1. In Australia, birds of prey deliberately start forest fires – wielding flaming sticks to do so. Indigenous people have known about these “firehawk raptors” for quite some time, but now we also have scientific research describing this amazing phenomenon.
2. Here’s an update on what you learned in biology in high school – this year we discovered mitochondrial DNA can actually be transmitted by humans.
3. Scientists have discovered an incredible method of making it rain in the Sahara Desert, and if we went ahead with something this grand, it could produce more than four times all the energy the world is using right now.
4. Viruses are literally raining down on us from the sky all the time. In fact, hundreds of millions of viruses a day settle above the lowest layer of the atmosphere – far more than anyone suspected.
5. There are ancient messages hidden in the world around us. As Europe withered in a surprising heat wave this summer, a dry river in Czechia revealed a terrible warning from 1616 etched in ominous “hunger stones.”
6. It is possible to build a device that generates particles with what appears to be “negative mass”. These bizarre particles are called polaritons, and they are half light, half matter. Cooooool.
7. There is a micro-organ in the human immune system that we didn’t know about before. Lying above the lymph nodes, the thin, flat structures appear to function as biological headquarters to plan a counterattack against infection.
8. The answer is really 42! Specifically, when scientists counted all of the protein molecules in a yeast cell, they were surprised (and we presume delighted) to find the answer was 42 million.
9. Speaking of cells, for the first time, researchers have captured insane images of a bacterium using its appendages to fish small pieces of DNA from its dead friends. It’s as amazing as it sounds.
11. There are fish that basically have cutouts under their eyes. They are pretty creepy.
12. Neuroscientists can now connect the brains of three people, allowing them to share their thoughts. This wild and pioneering experience was a proof of concept, and the volunteers played a Tetris-style game together. The final goal? Entire networks of people, all linked together by their minds. Let it flow.
13. Birds can see magnetic fields – how else could they migrate across our planet as widely as they do? Now we know the reason they can achieve this awesome feat is because of a special protein in their… eyes.
14. One of the most common antidepressants could actually cause resistance to antibiotics.
15. You can travel nearly 20,000 miles (32,186 km) in an unbroken straight line – from Pakistan to the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia.
16. Researchers have found that tiny marine “insects” can generate surprisingly huge and intense ocean currents – an idea that has been “almost heretical” in oceanography.
17. The world’s largest underwater cave is officially located in Mexico and stretches 347 kilometers (216 miles). Not only is this branching maze a sight to behold, it is also full of Mayan secrets and treasures. Bonus fact: This year, scientists also discovered a gigantic, unexplored cave in Canada that may never have been seen with the naked eye.
18. Up to 90,000 Americans believe their bodies are infested with insects. Truly.
19. Human DNA is more than the double helix. Earlier this year, scientists identified a never-before-seen DNA structure in living cells. They described it as a “twist knot,” a shape that was previously only seen in the laboratory.
20. There is a huge biosphere of life hidden beneath the Earth’s surface – and the scale of this “dark biosphere” is so much larger than previously imagined.
21. Scientists have identified a common driving force behind humanity’s darkest impulses. Meet ‘D’, the ‘dark factor of personality’.
22. On a related note, Washington DC is the psychopathic capital of the United States, according to this study … and we’re not entirely surprised.
23. An invisible border that helped divide the United States for centuries is now shifting, thanks to climate change. It’s called the 100th West Meridian, and it roughly cuts the continental United States in half.
24. It is quite possible to make a sheep-human hybrid. These chimeras, derived from human stem cells introduced into sheep embryos, could one day represent the future of organ donation.
25. The lightning inside Hurricane Patricia, which broke all records in 2015, was so intense it sent a beam of antimatter to Earth.
26. It takes more than just an X and Y chromosome to determine the sex of a baby. Scientists have discovered a new genetic regulator that plays an important role in determining whether a baby is born male or female.
27. Sloths have such a strange metabolism that scientists have never seen anything like it in the animal kingdom before. _ (ツ) _ / ¯
28. And finally, we are also now experiencing the worst year in human history. Not only was it decidedly not 2018 is a year you probably haven’t even heard of: 536 CE.