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Saturday, Mar 25, 2017
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50 things we know now that we didn't know last year

We live in a world so amazing that it can be difficult to generate an adequate sense of wide-eyed wonder when it comes to the truly astounding, brand-new facts revealed by science each year. In other words, it's easy to miss the big, fat, important stuff when you're distracted by Honey Boo Boo Child. Every year, we do our best to remind ourselves that incredible discoveries have been made. An example: Did you hear that scientists found the Earth's oldest and largest meteorite crater in Greenland, a 62-mile-long dent in the planet's fender that is believed to have formed 3 billion years ago?
Didn't think so. No doubt we were all collectively obsessing about Snooki's baby or guys jumping out of balloons from 24 miles up. This time of year as we change calendars, it's good to remind ourselves to stay at attention. Each year is full of new discoveries and revelations. They might not be the same kind of eye candy as Angelina Jolie in a slit-up-to-there Oscars dress, but they're still plenty important. Here's a passel of fresh new truths revealed during 2012: 1. Ancient microbes were found in Antarctica, 65 feet beneath the icy surface of a mostly-frozen lake that has no oxygen. The findings increase the knowledge of how life can sustain itself in extreme environments beyond our own planets. 2. Swimmers who want to move faster through the water should spread their fingers like a fork to give them more force 3. A simple orange scent introduced into a shopping environment prompted 400 customers to spend an average of 20 percent more money at a store. 4. The 280-mile Grand Canyon is far older than previously believed. A new process for measuring age says the canyon began forming 70 million years ago -- not 5 to 6 million years ago, as was widely believed. Also, the gorge was formed by an earlier river flowing in the opposite direction, not by the Colorado River. 5. Sandy Island, which was assumed to be between Australia and New Caledonia, does not actually exist. The 16-mile-wide island was placed incorrectly on maps long ago through human error and was repeated without verification. 6. Rising amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to climate change could lead to larger sweet potatoes. 7. People who get out of bed before 7 a.m. are more likely to die naturally at around 11 a.m., while late risers are more likely to hold out until around 6 p.m. 8. Like humans, apes also appear to experience a midlife dip in happiness. 9. Man began attaching stone tips to spears 500,000 years ago, or about 200,000 years earlier than previously believed. 10. Meteorites from Mars that fell to earth show that water which once flowed across the surface of Mars was warm enough for alien life to survive. 11. A rogue planet believed to be between 50 and 120 million years old was found 100 light years away from Earth. It is not associated with any nearby star. 12. Already the leggiest creature on earth, a white millipede lllacme plenipes was discovered in northern California with 750 legs. It measures between 1 and 3 centimeters. 13. Unlike the receding sea ice in the Arctic, Antarctic sea ice cover has increased under the effects of climate change. 14. The medial prefrontal cortex, a region near the front of the human brain, makes snap judgments about physical attraction and whether the person is likely to be a compatible match all within milliseconds of seeing a new face. 15. Watching a horror movie may burn nearly 200 calories in 90 minutes, 16. The sound of a knife scraping on a glass bottle is the most annoying sound sensed by the brain's amygdala, which controls emotions and response to noises. The sound of applause is the least-annoying. 17. When female entrepreneurs pay themselves a salary, they earn $60,000. Male founders pay themselves $78,000, on average. 18. A new species of sea snake that feeds on fish eggs was discovered in a museum in Denmark, where the specimens sat in mislabeled jars since the 1800s. 19. White whales, or Beluga whales, make voices uncannily close to human speech. The rhythm of their sounds is similar, and fundamental frequencies are several octaves lower than typical whale sounds. 20. Dolphins sleep with only one half of their brains at a time. This allows them to stay alert to predators for at least 15 days in a row. They likely developed this pattern so they could surface for air to breathe. 21. Emperor penguins can double or even triple their swimming speed in short bursts by releasing air from their feathers in the form of tiny bubbles. 