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The 10 Weirdest Science Studies of 2019

来源:中国日报    2019-12-27 11:19

        According to popular lore, the legendary Loch Ness monster has supposedly lived in a deep Scottish lake for more than 1,000 years. But according to a study conducted this year, Loch Ness seems to be devoid of any signs of "monster DNA." Geneticists drew more than 250 water samples from the vast lake and examined the bits of DNA floating within each. The survey uncovered genetic traces of more than 3,000 species living in and around Loch Ness, including fish, deer, pigs, bacteria and humans. But the team found no evidence of giant reptiles or aquatic dinosaurs, or even massive sturgeons or catfish that could be mistaken for a mysterious lake monster. However, they did uncover an abundance of eels, so it may be possible (though highly improbable) that "Nessie" was actually an overgrown eel.        根据流行的传说,传奇的尼斯湖水怪已经在苏格兰的深湖里生活了1000多年。但今年进行的一项研究显示,尼斯湖里似乎并没有任何“水怪DNA”存在的迹象。遗传学家从这个巨大的湖泊中提取了250多个水样,并对每个样本中漂浮的DNA片段进行了检测。这项调查发现了生活在尼斯湖及周边地区的3000多个物种的基因痕迹,包括鱼、鹿、猪、细菌和人类。但研究团队并没有发现巨型爬行动物或水生恐龙,甚至没有发现可能被误认为神秘水怪的大型鲟鱼或鲶鱼存在的迹象。不过,他们的确发现了大量鳗鱼,因此“尼斯湖水怪”有可能(虽然可能性不大)其实是一条长得太大的鳗鱼。
        Many scholars are familiar with the strange story of an Inuit man who, upon being stranded during a storm, fashioned a knife from his own frozen poop and used it to butcher a dog. Although the tale is famous among anthropologists, none have attempted to craft their own blade from frozen fecal matter — until this year, that is, when a team of researchers took a hack at crafting their own poop knives. The lead study author, Metin Eren, adopted an "Arctic diet" for eight days to supply the needed raw materials, which the team then froze and shaped into blades with metal files. But when the team attempted to carve up a pig hide with their new knives, the blades only left brown streaks along the meat.        许多学者都熟知一个关于因纽特人的奇怪故事。故事中的一名因纽特人在暴风雪中被困,他用自己被冻成冰的粪便做了一把刀,然后用它宰杀了一条狗。虽然这个故事在人类学家当中流传甚广,但从来没有人尝试过用冷冻粪便来制作刀具——直到今年,一个研究团队尝试了打造自己的粪便刀。研究报告的第一作者梅廷·埃伦经过了为期8天的“北极饮食”来提供所需的“原材料”,然后研究团队将这些“原材料”冷冻起来,再用金属锉刀把它制作成刀的形状。但是,当这支团队尝试用他们新做的刀来切一块猪皮时,却只在肉上留下了棕色的印子。
        The carnivorous northern pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) traps unwary insects in its goblet-shaped leaves and digests the bugs for their nutrients. But earlier this year, scientists were shocked to find pitcher plants chowing down on salamanders as well. A team of researchers sampled several hundred pitcher plants in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park and found that about 20% of the plants contained at least one juvenile salamander, while many plants captured several of the amphibians at once. The salamanders drowned, starved or were cooked to death in the acidic pitcher fluid and, once dead, decomposed in about 10 days. The ravenous plants may gobble up as much as 5% of the bog's juvenile salamander population each year, the team estimated.        瓶子草这种北方的肉食性捕虫草能用它的杯状叶片捕捉到不够小心的昆虫,并消化这些昆虫以吸取它们的营养。但今年早些时候,科学家们惊讶地发现瓶子草也能吞食蝾螈。一组研究人员对加拿大安大略省省立阿尔贡金公园内的数百株瓶子草进行了采样,结果发现有大约20%的瓶子草里捕获了至少一只幼年蝾螈,而且有不少瓶子草同时捕获了好几只。蝾螈在瓶子草的酸性液中被淹死、饿死或被“煮”死,而一旦死亡,它们的身体会在大约10天内分解。研究团队估计,这种贪婪的植物每年可能会吞食该沼泽内5%的幼年蝾螈。
