Discovered: How to bring a sail boat up to 70 mph; mole-like creature lived 45 million years longer than thought; missing Mexican silver found in old European currency; species languish on shelves for years before being "discovered."
New sail boat speed record. How do you get a sailboat up to speeds approaching 70 miles per hour? By modifying the hydrofoil along the bottom, as the team behind the Vestas Sailrocket discovered in smashing the world sailing speed record this week. By attaching tiny, criss-crossed fences in strategic locations along the hydrofoil, the team was able to get its boat skimming the waters at 60 knots—well above the previous record of 55.65 knots set by kite surfer Rob Douglas two years ago. "These latest runs represent a real breakthrough in the world of sailing," says Vestas' pilot and project leader Paul Larsen. "It's the hydrodynamic version of going supersonic." [New Scientist]
Grave Robbers really outlived dinosaurs. Scientists have long known that the burrowing mammal Necrolestes patagonensis ("Grave Robber," in translation) outlived dinosaurs. But new research is forcing them to revise their dates on when the Grave Robbers themselves went extinct. It seems these mole-like critters actually survived 45 million years longer than previously thought, according to a new study by led by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's John Wible. The researchers found that the Grave Robber's resilience could be attributed to its underground existence. "There's no other mammal in the Tertiary of South America that even approaches its ability to dig, tunnel, and live in the ground," says Wible. "It must have been on the edges, in an ecological niche that allowed it to survive." [Scientific American]
Europeans stole Mexico's silver, used it as money. Minerologists have long wonder about where exactly all that silver that Spaniards pilfered from Mexican mines in the 1550s ended up. Now, thanks to new research from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, those colonial riches have been traced to old European money. By studying the chemical fingerprint of materials found in old English coins dating from 1317 to 1640, Anne-Marie Desaulty and Francis Albarède found that coins minted after the reign of Mary I contained tell-tale signs of their Mexican origins. [Science News]
There's a huge lag time between finding and "discovering" new species. Whenever a news item rolls around informing us that scientists have discovered a new species, it's tempting to picture intrepid Indiana Jones-type adventurers spying exotic creatures through their binoculars, quickly alerting the world about their exciting new find. The reality is that it takes a lot longer, according to a survey conducted by researchers from France's National Museum of Natural History. They found that, on average, over two decades elapse between the moment when samples of a new species are collected and when scientists finally get around to publishing their discovery of the novel lifeforms. That's not good for conservation efforts, because sometimes these species die out before scientists even "discover" them. "It's difficult to protect things we don't know about," says lead researcher Benoît Fontaine. [Science Now]