Science news this week: Sinking cities and tree of life mysteries

Composite of a blood-belly comb jelly and New York City
Science in the news this week: Sinking cities and tree of life mysteries (Image credit: Yiming Chen/Getty Images - Alexander Spatari via Getty Images)

Between a cutting-edge gravitational wave detector roaring back to life and the discovery of a 3,000-year-old bakery still covered in flour, the world of science once again thrilled us with another week of groundbreaking news. And nothing is more groundbreaking right now than the combined mass of New York City’s 1,084,954 buildings, which are literally causing the city to sink at the rate of about 0.08 inches (2.1 millimeters) per year.

Speaking of weighty objects, paleontologists in Argentina discovered the remains of a ginormous long-necked titanosaur, which measured about 100 feet (30 meters) long. The dinosaur’s fossils were so heavy that when being transported to Buenos Aires for study they caused a traffic accident and smashed the asphalt on the road. Thankfully no bones, human or dinosaur, were broken.

Finally, we know that life is full of little mysteries (and we should know a thing or two about them), but what has been really taxing us this week are whether octopuses have nightmares, what China is dropping off in space, and whether we’ll ever find evidence of a "dark matter star". However, one thing we are now a little more certain of is the answer to evolutionary scientists’ chicken-or-egg equivalent — which came first, the comb jelly or the sea sponge?

Picture of the week

A picture of the all-white echidna Raffie spotted in New South Wales, Australia. (Image credit: Bathurst Regional Council)

This unusual little critter is an extremely rare albino echidna, one of two known mammals in the world (along with platypuses) in which females lay eggs but also produce milk. Spotted earlier this month on a road in New South Wales, Australia, this all-white, quill-covered creature has been named Raffie by local authorities. 

Albinism is a genetic condition that interferes with the body's production of melanin, the main pigment that colors animals' skin, fur, feathers, scales and eyes. When melanin cells don’t function properly, it can make animals appear partially or completely white. 

"An albino echidna is a rare sight," representatives of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) wrote in a Twitter post on May 22, 2022. "Spotting a non-albino echidna is also pretty uncommon," officials added. 

Weekend reading

And finally…

The James Webb Space Telescope continues its impressive run of discovering secrets of our universe, spying a gargantuan geyser on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus blasting water hundreds of miles into space — could it contain chemical ingredients for life?

Editor-in-Chief, Live Science

Alexander McNamara is the Editor-in-Chief at Live Science, and has more than 15 years’ experience in publishing at digital titles. More than half of this time has been dedicated to bringing the wonders of science and technology to a wider audience through editor roles at New Scientist and BBC Science Focus, developing new podcasts, newsletters and ground-breaking features along the way. Prior to this, he covered a diverse spectrum of content, ranging from women’s lifestyle, travel, sport and politics, at Hearst and Microsoft. He holds a degree in economics from the University of Sheffield, and before embarking in a career in journalism had a brief stint as an English teacher in the Czech Republic. In his spare time, you can find him with his head buried in the latest science books or tinkering with cool gadgets.