From Rapping Robots to Glowing Frogs: Our Favorite Fun Stories of 2020

Cortez Deacetis

To say it has been a rough yr would be a gross understatement, and reading through the news—even on a science-centered Net site—can be a very little depressing.

But though Scientific American has been providing in-depth protection of the coronavirus pandemic, devastating natural disasters and the presidential election’s implications for science, we have also shared stories that exhibit how the enjoyment aspect of science nonetheless thrives. Listed here, we’ve collected some of our favorites from the 12 months, from the certainly wonderful to the downright strange and quirky. We hope you appreciate them and arrive back again for much more coverage of slicing-edge science in 2021.

Combat! Battle! Fight!

Acorn woodpeckers fiercely protect territories of granary trees stuffed with provides, and when a vacancy opens up, rival groups swoop in to combat for it. Biologists delight in looking at these types of fierce spectacles, but they are not the only ones—other acorn woodpeckers rapidly master of the fights, and they fly in from kilometers away to observe the motion.

Robo-Curler Receives in South Korean Athletes’ Hair

AI is quite fantastic at chess and Go. It’s the serious earth, and the problem of translating a simulation to fact, that throws a robot for a loop—until now. A robot named Curly gained three of 4 games towards major human rivals from South Korean curling groups.

Amphibians Would Make Great Ravers

Some frogs and other amphibians activity bright shades and placing designs, while many others have a drabber visual appearance. But it turns out many of them are hiding a secret that was uncovered when scientists turned on blue and ultraviolet lights: They glow. Technically talking, they biofluoresce. We really do not know why, but just one chance is to entice mates (presumably with out the EDM).

Voice of the Lifeless

Sophisticated imaging techniques support researchers study historic continues to be, these types of as the 3,000-12 months-previous mummy of an Egyptian scribe, without the need of damaging them. But why just glance when you can pay attention? Experts used CT scans to graphic the mummy’s vocal tract, 3-D print a duplicate and operate air via it, therefore resurrecting the corpse’s voice.

By no means Be Late to Satisfy a Bumblebee

Bumblebees need to have nectar and pollen to feed by themselves, which means they have to have the crops they regular to be in bloom. But vegetation are not generally on the identical schedule—and in that case, the bumblebees choose matters into their possess palms. They bite a plant’s leaves, which forces it to flower, on common, 30 days previously than it would have otherwise.

Move In excess of Jay-Z, the Robot Rappers Have Arrived

Personal computers have been producing music considering that the 1950s, nonetheless it was not right until this 12 months that they figured out to rap in authentic time. Employing deep studying and details sets of both of those phrases and units of pronunciation, a musical bot known as Shimon can improvise responses to a human rapper.

The Duckbill Dino, the Michael Phelps of Its Day

Fossils of duckbill dinosaurs are so typical in North The united states that paleontologists typically just overlook them. But they had been stunned to discover the 66-million-year-previous jawbone of a earlier undocumented duckbill species in Africa, where no duckbills had been uncovered in advance of. Offered that Cretaceous Africa was isolated by large seas, experts deduce the dinos ought to have swam hundreds of miles from Europe.

A Snack-Bag’s-Eye View

If you seize movie or images of a mirror, you can use the pictures that show up on the glass to determine out what the encompassing place appears to be like. Researchers produced a mathematical design that reconstructs the natural environment in a identical way but utilizing footage of any reflective object—including a bag of potato chips.

I Consider, Hence I Am Section of a Simulation?

Is truth authentic? Or are we unwitting individuals in a computer simulation, à la The Matrix? A study this yr set the odds either way at 50–50. So have enjoyable bending your brain all around that one for a though.

Kentucky Fried Pheasant?

The 23 billion chickens alive nowadays might not know it, but the world’s most quite a few chook may possibly not have been humanity’s initial decide on for domestication. New study indicates that early evidence of birds that lived alongside men and women calendar year-spherical, believed to be the continues to be of chickens, ended up really pheasants.

QED Bees

Molyneux’s issue, named right after the philosopher William Molyneux, examines whether our minds are wired to recognize styles so that a blind person, instantly ready to see, could immediately detect an item. But what about a bumblebee’s intellect?

From Barbershop to Cargo Ship

Spinning smokestacklike columns, named Flettner rotors, could propel long run sustainable cargo ships. The clean, towering cylinders pull a ship forward by developing a tension big difference as they whirl.

Who Are You Contacting Birdbrained?

Experts have extended regarded that ravens and other corvids are pretty good, but new do the job this yr seriously underscored that truth. Even birds as youthful as four months done just as nicely as adult excellent apes on a range of social and actual physical duties meant to examination typical intelligence.

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Sting as Much?

From the spines of a cactus to a narwhal’s extensive tusk, mother nature has received stingers and other pointy, ouch-inducing objects down. Despite the variety of geometries this sort of options could have, most have a certain narrow design and style. A new product suggests this happens due to the fact evolution pushes species to economize: a narrower style signifies utilizing much less material to make stingers and related structures.

Blow Out the Candles, Hubble!

We’ll allow the 30-12 months-outdated telescope acquire this one particular: “I have found 160,000 sunrises and sunsets, a lot more than everyone could hope for. Circling hundreds of miles over the area of our huge blue marble for 30 a long time, I have experienced a extraordinary look at of the universe. I have not usually been at ease up listed here, but many thanks to a lot of of you I have outgrown a host of issues and found a goal considerably much more expansive and fulfilling than everything my creators envisioned.”

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