22. People who lose their virginity after the age of 20 enjoy more satisfying relationships later in life. 23. Relative to their size, bull sharks bite with more force than great white or hammerhead sharks. The force is due in part to the width of their jaws, which can cut sea turtles in half. 24. Honeybees can bite as well as sting. The bite contains a natural anesthetic similar to Lidocaine and is used as a snake-like venom to paralyze pests invading the hive. 25. Being in the company of annoying people slows the rate at which the mind processes movement. 26. Enough water vapor to fill Earth's oceans more than 2,000 times was found in a gas and dust cloud in the Taurus constellation, which is on the verge of collapsing into a new sun-like star. 27. DNA has a half-life of 521 years, meaning that creatures millions of years old such as dinosaurs could never be cloned. 28. People who find some vegetables, such as sprouts and broccoli, unbearably bitter are better at fighting off bugs due to heightened chemical receptors in their nose. 29. A fossil classified for more than 100 years as a lemur without a nose is actually that of a fish. 30. A new class of antibody found in camels, dromedaries, llamas, and alpacas may be used to improve drug delivery to the brain in patients with Alzheimer's disease. 31. Ten percent of people over the age of 60 do not have any grey hair. 32. The African spiny mouse shows the ability to re-grow damaged tissues such as ears, much in the way amphibians can replicate lost body parts. 33. Horses that are too dependent on human interaction could have impaired problem-solving abilities. 34. As many as 30 percent of teenagers send nude pictures of themselves through email or text messages. 35. Sharks are colorblind. 36. Compressed barley husks – a byproduct of whiskey making -- have the ability to remove pollutants such as pesticides, benzene and heavy metals from polluted water. 37. Female killer whales stop reproducing in their 30s and 40s but live into their 90s -- the longest menopause of any nonhuman species – so they can care for their adult sons. 38. Crows are able to recognize faces and associate them with feelings. 39. A giant amount of magma is inflating under the Greek island of Santorini, site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history 3,600 years ago. 40. The western scrub jay, a bird species native to western North America, often flies in clusters to the body of dead birds and gathers around it funeral style, warning others and using its presence as information to be shared among the group. 41. Married patients with advanced lung cancer are likely to survive longer after treatment than patients who are single. 42. Venom from the deadly Brazilian Wandering Spider can boost human sexual performance by increasing the release of nitric oxide, a chemical that dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow. 43. A fish just 2 centimeters long named phallostethus cuulong was discovered in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. Males of the species display reproductive organs on their chin and their anus on their throat. 44. The sun is an almost perfect sphere with a far more constant shape than previously thought. 45. For college-age women, appearance generally is more important than health. 46. Toddlers who snore persistently are more likely to have behavior problems with hyperactivity, depression and attention issues than their non-snoring peers. 47. Native Americans brewed a primitive form of tea almost a thousand years ago using toasted holly leaves and stems. The drink was six times more potent than coffee. 48. Couples can avoid heated arguments with a quick squirt of nasal spray containing oxytocin, a hormone the body makes naturally that causes women to become friendlier and men to become more sensitive. 49. Bottlenose dolphins like to hang out in cliques. Dolphins that wear sea sponges on their beaks as hunting tools prefer to hang out with other dolphins that do the same. 50. A rift the size of the Grand Canyon hidden under the Antarctic ice sheet is contributing to ice melt and a consequent rise in the sea level. Sources: SEN, Scientific American, Mother Nature Network, New York Times, Reuters, New Scientist, TheSpec.com, University of Warwick, Journal of Science, SkyMania.com, ABC Science, LiveScience.com, British Antarctic Survey, Digital Journal, Medical Daily, Money Control, Washington Post, Forbes, National Marine Mammal Foundation, National Geographic, Handbag.com, University of South Florida, USA Today, European Space Agency, University of Perth, Daily Mail, Huffington Post, ZeeNews, The Telegraph, Horse and Country, The Independent, Discovery News, Scotsman.com, Huffington Post, University of Maryland, The Week, Red Orbit, University of Missouri

jhouck@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7324