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.
Radioactive Alaskan Air?
There's a whiff of something radioactive in the air.
And the scientists can't explain how it got there. [Read more about the particle.]
Last year — in a scenario that could double as the plot of a sci-fi flick — U.S. embassy workers in Cuba reported unexplained cognitive problems after hearing strange noises, with some initially saying that a "sonic weapon" was at play. [Read more about the brain damage.]
Student Photographer Skills
Look closely and you'll see it: a pale, purple pixel hanging in a black field between two cylindrical needles.What looks like a shimmering speck of dust is actually something much, much smaller: a single atom of strontium, isolated in an ion-trap machine at the University of Oxford. [Read more about the single atom.]
The Key to Surviving
Scientists at Rockefeller University in New York City recently put out a call to citizen scientists: Send us your dirt — literally.
The antibiotics, called malacidins, are calcium-dependent, meaning they need calcium to be turned "on," according to the study. Malacidins can fight bacteria in different ways, including by attacking bacteria's cell walls. (Human cells don't have walls, so malacidins wouldn't target our cells.) [Read more about the answer to superbugs.]
Sea Slime Effects
A layer of ooze made of microscopic fossils may underlie Earth's biggest landslides, a new study finds.
Oddly, the largest submarine landslides happen on nearly flat slopes inclined less than 3 degrees. Prior work found the kind of terrain left in the aftermath of these landslides suggests great expanses of seafloor glided over weak layers of material embedded within more-stable layers of sediment. [Read more about the waves.]
An Eerie, Watery Burial Ground
The discovery of a burial containing 8,000-year-old battered human skulls, including two that still have pointed wooden stakes through them, has left archaeologists baffled, according to a new study from Sweden.
The ancient burial site holds 11 adults (mostly their skulls and a few bones) and nearly the entire skeleton of an infant, who was likely stillborn or died shortly after birth. It was difficult to identify the sex of some, but at least three of the adults were female and six or seven were males, the researchers said. [Read more about the graves.]
Honoring the Bedridden Children
About 34,000 years ago, a group of hunters and gatherers buried their dead — including two boys with physical conditions — using the utmost care. However, these dead were buried in fairly different ways, a new study finds.
Researchers have known about the Sunghir burials for about half a century. The most spectacular riches of the lot, the researchers said, where burried with the boys who also have physical conditions that likely limited the individuals during their short lives. [Read more about the unique society.]
Less Special Than We Thought?
Humans like to be at the center of things.
But there's another idea out there, popular among some of the greatest scientists alive, that centers humans (and creatures like us) to an extent that the ancient philosophers couldn't have imagined. It's so outlandish that Maimonides would likely have considered it a heresy, a violation of his principle that God and only God willed the universe into being. [Read more about Universe.]
An Unexpected First
It's certainly horrifying to discover small translucent worms squirming through your eyeballs. But what if those worms have never been found in human eyes before?
Thelazia eye worms are found in a number of animals, including cats, dogs, foxes and cattle; but they don't usually infect people. The worms are transmitted by different types of flies that feed on tears, the researchers said. [Read more about the find.]
A Window into the Past
A huge, trillion-ton iceberg about the size of Delaware broke free from Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf in July 2017. As it moved away from its chilly birth mom and into the Weddell Sea, a vast expanse of water saw the light for the first time in up to 120,000 years.
Scientists know little about the possibly alien-like life that has taken up residence beneath Antarctica's ice shelf. What they do know comes from similar calving events in the past: Chunks of ice broke off the Larsen A and B shelves (located north of Larsen C on the Antarctic Peninsula) in 1995 and 2002, respectively. Two German expeditions to those "newly" exposed areas revealed sparse life. [Read more about the ancient world.]