2021 Re-Run: A Look Back at the Year’s Top Ten Bizarre Stories | The Weather Channel – Articles from The Weather Channel
After all the chaos that emerged in 2020, it was hard to imagine that this year could top that madness in any way. However, 2021 did hold its own in the chaos department, and presented us with many offbeat stories.
As we bid adieu to the year and prepare to step into 2022, let’s recall ten of the most bizarre findings and happenings in the field of space, science and environment.
A 2,700‐year-old face cream made for aristocratic men
[A] The bronze jar in situ; [B] The decoration on the bronze jar after cleaning; [C] A large quantity of agglomeration of yellowish-white lumps inside the bronze jar.
(B. Han et al. DOI: 10.1111/arcm.12659)
It is common knowledge that ancient Egyptians used cosmetics 2,000 years ago, while women in China were found to be using rouge to colour their faces as far back as 1450 BC. But in 2021, a new study unearthed the oldest known cosmetic meant for male wearers in China.
Earlier this year, a Chinese team of researchers published a study describing a 2,700‐year-old face cream made especially for men at the Liujiawa dig site in northern China. Evidence suggests that the cream was probably used to make the face appear white.
Meaning the colourism that exists today is probably ancient. Sigh.
The cosmetic was a soft, yellow-white substance made of animal fat and moonmilk, a type of carbonate mud that comes from a unique stalactite found in limestone caverns and dries to a white powder. When these ingredients were combined, they created a compound that could be used as a cream.
Researchers found the aforementioned face cream in an exquisite bronze jar present within the tomb of a male associated with the aristocratic class.
Want to transport rhinos safely? Just hang them upside down, say researchers!
A recent study from researchers in the College of Veterinary Medicine analyzed the effects of hanging tranquilized black rhinoceroses upside down by their feet.
(Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine)
This year, an Ig Nobel Prize was awarded to scientists from Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States, for their study on the safety in transporting an airborne rhinoceros upside down.
In Namibia, rhinos are frequently relocated to national parks to protect them from poachers, who hunt rhinoceros for their valuable horns. But transporting a 1000 kg animal given Namibia’s rugged terrain is no easy task. And so, helicopters have become a reliable mode of transport for rhinos in the last decade. The animal is anaesthetised and hung upside down in mid-flight.
To study the clinical dangers associated with this approach, the researchers analysed the effects of air transport and rhinos lying on their sides, as they would be after darting and sledge transport.
According to the findings, hanging them upside down was the least harmful position, as oxygen levels and ventilation measurements were higher when the animal was upside down.
Remember when an Egyptian mummy, thought to be a male priest, turned out to be a pregnant woman?
Researchers of the Warsaw Mummy Project with the pregnant mummy.
Back in 1826, a colourful, embellished mummy coffin arrived in Poland, where it was donated to the National Museum in Warsaw. Upon examining the sarcophagus, researchers concluded that it belonged to a female.
However, when the coffin’s hieroglyphic inscriptions—part of the ancient Egyptian writing system—were translated years later in the 1920s, the mummy was found to be a male Egyptian priest named Hor-Djehuty.
This mummy, after lying forgotten, was reexamined again along with forty other mummies in 2015. To the researchers’ surprise, the body that was thought to belong to a male priest was, in fact, a young woman. What was even more wondrous was that the scientists discovered a tiny fetus in the woman, making it the world’s first expectant ‘mummy’!
The team of researchers has since hypothesised that the woman’s body may have been placed in the wrong coffin, which has been found to be quite common in the past.
Discovery of fearsome dog-sized scorpion that ruled Chinese sea floors 400 million years ago
A reconstruction of the ‘Terropterus xiushanensis’ sea scorpion.
(Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology/Yang Dinghua)
Scorpions, even as reasonably small, finger-length creatures, are pretty scary for many.
So just imagine what coming face to face with one that’s a metre long could do to a person!
Luckily, while such dog-sized arachnids did exist, they lived at least 400 million years ago.
Scientists from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology discovered a scorpion fossil that wandered the sea floors of south China. The organism, named Terropterus xiushanensis, was a cousin of today’s horseshoe crab and whip spider.
The terrifying creature is said to have existed during the Silurian period, between 443.8 million and 419.2 million years ago, as an apex underwater predator with massive spiky arms called pedipalps that prowled on fish and molluscs.
Researchers believe that future work, especially in Asia, may reveal a more cosmopolitan distribution of mixopterids and perhaps other groups of eurypterids.
When Heinz created new Ketchup with tomatoes grown under Martian conditions
Heinz has dropped a “Marz edition” where the ketchup is made entirely of premium quality tomatoes grown under Martian soil conditions.
In November, Heinz, known across the globe for their ketchup, dropped a “Marz edition” with the ketchup made entirely of premium quality tomatoes grown under Martian soil conditions.
