9 best Cosmos science memes of 2021

Cosmos Magazine


Cosmos is a quarterly science magazine. We aim to inspire curiosity in ‘The Science of Everything’ and make the world of science accessible to everyone.

By Cosmos

We know that science is serious, we like to have a little fun with it on occasion. And that includes science memes.

These memes were created and curated by Cosmos because we just love a good science joke. Not all of them made it into the final article, so you may even peek a couple of unique memes seen only by us here at Cosmos.

1. Where’s Cambrian Willy? Inside a borrowed shell, it seems.

Looks like hermit crabs were beaten to the shell-borrowing game by phallic-shaped worms living 500 million years ago.

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2.        Super spikes: the next shoe advantage?

Another controversy about technology giving an unfair advantage at the Olympics? Nike just do it.

Spikes are allowed for track athletes, and Nike aren’t the only manufacturers to add them to shoes, but they must meet certain specifications: precise rules detail the acceptable length, diameter and number of spikes allowed.

First of all, they must be no longer than 9mm, except for those used in high jump competition, where they can be up to 12mm. In terms of diameter, a spike must also “fit through a square sided 4mm gauge” for at least half its length.

Second, “Any number of spikes up to 11 may be used but the number of spike positions shall not exceed 11.”

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12 is right out
Credit: Still from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, words by Cosmos Magazine.

3.        Physics of birds and bees – sincerely, Albert Einstein

A newly discovered letter reveals that Einstein predicted recent bee research seventy years ago.

In 2019, a group of RMIT researchers were in the midst of publishing a series of grand discoveries about how bees use their brains, when they got an unexpected surprise from Albert Einstein.

It might be a stretch, but we like to imagine he signed it like this.

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419vattu59l. Sx331 bo1204203200

4.        Flesh-eating vulture bees evolved a gut that loves meat

They might not sting, but there is nothing sweet about flesh-eating vulture bees.

Many entomologists will tell you that bees are basically wasps that became vegetarian, but a little-known genus of tropical stingless bee – Trigona – has evolved to have a particular taste for raw flesh. They even have a special meat-chewing tooth, winning them the charming name of “vulture bees”.

Now, a paper published in mBio, also describes how the vulture bees have the carnivorous microbiome to match, including familiar bacteria in sourdough, and even take home meaty leftovers.

The carnivorous Urak-hai bees took leftover meat home in ‘little chicken baskets’.

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And urak-hai with yellow stipes. It says looks like meats back on the menu boys
Graphical abstract. Credit: Cosmos/Imgflip

5.        Cretaceous crab revolution in exquisite detail

The world’s most complete crab fossil preserved in amber shows gills, may have climbed trees.

Picture the scene: you’re a crab minding your own business, scuttling along the shoreline on a balmy day when, out of nowhere, a blob of sticky tree sap encases you, freezing you in time for 100 million years. It was a moment of bad luck for this unfortunate crustacean, but a big win for science, with a new study in the journal Science Advances describing in pristine detail the anatomy of one of the earliest preserved crabs from the Cretaceous era.

Don’t resurrect them, though.

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Cretaceous crab 2
Credit. Cosmos

6.        Underwater hotels for homeless seahorses

Researchers have released hundreds of baby endangered seahorses in man-made ocean hotels to boost their population.

Wild storms have wrecked seahorse habitats across the Australian east coast. Vast volumes of sand smothered the soft coral, sponge and seagrass homes of the White’s seahorse. As a result, about 90 per cent of the population was destroyed. 

Now the race is on to rehouse the survivors.  

Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney are working with New South Wales DPI Fisheries and Sydney SEA LIFE Aquarium to build seahorse ‘hotels’.

It’s a housing program aimed at restoring their habitat and helping the population grow again.

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Hotel for sea horses 1

7.        How efficient is the human brain?

A new study reveals the superiority of our mammalian grey matter.

The researchers analysed neurons from 10 mammals – the most extensive electrophysical study of its kind to date – and found that bigger neurons lead to more ion channels in a relatively constant ratio of size-to-channels.

That is, in every mammal except humans, who had a much lower density of ion channels than expected.

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Ion channel meme

8.        Explainer: what is La Niña?

La Niña, and its counterpart El Niño, are large-scale weather events that happen in the Pacific Ocean.

El Niño was originally named by Peruvian fishermen when they noticed the warmer currents around their coast. It means ‘little boy’ in Spanish, and La Niña means ‘little girl’.

There is normally a large body of warm water in the Western Pacific, to the north-east of New Guinea. Sea-surface temperatures there are some of the highest in the world, and – as a result – a lot of water evaporates in that area and leads to precipitation around the Western Pacific.

Even though a La Niña was announced in November, this meme was apparently too silly to make it into the final article.

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La nina announcement 2

9.        New loo protocols: Put a lid on it

Research flushes out the risks of bacterial infection in toilets. Not putting the lid down in a public toilet puts you at higher risk of illness.

You can’t say no to Beyonce.

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Meme toilet

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