5 Most Incredible Discoveries of the Week

Including a lab error that turned out for the best

By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff

Posted May 17, 2014 5:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – Two ancient cave discoveries, one human and one from the sea, highlight the list this week:

  • Ancient Skeleton May Settle Debate on First Americans: A slight teenage girl who died in a Mexican cave 12,000 years ago may help settle a long-simmering debate in archaeological circles: Where did the very first Americans come from? The answer doesn't seem to be Europe, Australia, or southeastern Asia, but rather a land that no longer exists called Beringia—it once connected Siberia and Alaska but is now submerged beneath the Bering Sea. The ancient girl has the DNA of modern Native Americans.
  • Scientists Find World's Oldest Sperm: About 17 million years ago, a shrimp-like creature had sex in a cave in Australia, but instead of an afterglow, she got hit almost immediately with what one scientist thinks was a "torrential rain of bat droppings." Her misfortune then is scientists' delight today, because the chemicals in the bat guano preserved both her and the "giant" sperm still inside her.

  • Lab Mistake Results in Momentous Find: It's a happy accident: A mistake at an IBM research lab has created the first new synthetic polymers in 20 years. They're light, strong, and recyclable and could transform the old-school world of plastics and polymers.
  • Shorter Men Have Longer Lives: Study: FOXO3—what a gene: Men who get a "protective" version of it will experience a number of longevity-related upsides: It contributes to regulating insulin, suppressing tumors, and protecting cells from oxidative stress. But it's also likely to make them short.
  • Woman's Cancer Cured by ... Measles: In a breakthrough that could offer new hope to people with some kinds of cancer, Mayo Clinic researchers say they managed to wipe out a woman's cancer with a blast of measles vaccine strong enough to inoculate 10 million people. The 50-year-old woman's blood cancer, which had spread through her body, went into complete remission after the vaccine dose.
Click to read about more discoveries.

Diver Susan Bird, working at the bottom of a Mexican cave called Hoyo Negro, brushes an ancient human skull.
Diver Susan Bird, working at the bottom of a Mexican cave called Hoyo Negro, brushes an ancient human skull.   (AP Photo/National Geographic, Paul Nicklen)
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