The new season of Stranger Things hit our screens this year and we’re still mad for it, so we’re unlocking the curiosity door again and taking a trip through the most weird, wonderful, and vaguely disturbing scientific stories from the past year.

Skull cults usually form for one of two reasons …

Young Blood

There’s no such thing as vampires, but could blood hold the secret to immortality? The notion of blood transfusions from young to old to slow ageing is known as “parabiosis”. And, inspired by studies in mice, has now started to interest humans, where it has become the latest tool in Silicon Valley’s attempts to stave off the inevitable. Transfusions of plasma, from donors aged 16-25 are available, as part of the “ambrosia” trial, to all those with $8000 to spare. Whilst any findings are likely to fall short of the normal standards of scientific investigation, some interesting findings have emerged. Suggesting there may be more to this than meets the eye, if we can get past the complex legal and ethical ramifications of procedures such as these.

Mummies

During a routine inspection in the Swiss Alps a technician uncovered what he thought was a set of black rocks, further examination revealed these to be mummified bodies. DNA testing proved these corpses belonged to a couple who had been missing since august 1942. The couple were preserved as the low water vapour content of the air cause ice crystals from frozen tissue to sublimate (go straight from solid to liquid), drying out the tissue and preserving the bodies until their discovery.

Mummified hands from the swiss discovery
Detail of the Guanajuato mummies, Mexico. Black and white version. Photo taken at Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato.

Carved Skulls

Researchers have discovered fragments of three carved skulls at a ritual site in Turkey. The site, called Göbekli Tepe was constructed 11,000 years ago and whilst no formal graves were found there, 691 bone fragments have been recovered. The skull fragments in question have carvings from the forehead to back of the head. Markings indicate the skulls were cleaned of flesh and carved shortly after death. The cravings are crude, which may suggest the display is a way of stigmatizing the dead individual for some reason.

Why Neolithic people were so fixated on skulls remains a mystery. Skull cults usually form for one of two reasons. Some groups display the skulls of their dead enemies, others as a form of ancestor worship.

Zombies

A fungus worthy of its own horror film is on taking over the bodies of goldenrod soldier beetles and turning them into mindless zombies. Infected beetles have no control over their actions, under orders from the fungus (Eryniopsis lampyridarum) they climb up a plant and clamp their mandibles around a flower in a death grip. The next day the beetle opens its wings and the fungus begins to grow out of the dead beetles abdomen and release spores into the environment, where they can infect even more beetles. Whilst it’s still unknown how the fungus controls its host it’s likely to involve some form of chemical control.

The beetle itself
Goldenrod Soldier Beetle, Source: wikicommons by Jody Gallagher

The Upside Down

Scientists have created a new superfluid that has a negative mass, meaning that if it’s pushed to the right, it accelerates to the left and vice versa.

This freakish material is possible due to newton’s famed second law of motion F=MA (if you push something it accelerates away from you). There are certain conditions where acceleration can be negative and it’s under these conditions mass can be negative as well. Scientists used rubidium atoms cooled to absolute zero (so the atoms are almost stationary) to create this new superfluid. The new findings are interesting from a purely theoretical point of view, but could also help scientists understand what’s going on inside neutron stars

Now if you in fact came here for something about the show and not strange things why not read another article, this time where Leo Thorncroft turns Stranger Things upside down.

bookmark me