In science news this week, researchers have made several fascinating discoveries. Four massive supervolcano deposits were found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, indicating catastrophic events that have occurred in Europe every 10,000 to 15,000 years. Iceland is bracing for a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula as seismic activity increases. NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are planning to launch the world’s first wooden satellite called LignoSat next year to test the feasibility of using biodegradable materials for future satellites.
In space news, scientists have discovered that Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, is spinning close to its maximum speed. They have also studied the disruptive effects of a powerful gamma-ray burst that disrupted Earth’s ionosphere and are investigating whether it influenced any mass extinction events. On Earth, scientists have found a new hydrothermal vent in the Galápagos by following crabs. Elephants have been found to communicate using low-pitched rumbles which serve as names, making them the first known nonhuman animals to do so.
In the medical field, scientists have developed “bionic breasts” to restore sensation for breast cancer survivors, and CRISPR has been used to edit the genomes of people with familial high cholesterol. A prototype for a tiny, shape-shifting robot that could perform automated surgeries inside the human body has also been demonstrated.
In archaeology, German archaeologists have unearthed the foundations of two temples at a former Roman camp, and another team has discovered a 4,000-year-old tomb in Norway that may have contained the region’s first farmers. Stone Age Europeans were found to have been hunting with spear-throwers over 30,000 years ago, earlier than previously thought.
Finally, the colorful metal spherules found in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year were found to be the byproduct of burning coal on Earth, debunking theories of them being mysterious alien relics from outer space.