The Most Interesting Science News Articles of the Week
By Live Science Staff |
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.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” on Hiroshima, Japan, leading to a nuclear blast that instantly claimed about 45,000 lives. Now, the jawbone of one of those casualties — belonging to a person who was less than a mile from the bomb’s hypocenter — is helping researchers determine how much radiation was absorbed by the bones of the victims, a new study finds. [Read more about the levels.]
It takes 512 years for a high-energy photon to travel from the nearest neutron star to Earth. Just a few of them make the trip. But they carry the information necessary to solve one of the toughest questions in astrophysics.
That data point, along with countless others like it collected over the course of months, will answer a basic question as soon as summer 2018: Just how wide is J0437-4715, Earth’s nearest neutron-star neighbor? [Read more about the solution.]
More than 200 flat-Earth enthusiasts descended on West Midlands, England, this past weekend to “engage freely in deep and meaningful discussions,” according to the Flat Earth Convention UK.
According to the group that put on the convention, the gathering also included some “alternative viewpoints.” (You think?) [Read more about the theory.]
New York City goes by many nicknames: the Big Apple, Gotham, Empire City and the City That Never Sleeps, to name a few. But one corner of the city’s Long Island Sound has a more gruesome moniker: the Island of the Dead.
When a person dies in New York, the OCME assumes custody of the individual’s remains; if they are unclaimed or unidentified, the remains are then turned over to the DOC for burial on Hart Island, according to the DOC website. [Read more about the bones.]
The far reaches of the outer solar system may be home to an icy giant — a hypothetical planet scientists have dubbed “Planet Nine.”
Planet Nine, if it exists, would have about 10 times the mass of Earth and orbit 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune does. (Planet Nine is not Pluto, which was once considered the ninth planet but was demoted to mere “dwarf planet” in 2006. [Read more about the tapestries.]
Connecticut surgeons recently removed a 132-lb. (60 kilograms) ovarian tumor from a woman’s abdomen.
The woman had gone to her gynecologist after she experienced a rapid weight gain — about 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) a week — over a two-month period [Read more about the tumor.]
Previously hidden text on fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls is now readable, revealing a possible undiscovered scroll and solving a debate about the sacred Temple Scroll. The discoveries came from a new infrared analysis of the artifacts, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced yesterday (May 1). [Read more about the scrolls.]
Hawking’s Final Contribution
Stephen Hawking’s final paper, which aims to test a theory that proposes parallel universes, appeared today (May 2) in the Journal of High Energy Physics.
Scientists later determined that this proposal implied something strange: that the multiverse is infinite, with endless, uncountable parallel universes existing alongside our own, Live Science previously reported. [Read more about the paper.]
Dozens of people in Alabama and North Carolina have developed a rare eye cancer — and doctors don’t know what’s behind the apparent spike in cases in these areas, according to news reports.
Right now, doctors don’t know the answer to the question, but they say something in the environment could be a factor, CBS reported. [Read more about cancer.]
Sacrificed Kids Had Their Hearts Ripped Out 550 Years Ago
By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor |
More than 550 years ago, in one of history’s largest human sacrifices, about 140 children and 200 llamas were killed at a site in Peru that’s now called Las Llamas, archaeologists have discovered. The reason for the sacrifice? That remains a mystery.
The chests of the buried children, who were between 5 and 14 years old when they were sacrificed, had been cut open. The hearts of at least some of the children were removed, said John Verano, an anthropology professor at Tulane University in New Orleans who co-directs excavations at Las Llamas. Verano told Live Science that some people in Peru and Bolivia still remove the hearts of sacrificed llamas.
Many of the children were also found with red pigment smeared on their faces. As far as the scientists can tell, the children died when their chests were cut open. However, it is possible that they were killed first using some other method that hasn’t left any traces on their remains, Verano said. [25 Cultures That Practiced Human Sacrifice]
At the time of the sacrifice, much of Peru was ruled by a people that archaeologists now call the Chimú. These people created sophisticated works of art and built a large city at a site called Chan Chan. As far as archaeologists know, the Chimú did not practice slavery, Verano said.
This mass child sacrifice appears to predate the conquest of the Chimú by the Inca, which took place around A.D. 1470. If the sacrifice wasn’t related to that takeover, perhaps the Chimú suffered from environmental problems caused by El Niño — a climate cycle that causes warm water to pool offshore of northwestern South America, causing changes in global weather patterns — and carried out the sacrifice in the hope that, somehow, it would alleviate the conditions, Verano said.
The children appear to have been healthy and well nourished at the time of their death, and there are no signs that they tried to escape the sacrifice, Verano said. Some of the llamas, however, tried to flee. “The llama footprints sometimes suggest this, and they [the llamas] had ropes around their necks to lead/control them,” Verano said.
The children were buried facing the sea, while the llamas were buried facing east, toward the Andes mountains. Why this was done is unclear. “One possibility is that llamas originally came from the highlands, and the Chimú had deities and art that focused on marine themes, like fish and sea birds, so they had the children face the sea,” Verano said.
In addition to the sacrifices recently discovered at Las Llamas, another case of Chimú child sacrifice was found recently at a different Peruvian site: Pampa La Cruz, archaeologists reported recently at the Society for American Archaeology’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Archaeologists are not yet certain how many kids were sacrificed at that site.
The research at Las Llamas is funded by the National Geographic Society and was reported exclusively in National Geographic. The research is being prepared for scientific publication. Gabriel Prieto, a researcher at the National University of Trujillo in Peru, is the other co-director of the Las Llamas excavations.