5 Crazypants Scientific Discoveries (Happening Right Now)

Chances are you're not keeping up with science news these days, what with the world being four different kinds of on fire. And even if you tried, 90% of it now boils down to headlines saying: "There's still no vaccine, put your goddamn mask back on." So very much like the valiant scientists still moving society further despite it being mid-collapse, we've compiled this lost data on current, relevant scientific discoveries such as ...

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5
Dinosaurs Had So Much Cancer

 

Despite Spielberg trying to drill it into our brains every few years, it's hard to fathom dinosaurs really existed. That they were actual flesh and blood critters instead of the mythic tar-breathing dragons we like to imagine them as. But it turns out that the average Joe today has a lot in common with the average Jaxartosaurus back then, who didn't only have to worry about the Big T, but like us, also the Big C.

5 Crazypants Scientific Discoveries (Happening Right Now) - a modern model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex
RJ Palmer/Wikimedia Commons
With arms that short there's no way to check for lumps.
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Without the ability to put dinosaurs under X-ray machines to look for doom smudges, until recently, paleontologists weren't even sure if they even had cancer to slowly die of. But a multidisciplinary team of paleontologists and oncologists has rifled through hundreds of old fossils "on a hunt for dinosaur cancer." And I'm afraid I have bad news: they succeeded, leading to the first-ever cancer diagnosis for a dinosaur -- and only 77 million years too late to start chemo.

5 Crazypants Scientific Discoveries (Happening Right Now) - a Ceratops dinosaur skeleton
American Museum of Natural History
Technically, all dinosaurs now look like they've been put under an X-Ray.
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The Cretaceous cancer patient in question was an unfortunate Ceratops (an ancestor of the Triceratops named after the deathless ancient that is Michael Cera). While the beast likely drowned with its entire family before the cancer could kill it (a mixed blessing) it suffered from such aggressive osteosarcoma that this bone cancer had visibly warped its lower leg bone -- which is how it came to the attention of the oncologist researchers.

And to paraphrase the study's lead author: Where there's bone cancer, there's every kind of cancer to bone you. Which means it might be time to reevaluate the indomitable reputation of the dinosaur. After all, another recent study posits that people with obesity have a greater chance of getting cancer simply because larger organs have more cells to mutate. So given that the liver of a titanosaur was the size of a Volkswagen hatchback, it may be time to look at these walking giants less as unbreakable behemoths and more like a mound of tumors with horns sticking out.

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4
Gardens Are Being Overrun By Superpowered Poison Ivy

 

With half of the world being under voluntary house arrest, many of the activity-starved are seeking refuge in nature, spending more time in their gardens or local parks lying in the grass instead of on their bedroom floor like a depressed teenager. 

5 Crazypants Scientific Discoveries (Happening Right Now) - a man lying in field of flowers
Pexels
Almost as good as touching another person -- not that we remember what that feels like.
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Be careful where you lie down, though, as biologists are once again in the news to warn us of the dangers of poison ivy. But this ain't your granddaddy's poison ivy. Literally. Thanks to climate change, poison ivy has become the poster girl of (post)apocalyptic prosperity, having doubled in size since the 1950s. And much like the world's shittiest Pokemon, Dr. Jacqueline Mohan of the University of Georgia warns, this poison ivy has also evolved to be "significantly more poisonous." 

While most effects of climate change are disastrous to the environment, the increase of CO2 saturation helps them grow. And while their biggest CO2 meal since the Carboniferous Period is causing rapid growth in all plants (at least the ones surviving the torrents of wildfires and floods) none are thriving quite like poison ivy. Over the past decades, the weed has been given a CO2 boost of 149%, making them “bigger, stronger, and faster growing.”

5 Crazypants Scientific Discoveries (Happening Right Now) - a clump of poison ivy
James De Mers/Pixabay
Poison's work is never over.
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At this rate, poison ivy will become not just a threat to nature lovers but to nature itself, as these Godzilla weeds start trampling all over less adaptable plant life. So the next time some climate change denier starts their bullshit about nature finding a way to cope, feel free to use that as an invitation to rub a gloved handful of super poison ivy into their dumb faces. 

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3
Florida Fights Its Mosquito Problem By Releasing 750 Million More Mosquitos

 

I know we here can be a tad harsh on Florida, that unnoticed meth-head booger hanging from America. It's the Joe Exotic of environments, host to animals as vicious as Australia's but with none of the rakish charm. But credit's due where credit's due (and Florida's serial killers do everything on credit): this topographical equivalent of swamp ass is on the cusp of bringing the battle to one of the world's peskiest problems. And it's doing it the Florida way -- by making that problem even bigger.

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Since forever, mankind has tried to find a way to get rid of mosquitos, the biggest genocidal bloodsuckers since ... whichever politician gets me the fewest death threats. This research ramped up considerably during the Zika Virus outbreak in 2015 when thousands of babies were born with complications due to the disease-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito. And as the most exotic state (if we're going by illegal pets per capita), Florida also suffers from this aggressive harbinger of plague better known as the yellow fever mosquito.

5 Crazypants Scientific Discoveries (Happening Right Now) - a mosquito sucking on human skin
Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia Commons
But known locally as the "high on bath salts, face-eating mosquito."
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Since we're still decades away from creating a continent-sized bug zapper, many scientists have accepted that we are unable to wipe out the mosquito population. But you know who's even better at wiping out populations? Mosquitos. So under the maxim "if you can't kill 'em, breed 'em" biotech corporations have been creating clouds of genetically modified male mosquitoes. These sexy cyborgs are then sent out to seduce the bloodsucking female mosquitos and infect them with a kind of DNA-modding STD. After mating with these freaks of nature, females can only give birth to more male dummies, eventually depleting the female population and leading to the sausage fest of extinction events. 

