The Tallest, Smallest, and Oldest Science of 2019 | Summary and Q&A

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December 27, 2019
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The Tallest, Smallest, and Oldest Science of 2019

TL;DR

Scientists discovered the world's oldest fungus, designed a circuit to detect the weakest radio signal possible, and found potential underground mountain peaks in the Earth's mantle.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What evidence supports the claim that the discovered microfossils are the world's oldest fungus?

The scientists identified long, thin, branching cells resembling modern fungi, found spores, and discovered chemical analysis signs of chitin, a substance used by fungi to build cell walls.

Q: How can detecting the weakest radio signal benefit scientific research?

Being able to detect a single photon can improve technologies such as MRIs and radio astronomy, enabling examination of super-faint radio wave sources.

Q: How did scientists analyze the Earth's mantle layers and discover potential underground mountain peaks?

By analyzing seismic waves from a past earthquake incident in Bolivia, researchers observed craggy topography with significant dips and peaks at the 660-km boundary in the mantle.

Q: What insights can the discovery of underground mountain peaks provide?

The finding aids in understanding mantle mixing and suggests the presence of ancient tectonic plates that have been drawn down into the mantle.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Scientists discovered microscopic fossils of what could be the world's oldest fungus in Arctic Canada, dating back to 890 million to one billion years old.

  • A circuit was designed to detect the weakest radio signal by using a qubit, a principle behind quantum computers, and effectively filtering out background noises.

  • Seismic wave analysis revealed potential underground mountain peaks between layers in the Earth's mantle, providing insights into mantle mixing and the possibility of ancient tectonic plates.

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