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Billions of years ago, an asteroid smashed into a dwarf planet in a cataclysmic collision that blasted the insides of the planet into outer space. Over time, remnants of the dwarf planet’s mantle have fortuitously fallen to Earth as diamond-rich meteorites, called ureilites, that reveal an unprecedented glimpse into the subterranean layers of a doomed ancient world. For years, scientists have puzzled over the fallen remains of the long-lost planet and the mysterious presence of its abundant diamonds, which include hints of lonsdaleite, an ultra-rare type of diamond named after the pioneering crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale. Now, scientists led by Andrew Tomkins, a professor of geosciences at Monash University, have found the largest lonsdaleite diamonds ever seen.
A buyer thought he was buying a painting by Lucian Freud — but is that what he got?
A businessman who liked to acquire furniture and art at competitive prices — let’s call him Omar — bought a rare painting by Sigmund Freud’s grandson in 1997, for a hundred thousand Swiss francs, or about seventy thousand dollars, several times lower than its appraised value. He thought he had gotten a steal, and tried to lure some potential buyers by putting it on eBay. Then he got a call from someone claiming to be Freud himself, who said he wanted the painting back, and offered Omar a hundred thousand Swiss francs. Omar refused. The caller doubled his offer. “Sorry,” Omar said. “I am loving this painting.” The voice responded: “Fuck you. You will not sell the painting all your life.” When Omar tried to have the painting authenticated, Freud claimed it wasn’t his.
Experts say the number of lakes on Mars has been drastically underestimated
Billions of years ago, Mars was speckled with murky lakes that may have been home to microbial life, raising the tantalizing possibility that Martian fossils might be buried in the dessicated remains of these ancient waters, which are known as “paleolakes.” Scientists even speculate that briny liquid lakes may still flow under the red planet’s ice caps, perhaps providing a final refuge for microbial Martians—though the odds of extant life on Mars are hotly debated. Some 500 paleolakes have been identified on Mars, but scientists believe that hundreds or thousands more are waiting to be discovered in this “new era of Martian limnology,” meaning the study of freshwater ecosystems, according to a study published on Thursday in Nature Astronomy.
An AI used medical notes to teach itself to spot disease on chest x-rays
After crunching through thousands of chest x-rays and the clinical reports that accompany them, an AI has learned to spot diseases in those scans as accurately as a human radiologist. The majority of current diagnostic AI models are trained on scans labeled by humans, but that labeling is a time-consuming process. The new model, called CheXzero, can instead “learn” on its own from existing medical reports that specialists have written in natural language. The findings suggest that labeling x-rays for the purpose of training AI models to interpret medical images isn’t necessary, which could save both time and money. A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School trained the model on a publicly available data set of more than 377,000 chest x-rays and more than 227,000 clinical reports.
The number of ants on Earth is such a large number it’s almost unimaginable
A new estimate for the total number of ants on Earth comes to a mind-boggling total of nearly 20 quadrillion – or about 20,000 trillion. In a paper released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of scientists from the University of Hong Kong analyzed 489 studies and concluded that the total mass of ants on Earth weighs in at about 12 megatons of dry carbon. Put another way: If all the ants were plucked from the ground and put on a scale, they would outweigh all the wild birds and mammals put together. So for every person who is alive on the planet right now, there are about 2.5 million ants. “It’s unimaginable,” Patrick Schultheiss, a lead author on the study who is now a researcher at the University of Würzburg in Germany, told the Washington Post in a Zoom interview.
The mysterious and fascinating search for the secrets of eel migration
The European eel and the American eel—both considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—make this extraordinary migration. The Sargasso is the only place on Earth where they breed. The slithery creatures, some as long as 1.5 meters, arrive from Europe, North America, including parts of the Caribbean, and North Africa, including the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers study them in the hope of solving mysteries that have long flummoxed marine biologists, anatomists, philosophers, and conservationists: What happens when these eels spawn in the wild? And what can be done to help the species recover from the impacts of habitat loss, pollution, overfishing, and hydropower? Scientists say that the answers could improve conservation. But, thus far, eels have kept most of their secrets to themselves.