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.
Nothing New Under the Sun...
Old doomsday predictions never die. They just get recycled.
There's plenty of evidence that failed doomsday predictions don't do much to forestall future "prophets." [Read more about the predictions.]
A Spooky Letter
A mysterious letter written more than 300 years ago by a Sicilian nun who claimed to be possessed by Satan has finally been deciphered. Scientists used a deep-web code breaker to read the letter.
The message, just 14 lines of jumbled, archaic letters, has for centuries defied every attempt at understanding its meaning. [Read more about the letter.]
Uncovering a True Rarity
A group of volunteers has discovered a rare Roman mosaic in Boxford, England, that they say is likely more than 1,600 years old.
The mosaic is also unique because the figures — both those in the central panels and those around the edges — extend beyond their borders. The corner figures extend outside their circular frames. [Read more about the mosaic.]
Teaching by Example
Have you ever struggled to open a stubborn package? If so, that may be a good thing…if your baby is watching.
The findings, published today (Sept. 21) in the journal Science, suggest there is "potential value in letting children 'see you sweat,'" the researchers wrote in their paper. "Showing children that hard work works might encourage them to work hard too." [Read more about baby intelligence.]
Seeing and Not Seeing
Can you see something without really seeing it? Your brain can: A new study from Germany finds that a specific neuron in the brain fires up when a person sees a photograph of a familiar face, even if the person isn't aware of seeing it.
The first of these was published in 2005, when a team of researchers identified what they nicknamed the "Jennifer Aniston neuron" — a single neuron in a study participant's brain that lit up when the participant recognized the face of a specific person — such as Jennifer Aniston, Bill Clinton or Halle Berry. [Read more about the paradox.]
Explaining the Unexplainable
Like any homicide detective, dinosaur hunters search for clues hinting at how these ancient beasts died. One of these clues morphed into a mystery that researchers have just solved: Why is the armored, tank-like ankylosaurus almost always found on its back?
The answer to this mystery was surprisingly straightforward, although it involved a touch of physics. [Read more about the odd occurence.]
Check and Recheck
Marine archaeologists have uncovered the wreck of a World War I German U-Boat off the coast of Belgium, thanks to a sharp-eyed reanalysis of sonar scans from an undersea survey that was carried out several years ago.
Archaeologists have identified the wreck as a Type UB-II submarine built by Germany during World War I, when up to 18 such vessels were based in occupied Belgian ports to carry out raids against British ships. [Read more about the shipwreck.]
When doctors in Mexico peered into a 17-year-old boy's eye, they got a squirming surprise: a flatworm wriggling in and out of the teen's eyeball.
An eye exam revealed serious damage. The teen's right cornea was swollen and speckled with blood, and there were multiple holes in his iris — all because the worm was "moving freely in the eye," Guzman-Salas told Live Science. The worm was difficult to see because it kept dipping into these holes, he added. (The cornea is the transparent part of the eye that covers the colorful iris and the pupil.) [Read more about the parasite.]
Even a "fatberg" — an enormous clotted, mass of fat and garbage found clogging a London sewer — deserves a second chance, and the biggest fatberg ever found in a British sewer recently got one.
Thames Water is partnering with sustainable biodiesel producer Argent Energy, to change what was formerly a "rancid blob" into "pure green fuel," Alex Saunders, a waste network manager with Thames Water, said in the statement. [Read more about the mass.]
New Discovery, Ancient Place
Archaeologists digging under a Maya palace in Guatemala say they have opened the tomb of a royal and found a jade mask and bones, both painted bright red.
In the latest finding from this past summer, the researchers tunneled beneath the city's palace acropolis and found what might be the oldest royal burial at the site. Based on the style of pottery found at the tomb, they think the burial dates to A.D. 300-350. [Read more about the king.]