From human head transplants to magnets that prove gay marriage is wrong to potty-mouthed supercomputers, 2013 was truly a bizarre year for science and those purporting to be scientists. Here are 25 of the weirdest stories of the past year.
Scientists say it's possible to blow up the Sun. On purpose. As if we didn't already have enough to worry about, a pair of scientists warned that it's theoretically possible to deliberately detonate the Sun. Called an "artificial supernova," this event could represent a new existential risk to the human species. Or maybe, these guys don't know what the hell they're talking about.
A Nigerian grad student used magnets to 'prove' gay marriage is wrong. Chibuihem Amalaha, an award-winning student at the University of Lagos, claimed he "disproved" gay marriage through science — and he used the power of magnets to do so. His "groundbreaking" work was backed by the university.
This ancient Egyptian statue slowly turned all by itself. There's a statuette in a Manchester Museum display case that's slowly rotating — completely on its own — over the course of the day until it's facing the opposite direction. It might be the curse of Neb-Sanu — or perhaps something much simpler.
Living cockroaches can now be controlled with a mobile app. A company called Backyard Brains will sell you a DiY kit that allows you to hook a living cockroach up to your mobile phone and control its movements with electrical impulses. This will be the first consumer version of the technology behind things like the robo-rat, and not everyone is happy about it.
IBM's Watson computer had parts of its memory cleared after developing an acute case of potty mouth. It all started a couple of years ago when IBM's Watson was given access to the Urban Dictionary. In an attempt to help Watson learn slang — and thus be more amenable to conversational language — the machine subsequently picked up such phrases as OMG and "hot mess." But at the same time it also picked up some words fit only for a sailor.
Yes, this is exactly what it looks like.
A neurosurgeon said we have the technology to perform human head transplants. An Italian neuroscientist said that human head transplants are possible using currently available medical techniques, and he's setting up a project to prove it. Dr. Sergio Canavero, who works for the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, published his proposal in the medical journal Surgical Neurology International. He's calling it the "Head Anastomois Venture," or HEAVEN — the "first human head transplantation with spinal linkage."
Behold the carnivorous caterpillar. It is one of the more than 20 species belonging to the genus Eupethecia believed to reside exclusively on the Hawaiian islands. As you may have already gathered from the GIF up top, members of this insular clade tend to sport some rather scary-looking appendages.
This deadly lake lures animals to their deaths and petrifies them. Tanzania's Lake Natron is the most caustic body of water on Earth and that makes it a terrifying, if eerily beautiful, place.
A dolphin was filmed while masturbating with a decapitated fish and we now know what an exploding whale looks like. Warning: Graphic.
Scientists engineered glow-in-the-dark sheep and pigs. A team of researchers at the Animal Reproduction Institute of Uruguay genetically modified sheep to express a peptide called green fluorescent protein (originally isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria), or "GFP." The resulting transgenic sheep glowed green when exposed to ultraviolet light. The same thing was accomplished just a few weeks ago with pigs in Hawaii.
A new skyscraper unexpectedly generated a solar beam that fried cars. A skyscraper under construction in London is reflecting concentrated sunlight onto the streets. The beam is so hot that it's "melting cars" and popping tiles right out of the ground. For passersby, it's like standing in the glare of a giant magnifying glass.
Hikers discovered a very strange 'natural' trampoline in Quebec, while an elk discovered that a normal trampoline is no place for an elk.
New "footage" of Bigfoot. After five years of research, a group calling itself the Sasquatch Genome Project released footage of what it says is a female Bigfoot sleeping in the woods. And yes, this is the same group that published the Bigfoot genome in a journal they themselves founded.
This past year was not a good one for frogs and armadillos who chose to hang out at rocket launch sites.
An absolutely massive Louisiana sinkhole devoured whole trees in seconds flat. In the Southern Louisiana town of Bayou Corne, a monster is growing. For over a year now, a colossal sinkhole – which, when last measured, spanned a grotesque 24 acres – has been wreaking havoc on not only local residents (who have been forced to evacuate), but the environment under which it lurks, as this recently captured footage makes shockingly clear.
Scientists grew teeth from human urine inside the kidneys of mice. A study put out this past September showed that stem cells extracted from urine can be turned into rudimentary tooth-like structures, and the researchers did so by growing the teeth inside the kidneys of mice.
A giant blob was found floating off the coast of Cuba. In July, a human-sized pinkish blob was discovered floating near the surface of the Caribbean. The Cuban divers who found the thing had no clue what it was. Their photos eventually reached the hands of a marine biologist at Brown University, and she thinks she knows what it is: a mass of teensy eggs.
Super-realistic telemarketing chatbots started to deny that they're robots, but the real story turned out to be just as bizarre.
A Jägermeister pool party in Mexico turned to panic after organizers poured four buckets of liquid nitrogen into the water, sending eight to the hospital and leaving one partygoer in a coma.
As if to further reinforce the stupidity of the Lone Signal project, this mind-boggingly absurd GIF was just sent on a 17.6 light-year journey to Gliese 526 in hopes that it'll get picked up by an extraterrestrial civilization. Yes, really — this is how we're going to say "hello."
A freak ice tsunami crunched homes in Canada. The whole thing only took 15 minutes, but by the time it stopped over two-dozen homes and cottages were either seriously damaged or completely destroyed. An arctic wind blowing across Duphin Lake near Winnipeg, Manitoba, created this bizarre phenomenon in which rapidly forming ice moved inland along Ochre Beach.
A preliminary analysis showed that a tiny alien-like skeleton found in the Atacama Desert belonged to a human child, though an independent report reached a different conclusion — that it was a discarded fetus.
A "lost" tortoise was found alive in storeroom after 30 years. Manuela the red-footed tortoise was believed to have made her grand escape back in 1982. Her owners, the Almeida family of Rio de Janeiro, had been preoccupied with a home renovation at the time; Manuela, they surmised, had slipped unnoticed through a door left open by some careless workers. They thought Manueala had escaped. They thought they would never see her again. They were wrong.