13 Important Things Science Taught Us In March

Including why you shouldn’t pee in the pool.

1. There’s an actual scientific reason you shouldn’t pee in the pool.

pojoslaw

Chemicals in urine interact with those in chlorinated water to make two toxic chemicals: trichloramine and cyanogen chloride. But they’re made in such a tiny amount they’ve very very unlikely to do any damage.

2. It’s surprisingly easy to convince people their hands are made of rocks.

superpohn

The researchers explain: “We repeatedly gently hit participants’ hand with a small hammer, while progressively replacing the natural sound of the hammer against the skin with the sound of a hammer hitting a piece of marble.”

After the experiment participants rated their hands as stiffer, heavier and less sensitive.

3. It’s possible to revive a 30,000 year-old giant virus hidden in Siberian permafrost.

Image courtesy of Julia Bartoli and Chantal Abergel, IGS and CNRS-AMU.

OK, so “giant” is relative – the virus measure’s just 1.5 microns in length and 0.5 microns in diameter. It’s still active, but doesn’t appear to be able to infect humans or animals.

4. Sixty-six million years ago there was a dinosaur that was basically a “chicken from hell”.

Mark A. Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

It had a body over 10ft long and huge, sharp claws. A typical human stood next to it would come up just above its hip.

5. There are waves of methane on Saturn.

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Titan is Saturn’s largest moon and has a whole weather system based on hydrocarbons like methane, including lakes and oceans. The downside is the waves are only about 2cm high.

6. There’s been a dwarf planet hiding in the outer solar system.

Scott S. Sheppard: Carnegie Institution for Science

It orbits further out than Pluto and even fellow dwarf planet Sedna and is about 450 kilometres in diameter.

7. In the early universe there almost certainly was a period of super fast expansion called inflation.

severopr

Scientists have measured an echo of the big bang in the form of gravitational waves from the very early universe, providing strong evidence that inflation happened.

8. You can create an accurate mugshot just using DNA.

Scientists created a statistical model to create an accurate 3D picture of a person’s face based on racial, gender and genetic markers. The technique could also be used to give us a better idea of what our ancestors looked like.

9. Some salamanders are shrinking and it might be the fault of climate change.

EJack

The researchers found that the size reduction of salamanders in the US Appalachian Mountains was greatest at lower latitudes, in regions experiencing increased temperature and decreased rainfall over the 55-year period of the study. It seems the salamanders adapted to the changing conditions by burning energy faster.

10. Mercury is also shrinking.

Ho New / Reuters

Over the past 4.5 billion years its diameter could have shrunk by 14km.

11. There’s a ring system around an asteroid in the solar system.

Lucie Maquet

Asteroid Chariklo orbits the sun between gas giants Saturn and Uranus. Until now we’d only seen rings around planets, not any other solar system objects.

12. We might not be too far away from night vision contact lenses.

Flickr: treehouse1977 / Creative Commons

Researchers have made a super thin infrared sensor from everyone’s favourite wonder material: graphene. The prototype sensor is smaller than a fingernail and could be made even smaller.

13. Spider-Man’s silk would have been strong enough to stop a train.

DenBoma

Several companies are working on making synthetic spider silk to take advantage of its super strength. It’d be useful for making cables and bulletproof vests, but also for wound dressings thanks to its antimicrobial properties.

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