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00:00:01
There were just so many scientific  discoveries this month so as I said  
00:00:05
I couldn’t cram it all into  a single ten list so here are  
00:00:09
ten MORE interesting scientific  discoveries for June of 2024.
00:00:15
Number 10. Recycling Concrete
00:00:18
We make a lot of cement these days and it  basically becomes an artificial rock after  
00:00:23
a demolition. There are still ruins from the  Roman Empire that were made out of cement,  
00:00:28
and they’re still mostly there. Usually though,  
00:00:31
things can be reused and recycled after  a demolition, steel recycles easily,  
00:00:36
bricks can be reused, and so on. But with cement  it was unclear what could be done with alot of it.
00:00:41
It turns out, cement can be recycled now  and it can be done with zero emissions.  
00:00:47
Production of cement actually is a  huge contributor to greenhouse gasses,  
00:00:52
about 7.5 percent of our emissions are from  it. When creating cement, you need a material  
00:00:57
known as clinker that is made of limestone and  clay heated to high temperature. Here though,  
00:01:03
researchers found that they could make a  paste from ground up demolished cement from  
00:01:08
buildings and turn it into lime flux which  is then used in purifying recycled steel.
00:01:15
The resultant slag from that process  is clinker, which can then be used to  
00:01:19
make Portland cement for new concrete. If you  can power this cycle using renewable energy,  
00:01:25
such as solar or nuclear, then it becomes almost  entirely emission free, or at least drastically  
00:01:31
less. And it appears that the process can scale  up to industrial levels. If it proves it can,  
00:01:38
then we actually have a really neat  new way of getting rid of old concrete,  
00:01:42
smelting recycled steel, and making  new concrete all rolled into one.
00:01:48
Number 9. Ants Learn Faster When Given Caffeine
00:01:52
I admittedly am a caffeine junkie. I absolutely  adore my coffee, as did my aunts, all 17 of them.  
00:02:00
Old school French catholic family folks. Anyway,  it turns out that humanity’s love affair,  
00:02:05
and sometimes divorce, with caffeine  turns out to not actually be unique to  
00:02:09
us and it’s actually surprising in this case.  So we’re really large compared to the insects  
00:02:15
and can tolerate chemicals differently but  usually for the bugs caffeine is a poison,  
00:02:21
actually a lot of psychoactive  compounds in plants evolved as  
00:02:24
defense mechanisms and certain ones, such  as nicotine, are very good as pesticides.
00:02:30
Bring in a new round of ants, these much  more numerous and of an insect nature,  
00:02:36
and caffeine for them this usually the case, it’s  a poison, but a controlled recent experiment using  
00:02:42
very small doses actually produced a similar  effect in ants that caffeine has in humans,  
00:02:47
it caused them to learn faster and locate  strategically placed sweet rewards faster  
00:02:53
than non-caffeinated ants. This was actually a  complicated experiment involving control ants  
00:03:00
and multiple doses to establish that they were  in fact seeing the ants operating faster and  
00:03:05
their efficiency really did improve  with the drug. But only to a point,  
00:03:10
as the caffeine was increased, the effect  increased until it became comparable to an  
00:03:14
energy drink, then it began to drop off and  doses became fatal at 2000 parts per million.
00:03:22
Number 8. The Sun is Convecting  Surprisingly Shallowly
00:03:27
It’s been thought for decades  now that the sun’s magnetic  
00:03:30
field extended deep into its interior. It works  that way with earth, for example, but with the  
00:03:36
sun this was actually resting on an assumption.  We just assumed it was deep, but no one actually  
00:03:41
knew for sure. What we do know is that the  sun has a very strong magnetic field that is  
00:03:47
frankly astonishing in its power and can do things  like bathe the earth in coronal mass ejections.
00:03:53
But it turns out that the sun’s dynamo that  creates the magnetic field may not actually  
00:03:58
be that deep at all. Indeed it may be just  below the surface of the sun. One question  
00:04:03
that was always present in this story was that  the sun operates on an 11 year magnetic cycle,  
00:04:09
the infamous solar maximum and minimum. During  the maximum, which we’re currently near, sunspots  
00:04:16
increase and so do coronal mass ejections, such  as those weathered by earth just weeks ago. The  
00:04:23
question was though, how can all the phenomena  associated with a solar maximum be linked?
00:04:29
We don’t actually know everything about  the sun, like much of astronomy. Our  
00:04:33
partial understanding does not account  for everything happening in the sun,  
00:04:37
and indeed there are hints that certain  things are going on in the big roiling  
00:04:41
mass that we aren’t even aware of. This makes  it difficult to model the sun in great detail,  
00:04:46
nor is it clear how it creates a magnetic  field. It turns out though that it may be  
00:04:51
created by unstable plasma rotating just under  the surface of the sun and that the magnetic  
00:04:57
field is actually being generated within the top  10 percent of the sun rather than near the core.
