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Perucetus Colossus

Last year, scientists in Peru announced they had discovered the world’s heaviest animal. Dubbed Perucetus Colossus or P. Colossus, for short, this ancient whale with a bloated body, small head and small fins, was estimated to tip the scales at a resounding 700,000 pounds. That’s larger than the largest animal up to that point—the Blue Whale—which can weigh up to 540,000 pounds.

The unusual fossils of P. Colossus believed to be nearly 40 million years old, were discovered in a desert in Peru. Whereas bones are normally spongy-looking, these fossils appeared dense and inflated, leading scientists to debate whether these were bones or rocks. It was determined they were, in fact, bones—vertebra bones, to be exact, each of which weighed at least 220 pounds. They also found ribs measuring nearly five feet across. All told, they found 13 vertebrae, four ribs, and part of a hip.


Using projections, it was estimated that this was the heaviest animal ever to have lived.

Headlines abounded, mentioning the size of this silly-looking beast.

skeleton, paleontology, Perucetus Colossus

Projected skeletal image of Perucetus Colossus

Ivan Iofrida/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

However, in late February 2024, scientists changed their tune. It turns out the estimates were off, and this chonky gal was merely big-boned, literally.

The new estimates put P. Colossus at 60 to 70 tons at 17 meters long and 98 to 114 tons at 20 meters long. It is still quite heavy, maxing out at 228,000 pounds, but not nearly as heavy as the blue whale, which maxes out at approximately 540,000 pounds or 270 tons.

Perucetus Colossus, Blue Whale, prehistoric fossils

P. Colossus as compared to a blue whale and a human

Cullen Townsend/Cullen Townsend (used with permission)

So what happened? Here’s some sciency language from the new study, “Downsizing a heavyweight: factors and methods that revise weight estimates of the giant fossil whale Perucetus Colossus."

“[The scientists who said P. Colossus was the heaviest animal] based their estimates on a new method, in which they first estimated the total skeletal mass of Perucetus through extrapolation from the skeletal material and then used the value to secondarily extrapolate its body mass, assuming skeletal to body mass ratios based on extant cetaceans and sirenians. A simple ratio mandates an isometric relationship between body and skeletal masses, and they justified this step by testing for isometry using a phylogenetically controlled regression.”

Ah yes, how many times a phylogenetically controlled regression has come around to bite us on the butt.

Translation: It’s understandable, sort of, why they used the wrong equation, but make no mistake—they used the wrong equation. And now, some science shade from the same paper:

“Their method involves questionable assumptions that suggest their body mass estimates are not reasonable…”

“It is important to note that the overall size estimate of Perucetus has remained the same,” Cullen Townsend told Upworthy. Townsend is an artist who renders prehistoric animals for the Natural History Museum Los Angeles, among others, and who created a corrected rendering to accompany the new paper.

Says Townsend: “What is now being debated is how heavy the animal potentially was. Our understanding of prehistoric animals is filled with holes and can change drastically with a new discovery or research. It is not surprising that scientists are coming to new conclusions. Our depictions of nearly every prehistoric animal have changed over time to better correspond with advancements in paleontology and our interpretation of the fossil record. Our current understanding of Perucetus is no different and will likely change again in the not-too-distant future. It is the nature of this field.”

So no "Real Scientists" reality show coming to cable TV anytime soon?

Or "Biggest Loser, Animal Style"? (P. Colossus wins, obviously)

The NatureWasMetal Reddit group saw this coming:

“Of course, Perucetus was going to be downsized… I’m never going to trust this sort of claim again, I felt like it couldn’t be true,” said Kaam00s.

“All my hopes and dreams shattered… I lived for that chonky whale man,” said Grouper3.

But Time-Accident3809 pointed out the silver lining:

“We are so lucky to coexist with the largest known animal to have ever lived. Now here’s hoping we don’t [mess] that up as well.”

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These eerie sounds collected from the universe are a Halloween delight.

Werewolf cries in the night may be scary here on Earth, but the sound of howling planets (!) shrieking into the black abyss of space? Now that'll make your skin crawl.

Just in time for Halloween, NASA has compiled a handful of spooky sounds it's discovered on its many missions through outer space. The terrifying tunes, collected in a 22-track SoundCloud playlist, are (literally) out of this world.

An image of Saturn taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2002. Photo by NASA/Getty Images.


While you wouldn't technically hear these sounds floating through the solar system all on your own — remember, in space, no one can hear you scream — NASA created the playlist by converting radio emissions from its voyages into sound waves.

