The ancient, giant virus discovered in melting Arctic ice is not going to kill you. But it’s not the first ancient virus that scientists have found frozen — it’s the fourth since 2003. And you can be sure it won’t be the last.

The newly discovered, 30,000-year-old virus is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Mollivirus sibericum is a whopping 0.6 microns across, making it what scientists call a giant virus. And it has more than 500 genes, compared with just 9 in HIV. Scientists are figuring out what that means for a virus, and what it says about the way viruses evolved — and how we should deal with them.

If scientists can confirm that humans and animals won’t be susceptible to M. sibericum, they’re going to wake it up so they can study it. But they’re proceeding with caution. These viruses may be ancient, but they want to be sure they’re not reviving anything potentially harmful.

 

People rate others’ skin softer than own

Have you ever touched a loved one’s arm and marveled at the softness of his or her skin? Turns out it’s probably all in your head, a study shows.

Researchers from the University College London found that people rated others’ skin as softer than theirs, regardless of whether it actually was. The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, reveal a sort of illusion that helps people form social bonds — by making the act of offering this simple tactile pleasure a reward in itself. “Social touch plays a powerful role in human life, with important physical and mental health benefits in development and adulthood,” the authors wrote.

 

Ceres’ bright spots are a mystery

New images captured by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft provide the best view to date of bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres — though nobody yet knows what they are. Ceres is thought to hold water beneath its surface. The bright spots, spangled across the bottom of the Occator crater, may be ice formed by water leaking from below, or perhaps salt left after the water evaporated. Mission scientists also produced a 3-D topographic map of the crater, finding that in places, the rim rises almost vertically for 1 mile.

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