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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

Curved beer glasses may get you drunk faster than straight ones -- and other fascinating finds.

Photo Credit: Kesu/ shutterstock.com


In Florida, the Halloween decorations are arriving in Target. Other parts of the country are treated to colorful fall leaves, which might be coming with surprising speed this year. Douglas Main of Our Amazing Planet says that drought conditions in the northeast might cause stressed-out trees to stop producing chlorophyll early, allowing other lovely colors to come through. 

Not sure if pretty leaves are worth drought conditions, but that said, after this stupidly hot summer , all signs of fall get the thumbs-up.

1. In your face

That includes horror films. One that maintains its power to nauseate after 25 years is the scene in The Believers , when (spoiler alert) spiders hatch out of Helen Shaver’s face

Whether or not you have that disgust of insects and arachnids that makes you act like “wacky, waving, inflatable arm-flailing tube man,” everytime one comes near you, the idea of them inside your face is horrifying. And yet we all have them. Seriously. Teeny, tiny, itty, bitty spider-like mites live in our faces, and have done so forever, apparently. Only now, reports Debora MacKenzie of New Scientist , it has been discovered that the mites cause rosacea, a skin inflammation, including “ swelling, roughness and fine, visible blood vessels, usually in the central zone of the face,” which effects up to 20% of the world population. 

Kevin Kavanagh of the National University of Ireland believes he has discovered why some people get rosacea while others don’t. Those little mites, called Demodex, are more numerous in people with rosacea -- 10 times more -- possibly because stress causes their facial oil, or sebum, to change and be better for the mites to eat. Demodex don’t have anuses so when they die, Kavanaugh believes, the buildup of their feces releases all at once causing an immune system reaction and inflammation. 

That’s what you wanted to wake up to, right? Enjoy your breakfast, spider face! You’ll never look deeply into your own pores the same way again.

2. Now if only we could meet a nauseous whale…

Usually in this column when I present something of the life-imitates-art variety, the art isn’t horror films but science fiction, like the time in  Futurama when Kif found himself  covered in precious whale vomit

In real life, it happened to little Charlie Naysmith, 8, who was walking on the Dorset shore with his dad when, reports National Geographic’s Joanna Rizzo, he came across a weird rock that turned out to be ambergris, a substance high-end European perfume companies value for its ability to “fix scent to human skin.” What is ambergris? It is an “intestinal slurry” sperm whales expel when something irritates their stomach -- often a squid beak. The irritant gets ejected, hardens in the ocean and turns up on beaches. Whales may not actually yak up the ambergris, as long thought: “ As of now, the argument seems to be weighted toward the back end of the whale.”

We love Joanna Rizzo for being too ladylike to say “whale heinie,” and also for giving us a Phrase of the Year candidate with “intestinal slurry.”

Ambergris is illegal to use in the US because the sperm whale is endangered, but in other markets that rock Charlie found could be worth $63,000. Golden ticket, indeed. Lots of people are going to be looking for vomit on beaches now. Sadly, they’ll find it, but mostly during spring break in Daytona.

3. Their two suns

Another excellent example of real life awesomely imitating a sci-fi movie is the twin suns circled by multiple planets in the Kepler-47 system, very much like those on the home world of Luke Skywalker.