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black holes

Image: Flickr / NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Ghostly cosmic particles caught on four-billion-year journey by giant IceCube

Scientists implanted more than 5,000 sensors in the miles-thick ice of Antarctica in hopes of catching the ghost particle, a high-energy neutrino from a distant galaxy. And yay, IceCube has succeeded, catching such a neutrino emitted by a "blazar" -- a supermassive black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy -- some four billion years ago as it passed through Earth. By tracking such hard-to-track neutrinos, physicists may be able to rewrite their own rules by breaking free of light as our principle means to observe the universe.

TED Talk: How I fell in love with quasars, blazars and our incredible universe
immune system

Image: Flickr / ZEISS Microscopy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Drugs help older people's immune systems fend off infection

Your immune system could use a refresh if you’re over 65 -- and a new trial suggests there are now drugs that could cut your risk of the flu, colds and other breathing-related infections. The group of patients who received these drugs, which work by blocking a protein involved in aging, averaged roughly one fewer infection over the course of the year-long study.

Playlist: What you need to know about medicine
Otzi the Iceman

Image: Flickr / OetziTheIceman (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The real paleo diet: Iceman's last meal

Ötzi had a full stomach when he died, allowing scientists to study what he ate before he died more than 5,000 years ago. What did a real ancient human eat? Deer and goat meat and, perhaps more important, fat from the same animals, some wheat and even some bracken fern (though that may have been a mistake on his part). High fat appears to have been the order of the day to prepare for high-endurance activities like hunting, foraging and fighting.

TED Talk: What explains the rise of humans?

Recently discovered

What a snot-collecting marine drone is teaching us about whales
A flying device combined with some nifty software is serving up invaluable information about the health of whales -- and our oceans. (

Stone tools suggest hominins arrived in China more than two million years ago
An excavation has uncovered stone tools in China that are about 2.1 million years old, pushing back the date of the earliest established signs of a hominin species outside of Africa. (Nature)

Study says hot streaks are real
A study published in Nature examines the occurrence of hot streaks -- runs of high-impact works -- in the oeuvres of tens of thousands of film-makers, artists and scientists. The new analysis, which looks at crowdsourced film ratings and art auction prices, says that creative impact shows the features of "bursty dynamics" -- just like other human traits, including movement and email and telephone communications. This is not quite the same as saying that large or significant events happen at random; rather, their occurrence is correlated, such that the average time between successive events is smaller than random. If one occurs, another is likely to follow soon -- but that sequence can’t last long. And that’s precisely what a hot streak is. (Nature)

The world's oldest biological color: bright pink
Scientists have discovered what they say are the world’s oldest colors -- and they are bright pink. The pigments were discovered after researchers crushed 1.1 billion-year-old rocks found in a marine shale deposit beneath the Sahara desert, in the Taoudeni basin in Mauritania. "Of course you might say that everything has some color,” said the senior lead researcher, Associate Professor Jochen Brocks from the Australian National University. “What we’ve found is the oldest biological color.” (The Guardian)

All wasps are scary, but this one is definitely the scariest
The Clistopyga crassicaudata sports an almost comically massive stinger, which it uses to stun and kill spiders as incubation hosts, wrapping them up in their own webs, and injecting them with wasp eggs. (CNN)

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