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.
Remains of the Buddha?
The cremated remains of what an inscription says is the Buddha, also called Siddhārtha Gautama, have been discovered in a box in Jingchuan County, China, along with more than 260 Buddhist statues. [Read more about the remains.]
An Unexpected Danger
For an 11-month-old boy in Denver, ingesting marijuana may have triggered a heart problem that ultimately led to his death, according to a recent report of the case. [Read more about the tragedy.]
Doctors in Canada performed a life-altering surgery on a fetus still developing inside its mother's womb to correct a spinal defect that would have led to spina bifida, according to news reports.
During the operation, doctors cut through the mother's abdomen and uterus to reveal the fetus, according to the statement. Then, the fetus was carefully maneuvered so that her back was facing the surgeons, which allowed them to begin the delicate procedure to enclose the spinal cord in the spine. [Read more about the procedure.]
A Journey's Snapshot
Imagine a dinosaur footprint as long as a young child is tall. Now, imagine 110 of them. Amazingly, that's what paleontologists have discovered in eastern France — 110 fossilized footprints belonging to a long-necked sauropod that lived during the Jurassic period. [Read more about the trackway.]
Earth's first known life was relatively simple: microbial mats that grew in wavy layers, leaving thin pancakes of excreted minerals stacked between them. Stromatolites, as these microbial colonies are known, first appeared on the planet at least 3.5 billion years ago. They're all over the fossil record, but today, they live almost nowhere except for a few shallow, extra-salty marine spots like Hamelin Pool in Shark Bay, Western Australia. [Read more about the fossils.]
A Plastic Diet?
No spot in the ocean has escaped the rain of plastic pollution. Not even the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
The research was funded and made public by Sky Ocean Rescue, a campaign by the European broadcast and entertainment company to combat ocean pollution. In February, Jamieson and his team reported in the journal Nature Evolution and Ecology that deep trenches are contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). [Read more about the pollution.]
Tech in Action
CRISPR is the set of molecular scissors that's changing the world. It's an enzyme that cuts DNA, and scientists figured out in 2012 that they could deploy it for cheap, effective gene editing: Just tag the CRISPR molecule with a bit of RNA (a slim sliver of genetic material that sticks to DNA) to guide it, and it can cut out and "rewrite" any snippet of DNA its wielders would like to target.
That same day, Nishimasu shared a GIF on Twitter that shows the action unfold in near real time. [Read more about CRISPR]
This remarkable find deserves a toast: People were fermenting grapes into wine about 8,000 years ago in what is now the Republic of Georgia, say scientists who found what's now considered the oldest known winemaking site on record. [Read more about the jars.]
If humanity doesn't become a truly spacefaring species in the next five centuries or so, we may well go extinct, Stephen Hawking said, according to media reports.
During his talk, Hawking also highlighted the exploration potential of Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million project that aims to develop tiny, uncrewed, sail-equipped probes that will be accelerated to 20 percent the speed of light by powerful lasers. [Read more about the warning.]
From Forest to Ice
Antarctica wasn't always a land of ice. Millions of years ago, when the continent was still part of a huge Southern Hemisphere landmass called Gondwana, trees flourished near the South Pole.
It's hard to look at Antarctica's frigid landscape today and imagine lush forests. To find their fossil specimens, Gulbranson and his colleagues have to disembark from planes landed on snowfields, then traverse glaciers and brave bone-chilling winds. [Read more about the fossil.]