        No, this doesn't mean you should stop and lick the flowers — but our senses of taste and smell may be even more entangled than we once thought. In a study published in April, scientists exposed lab-grown human taste cells to odor molecules and found that the cells reacted to scents in the same way that the smell-sensing cells in our nasal passages do. When an odor molecule touched down on one of the taste cells, the chemical plugged into a receptor on the cell's surface. In the body, the interaction between the odor and receptor would normally trigger a chain reaction inside the cell, causing it to shoot off a message to the brain.        不,这并不意味着你应该停下来舔一舔花朵来闻香味——不过,我们的味觉与嗅觉之间的关联可能比我们以前想象的更加复杂。在今年4月发表的一项研究中,科学家把实验室培育的人类味觉细胞暴露在气味分子中,结果发现这些细胞对气味的反应与我们鼻腔中嗅觉细胞的反应一样。当一个气味分子接触到一个味觉细胞时,这种化学物质会进入到细胞表面的受体中。在人体内,气味与受体之间的相互作用通常会触发细胞内的连锁反应,导致细胞向大脑发出信号。
        Deep in a New Zealand forest, an unassuming tree stump clings to the roots of nearby conifers, sucking up their hard-earned water and nutrients. Scientists stumbled upon this botanical vampire while hiking in West Auckland, New Zealand, as they were surrounded by hundreds of kauri trees — a species of conifer that can grow up to 165 feet (50 meters) tall. During the day, the towering trees shuttled water from their roots into their leaves. By night, the squat stump pumped leftover water and nutrients from its neighbors' roots into its own. "Possibly we are not really dealing with trees as individuals, but with the forest as a superorganism," study co-author Sebastian Leuzinger, an associate professor at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, said in a statement.        在新西兰的森林深处,一个不起眼的树桩紧紧吸附着旁边针叶树的根部,吸取它们来之不易的水分和养分。科学家在新西兰的西奥克兰徒步时偶然发现了这个植物“吸血鬼”,它周围是数百棵贝壳杉——一种能够长到165英尺(约合50米)高的针叶树。白天,这些参天大树把水从树根输送到树叶。到了晚上,那个矮树桩会把临近树木根部里剩余的水分和养分抽取到自己的根部。作为研究报告作者之一的新西兰奥克兰理工大学副教授塞巴斯蒂安·洛伊青格在一份声明中说:“或许我们不应该把树当作个体,而应该把森林当作一个超级有机体。”
        X        射线是有声音的
        If scientists shoot tiny X-ray lasers at a stream of water, does it make a sound? Oh, yes it does. This year, researchers created what may be the loudest possible underwater sound, using just this setup. Contained within a vacuum chamber, pulsing beams from an X-ray laser collided with a razor-thin water jet, instantly splitting the jet in two and vaporizing the fluid on each side. Pressure waves rippled out from the point of contact and released a 270-decibel sound that would make NASA's loudest-ever rocket launch sound hushed by comparison. If the sound were any louder, it might have boiled the very liquid it was traveling through.        如果科学家向一股水流发射极细的X射线激光,它会发出声音吗?是的,它会。今年,研究人员利用这样一种装置制造出了可能是最响亮的水下声音。在真空容器内,X射线激光的脉冲光束与像刀片一样薄的水射流相撞,瞬间将射流一分为二,并使两侧的液体汽化。压力波从接触点开始扩散,发出270分贝的声音,比美国国家航空航天局史上最响亮的火箭发射声音还要大。如果声音再大一点,就有可能令它穿过的液体沸腾。
        Famed theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking once predicted that black holes not only suck celestial objects into their depths but also emit particles into space. He theorized that these particles slowly strip black holes of their mass and energy, until eventually, the black hole disappears — but physicists never thought they could prove it.        著名理论物理学家兼宇宙学家斯蒂芬·霍金曾预言,黑洞不仅将天体吸入其深处,而且会向太空发射粒子。他的理论是,这些粒子会慢慢带走黑洞的质量和能量,直到黑洞最终消失——但物理学家从未想过他们能够证明这一点。