00:05:04
Interestingly, when the researchers at the  University of Edinburgh under Geoffrey Vassil  
00:05:09
looked at the predictions their model made,  they actually found evidence of that that  
00:05:13
fit very well. So it seems, the sun’s  dynamo is just beneath its surface.
00:05:21
Number 7. Ancient Armor Worked
00:05:24
A big question about the ancient Greco-Roman  world is how well some of the armor worked.  
00:05:29
It’s always been obvious that some armor was  very functional and protective and there have  
00:05:34
been many experiments to that effect to  see how effective they were. But some  
00:05:38
armor seemed more suited to looking impressive  than actual functionality, something that was  
00:05:44
also done in Europe and around the world  in the more recent past with parade armor,  
00:05:48
and in some cases that’s still happening,  not much reason to go into battle wearing  
00:05:53
a cuirass and a helmet with a plume these  days. Or for that matter a dress uniform,  
00:05:58
you go in with the Kevlar version of armor.  But to look good, metal armor still works.
00:06:04
But researchers in Greece wanted to find  out how effective an unusually complete  
00:06:08
archeological set of bronze armor known  as the Dendra armor, which is bronze age,  
00:06:14
worked when used in battle conditions and Greece’s  Hellenic Marines were happy to try it out with a  
00:06:19
replica set and used it on a chariot, subjected it  to spear, bow, sword and even stone rock attacks.
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This was following Homeric descriptions of  period battle tactics, and they actually  
00:06:31
did really detailed work following  even the body temperature and heart  
00:06:36
rate of soldiers using this armor during  intensive historical battle exercises and  
00:06:41
they even ate a bronze age Mediterranean  diet while doing this. The Dendra armor,  
00:06:47
which some researchers have suggested was  entirely ceremonial, did in fact hold up  
00:06:51
in battle though the soldiers said after  spending hours in it, it was very fatiguing.
00:06:57
Number 6. Humans are Supposed to Run
00:07:01
Humans are weird members of earth’s fountain of  life not just because of our intelligence and  
00:07:05
technology, but also the fact that we can run  with unusual endurance. A human in really good  
00:07:11
shape can actually outdo a horse in endurance on  average. Not speed so much, but as to being able  
00:07:18
to keep up running long distance, we can do it  if in top shape. Our muscles really are evolved  
00:07:24
for stamina, and our method of dissipating  heat, sweating, is basically supercharged.
00:07:29
This has led to a somewhat contentious  hypothesis that human physiology literally  
00:07:34
evolved for being able to chase down  prey and while not outdo them on speed,  
00:07:39
instead outdo them on endurance and being  able to tire the prey out. The reason this  
00:07:44
is contentious is because, well, we really  don’t do this anymore at least according to  
00:07:50
previous viewpoints in anthropology and haven’t  for a very long time. But that may be wrong.
00:07:57
Human cultures worldwide have developed  technologies from spears and bows to agriculture  
00:08:02
to facilitate hunting and food production,  and it’s almost universal. The simple fact is,  
00:08:07
a human will invent and try to make their life  easier. As an aside, Homo sapiens, the term,  
00:08:14
was coined by Linnaeus himself in 1735, the wise  or sapient human. That’s who we are, and he gave  
00:08:23
us our scientific name. The weird tidbit hidden  in here however is that the only known specimen  
00:08:29
Linnaeus scientifically examined and wrote about  from the species of homo sapiens was himself,  
00:08:36
and he described the species from that. As a  result, Carl Linnaeus isn’t just any old homo  
00:08:42
sapiens, he is THE original scientific  specimen of homo sapiens to this day.
00:08:48
So the need for endurance running gets more  limited in the face of our huge sapient brains  
00:08:53
and what they can do and have done across the  world leading to the question of if we ever  
00:08:59
needed the fast running ability in the first  place, and did our hominid precursors have it,  
00:09:04
and did we simply inherit it from them but  no longer really need it with the big brain?
00:09:10
New research made use of historical accounts  from anthropology to take a fresh look,  
00:09:15
and found that yeah, people have valued endurance  running worldwide, especially before 1750 and that  
00:09:22
it was a valued method of hunting and ability  in many places in the world. It still is,  
00:09:28
it’s a legitimate sport, and there are  even accounts of not endurance hunting,  
00:09:33
but endurance herding of goats and other  domesticated animals strengthening the case  
00:09:38
that our evolutionary history was built not  just for brains, but also endurance running.
