And 12 others that we found intriguing

Why seeing fake faces isn’t, well, weird

Our brains are attuned to the basic patterns, study suggests.

The phenomenon of seeing faces in everyday objects is not uncommon and it has both a scientific name – face pareidolia – and, it seems, a scientific explanation. We process fake faces using the same visual mechanisms that we do for real ones. Full story.

The man who can’t see numbers

His brain can, but to him it’s like spaghetti.

Researchers have introduced us to a man who can’t see numbers but can see letters, even though neural tests showed his brain can detect them both equally. Instead of 2 or 3, he just sees a jumble of tangled lines. Full story.

Images of the Milky Way sound like this

Welcome to the world of sonification in space.

A NASA project is translating data into sounds not images, allowing us to “listen” to the centre of the Milky Way as observed in X-ray, optical and infrared light. The process is known as sonification. Full story.

Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/K. Arcand, M. Russo & A. Santaguida

Could plants help us find dead bodies?

Scientists are designing experiments to find out.

A collaborative team of forensic botanists, anthropologists and soil scientists in the US is designing its first set of plant-cadaver experiments to see whether it’s feasible for the former to help find the latter. Full story.

Vibrating earthworms pick up an Ig Nobel

This is shed science at a professional level.

When you think of award-winning scientific research, you might think of determining the structure of DNA, or Marie Curie’s work on radioactivity. You might not think of vibrating drunken earthworms with a subwoofer in a garden shed. Yet here we are. Full story.

Ignobel ivan2 e1607466026152
Ig Nobel Prize winner Ivan Maksymov and research assistant.

Evolution arms us with an extra artery

Anatomical change could become the norm.

The human body continues to evolve in intriguing ways. New research in Australia has confirmed that more and more adults have a median artery in their forearms. Or, more accurately, they have retained the median artery. Full story.

A scientific guide to Western art

Information theory reveals some interesting patterns.

A unique collaboration between physicists, data scientists and art historians has provided a fresh look at 500 years of art history. They statistically analysed nearly 15,000 Western landscape paintings in an attempt to quantify their design principles. Full story.

How to create living concrete

Bacteria potential in a new world of construction.

US researchers have created what they call a living concrete by combining sand and bacteria. It’s early days, but the potential, they say, is to create building materials that can repair and even replicate themselves. Full story.

The origin of faeces

Fossil_fossilied faeces
Coprolites from Xiaosungang archaeological site, Anhui Province, China. Credit: Jada Ko, courtesy of the Anhui Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology

How to tell dog poo from human poo.

The archaeological record is littered with poo, a potential goldmine for insights into ancient health and diet, parasite evolution, and the ecology and evolution of the microbiome.

The issue has always been determining which species’ faeces it is. Full story.

Fleming’s famous mould revisited

Scientists sequence genome of the original Penicillium.

British scientists have sequenced the genome of Alexander Fleming’s famous penicillin mould for – surprisingly – the first time, allowing them to compare it with later versions. And that’s of more than just historical interest. Full story.

GoT juggernaut wasn’t all fantasy

Success revealed by data science and network theory.

Game of Thrones is considered the most successful fantasy series of all time, and that’s in part because the characters actually interact in a similar way to real people, academics suggest. Full story.

Newton’s masterwork is still going strong

Science detectives find new old copies of the Principia.

How many first-edition copies of Isaac Newton’s ground-breaking book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica are still on bookshelves around the world Probably more than you think, and certainly more than the last best guess. Full story.

Please login to favourite this article.