5 Most Incredible Discoveries of the Week

Including an explanation for why you're terrible at swatting fruit flies
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2014 5:22 AM CDT
5 Most Incredible Discoveries of the Week
This 2012 file photo released by Harvard University shows the fragment of papyrus.   (AP Photo/Harvard University, Karen L. King, File)

An intriguing discovery about a reference to a wife of Jesus and a potentially huge breakthrough about ethanol are on the list:

  • Papyrus Mentioning Jesus' Wife Not a Fake, But ...: Two years ago, a Harvard professor debuted an ancient papyrus now known as the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" at a conference in Rome. The papyrus makes an explicit reference to the woman's existence with the line, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'" Now, extensive testing by professors from Columbia, Harvard, and MIT in the fields of electrical engineering, chemistry, and biology has found no indications that it is a modern forgery. To call it controversial is putting it mildly.
  • Scientists: We Can Make Ethanol Without Corn: Could ethanol someday essentially be produced out of thin air? A group of scientists has published research detailing a new method of making ethanol out of carbon monoxide gas, instead of corn or sugarcane. A prototype device is still a few years away, but the environmental impacts could be profound.

  • Fruit Flies Move Like Fighter Jets: Swatting a fruit fly is as tricky as trying to catch a tiny fighter jet with an expert pilot at the controls, researchers say. High-speed cameras captured the insects avoiding threats by executing supercharged, banked turns much like fighter planes. Not bad for a brain the size of a salt grain.
  • Just 5 Mutations and Bird Flu Goes Airborne: H5N1 has killed 60% of the 650 humans it's known to have infected in nearly two decades, making it an incredibly deadly but difficult to transmit virus. A new study tries to answer the question of how little it would take to make bird flu easily spreadable. The conclusion: only five gene mutations.
  • Study Sinks One Titanic Iceberg Theory: The year the Titanic sank wasn't one with "an enormously large crop of icebergs" as has long been believed, according to new research. Researchers analyzed Coast Guard data going back to 1900 and found that 1912 had a relatively large but by no means exceptional number of icebergs drifting south across the 48th parallel.
Click for more discoveries, including one about a gold crystal "too big to be real" being ... real. (More discoveries stories.)

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