This week in science news, we found four “megabeds” of supervolcanoes, learned that the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is spinning at nearly maximum speed, and debunked claims about tiny “alien” spherules discovered last year.
Researchers discovered four huge supervolcano megabeds which has been at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea for up to 40,000 years. These deposits, measuring between 10 and 25 meters (33 and 82 feet) thick, point to catastrophic events that hit Europe every 10,000 to 15,000 years.
While Iceland’s roaring volcano probably isn’t all that impressive, the country is nonetheless preparing for a Imminent volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Residents of Grindavík, in southwest Iceland, were evacuated after three sinkholes appeared in their town. Seismic activity began on October 25, and Iceland’s Met Office confirmed there was a 15-kilometre-long “magma tunnel” stretching from Sundhnúk in the north to Grindavík, and then out to sea – with experts suggesting a eruption. could occur anywhere along it.
As we await news from below, looking up at the sky, NASA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency are planning to launch the world’s first wooden satellite already next year. Called LignoSat, the mug-sized satellite is made from magnolia wood and designed to test the feasibility of using the biodegradable material in future satellites.
A little further away, we now know that Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, is spinning at almost its maximum possible speedand dragging spacetime along for the ride. Scientists have also been investigating the disruptive effects of the most powerful gamma-ray burst since the Big Bang. The massive gamma-ray burst, which was first detected in October 2022 and occurred when a star located more than 2 billion light-years away exploded, severely disrupted Earth’s ionosphere. Researchers will now investigate whether the “BOAT” gamma-ray burst – short for “brightest ever” – influenced any of Earth’s mass extinction events.
Back on Earth, scientists followed a long crab trail to a new hydrothermal vent in the Galapagos. The field covers more than 9,178 square meters (98,800 square feet) at the Galápagos Distribution Center. In other crab news, scientists learned this week that the crustaceans evolved to migrate from marine habitats to terrestrial habitats between seven and 17 times, and even evolved to return to the sea on two or three occasions. Going from tiny to gigantic, scientists have shown that elephants give each other names in the form of “complex” low-frequency rumbles, making them the first known non-human animals to do so.
Speaking of named animals, pets (and their food) may be the source of two human outbreaks of Salmonella.
In better news, Scientists have developed “bionic breasts” to restore sensation in breast cancer survivors. And in a small but successful trial, researchers used CRISPR will edit genomes of people with familial high cholesterol. Looking to the future, scientists have recently demonstrated a prototype for a small shape-shifting robot that could one day perform automated surgeries inside the human body.
But we’ve also made several important discoveries in our quest to better understand the past, with German archaeologists unearthing the foundations of two temples in an ancient Roman camp and a separate team unearthing a 4,000-year-old tomb in Norway that may have contained the region’s first farmers. This week, we also realized that Stone Age Europeans hunted with spears more than 30,000 years ago, which is about 10,000 years earlier than we previously thought.
And finally, the curious and colorful metal spherules excavated in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year are not mysterious alien relics from outer space, as previously theorized, but rather the byproduct of burning coal on Earth.
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Photo of the week
This stunning NASA satellite image shows Eurasia’s tallest volcano, Klyuchevskoy, spewing a 1,000-mile-long cloud of dust and ash into the air. It has been continuously erupting since mid-June, but a huge volcanic explosion on November 1 released a gigantic torrent of smoke and ash that reached 12km above the Earth’s surface. The river of smoke prompted the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team to raise the aviation alert level to red – the highest level possible – and ground planes in the area.
Although difficult to distinguish from the cloud, the plume stretches across this image, from Klyuchevskoy to the Pacific Ocean. Although this trail of smoke and ash was enormous, it is still far from the largest eruption plumes ever seen. This explosion lasted only a few days, and Klyuchevskoy may have stopped exploding altogether.
Living science, long read
We were especially impressed by the message from famous climatologist Michael Mann, who argues in a recent opinion piece that there is still time to prevent climate change. The result? For decades, scientists have struggled to communicate climate risks in the face of profound uncertainty.
But instead of downplaying climate risk, scientists have potentially been guilty of the opposite: failing to communicate that we can still stop global warming.
State-of-the-art climate models make it clear that when humans stop expelling carbon into the atmosphere, “thermal inertia” is almost zero, meaning warming stops. This means there is There is still time for humans to reduce emissions and avoid reaching the critical limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit).