Science Friday: Titanoboa vs T-Rex | Rare Photo: Black Hole Devouring a Star | CSI Neolithic: Ötzi's Autopsy
Sorry, the video's a fantasy; they lived about 5 million years apart
In Colombia, the fossil of a gargantuan snake has stunned scientists, forcing them to rethink the nature of prehistoric life
By Guy Gugliotta
Fifty-eight million years ago, a few million years after the fall of the dinosaurs, Cerrejón was an immense, swampy jungle where everything was hotter, wetter and bigger than it is today.
The lord of this jungle was a truly spectacular creature—a snake more than 40 feet long and weighing more than a ton. This giant serpent looked something like a modern-day boa constrictor, but behaved more like today’s water-dwelling anaconda. It was a swamp denizen and a fearsome predator, able to eat any animal that caught its eye. The thickest part of its body would be nearly as high as a man’s waist. Scientists call it Titanoboa cerrejonensis.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/How-Titanoboa-the-40-Foot-Long-Snake-Was-Found.html
- When it comes to scary things in the universe, it’s hard to get much scarier than supermassive black holes. These gigantic, invisible menaces lurk in the centers of galaxies, hungrily vacuuming up everything within reach – or so we think. But the truth is more benign. Supermassive black holes snack infrequently, making the recent discovery of a black hole in the act of feeding all the more exciting to astronomers.
“Black holes, like sharks, suffer from a popular misconception that they are perpetual killing machines,” said Ryan Chornock of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “Actually, they’re quiet for most of their lives. Occasionally a star wanders too close, and that’s when a feeding frenzy begins.”
Chornock and his colleagues, led by Suvi Gezari of Johns Hopkins University, reported their discovery of a feeding supermassive black hole in the May 3 issue of the journal Nature.
If a star passes too close to a black hole, tidal forces can rip it apart.
Its constituent gases then swirl in toward the black hole. Friction heats the gases and causes them to glow. By searching for newly glowing supermassive black holes, astronomers can spot them in the midst of a feast.
The team discovered just such a glow on May 31, 2010 using the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on Mount Haleakala in Hawaii. The flare brightened to a peak on July 12th before fading away over the course of a year.
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
- The oldest red blood cells ever identified have been found in the body of Ötzi the Iceman, a 5,300-year-old mummy found in the Alps in 1991.
The bloody find is a first for Ötzi's mummy, which has been under scientific scrutiny since a pair of hikers stumbled over the body frozen in ice on the Austrian-Italian border. And the new research, published today (May 1) in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, helps confirm the story of Ötzi's death.
The Iceman was so well preserved that scientists could estimate his age (about 45), his health, his last meals (they included red deer meat with herb bread) and even his probable cause of death, an arrow wound to the shoulder that sliced an artery. But no one had ever found blood cells in the ancient man's corpse.