MI weekly selection #48

Palace of the heavenly purity at the Forbidden City | Credit: Jintan / Wikimedia Commons
Palace of the heavenly purity at the Forbidden City | Credit: Jintan / Wikimedia Commons

China’s Forbidden City had rocks transported via ice sheets.

The massive stones used to build parts of China’s Forbidden City in the 15th century were pulled by several hundred workers more than 40 miles on sledges across artificial ice, researchers say. China had discovered the wheel, but a sign at the Forbidden City hinted that the builders chose to use ice sledges because it was more reliable, even though it needed more workers.


Rare microbe found in 2 spacecraft clean rooms

A hardy microbe has been discovered in spacecraft clean rooms in Florida and South America, and nowhere else on Earth. Tersicoccus phoenicis doesn’t need much to survive, and Parag Vaishampayan of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory theorizes that the microbe might be traced to an extremely harsh environment such as a cave or desert.


Knee ligament rediscovered

A ligament in the knee that has largely gone unnoticed is finally getting some attention. First noticed by a surgeon in Paris about 150 years ago, little study has been done to figure out its function, until now. Dubbed the anterolateral ligament by Belgian researchers at the University Hospital Leuven, the structure might play an important role in keeping the knee from twisting, according to a report in the Journal of Anatomy.


Meteors hitting Earth at higher rate than once thought.

The possibility of meteors hitting Earth like the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, this year is greater than once thought, according to a study published in Nature. “You would only expect every 150 years on the basis of the telescopic information. But when you look at our data and extrapolate from that, we see that these things seem to be happening every 30 years or so,” said University of Western Ontario, professor Peter Brown, the lead author of the study, whose team examined data from the last 20 years collected from sensors around the world. They found that about 60 meteors had entered Earth’s atmosphere but most were undetected because they exploded in remote areas or over the ocean.


Well-preserved tomatillo fossil oldest found in South America

The fossil of a tomatillo, dating back 52.2 million years, is the oldest fruit in the tomato family ever discovered in South America, according to scientists at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. The fossil is flattened, but still looks much like the husk-covered modern tomatillo. “This is the first fossil anybody has ever seen of the entire tomato-potato-eggplant family. It’s also pretty old. This actually does match up pretty well with the idea that the Solanaceae family first diversified in South America,” said Penn State University paleobotanist Peter Wilf.


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