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In Case You Missed It: 16 mind-blowing science facts we learned in 2016


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Throughout this week we'll be catching you up on the news you might have missed over the Christmas break. Next up: giraffes, hadron colliders, and space... 

Did you know that water may have two liquid states? Or that a weasel temporarily shut down the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland?

Here are some of the impressive science facts we learned in 2016:

1. The Earth’s technosphere – which basically comprises of all the human-made things on this planet – weighs 30 trillion tons – a mass greater than 50 kilos for every square metre of the planet’s surface.

2. The world’s smallest snowman is less than three microns tall. For comparison, a typical human hair is approximately 50 microns in diameter.

Tiny snowman.
(Todd Simpson/Western Nanofab)

3. Humans lost their penis bone – called the baculum – around 1.9 million years ago, when the species became monogamous during the time of – you guessed it – Homo erectus.

4. Cod may have regional accents and scientists are currently researching whether the same applies to bees.

5. There are actually four species of giraffes. Scientists have categorised them as the southern giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), the Masai giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi), the reticulated giraffe (Giraffa reticulata) and the northern giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis).

(Gareth Fuller/PA)

6. Scientists found a Greenland shark that’s around 400 years old, making it the longest-living vertebrate on Earth.

7. Global carbon emissions broke a terrifying record by passing the 400 ppm level and there is no going back.

8. The ozone layer has actually shown the first signs of healing itself. The change is attributed to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which brought in a ban on the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons.

Antarctica ozone layer hole.
(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

9. Nasa researchers detected atomic oxygen in Mars’s atmosphere for the first time in 40 years. The last time atomic oxygen was observed in the Martian atmosphere was during the Viking and Mariner missions of the 1970s.

10. Archaeologists discovered a mysterious lost city in Greece that is believed to be 2,500 years old.

11. Scientists calculated that the observable universe contains at least two trillion galaxies – 10 times more than previously thought.

Barred spiral galaxy.
(NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team/Flickr)

12. Earth may be home to one trillion species, with 99.999% remaining undiscovered.

13. The Large Hadron Particle Collider – a powerful machine built to test the predictions of different theories of particle physics – was temporarily shut down by a weasel in April. Cern’s report said the creature got into a transformer, damaging its connections. The weasel did not survive.

Hadron Collider.
(John Von Radowitz/PA)

14. Researchers created tiny nanowires that are just three atoms wide by attaching sulphur and copper atoms to diamondoids – the world’s smallest diamonds.

15. There are two liquid states of water. Scientists researching the physical properties of water found that when it’s heated to between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius, it appears to start switching between two different states of liquid.

16. The largest known prime number is 2^74,207,281 – 1. It is a whopping 22 million digits long and was discovered through the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search – a collaborative project by volunteers from around the world.

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