Each week we’ll round up links to science stories or studies that blow our mind, tickle our funny bone, or generally strike our fancy.
Attention Hitchikers: Guide to the Galaxy May Need Revision
Galactic hitchhiker Ford Prefect should start planning a new edition to his guidebook—maps of the Milky Way’s landscape may need revision. According to observations from the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a system of 10 radio-telescope antennae deployed over a span of 5,000 miles, the galactic region that houses our solar system isn’t simply a small feature in between two large “arms” of a spiraling galaxy—it’s instead a more prominent structure.
Faster Whiskey Through Chemistry
Why wait eight to 10 years for your whiskey to age to peak deliciousness? Cleveland Whiskey, an Ohio-based bourbon maker, synthetically ages its brew to maturity in only about a week. Using a patent-pending process, the distiller employs highly pressurized vats and pieces of charred oak to imbue the spirit with the traditional flavor of barrel-aged bourbon. Look out, Maker’s Mark!
Horeshoe Crab Bandits Busted
Here’s fodder for Law & Order
: After a 30-minute nighttime helicopter chase in pursuit of a fleeing boat, the New York Police Department busted two poachers in Jamaica Bay on Memorial Day for possession of 200 illicitly obtained horseshoe crabs. The arthropods, which come ashore in May and June to lay their eggs along the East Coast, can be sold as bait for up to $5 a piece. While New Jersey banned harvest
of the species in 2008, it’s still legal in New York waters. The poachers, however, lacked the appropriate license and could face a $500 fine or up to six months in federal prison.
First Floating Wind Turbine Launched
The first grid-connected, floating platform wind turbine was deployed off the coast of Castine, Maine at the end of May. The structure, which has a semi-submersible concrete base and a lightweight composite tower, is a prototype that will shed light on how to improve floating wind turbine designs.
Apple Snail Babies Eat Poison
The bright pink eggs of the apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) are filled with a neurotoxin that makes them unpalatable to most predators (except red fire ants). The poison, known as an AB toxin, is used for biochemical defense by many plants and bacteria. Ensconced in the eggs, embryonic apple snails use enzymes to digest the chemical for nutrition as they develop, according to a study published last week in PLOS ONE.