        This year, however, a team of researchers finally spotted this elusive Hawking radiation in laboratory experiments. The team created a "waterfall" from a stream of extremely cold gas to model the event horizon of a black hole, the invisible boundary beyond which nothing can escape. Quantum sound waves fed into the gas could flow away from the waterfall if inserted into the "stream" nearby, but sound waves in the waterfall itself became trapped by the relentless current. The escaped sound waves can be seen as analogous to particles of light escaping the pull of a black hole, suggesting that Hawking's theory was right.        然而到了今年,一组研究人员终于在实验室的试验中发现了这种难以捉摸的霍金辐射。研究小组用一股极冷的气流创造了一个“瀑布”,用以模拟黑洞的事件视界(一种任何事物都无法逃脱的无形边界)。注入气体中的量子声波如果被插入附近的“流”中,就可能从瀑布中流走,但瀑布本身的声波却被无情的气流困住了。我们可以将这些逃逸的声波看作是黑洞中逸出的光粒子——这表明霍金的理论是正确的。
        In case anyone was wondering, research suggests that female mosquitoes don't care for the musical stylings of Skrillex. A study published in March found that the pests suck less blood and have less sex after listening to the song "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" in 10-minute spurts, at least compared with mosquitoes left in silence. But why did a team of insect researchers subject the bugs to Skrillex in the first place? Well, they wondered whether loud music could be used to manipulate mosquito behavior as an "environmentally friendly" alternative to insecticides. The loud music may have distracted the mosquitoes, preventing them from homing in on a nearby food source and potential mates, the team suggested.        研究表明——如果有人想知道的话——雌蚊子不喜欢史奇雷克斯(美国DJ、歌手、吉他手兼音乐制作人)的音乐风格。今年3月发表的一项研究发现,在听了10分钟的史奇雷克斯的作品《可怕的怪物和漂亮的精灵》后,这些害虫的吸血量和交配活动都减少了,至少与待在安静环境下的蚊子相比是这样。可是,一个昆虫研究团队最开始为什么要给这些虫子播放史奇雷克斯的音乐呢?哦,他们是想知道,是否可以用吵闹的音乐来操纵蚊子的行为,从而成为杀虫剂的一种“环保”替代品。研究团队认为,吵闹的音乐可能分散了蚊子的注意力,使它们找不到附近的食物来源和潜在的配偶。
        This year, physicists may have finally spotted an odderon — a particle that really isn't. Particles such as electrons and protons stick around for extended periods, while odderons, a kind of "quasiparticle," blink in and out of existence. Scientists first predicted the existence of odderons in the 1970s, thinking that the particles might materialize when an odd number of teeny particles called quarks get released during the violent collision of protons and antiprotons. Researchers resurrected the decades-old idea when they sent particles crashing into each other at the world’s largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider. The team spotted some strange differences in the way protons collide with other protons as compared to antiprotons, and the existence of odderons may explain why that discrepancy exists.        今年,物理学家们可能终于发现了“奇子”——一种实际上并不存在的粒子。诸如电子和质子之类的粒子会长时间存在,而作为一种“准粒子”的奇子则忽隐忽现。早在上世纪70年代,科学家就首次预测了奇子的存在。他们认为,在质子和反质子的剧烈碰撞期间,当奇数个被称为“夸克”的微小粒子被释放出来时,这种粒子就有可能形成。研究人员在世界上最大的原子粉碎器大型强子对撞机上实现粒子相互碰撞,重现了几十年前的构想。研究团队发现,质子之间的碰撞方式与反质子相比存在一些奇怪的差异,而奇子的存在或许可以解释为什么会存在这种差异。
        Oobleck is a delightful goop that runs like a liquid but snaps into a solid state when you smack it. You can mix up your own oobleck by stirring up a slurry of cornstarch and water, and with the help of a new computer model, you can predict how the bizarre substance will react to various forces. Scientists used the model to simulate how oobleck would behave if it were pressed between two plates, were hit by an airborne projectile or were run over by a virtual wheel. They hope to find innovative uses for the goo, like temporarily filling dangerous potholes on major roads.        欧不裂是一种可爱的胶状半流体,它可以像液体一样流动,但当你敲打它时,它又可以变成固态。你可以将玉米淀粉和水搅拌在一起,制作出你自己的欧不裂,而借助一个新的计算机模型,你还可以预测这种奇怪的物质会对各种作用力作出何种反应。科学家用这个模型模拟了欧不裂被挤压在两块板子之间、被空中抛物击中或被虚拟车轮碾压时的反应。他们希望为这种黏稠的糊糊找到新的用途,比如用来临时填充马路上危险的坑洼。

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