"The results are eerie to hear," according to the agency. And they're definitely not wrong.

These ghostly rumbles coming from Saturn are straight-up nightmare fuel, to be honest.

These unnerving soundbites were picked up while NASA's Cassini spacecraft orbited the planet and its ominous rings. Cassini launched in 1997 and, having just completed its final mission, took a farewell dive into Saturn's atmosphere on Sept. 15, 2017, never to be seen or heard from again.  

FYI, the spooky static noises emitted from Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, sound like a flock of ghost birds trying to communicate through a TV screen.

Jupiter is one spooktacular place, people (and ghosts and goblins). NASA's Juno spacecraft, tasked with observing the massive fifth planet from our sun, has discovered other sinister sounds while venturing around its orbit too; among them, the bone-chilling audio illustrating Jupiter's supersonic solar wind heating and slowing by the planet's magnetosphere: the "roar of Jupiter."

No joke, these menacing, high-pitched thuds picked up by Kepler could be the soundtrack to a new Michael Myers film.

You know, for the moment right before he starts stabbing.

The Kepler mission explores other solar systems in our neck of the Milky Way galaxy in hopes of spotting other Earth-like planets resting in their star's habitable zones (where liquid water could exist). After all, there's a really good chance we're not alone out there.  (*shivers run down spine*)

The entire Halloween playlist is worth a listen.

It might be useful too. Need a last-minute soundtrack to play on repeat in your community's haunted house? Or maybe just some eerie tunes to welcome the trick-or-treaters to your front porch? Either way, NASA has reminded listeners that while, yes, science is fascinating, important, and useful, it can also be downright spooky too.

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Sriracha and 30 other things you love you didn't know were made by refugees.

The Made by Refugee campaign updates products in an important way.

Did you know that Sriracha was the creation of a Vietnamese refugee named David Tran? Neither did art students Jillian Young and Kien Quan.

The Miami Ad School students were reading up on the refugee crisis and how refugees have so often been treated as unwelcome through history when they came to a realization: Refugees have probably contributed a lot to society in ways many of us don't even know about.

After stumbling upon the fascinating refugee history of Sriracha, they set out to find other refugee-created products that exist in the world around us.


David Tran's Sriracha. Photo via Jillian Young and Kien Quan, used with permission.

With a little research, the pair learned that not only have refugees created some iconic products, but it's almost unimaginable to think of a world without their contributions to art, literature, science, and technology.

Refugees are not "takers" or some sort of net-negative drain on whatever country takes them in. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Here are just 30 things refugees have made or done that you should know about:

German refugee(1) Albert Einstein helped shape the modern understanding of physics with his body of scientific work such as the theory of relativity and his role in developing quantum theory. Austrian-born refugee (2) Carl Djerassi helped invent the birth control pill. In 1922, (3) Alec Issigonis, fled Turkey before going on to design the iconic Mini Cooper.

#3: Carl Djerassi revolutionized family planning. Photo via Jillian Young and Kien Quan, used with permission.

(4) Enrico Fermi was instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb, (5) Sergey Brin co-founded Google, and (6) Max Born won the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on quantum mechanics. Millions of people around the world have read (7) Anne Frank's diary. Unfortunately, Frank and her family were turned away when they sought asylum in the U.S., just like (8) Felix Salten, the author of "Bambi," who fled Austria for Switzerland in 1936.

(9) Victor Hugo, author of works such as "Les Misérables" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," fled France. "Heart of Darkness" author (10) Joseph Conrad, 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature winner (11) Thomas Mann, and "The House of the Spirits" author (12) Isabel Allende were also refugees.

#7: Anne Frank's diary gave the world an inside look at wartime persecution. Photo via Jillian Young and Kien Quan, used with permission.

At 24 years old, (13)the Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet. A human rights advocate, the Dalai Lama won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. Philosopher (14) Karl Marx fled Germany for London, philosopher and "The Open Society and Its Enemies" author (15) Karl Popper fled Austria as a child, and famed psychoanalyst (16) Sigmund Freud fled Austria to escape Nazi persecution.

#13: The Dalai Lama's reputation as a humanitarian is well-earned. Photo via Jillian Young and Kien Quan, used with permission.

