The strangest and most surprising studies of 2019

Table of contents:

The strangest and most surprising studies of 2019
The strangest and most surprising studies of 2019

Science is full of surprises. Some scientists are interested in the vampire tree, others suggest repairing roads with non-Newtonian fluid, and still others make knives from feces.

Live Science, whose editors love to collect such stories, has prepared an overview of the strangest and most amazing studies of the past year.

Was there a monster?

An international group of scientists has come to the conclusion that the monster supposedly living in the Scottish Loch Ness does not exist.

Experts collected 250 water samples from different parts of the lake at different depths. They were looking for genetic material called environmental DNA.

Studying it allows you to understand what kind of creatures live in a particular environment. In this case, the entire spectrum of available genetic material is analyzed, after which code fragments are determined that indicate the presence of a particular species. Let us explain that the same water samples may contain waste products, discarded skin, fragments of scales and other materials that carry the DNA of the corresponding creatures.

The study ultimately identified genetic traces of more than 3,000 species living in and around the lake, including fish, deer, pigs, bacteria and even humans. But the team found no evidence of giant reptiles, aquatic dinosaurs or massive sturgeon or catfish that could be mistaken for a mysterious monster.

By the way, scientists have found traces of many eels. It is possible (though unlikely) that cryptozoologists have mistaken overgrown eels for Nessie all this time.

By the way, we previously talked about how an underwater robot discovered a dummy of a legendary creature at the bottom of a Scottish lake.


According to legend, at the bottom of Loch Ness there is a crevice in which the monster is hiding.

Illustration by Gunter Lenz / Global Look Press.

Feces knife

In 1998, anthropologist Wade Davis published an ethnographic book that included, among other things, an old Inuit caught off guard by a blizzard. The man allegedly survived her by constructing a knife from frozen feces, sharpened by a spray of saliva. With this knife he killed and butchered the dog.

Anthropologists decided to check if this is possible. The interest was by no means idle. If the legend turned out to be true, this would indicate the existence of another approach to the creation of tools and tools by people (and who knows how ancient).

On the other hand, debunking popular myths and urban legends helps fight the dominance of fake news.

For the sake of science, lead study author Metin Eren of the University of Kent in the United States followed an Arctic diet high in protein and fatty acids for eight days to ensure that the "raw materials" for making a knife were authentic.

The team then froze the scientist's feces, sharpened the "blades" with metal files, and chilled them again in dry ice.

The researchers tried to butcher the chilled pork skin with the resulting knife. But the tests failed: the blades stained the samples, that's all.

We add that "Vesti. Nauka" ( previously talked about another strange experiment of scientists: they tried to make prehistoric "canned food" out of the legs of deer.


Feces knife sample.

Photo by Eren et al.

Plants eat salamanders

The carnivorous plant Sarracenia purpurea has pitcher-shaped trap leaves that secrete a sweet sap that attracts insects. The latter climb into the "jug", where everything is covered with downward hairs. The victim falls "to the bottom" and falls into the liquid, where a special ecosystem is formed, consisting mainly of bacteria and mosquito larvae.

The bacteria break down the body of the captured insect, digesting some of the parts. The rest goes to the larvae. In the process of digestion, they break down complex compounds into simple ones, and then the plant assimilates them.

This year, Canadian scientists have found that the insidious plant thus does an excellent job not only with insects, but also with salamanders.

Botanists studied several hundred sarracenia in one of the parks in Ontario, and it turned out that one in five feasted on at least one tailed amphibian. And many have caught several salamanders at once.

It turned out that the victims either drowned in the liquid at the bottom of the trap, or starved to death, or died in an acidic environment during the "cooking" process. After death, they decomposed in about ten days.

According to biologists, each year predatory plants can consume up to 5% of young salamanders living in the same swampy area in this way.


Young salamanders become prey for carnivorous plants.

Photo by Patrick D. Moldowan / Algonquin Wildlife Research Station.

Human tongue can recognize odors

American researchers have discovered functional olfactory receptors in human tongue cells that help to recognize taste. Exactly the same ones are found in the nose, they help to detect smell.

The team used genetic and biochemical methods to study cultures of human taste cells. It turned out that the latter contain many key molecules that are present in the olfactory receptors.

The scientists then used a technique called calcium imaging to show that cultured taste cells respond to odor molecules in the same way as olfactory receptor cells.

Scientists do not yet know how the olfactory receptors located on the tongue interact with the brain.

Previously, experts believed that the sensory systems that allow us and other mammals to smell and taste do not interact with each other until their signals reach the brain. Now this opinion may change.

Further research may lead to the development of odor-based taste modifiers that are useful in the fight against obesity and diabetes.


Functional olfactory receptors are present in human taste cells.

