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 pubic bone claimed to be that of St. Nicholas, whose generosity inspired tales of Santa Claus, has been dated to the fourth century by scientists at Oxford University. The researchers said they believe the bone may really come from the saint.
The Catholic priest who runs the shrine said that a group of nuns from the Catholic diocese of Lyon, France, once cared for the St. Nicholas bone, among other relics, but allowed the relics to be sold on the antiquities market several years ago. [Read more about the bone.]
A Reason to Listen
Using a new type of imaging, doctors were able to peer into the eyes of a young woman and see — on the cellular level — the type of damage that occurs from looking directly at the sun during an eclipse. [Read more about the damage.]
A New Power Source
The world's first nuclear fusion plant has now reached 50 percent completion, the project's director-general announced Wednesday (Dec. 6).
Ultimately, ITER is meant to prove that fusion power can be generated on a commercial scale and is sustainable, abundant, safe and clean. [Read more about the plant.]
Bizarre but Real
An enigmatic dinosaur — which sported a swan-like neck, amphibious flippers and Velociraptor-esque claws — could walk like a duck and swim like a penguin during its heyday on Earth, scientists have found after examining its fossilized remains.
The newly identified species likely swam with its flipper-like arms, and its long neck likely helped it with foraging and ambush hunting, the researchers said. [Read more about the strange bones.]
If extraterrestrial life is ever discovered, humanity would probably be pretty cool with it.
How people would respond to finding they're not alone in the universe is a perennial question, but one that has been the subject of far more speculation than study, Varnum said. He could find only one study that asked people how they thought they'd react to the announcement of extraterrestrial life, and it was a decade old. [Read more about the search.]
Cats, Dogs and Brains
It's a bad news/good news situation for Fluffy: Cats don't have as many neurons as dogs, suggesting they just aren't as cognitively capable. [Read more about the pets.]
Some people hallucinate, hear voices and lose touch with the world around them — but seem to get on with their lives just fine. Others have similar experiences, but they are so debilitating that these people have difficulty getting through their days without clinical help.
In the new study, which was published in the December issue of the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, the researchers put nearly 260 people through simulations of psychotic experiences and examined how the individuals reacted to the events. [Read more about experiment]
Two mathematicians have each earned the (massive but countable) sum of $3 million for a proof that could one day help scientists understand extra dimensions.
The new proof shows that this mathematical intuition is indeed correct, at least for a certain class of shapes (those, such as a donut, that have at least one hole). [Read more about the prize.]
Medical schools have historically used human cadavers to train students in anatomy and medical procedures, a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. However, a unique type of medical model provides a remarkably human alternative to working with preserved corpses.
One type of these human models, built to train surgeons and first responders, even mimics what happens in the body during surgery or trauma, presenting the biological functions in a living person in distress, such as fluctuating respiration, blood pressure and heartbeat, according to the SynDaver website. [Read more about the tools.]
Animals and Fire
A video making the rounds online shows a rabbit dashing through a gap in the flames of the huge Thomas fire in California. A man rushes after the animal and stops at the edge of the fire line, anxiously dancing around and trying to coax the critter out of the burning brush. A few moments later, the rabbit bounds back through the same flame gap, and the guy scoops it up, cradling it pinned against his chest. [Read more about the rescue.]