

Headlines circulating on the internet today (Dec. 14) breathlessly described the discovery of a 512-year-old shark — but they're a little off the mark.

As long-lived as they may be, Greenland sharks don't even come close to the longevity of hydra — freshwater polyps. These unassuming-looking invertebrates continuously regenerate their own cells, and are thought to be able to live forever under the right conditions. [Read more about the shark.]

The Wall from the HBO TV series "Game of Thrones" may be impressive, but it's physically unrealistic, one glaciologist says.
The Wall from the HBO TV series "Game of Thrones" may be impressive, but it's physically unrealistic, one glaciologist says.
Credit: HBO

In the HBO TV series "Game of Thrones," a great wall of ice helps repel giants and the undead. But could such a structure be possible here on Earth? A new study suggests that, no, it's not realistic, because without magic, such a barrier would fall rapidly. [Read more about the possibilities.]

Earth "hums" — and it does it all the time.
Earth "hums" — and it does it all the time.
Credit: NASA

Far from the blaring cacophony of cities, towns and suburbs, there are far quieter soundtracks to be found — the murmurs of wind rustling grasses, rushing waves tumbling onto beaches, the creaking of tree branches and trunks.

But even in the quiet periods between earthquakes, there's a whole lot of shaking going on. [Read more about the sound.]

 

An 18th-century wooden statue of Jesus harbored a surprise —time capsule letters hidden in the buttocks, researchers reported.

It turned out the scrolls, which were written on sheepskin with a purple-brown ink, were penned by a man named Joaquin Minguez, who was the prior of the church in 1777. The statue itself was made by a man named Manuel Bal, according to the letters. [Read more about the odd find.]

A rock outcropping on Fleming Glacier, which feeds one of the accelerating glaciers in Marguerite Bay on the western Antarctic Peninsula.
A rock outcropping on Fleming Glacier, which feeds one of the accelerating glaciers in Marguerite Bay on the western Antarctic Peninsula.
Credit: NASA/OIB

Talk about an extreme diet. Antarctic microbes are capable of surviving on air, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.

The researchers collected soil microbes from two regions in eastern Antarctica, both of which are ice-free and devoid of vegetation. The soil is also very low in vital nutrients like carbon and nitrogen. The first sample area was a spot called Robinson Ridge in Wilkes Land. The second was a desolate stretch called Adams Flat in Princess Elizabeth Land. [Read more about the hearty microbes.]

A hot blob of rock seems to be rising toward the surface beneath the North American tectonic plate, under a part of New England.
A hot blob of rock seems to be rising toward the surface beneath the North American tectonic plate, under a part of New England.
Credit: Shutterstock

The continental rock underlying the east coast of North America is pretty boring, tectonically speaking. The last dramatic geological goings-on there happened around 200 million years ago, and most change since then has been from glacial, wind and water erosion.

The unusual feature had been spotted before, when scientists used the seismic waves that routinely ricochet through the Earth's interior to reveal some of the structures hidden below our feet. Such waves travel at different speeds and angles through different types of rock, including rocks of different temperatures and rock moving in different directions. The small feature below the Northeast showed up as an area of unusually high temperature, but the pictures were pretty fuzzy. [Read more about the blob.]

The Sierra Nevada range rose almost an inch during California's recent drought due to loss of water from within fractured rocks.
The Sierra Nevada range rose almost an inch during California's recent drought due to loss of water from within fractured rocks.
Credit: Trailkrum/CC BY-NC 2.0

Wouldn't you love to grow an extra inch taller — by sweating? According to NASA scientists, it is possible to grow an inch or more in height just by displacing water weight. The caveat: It only works if you're an actual mountain.

In the new study, Argus and his colleagues analyzed 11 years of data from 1,300 GPS stations in the mountains of California, Oregon and Washington to map changes in the Sierra Nevada range's elevation to within a few millimeters. [Read more about phenomenon.]

About 99 million years ago, amber entombed a tick grasping a dinosaur feather.
About 99 million years ago, amber entombed a tick grasping a dinosaur feather.
Credit: Nature Communications/Peñalver et al.

Preserved inside a piece of amber, a tick clinging to a dinosaur feather provides the first direct evidence that these bloodsuckers parasitized dinosaurs 99 million years ago.

The feather-gripping tick and its fellows were detected inside four polished pieces of Burmese amber, found in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar. Private collectors who acquired the amber noticed the pieces held particles that could be of scientific interest, and so they shared them with paleontologists. [Read more about the find.]

The bright light of a full moon or supermoon may seem inviting to motorcyclists eager for a nighttime ride, but that moonlit trip may also come with deadly consequences, a new study finds.

The study was published online today (Dec. 11) in the Christmas issue of the journal The BMJ. The holiday issue is a tongue-in-cheek edition of the medical journal, which normally publishes serious research. [Read more about accidents.]

When a man complains of cold or flu symptoms, it may not be fair to dismiss his laments as simply a case of "man flu." Men may really experience worse symptoms than women after catching a respiratory virus, a new review suggests.

In a search of the scientific literature, Sue found evidence that men may have a weaker immune response to the viruses that cause flu or the common cold, and as a result, men may have a greater risk for serious symptoms, and even death, from these viruses. [Read more about study.]

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