Two years ago, Heinz teamed-up with a group of 14 astrobiologists from the Florida Institute of Technology’s Aldrin Space Institute to see if future human inhabitants on Mars could create their own ketchup.
Researchers built the ‘Redhouse,’ a custom greenhouse that mimicked the circumstances humans would confront growing on Mars, including artificial LED lighting and 3500 kg of imitation Martian soil.
More than just a marketing gimmick, this study contributed to current research trends where scientists are looking for ways to feed future human settlers using resources available on Mars.
A tiny crab trapped in amber 100 million years ago changed our understanding of crab evolution
The two-millimetre-long fossil of the ancient crab was found encased in a piece of amber jewelry at a market in Tengchong, China.
In 2015, in a market in Tengchong, China, a couple of researchers stumbled upon a piece of amber jewellery with a two-millimetre-long crab lodged in it. Although the crab bore an uncanny resemblance to any of the modern-day crabs, it dated all the way back to the age of dinosaurs!
The crab’s body, with its claws, shell, protruding eyes and gills, is perfectly preserved in amber, according to researchers who investigated the ancient species, making this an extremely unusual find. According to researchers, this could be the oldest evidence of crab encroachment into non-marine ecosystems.
And while crabs are known to climb trees nowadays, experts have previously indicated that this behaviour began only 50 to 75 million years ago. This begged the question: how did this tiny crab named Cretapsara athanata, which is 100 million years old, manage to climb a tree and get trapped in amber?
This study revealed a 50-million-year gap between the expected molecular timing of non-marine crab split and the known fossil record.
Researchers found what might be the world’s first beach—in Singhbhum, Jharkhand!
Granitoids of the Singhhum Craton that emerged above the oceans.
(Subham Mukherjee / University of Delhi via TOI)
Until recently, the Earth’s first continents, or “cratons,” were thought to have emerged from the oceans 2.5 billion years ago.
But the pockets of ancient sedimentary rocks located in Singhbhum Craton in eastern India told a different story, suggesting that the continents arose 700 million years earlier than previously thought.
An international team of experts from India, Australia and South Africa analysed the composition and age of the sedimentary rocks. This analysis revealed that the rocks were produced in ancient rivers, beaches and shallow oceans, and are 3.1 billion years old! And these bodies of water could only have existed if there had been continental land.
The researchers then calculated that the Singhbhum region was above sea level 3.1 billion years ago, and that the Singhbhum Craton in eastern India rose above the oceans approximately 3.3 billion to 3.2 billion years ago, making it one of the planet’s oldest beaches.
NASA announces plans to establish a Lunar Nuclear Power System on the Moon
Artist’s concept of new fission power system on the lunar surface.
NASA, the United States’ space agency, hopes to have the first long-term presence on the Moon. As they will almost certainly require a power source to succeed in such a mission, NASA recently announced its intention to build a “durable, high-power, sun-independent” fission reactor on the Moon by 2030.
On November 19, 2021, the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory released a statement saying they are “seeking industry partners to design nuclear power systems for lunar applications”. The request for reactor designs on behalf of NASA and a contractor of the DOE is open until February 19, 2022.
NASA intends to use specifically built small modular reactors (SMRs) to provide reliable power in any environment, much as they do on Earth. The units will have to be built to survive the harshest of environments.
The reactor will be developed on Earth and then launched to the Moon, where it is expected to generate 40 kilowatts of continuous electric power for ten years!
Critically endangered California Condor birds give two asexual births
A California condor.
(Frier/Nikon, Scott/ Wikimedia Commons)
California condors were on the verge of extinction not long ago, and conservationists were only able to save the species from extinction by dedicated conservation efforts. Still, these birds remain critically endangered.
But some exciting news on these birds revealed that condors could reproduce asexually, potentially increasing the species’ chances of producing offspring.
The analysis of biological samples from California condors in the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance showed that two California condor chicks were genetically related to their mother, but didn’t seem to be related to any male. This meant that parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction, had been at play in these cases.
Parthenogenesis has been observed in isolated farmed birds such as turkeys and chickens, but this is the first time a “virgin birth” has resulted in viable offspring in a wild condor group.
UberEats delivers food to the International Space Station!
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (left) with cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin
Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire and UberEats associate, packed an UberEats delivery filled with Japanese food onboard the Soyuz spacecraft for his 66 crewmates.
The ready-to-eat canned food, which included a beef bowl cooked in a sweet sauce, boiled mackerel in miso, chicken with bamboo shoots, and braised pork, became a welcome change from their usual space cuisine.
Maezawa delivered this package on December 11, 2021, after a nearly 400-kilometre voyage that took almost nine hours, thereby completing the first ever successful food delivery to space!
For weather, science, and COVID-19 updates on the go, download The Weather Channel App (on Android and iOS store). It’s free!