5 Crazypants Scientific Discoveries (Happening Right Now) - a mosquito against a white backdrop
ohnedich/Flickr
This is how the mosquitoes end. With a bang, then a whimper. 
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That's exactly why Florida is intent on super-sizing its mosquito population. Local officials have approved the release of three-quarters of a billion modified mosquitoes into the Florida Keys by 2021, one of the largest government-sponsored suicide sex cults ever. Many environmentalists do however oppose the plan, claiming that to sextinguish so many mosquitoes is sure to lead to a disastrous "Jurassic Park experiment," this despite the project having been approved by the EPA and with the scientific community still unsure of the long term benefits. Which is just insulting -- to Jurassic Park. Clearly, they meant Jurassic World. If that goon John Hammond had half a brain, he too would have used syphilitic velociraptors to save mankind from destruction.

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2
Using Mindfulness Meditation To Cure Depression Can Cause Depression

 

Mindfulness is the latest mental health fad that loses a lot of its medicinal cred if you just add "whoa" and "like" to its description. According to Psychology Todaymindfulness is, like, to live in the moment and, like, reawaken oneself to the present, whoah, rather than dwelling on the past or, like, anticipating the future *mind blown gesture.*

That isn't to say that this simple form of meditation can't be very beneficial in combating stress and anxiety. That is, if you can handle playing double Russian Roulette with your mental health.

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According to a recent study from Coventry University in the UK, mindfulness may not be the two-minutes-or-less cure-all that Gwyneth Paltrow claims. Compiling data from 55 large studies on it and other gentrified Buddhist practices, the Coventry researchers determined that meditation can indeed help battle feelings of stress and anxiety -- in 11 out of 12 subjects. The twelfth? They get a second helping of the very thing they're trying to mindfully get rid of, the mindfulness increasing if not outright causing depression and even panic attacks and psychosis.

5 Crazypants Scientific Discoveries (Happening Right Now) - a woman meditating by a stream
Amila Tennakoon/Wikimedia Commons
Why would anyone who isn't depressed try mindfulness? Everyone needs a hobby.
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As if meditation causing anxiety weren't ironic enough, the real issue here lies in the mindset of meditators. Succinctly put by the author of the study, Miguel Farios, mindfulness "has undoubtedly been overhyped and it’s not universally benevolent." Its oft-cultish community typically touts mindfulness and meditation as a legitimate alternative to antidepressants without any of the pesky side-effects. But an 8% chance of doubling down on your mental afflictions sure feels like something you'd hear in a sped-up voice at the end of an extremely dubious Big Pharma commercial. 

That kind of ongoing pose-posing is downright dangerous for these one out of twelve meditation practitioners. When they start experiencing the supposedly non-existent side-effects of meditation, they have no idea what's going on. This can make their suffering even worse, both by them now clueless on how to address mental issues that clearly require medical treatment but also by making them feel like they're somehow doing sitting down and not falling asleep wrong. 

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1
We Finally Know Where Stonehenge Got Its Stones

 

For centuries, the greatest archeological minds have racked their brains on the origins of Stonehenge, that half-finished house of cards of the gods. Where did the mysterious sarsen stone come from? How could primitive man have carried such gargantuan boulders? Did they hew it from foreign mines? Or perhaps even sail them across the world on perilous Bronze Age ships? At last, we have a definitive answer, proof that the megaliths were transported on a great adventure all across … town.

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5 Crazypants Scientific Discoveries (Happening Right Now) - Stonehenge on a cloudy day
Udit Kapoor/Wikimedia Commons
It's not exactly an epic journey if you can still see your house. 

 

The mystery of the rolling stones was finally uncovered by a team of historians from the University of Brighton. Using a portable X-ray gun (how's that for living in the future?) they managed to analyze the sandstone's unique chemical composition. And while the team never dreamed of matching them to a nearby quarry, they did exactly that, tracing 50 out of 52 boulders to a site in the nearby West Woods of Wiltshire. From there, the stones were schlepped about 25 kilometers to Stonehenge itself. They still have no idea where the remaining two stones came from, but anyone who has ever been on a road trip knows you always end up picking up extra provisions along the way. 

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Now, the reveal that these famed megaliths were only transported 35 miles might feel like disappointingly small potatoes. Especially since wild Stonehenge theories over the centuries imagined the stones being shipped all along the Welsh coast or even traveled atop giant glaciers to be dumped Jenga-style in the middle of England. But remember, this was 3000 BC Britain. A time when the known world ended forty feet past the nearest tree line and a place where traveling straight for 5 miles meant you no longer understood people's dialect (not unlike contemporary Britain). By mile 35, you might as well have been in Narnia, expecting to get mobbed by talking lions and other on-the-nose religious allegories.

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But the distance doesn't matter. To pull forward monoliths the size and weight of the moon (you assume, since you're from the Bronze Age) alone took ingenious levels of engineering. Furthermore, the discovery didn't reveal the likely route taken through Wiltshire's dense forest and hilly landscapes. And if you've ever tried to move a couch into a tiny studio apartment with no elevator, you'll know that, sometimes, managing to wedge forward something massive even a few inches can be a heroic feat of Herculean proportions. 

For more weird science (and tangents), do follow Cedric on Twitter.

Top Image: (clockwise) Wikimedia Commons / Royal Ontario Museum, McMaster University / Pixabay / Famartin, Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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