An Austrian museum team recovered two giant tusks and other remnants of what experts say are apparently the remains of a rare mammoth breed, after construction crews unearthed them while working on a freeway. Officials from Vienna’s Museum of Natural History said the tusks are more than 8 feet long and apparently come from a mammoth that lived more than a million years ago. That precedes the more well-known woolly mammoth.
Galaxy spotted is mostly dark matter
Scientists have found something entirely new: a galaxy as huge as the Milky Way that is made up almost entirely of dark matter, the mysterious stuff that barely interacts with the “normal” matter we’re familiar with. The galaxy Dragonfly 44 is 300 million light-years away. If scientists can track down a similar galaxy closer to home, however, they may be able to use it to make the first direct detection of dark matter. In the Milky Way, there is five times more dark matter than regular matter. Dragonfly 44, in contrast, is 99.99 percent dark matter.
Extinct dolphin’s skull sat in drawer
Scientists have determined that a skull that had been sitting in a drawer at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington for more than 60 years belonged to a previously unknown species of extinct dolphin. The animal, whose skull was found in 1951 in Yakutat, Alaska, has been given the name Arktocara yakataga, which can be loosely translated from the Greek as “the north face from Yakutat.” There is one descendant of Arktocara still extant, the South Asian river dolphin, a freshwater animal that is on the edge of extinction. Arktocara was almost certainly an oceanic creature. The dolphin’s discoverer, Alexandra Boersma, a researcher at the National Museum, said that judging only from the size of the skull, it was probably about 7½ feet long. It had a flexible neck, unlike oceanic dolphins.
Putting vortex of fire to good use
Fire whirls, colloquially called firenadoes, burn hotter than many other fires, and the results can be devastating. “We wanted to harness the power of fire whirls for good,” said Huahua Xiao, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland. With a fuel called n-heptane, he and his colleagues created a fire whirl about 2 feet high with a typical yellow flame. But that little firenado soon changed to a smaller, swirling blue flame, which was even more efficient at burning the fuel. Once Xiao and his colleagues have a better handle on its dynamics, they will try to recreate the blue whirl on a larger scale — a size that might be useful in burning off an oil spill.