The Week In Science: The Significance Of King Tut's Penis, And An Explanation For Earthquake Lights

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king tut
The golden mask of Tutankhamun's mummy.

This week in science, as one year became the next, we reviewed some of the fascinating creatures discovered in 2013, found out exactly what happens to your body during one of those New Year’s Day polar bear plunges, and looked at some of the awesome machines that will be keeping New York City’s railroads clear of ice and snow this weekend. But there’s still a lot more knowledge that was dropped on us this week! Here’s a roundup:

If you’re lost in the woods with a dog, maybe you should pay attention next time he stops to poop. Researchers from the Czech University of Life Sciences say they’ve found evidence that dogs prefer to orient themselves along a north-south axis while they do their dirty business. (This scientific finding is brought to you by nearly 2,000 observations of dog pooping over two years, by the way). [Time]

Meet the absurdly cute and weird pink fairy armadillo. [WIRED]

King Tutankhamun was embalmed with his penis mummified at a hard right angle to his body; archaeologists now think this was a deliberate religious gesture. The erection, combined with other attributes of King Tut’s mummification – black oils and resins applied to darken his skin, and the removal of the pharaoh’s heart without replacing it with a scarab-shaped amulet – seem to be an attempt to cast him in the guise of the Egyptian god Osiris. Tut and his attendants may have been deliberately trying to counter a religious movement started by a previous pharaoh (and Tut’s likely father) Akhenaten, which focused more on the sun god Aten than the rest of the pantheon. [LiveScience]

Will the stranding of a Russian research ship in the Antarctic affect tourism? [USA Today]

“Jumping genes,” which copy and paste themselves throughout the genome, may be linked to schizophrenia. A new study – which examined the post-mortem brains of 120 people, 13 of them schizophrenia patients -- suggests that these genes may alter how neurons form during early brain development. [LiveScience]

Is marijuana withdrawal a real phenomenon? One writer investigates by combing through both scientific studies and personal experience. [Aeon Magazine]

Sometimes, before or during an earthquake, mysterious lights will appear near the ground or in the sky. Now, scientists think they have a way to explain this phenomenon: the seismic stress of rocks grinding against each other creates an electric charge that shoots up through a geological fault. Once it exits to the surface, the charge interacts with our atmosphere and creates glowing light – so we think. [Scientific American]

A gecko-like robot could be the future of spacecraft repair. Scientists from Simon Fraser University in Canada and the European Space Agency have made a wall-crawling, six-legged bot called Abigaille. [National Monitor]

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