This year, 2022, has been absolutely insane. It was the first year that the world really opened up again after the lockdown, giving us a chance to get back to normal. And that meant a return to the lab for many researchers and scientists around the world. The year 2022 has been a very productive one for science. We’ve compiled a list of the top ten most interesting and unusual scientific findings from this year.
Number 10: Scientists Develop a Pong-Playing Nerve Cell
It’s fascinating to learn about how the brain’s cells work. Scientists at Melbourne’s Cortical Labs began experimenting with these in 2022 for their DishBrain study. They first cultivated artificial neurons in a petri dish and then transferred them to a micro-electrode array chip to finish their development. These chips can both electrically stimulate the cells and monitor their activity, making them ideal for this kind of work. Neurons in the brain are constantly dividing and connecting with one another to form vast networks of neurons. In response to this happening on the chip, the team of researchers connected DishBrain to a computer and loaded the Pong game.
Number 9: The T. rex’s tiny arms could have come in handy during sex.
One of the terrifying predators that ever lived was the Tyrannosaurus rex. Why, then, did its arms appear so short? The answer can be found in a recent scientific study conducted in Argentina. The tiny limbs reportedly came in handy for the giant lizard during passionate encounters. After finding a previously unknown dinosaur species, the group reached this verdict. Like the Tyrannosaurus rex, the Meraxes gigs were huge predators with short arms. The creature’s forearm was only about the size of its skull, despite its length of about 36 feet (11 meters), according to fossil records. Researchers think these Meraxes used their heads and mouths for combat, while their arms came in handy for things like holding onto a sexual partner or other person’s acts.
Number 8: Preborn Babies React Negatively to Kale
Vegetable aversion may begin in the womb, making it even more challenging to get picky eaters like kids to eat their greens. High-tech ultrasounds in September 2022 showed that unborn children wince when their mothers eat kale. It’s been said, however, that carrots produce a much happier response. Using 4D ultrasound, researchers from Durham University in the UK followed 100 fetuses. The mothers then received a capsule containing either carrot powder or kale powder. The scans showed that the people who were given carrots almost laughed with happiness. However, the infant kale eaters scrunched their noses up in disapproval.
Number 7: It turns out that you can make yourself happy simply by smiling
The seventh spot goes to a delicious addition. In 2022, psychologists confirmed what many people have known for years: that a smile can lift your mood. Nicholas Coles of Stanford University led the Many Smiles Collaboration, which recruited nearly 4,000 participants from 19 countries and had them smile in various ways. Many of them used the muscles in their faces to genuinely grin. Some people even tried to imitate the performance of a famous actor. The third group smiled while holding a pen in their teeth to work the same muscles. When asked how happy they were, they were shown a smile and a neutral expression and asked to rate their happiness. Images of cute animals and beautiful plants, such as puppies, kittens, and flowers, were also shown to them so that researchers could gauge how happy they were.
Number 6: Long, middle fingers are used by Aye-Ayes for picking their noses
The world of animals is full of oddities. An example of such an oddity is the aye-aye, a small primate native to Madagascar that picks its nose. Many societies view aye-ayes as portents of doom. An aye-crooked, aye’s spindly finger is a sign that you’re about to shuffle off this mortal coil if it points at you. But those ominous numbers aren’t just for identifying the recently deceased. The grubs that the aye-ayes eat are dug out with their fingers. They have recently discovered that this is also the case with boogers. Scientists studying aye-aye behavior reconstructed a CT scan to show how far back the fingers go when the individuals pick their noses. The image suggests that the mammals are so close to scraping their own brains that they can feel it.
Number 5: Researchers Identify a New Type of Molecular Bond
In July of 2022, German physicists announced with elation the discovery of a new type of subatomic particle. Researchers from the University of Stuttgart found evidence of a previously undetected type of molecular bond between a positive ion and a massive particle called a Rydberg atom. Rydberg atoms form when an outer electron gets very excited and jumps a long way from the nucleus. Rydberg atoms can be up to a factor of a thousand larger than typical atoms. The scientists used a cloud of rubidium just above absolute zero (the temperature at which all motion ceases) to accomplish this remarkable feat. Some of the rubidium atoms had their electrons stripped by lasers, turning them into positively charged ions, and then other atoms were excited into a Rydberg state. A low enough temperature for ions and Rydberg atoms to interact is when they are brought together.
Number 4: Ancient Europeans Shared Their Continent with Giant Turtles
It’s a good indication of size when a new species is given the name of a biblical sea monster. Leviathanochelys aenigmatica, a prehistoric shark that lived in the waters off of what is now Europe, was probably about 13 feet (4 meters) long. The marine giant existed between the years 83.6 and 72.1% million. Leviathan, the mythical multiheaded sea serpent, inspired scientists to give this gigantic beast its name. Some bones, including a pelvis and a portion of a carapace, were uncovered in the Cal Torrades region of northeastern Spain, leading researchers to make the discovery. Giant marine turtles had previously only been documented in the Americas, so this was a significant discovery. When the team that discovered L. aenigmatica traveled to Europe, they were taken aback to find another giant cryptid in the region. Archelon, which appeared some 6 months after L. aenigmatica, is still the largest marine turtle in history. However, this newly discovered monster is a formidable adversary.
Number 3: These Ancient Britons Were Cannibals
The possibility that cannibals once lived in the UK was first brought to light in 2022. Gough’s Cave in Somerset and Kendrick’s Cave in Llandudno were both the sites where scientists discovered human remains. Alluding to the time period following the last glacial maximum, both are ancient. Molecular biologists were able to learn a great deal about Britain’s prehistoric ancestor’s thanks to the oldest DNA ever discovered in the country, which was found in these bodies. Two distinct human populations coexisted in Britain at the time, a finding that came as a shock to the research team. Kendrick’s Cave skeletons suggest that the first humans dined primarily on fish and other marine life. Nonetheless, the Gough’s Cave specimen displayed characteristics consistent with cannibalism. As it turns out, this possible human eater shares a common ancestor with the 15,000-year-old corpse of Goyet Q2 that was discovered in Belgium.
Number 2: The First Completely Artificial Embryo
Stem cell research has not been used without controversy. However, in August, a team from the Weizmann Institute in Israel used them to create the first-ever synthetic embryo. In the absence of sperm and eggs, fertilization was not a part of the creative process. Instead, scientists took mouse embryonic stem cells and coaxed them into forming a functional organ system. this system included a functioning heart, intestines, and a developing brain. The team published a paper in which they discussed the potential for increased understanding of embryonic development made possible by this first-of-its-kind discovery.
Number 1: Penis Spines Help Male Mason Wasps Fight Off Predators
Just picture the scene. You’re a tree frog that needs to find some food. You find a mason wasp that looks delicious, you go to eat it, and it stabs you in the pen with its barbed penis. It was previously thought that only female mason wasps had the ability to defend their nests. Females can sting and use toxins, but males have no defenses. But they’ve since learned that this is not the case. Two retractable genital spines run along a man’s penis, giving him an advantage over predators. Misaki Tsujii, a graduate student from Japan, made the initial discovery. She was working with them on a separate study of their life cycles when one of them pricked her finger. Scientists observed the effects of feeding mason wasps to Japanese tree frogs in order to learn more about the relationship between the two species. The insects retaliated with mandibles and spiked penises.
Do you think science will achieve more feats next year?
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