00:09:45
Number 5. Ancient Mammals Found that Laid Eggs
00:09:49
In the modern world a very few mammals have the  ability to lay eggs as a form of reproduction,  
00:09:55
basically the echidnas and the platypuses. But  it may be that in the past there were far more  
00:10:01
species that could do this, and in a search  of specimens collected in Australia decades  
00:10:06
ago and then relegated to storage, three  new species were found that are thought  
00:10:10
to be contemporary with the dinosaurs with an  age of about 100 million years. This actually  
00:10:16
brought the number of known species like  this for this geologic formation from 3 to 6.
00:10:22
Strangely enough, these mammal  fossils are actually opalized,  
00:10:26
which can happen as a form of fossilization.  This is actually related to a larger mystery,  
00:10:32
just when did the echidnas and platypuses  diverge from a common ancestor, and what  
00:10:37
was that ancestor? Still an open mystery,  though it's suspected to have happened about  
00:10:43
50 million years ago. Interestingly  however, one of the newly identified  
00:10:48
species Opalios splendens, nicknamed the  echidnapus, bears traits similar to both.
00:10:56
In particular the platypus, in that the  fossil has structures very similar to  
00:11:00
the platypus that actually allow them to  sense electrical currents in the water,  
00:11:04
helping them find prey. The ancient animal  appears to have also been able to do this as well,  
00:11:10
but it also bore marked similarities to the  echidnas, meaning that it seems to be something  
00:11:15
of a missing link, or at least represents a  start as far as understanding the divergence.  
00:11:21
More work at this formation is planned, which  very well could yield even more new species.
00:11:28
Number 4. Orangutans Practice Herbal Medicine
00:11:33
We all know that our fellow primates are smart,  that’s one of the things we’re known for,  
00:11:38
but it never ceases to surprise just how smart  the other primates are. Recently a Sumatran  
00:11:44
Orangutan was observed to have an injury  on its face that it probably received in  
00:11:49
a fight with a rival. The researchers further  observed that the orangutan actually started  
00:11:54
treating the wound with leaves from a plant.  More, this plant is known to human medicine.
00:12:02
The plant in question has anti-inflammatory  and anti-bacterial properties and has long  
00:12:08
been used locally by humans in the area but  apparently also the orangutans. The orangutan  
00:12:14
in question first chewed up the leaves  into a paste and then applied it to the  
00:12:18
wound much like a bandage. The wound never  became infected and healed at a faster rate  
00:12:24
than what you would normally see in nature.  Animals using plants in a rudimentary way  
00:12:29
are commonly seen, but this is the first time  when scientists have observed an animal in  
00:12:34
nature actually using a medicinal substance  anticipating a delayed result. One wonders  
00:12:41
how long the orangutans have been doing  that since they've been on this planet  
00:12:45
longer than we have. Maybe humans are not the  first species on earth to know of medicine.
00:12:52
Number 3. Misplaced Shark DNA
00:12:56
In yet another story from 100 million years  ago, evidence has been found of a parasitic  
00:13:00
worm of a type that can infect species of  fish and live in their digestive systems.  
00:13:06
This type of worm is similar to a modern flat  worm and this particular family is often found  
00:13:11
in sharks. But here’s the kicker, it was found  preserved in Amber, in other words tree sap. It’s  
00:13:18
proving very difficult for this specimen, which is  well preserved and encased in amber from Myanmar,  
00:13:24
to be explained by paleontologists. It’s  simply in the wrong place for what it is,  
00:13:30
and it does not seem likely that even back  then you’d find many sharks living in trees.
00:13:36
The best guess so far is that there was a  shark carcass on a nearby beach and some  
00:13:41
scavenger feeding on it somewhere along  the line flung a bit into the tree where  
00:13:46
it was trapped in resin to later become  amber. What would resolve this mystery  
00:13:50
is a fossil nearby from the host, like  a shark tooth, and further examination  
00:13:55
of the find site. But it’s possible we may  never know how this weird fossil came to be.
00:14:02
Number 2. More Pluto Strangeness
00:14:06
One of the great discoveries regarding  Pluto was its gigantic heart shaped basin,  
00:14:11
Sputnik Planitia. This basin is rather odd for  a planetary body, and it’s thought to be the  
00:14:17
result of a very large impact. It’s basically  a depression on the surface of Pluto that’s  
00:14:22
filled with frozen nitrogen. But with impacts  this large, the impactor would have needed to  
00:14:28
be an asteroid larger than Vesta, and should  have created an issue with Pluto’s rotation,  
00:14:34
it should have caused it to wobble, and the  basin should no longer be at the equator.  
