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Storm Breaking Over a Valley, a triptych by Sebastiaan Bremer Courtesy Bas Bremer Studio, Brooklyn, New York, and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York City

Astronomers recorded, in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, the largest known post–Big Bang explosion, which lasted several hundred million years and created a void of fifteen galactic widths in the plasma around the cluster’s central black hole. “People were skeptical because of the size of the outburst,” said one of the scientists. “We don’t know why it’s so big.” The exoplanet NGTS-10b was found to have a year lasting eighteen Earth hours and to be at risk of falling into its star. The tail of an unidentified herbivorous dinosaur in Alberta was found to contain a type of histiocytic tumor that primarily affects young children. A 46,000-year-old bird recovered from the Siberian permafrost was determined to be a female horned lark. The formation of pre–Silk Road Eurasian empires was driven partly by the spread of northern Chinese broomcorn millet; nanodiamonds and meltglass at Abu Hureyra point to a cosmic impact at the onset of the Younger Dryas; the collapse of Harappan society coincided with the loss of the Ghaggar River’s perenniality and the onset of the Meghalayan Stage; the breakdown of Easter Island society and the cessation of megalithic statue-building postdated European contact; and epigraphic evidence suggested a descent into total war during the Terminal Classic era of Mayan civilization. An interdisciplinary team suggested that climate-driven societal collapse may stabilize once humans start accepting years with many disasters as the new normal. An extinction-risk model was found to work well for bumblebees. It remained unknown whether Shanidar received a Neanderthal flower burial.

The high contrast provided by humans’ white scleras enhances our awareness of one another’s gazes. Five primate electrophysiologists agreed that, upon 50 Hz stimulation of the central lateral thalamus, anesthetized Wisconsin monkeys become wakeful. Damage to parts of the right frontotemporoinsular lobes that spares the anterior hypothalamus was linked to the emergence of acquired pedophilia. Fingertip injuries can indicate child abuse. Children, unlike adults, are resilient against the Pinocchio Illusion when their fingers are pulled upward in sync with a tone ascending from 700 to 1200 Hz. Engineers reported success in deploying “ultra-gentle” robotic “linguine fingers” to grab deep-sea jellyfish. Stinging water was blamed on jellyfish mucus. Los Angeles scientists found that the city’s road network could be more efficiently designed by P. polycephalum, a slime mold. Drivers of fancy cars yield to pedestrians less often than drivers of humble cars, and still less if the pedestrians are non-white men. Half of the flights taken by British men aged twenty to forty-five are for stag parties. Young burglars are driven first by thrills, then by skills.

Skin swabs are three times as accurate as fecal samples at predicting a person’s age. Researchers unveiled a comprehensive catalogue of the vaginal microbiome. Canadians sleep better when their pillows are covered with their lovers’ T-shirts, and insemination makes women more prone to falling asleep after intercourse. Pregnant swamp wallabies always have another viable embryo ready while a fetus develops. Intergenerational antisocial behavior transmits most strongly from mothers to daughters. Mares may be harmed by humans’ equine gender bias. Brazilian researchers confirmed the long-standing hypothesis that the pollination of S. fungiforme requires opossums. British badger-control strategy will transition from killing to vaccination. Certain deaf moths can baffle 85 percent of the sound from bats attempting to echolocate them. Two rare fungus gnats were found in Scotland, and two monarch-butterfly activists were murdered in Mexico. Most amphibians glow if the light is right.

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May 2020