5 Most Incredible Discoveries of the Week

Including a dreadful-sounding roach and a slam on facial hair
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2015 5:30 AM CDT
5 Most Incredible Discoveries of the Week
Three winners of a beard contest on Aug. 11, 2007, in Chur, Switzerland.   (AP Photo/Keystone/ Jakob Menolfi)

A "bleak" study on Earth's giant herbivores and a prodding by scientists to reserve that table for one make the list:

  • Cockroach With Swiveling Head Sounds Absolutely Terrifying: Scientists found an insect embedded in amber in Burma that they say looks like some a roach/crane fly/praying mantis hybrid. The 100-million-year-old roach had a long neck, elongated legs so it could surprise prey, and an Exorcist-style head that swiveled.
  • Going Out Alone Is a Good Thing: Don't think you're a loser by going to a restaurant or art gallery by yourself, because you'll likely have just as good a time as if you went with friends. That's what scientists who studied solo and group outings found, and they say that the "spotlight effect"—worrying what others think of us—may keep us holed up at home.

  • Blame Global Cooling (Not Warming) for Tibet Mystery: Locals living at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau grew their key staple, millet, until about 4,000 years ago. Researchers think temperatures got so cool that millet became unsustainable, and that wheat and barley swooped in to take millet's place. The defunct crop could make a comeback in the region, though, for the exact opposite reason.
  • Beards Are Apparently Dirty, Disgusting Things: It wasn't really an official scientific study, and facial hair probably won't make you sick—but a microbiologist who swabbed a bunch of beards found a "degree of uncleanliness" that is "somewhat disturbing." Some of the samples even turned up the same stuff you'd find in fecal matter. You're welcome.
  • Goodbye, Rhinos, Camels, Elephants?: A study described as "horribly bleak" finds the majority of our planet's biggest herbivores face the risk of extinction. Ecologists zeroed in on 74 "terrestrial mammalian herbivore" species whose mean adult body mass is 220 pounds, and 44 of them (about 60%) are in danger of disappearing. Habitat changes and hunting are reportedly the biggest contributing factors, but it's the ripple effect of their demise that could prove most frightening of all.
Click to read about more discoveries, including what the edge of space sounds like. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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