00:14:39
In other words, Pluto should have a different  tilt than it does as a result of this impact.
00:14:44
Scientists did some modeling of impacts like  this and concluded that Pluto actually could  
00:14:48
have formed a large dense subsurface ocean  just under the heart shaped basin that could  
00:14:55
still be persisting today that counteracted  the wobbling effect. But in more recent work,  
00:15:02
it turns out that it could actually have  been far more violent. New modeling offers  
00:15:06
an alternative that Sputnik Planitia is indeed  actually the result of a very violent impact,  
00:15:12
no ocean was formed, instead the outer layer of  the impactor itself was vaporized, but its heavy  
00:15:18
core remained intact and dug into Pluto and is  still there, giving the apparent anchoring effect.
00:15:26
Number 1. Molecular Science is  Getting Very Interesting Indeed
00:15:31
This is actually a tale of two science news  stories that show just how advanced our molecular  
00:15:36
science and engineering is getting. The first is  simply known as Goldene. The future technology  
00:15:42
minded know of graphene. Beautiful, sometimes  perfect lattices of carbon atoms creating a  
00:15:48
substance already useful in many things especially  in science on tiny scales, but offers a way for  
00:15:54
very strong future materials that we would need  for structures like space elevators and the like.
00:16:00
Now Carbon’s somewhat distant Cousin Gold has  joined the fray. Here, something similar is  
00:16:06
done but instead of carbon atoms, it’s a  lattice of gold atoms. While this is new,  
00:16:13
there are actually other atoms that can do  it too, notably Iron and Phosphorus. With  
00:16:18
gold however the chemists made titanium  gold carbide then etched away everything  
00:16:23
except the gold leaving the lattice,  in short they were freeing the goldene.  
00:16:29
The main takeaway here for this work is  that this actually could prove to be really  
00:16:33
useful in electronics and chemistry overall,  especially in that it means you have to use  
00:16:39
less gold in making electronics if you can make  this work as a 2d, one atom thick layer of gold.
00:16:46
The second discovery is creepy. In last month's  list, I covered the generation of a wigner  
00:16:52
crystal, and then interviewed Dr. Ali Yazdani  from the team that did that work on Event Horizon,  
00:16:58
link below. The Wigner Crystal was actually  created between absolutely perfect sheets of  
00:17:04
graphene and this beautiful lattice of  pure electron matter resulted. I’m sure  
00:17:10
you’ll agree that electrons are very useful  things, and that ongoing research may be the  
00:17:15
very beginnings of a leap in unimagined future  electrical technology. But the Wigner crystal  
00:17:23
was very ordered, and that made it somewhat  creepy. But this month, there is another one.
00:17:29
This one is the discovery of a molecule that  is actually naturally occurring. Graphene  
00:17:35
actually might happen in nature as well, and  we have been making it for centuries in tiny  
00:17:40
bits within pencil leads without knowing it,  but here is another example of a fractal in  
00:17:46
nature. We already see fractals in nature,  but this time it’s happening in a protein.
00:17:53
Found in the bacterium Synechococcus elongatus  the protein actually forms itself into a  
00:17:58
fractal called a Sierpinski Triangle. Proteins  within it can form up into triangles in water  
00:18:05
and can actually form complex larger triangles.  Synthesizing artificial fractals in chemistry has  
00:18:12
been going on for a while, but to see this one  in nature is very interesting indeed. Behold.
00:18:20
Thanks for listening! I am futurist and  science fiction author John Michael Godier  
00:18:24
currently eyeing symmetries in chemistry  suspiciously. You can’t help but look at  
00:18:29
the perfect symmetries possible in nature and  marvel at their beauty, but they also make you  
00:18:34
go hmm very odd indeed and be sure to check out  my books at your favorite online book retailer  
00:18:39
and subscribe to my channels for regular,  in-depth explorations into the interesting,  
00:18:43
weird and unknown aspects of this  amazing universe in which we live.

Description:

There was a surplus of interesting science stories for June, so here is the second part to my monthly news updates. My Patreon Page: https://www.patreon.com/johnmichaelgodier My Event Horizon Channel: https://www.youtube.com/eventhorizonshow Papers: "Emergence of fractal geometries in the evolution of a metabolic enzyme", Sendker et al, 2024 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-024-07287-2?error=cookies_not_supported&code=44c2ce91-0855-4865-833b-c180c31d9b47 Music: Cylinder Eight by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Source: https://chriszabriskie.com/cylinders/ Cylinder Five by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Source: https://chriszabriskie.com/cylinders/ Cylinder Three by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Source: https://chriszabriskie.com/cylinders/ Impending Boom by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Source: https://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100783

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