The oldest and biggest angiosperm (flowering) trees in the world, the African baobabs, are dying or already dead, scientists found. Nicknamed the “tree of life,” the Adansonia digitata L. is an icon of the savanna. Some survive for more than 2,000 years. The researchers found that since 2005, eight of the 13 oldest, and five of the six largest, African baobab trees have either died or their oldest parts or stems died. The scientists called the deaths “an event of an unprecedented magnitude.”

 

Artistic differences with lightning strikes

Researchers have found that artists tend to paint lightning with fewer branches than they electricity actually have. Gábor Horváth of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest found that painted strikes had 11 arms at most, but photographs showed as many as 51 fingers. It’s consistent with the ways humans assess numbers. Below five, we rapidly judge; between six and 10, we count; above 10, we estimate, with decreasing accuracy.

Mayflower genealogies help descendants

Figuring out whether you’re a descendant of a Pilgrim is now just a mouse click away. A monthslong effort to digitize and index the authenticated genealogies of Mayflower passengers is available at americanancestors.org, the New England Historic Genealogical Society said. It includes 193,000 birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial records through five generations of 50 of the 51 Pilgrims known to have descendants.

Tracking down the mass of ghost particles

Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have started collecting data with a $71 million machine designed to help determine the mass of the universe’s lightest particle. Researchers say pinpointing the mass of neutrinos, sometimes called “ghost particles” because they’re so difficult to detect, is one of the most important questions in particle physics. The project involves 200 people from 20 institutions.

news services