The Most Interesting Science News Articles of the Week
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.
Blowing Glass Away
Physics could soon make it possible to replace those bulky, heavy, glass lenses on cameras with wafer-thin “metalenses” — materials microscopically engineered to focus light at a fraction of the weight and size of traditional lensing.
A metalens takes a different approach to focusing light. Instead of exploiting the diffraction properties of glass, a metalens uses nanofins — tiny structures, typically made of titanium dioxide — to bend wavelengths toward the metalens focal point. [Read more about the technology.]
Blackbeard’s Book Club?
A discovery from the wreck of Blackbeard’s ship could offer some insights into pirate reading tastes. [Read more about the discovery.]
Game of Thrones in Real-Life
A team of researchers in New Zealand is working to make an astonishing and mysterious medieval document available for public consumption.
The first results of the researchers’ work already appear online in an interactive version of the scroll, where individual passages come alive with their translations as readers zoom and click on them. [Read more about the scroll.]
Creation of Earth in Rock?
A 1,000-year-old stone structure in Mexico may represent how some people in ancient Mesoamerica believed the Earth was created, an archaeologist suggests.
Given what the archaeologists have found so far, Hernández Bautista hypothesizes that the Tetzacualco’s large size and location in the middle of a pond mean that the structure is an attempt to represent a mythical creature known as Cipactli or Çipaqli, a fish monster from which the gods created the Earth, according to some ancient Mesoamerican legends. [Read more about the ancient structure.]
Celebrated Old Clay
Archaeologists have discovered a 2,700-year-old clay stamp near Jerusalem’s Western Wall that seems to shed some light on the political structure of the ancient society that inhabited the city.
The 0.5 by 0.6-inch (13 by 15 millimeters) clay stamp depicts two figures facing one another above archaic Hebrew script that reads “לשרער” (roughly: l’sar’ir). The researchers said that the word is a condensed version of the phrase “לשר העיר,” (l’sar ha-ir) which means “belonging to the governor of the city.” [Read more about the piece of clay.]
The bottom of the ocean is more of a “sunken place” than it used to be.
Scientists have long known that Earth’s crust, or outer layer, is elastic: Earlier research revealed how Earth’s surface warps in response to tidal movements that redistribute masses of water; and 2017’s Hurricane Harvey dumped so much water on Texas that the ground dropped 0.8 inches (2 centimeters), the Atlantic reported. [Read more about the ocean bottom.]
Weird Dimming Explained
Well, we always knew the alien-megastructure idea was a long shot.
For the past two-plus years, astronomers have been trying to figure out what, exactly, is going on with Tabby’s star. A number of potential explanations have been floated, from orbiting comet fragments, to a huge dust cloud between Earth and KIC 8462852, to energy-collecting structures built by an advanced alien civilization. [Read more about alien megastructure.]
Would you like your water sparkling, from the tap or hauled out of an unsterilized river upstate? For proponents of the expensive new drinking trend known as “raw water,” the choice is as clear as a Poland Spring.
According to the Times, part of the movement’s success may come from that very “off the grid” appeal: Raw water passes through no federal or municipal pipes, contains no additives (such as fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral typically added to tap water to fight tooth decay), and generally receives no filtration, ensuring every bottle remains as mineral-rich as Mother Nature intended. [Read more about the trend.]
Rewriting American Settlement
A genetic analysis of a baby’s remains dating back 11,500 years suggests that a previously unknown human population was among the first to settle in the Americas.
Many thousands of years ago, the site where the infant lived — albeit briefly — and died was a residential camp with three tent-like structures. [Read more about the first Americans.]
Deciphering Egyptian Messages
About 2,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians made homemade wrappings for mummies from “recycled” scraps of paper that people had first used to scribble down shopping lists and personal notes.
In ancient Egypt, mummies were embalmed and then wrapped in fabric bandages. Then, they were covered with cartonnage, a paper-mache material made from recycled papyri and sometimes fabric, Gibson said. Once the cartonnage hardened and was covered with plaster, artisans painted it. [Read more about the camera.]