Photo from the site

Vampire tree

Traveling through the forests of New Zealand, botanists came across a tree stump surrounded by tall coniferous cowrie trees.

Although the stump had no foliage, it was alive, and this surprised the researchers a lot. They decided to evaluate the flow of moisture in the stump and in the surrounding trees of the same species. It turned out that the stump, later nicknamed the vampire, "connected" to the root system of its neighbors.

During the day, the latter transport water and nutrients from their roots to the crown. And at night the enterprising "pensioner" pumps the remnants of the meal from the roots of his fellows into his own.

Root grafting occurs when a tree "realizes" that the nearby root tissue, although different genetically, is similar enough to allow resource exchange, scientists say.

Perhaps, in fact, we are not dealing with trees as individuals, but with the forest as a superorganism, the authors of the study suggested.

For example, during a drought, "low drinking" trees can contact neighbors that absorb more moisture. This increases the forest's chances of survival.


The stump, nicknamed the vampire, "connected" to the root system of its neighbors.

Photo by Sebastian Leuzinger / iScience.

Big boom

Physicists from the United States have generated a sound louder than which nothing ever sounded either in water or in the air.

We talk at a volume of about 55 decibels, an electric chain saw torments our ears with a hundred decibels, a space rocket taking off a hundred meters away gives 130 decibels, and the speakers at a rock concert - 150 decibels.

Scientists have also found that it is impossible to achieve loudness higher than 194 in air, and about 270 decibels in water. Beyond this threshold, water begins to evaporate from the energy transferred to it.

Physicists, who created a sound in water with a loudness of more than 270 decibels, not only broke the historical record, but also came close to the theoretical limit of this value. There is literally nowhere louder.

To do this, the researchers irradiated jets of water with a diameter of 14 to 30 micrometers with short pulses of a powerful X-ray laser. Moisture caught by the radiation evaporated. The expanding vapor ball created a sonic shock wave in the jet with an intensity of about a billion watts per square meter (!). At the same time, pressures of up to a thousand atmospheres arose.


Scientists have generated a sound with the highest volume that can be achieved in water.

Pixabay illustration.

"Evaporation" of black holes

In 1974, Stephen Hawking first suggested that black holes not only absorb space objects, but also emit special radiation. We are talking about a variety of elementary particles that slowly deprive space monsters of their mass and energy, as a result of which the black hole "evaporates".

At the beginning of 2019, physicists managed to reproduce the so-called Hawking radiation with the help of photons in an optical fiber, due to which black holes "evaporate".

A few months later, an international research team reproduced Hawking radiation in another laboratory experiment using an "acoustic" black hole.

Thus, experiments suggest that the legendary cosmologist's theory was correct.


Stephen Hawking's hypothesis that black holes emit special radiation has probably been confirmed.

Illustration by Alain r / Wikimedia.

Anti mosquito music

An international team of scientists has found that music, or rather dubstep, is a great help in the fight against mosquitoes.

Researchers played Scary Monster And Nice Sprites by Skrillex to experimental yellow fever mosquitoes.

During the sound of the track, the female mosquitoes needed more time to prepare for the bite (a hamster was given to the bloodsuckers as a victim). Moreover, the bite itself lasted less time than usual.

In addition, mosquitoes mated less often to such music.

Scientists explain this effect by the fact that mosquitoes use buzzing as a signal that they are ready to mate. Music with similar frequencies distracted insects from both sex and food.


Dubstep can be used as an environmentally friendly alternative to insecticides.

Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim / Wikimedia Commons.

The long-awaited particle

The TOTEM collaboration, which includes over a hundred physicists working with the Large Hadron Collider, has confirmed the existence of an odderon. This quasiparticle was predicted in the 1970s.

The LHC, which accelerates particles to energies of 13 teraelectronvolts, allowed scientists to observe odderons experimentally.


The energy of protons at the Large Hadron Collider reaches 13 teraelectronvolts.

Photo of the TOTEM collaboration.

Non-Newtonian fluid - material of the future?

A non-Newtonian liquid is a liquid, the viscosity of which depends on the speed of action (a strong blow with a hand falls into it like a wall, and a slow hand sinking into it is like sinking into a swamp). Typically, such liquids are inhomogeneous and consist of large molecules that form complex spatial structures.

The most common example of such a liquid is oobleck. It is a mixture of cornstarch with a little water. The faster the external action on the binder macromolecules suspended in the liquid occurs, the higher the viscosity of the liquid.

Scientists from Cambridge have created a computer model that can predict how an object will react to various stimuli.

This model helps to understand what will happen to a strange substance if, for example, it is clamped between two plates, a stone is thrown at it, or a wheel is driven across the surface.

The authors are confident that their model will be useful for materials scientists. For example, when developing material for filling cracks and potholes in roads.