Science

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

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 Mixtec funerary mask

In the decades after Hernán Cortés invaded Mexico, one of the worst epidemics in human history swept through the new Spanish colony. A mysterious disease called “cocolitzli” appeared first in 1545 and then again in 1576, each time killing millions of the native population. “From morning to sunset,” wrote a Franciscan friar who witness the epidemic, “the priests did nothing else but carry the dead bodies and throw them into the ditches.”  A New Clue to the Mystery Disease That Once Killed Most of Mexico. It comes from the 16th-century victims’ teeth.

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  purple octopus

Octopuses have three hearts, parrot-like beaks, venomous bites, and eight semi-autonomous arms that can taste the world. They squirt ink, contort through the tiniest of spaces, and melt into the world by changing both color and texture. They are incredibly intelligent, capable of wielding tools, solving problems, and sabotaging equipment. As Sy Montgomery once wrote, “no sci-fi alien is so startlingly strange” as an octopus. But their disarming otherness doesn’t end with their bodies. Their genes are also really weird.

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yellowstone aerial

Beneath Yellowstone National Park lies a supervolcano, a behemoth far more powerful than your average volcano. It has the ability to expel more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of rock and ash at once — 2,500 times more material than erupted from Mount St. Helens in 1980, which killed 57 people. That could blanket most of the United States in a thick layer of ash and even plunge the Earth into a volcanic winter.

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 Spinach Leaves and Blood

Researchers face a fundamental challenge as they seek to scale up human tissue regeneration from small lab samples to full-size tissues, bones, even whole organs to implant in people to treat disease or traumatic injuries: how to establish a vascular system that delivers blood deep into the developing tissue.

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fire of london monument top 

The Monument is one of London’s most famous landmarks, even giving its name to a local Tube stop. But this tribute to London’s greatest fire also has a secret second use – as a giant piece of scientific equipment. “I’ll just open the hatch...” says Richard Smith, who is stooped over in the ticket office at the Monument. He’s examining the oak-panelled floor as though it’s hiding a secret chamber, as in an Indiana Jones movie. Above him, a desk is piled high with leaflets “This is to certify that "such individual" has climbed the 311 steps of the Monument”. The thing is, there are actually 345.