[March 1–March 7, 2021] A mysterious sea creature, space hurricanes, and a virtual peek into history—all round-up in this week’s weird news from Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Four-Ton Mystery Creature Makes Its Way to Wales
A headless mystery creature has been found decomposing on the shores of Wales, leaving behind nothing but a 23-foot spine as a clue to its identity.
Last week, the U.K. Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) received a call about a gigantic blob washing up on Broad Haven South Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
The woman who reported the sighting stated that she had done some research and believed it to be a basking shark. Investigators were skeptical of the claim, as the species is extremely rare in the area, and assumed they would find a whale instead.
Upon arrival, it quickly became clear that this was no whale, as evidenced by the pungent smell of decaying fish permeating from the four-ton husk.
According to the CSIP stranding coordinator for Wales, Matthew Westfield, the team now agrees that it may be a basking shark but cannot be 100% certain until further testing is complete.
Samples are currently being studied at both the Natural History Museum and the London Zoo.
In the meantime, the options for what to do with the rest of the massive beast are limited: bury it right where it is, remove it from the beach in pieces, or leave it be and let nature do its thing.
Just another story to add to the mystery thread this morning – a huge headless creature washed up on a beach from Wales Onlinehttps://t.co/WXqqLTFw3w
— Zara Whelan (@DPWZaraWhelan) March 4, 2021
First-Ever “Space Hurricane” Spotted Swirling Above North Pole
The existence of hurricanes in space was confirmed this week when a new study revealed satellite images depicting a 600-mile-wide storm swirling above the North Pole!
Co-written by scientists from China’s Shandong University and the University of Reading in the U.K., the study details a retrospective analysis of satellite observations from August 2014, which show a spinning mass of plasma—or “space hurricane”—raining electrons hundreds of miles above the North Pole.
The massive storm spun above Santa’s headquarters for about eight hours before dying out, only going unseen from Earth because of its location over the pole.
Prior to this revelation, scientists could only speculate about the existence of such storms, as one had never been sighted. The new findings suggest that space hurricanes could be an intergalactic phenomenon.
According to study co-author and University of Reading space scientist Professor Mike Lockwood, “to prove this with such a striking observation is incredible.”
Scientists spotted a ‘space hurricane’ swirling above the magnetic north pole. It was raining charged solar particles. https://t.co/BYAutP6U59
— Science Insider (@SciInsider) March 3, 2021
Hacking Into History with Virtual Reality
Centuries of secrets are set to be revealed using a virtual reality technique developed by scientists and scholars hoping to sneak a peek into history through stories written in encrypted letters.
Before sealed envelopes and Direct Messages, letter-writers kept their secrets guarded using a security system called “letterlocking,” which consisted of folding, cutting, and tucking the paper into a sort of puzzle in hopes of deterring prying eyes.
On Tuesday, a group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other institutions, shared their discovery of digitally scanning these letters using an X-ray to hack their way into history while keeping the delicate artifacts intact.
The team has already successfully “opened” four letters written between 1680 and 1706 found in the Brienne Collection, a wooden trunk containing 3,148 historical items—including 577 locked letters.
While not all of the concealed pages will expose juicy 17th-century gossip, even the most mundane exchanges will help historians construct accurate narratives about European politics, culture, religion, migration patterns, and more.
Announcing a world first! Our amazing interdisciplinary team has virtually unfolded and read an unopened letter from 1697 without breaking its seal, and officially launched #letterlocking as a field of study in Nature Communications. https://t.co/LWUqQhVXvq #OA [going live today] pic.twitter.com/jZc9rJaKoy
— Letterlocking (@letterlocking) March 2, 2021
Indonesian Bird Ends 170-Year Game of Hide-and-Seek
Borneo, Indonesia, locals Muhammad Suranto and Muhammad Rizky Fauzan solved one of the country’s greatest ornithological enigmas with the first sighting of a black-browed babbler in 170 years.
After being recruited to give birdwatching group BW Galeatus insight into their province’s avian populations, Suranto and Fauzan sent group member Joko Said Trisiyanto an image of a bird they weren’t familiar with but sometimes saw in a South Kalimantan forest.
The bird in question matched the description of the black-browed babbler, which was listed as extinct in Trisiyanto’s birdwatching guidebook. Trisiyanto passed the image along to ornithologist Panji Gusti Akbar for confirmation, beginning a chain of forwarding to other experts, all of whom were in shock to see Asia’s longest-lost species captured through the lens.
“When we actually got confirmation of the identification, I did a little prayer and bowed down to celebrate,” said Akbar.
A truly rare bird, the black-browed babbler was first described around 1850, after ornithologists collected the species’ only known specimen. After clearing up a mislabeling situation in which the species was noted to have come from Java rather than Borneo, scientists still could not find another bird of its type.
With the rediscovery comes a bit of explanation to the mystery of where it’s been hiding, as the species appears to have evolved from having glassy yellow eyes and pale brown legs to scarlet eyes and gray legs.
Cuttlefish Crush Self-Control Test
Cuttlefish may be known for their impressive disguise skills, hunting prowess, and remarkable memory, but how do they fare when facing the “marshmallow test”—a psychological test to determine self-control? It turns out, pretty well!
Researchers at the University of Cambridge presented the cephalopods with a challenge of delayed gratification, in this case, giving them a choice to skip a meal in exchange for the potential of a much more delicious one later on. The decision was a no-brainer for the cuttles, making them the first invertebrates ever to demonstrate self-control.
Animals that typically exhibit this trait are social creatures that tend to live long lives, like great apes and parrots, making cuttlefish an unlikely member of the self-control squad since they are known for being short-lived loners.
According to the study, the self-control exhibited by cuttlefish may be directly related to how they camouflage themselves from predators—by hiding for days at a time, only showing themselves when they need to eat.
By Megan Yani, contributor for Ripleys.com
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