Queen singer (17) Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar but fled with his parents to London amid a violent revolution. Composer (18) Bela Bartók sought refuge in the United States during World War II. Singer (19) K'nann was a refugee from Somalia, musician (20) Regina Spektor's family fled Russia for the United States when she was a child, and singer (21) Gloria Estafan was a Cuban refugee. Sri Lankan artist (22) M.I.A., Haitian (23) Wyclef Jean, Yugoslavian (24) Rita Ora, and Jamaican (25) Bob Marley all have histories as refugees as well.

#17: Freddie Mercury went from refugee to rock and roll legend. Photo via Jillian Young and Kien Quan, used with permission.

The world of politics has its own share of refugees, including South African President (26) Thabo Mbeki, U.S. Secretaries of State (27) Madeleine Albright and (28) Henry Kissinger, and Canadian politicians (29) Maryam Monsef and (30) Adrienne Louise Clarkson were all refugees before entering public service.

Is this the face of the next great scientist? Will he one day create art beloved around the world? Maybe. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

So how are you to know if a refugee is responsible for helping create something you love?

After all, it's not like every bottle of Sriracha or every Regina Spektor album comes with a handy label. Until now, that is.

Yong and Quan used their design skills to create exactly that — launching the label as part of their Made by Refugee campaign, a "product hijacking" operation. Using the orange and black refugee flag from the 2016 Olympics, the pair designed some simple stickers with a powerful message of recognition.

This easy awareness campaign has the power to change the world for the better. Photo via Jillian Young and Kien Quan, used with permission.

The sticker template is available for anyone to print out and place on refugee-made products to help spread awareness on their own.

In doing so, Quan and Young hope the stickers are able to shift how people see refugees as a group.

"People cast [refugees] as beggars, unassimilated foreigners, or burdens on a society’s resources," writes Quan in an e-mail. "[Refugees] are rarely emphasized for their individual talents or potential. We wanted to challenge the stereotype by highlighting the contributions they have made to our everyday lives."

Photo via Jillian Young and Kien Quan, used with permission.

For more about the campaign, check out their Facebook page and watch the product hijacking in action in their video below:

You may not have heard of the Ig Nobel Prizes, but they're basically the best thing about science.

They're a parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given out once a year. But these awards don't go to the kinds of studies that'll get anyone a meeting with the president or cure space fever. Instead, the prizes are given out to some of the weirdest, strangest, and just plain funniest academic achievements of the past year.

There are prizes in 10 different categories. Here are this year's winners:


1. The effect of polyester pants on rats' sex lives.

Image via iStock.

The reproduction category was won by the late Ahmed Shafik, of Egypt, for two studies looking at whether polyester, cotton, and wool trousers affected the sex lives of rats and humans.

2. Assessing the perceived personalities of rocks.

Image via iStock.

Are your rocks rugged? Sincere? Excited? These winners of the economics prize can tell you!

3. Why dragonflies love tombstones.

Photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images.

Nine scientists won the physics prize together for figuring out why certain dragonflies kept wigging out around polished black tombstones. Turns out the polished grave markers look just like water to the bugs!

The scientists also looked at why white-haired horses were so dang good at shooing away flies.

4. The chemistry prize was given to Volkswagen, for making emissions "disappear."

Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images.

The chemistry prize this year was a little dig at Volkswagen, who cheated automobile emissions testing.

5. What happens if you scratch an itch while looking in a mirror?

Image via iStock.

Five scientists in Germany revealed that if you have an itch on the left side of your body, you can fix it by looking into a mirror and scratching the right side instead! For that they won the medicine prize.

6. Scientists ask lying liars about lying.

Image via iStock.

Scientists asked 1,000 liars about how often and how good they were at lying. Turns out, kids are masters of deception. This won them the psychology prize.

7. "On the Reception of Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit."

Image via iStock.

Turns out some people are just bad at detecting what is and what isn't proactive paradigm-shifting phenomena that'll revolutionize your energy flow. Who knew? This was the winner of the peace category.

8.  For two researchers who learned what it means – what it really means – to be a badger and a goat.

Thomas Thwaites at the prize ceremony. Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP.

The biology category was jointly awarded to two men: Charles Foster, who lived as a badger, otter, deer, fox, and a bird; and Thomas Thwaites, who created an entire prosthetic goat-suit ... to live among the goats.

9. For a three-volume autobiographical work about the pleasure of collecting flies.

Image via iStock.

Specifically both dead flies and "flies that are not yet dead." This was the literature prize.

10. "For investigating whether things look different when you bend over and view them between your legs."

Image via iStock.

The perception prize was given for finding out that doing this might make images appear brighter and more distinct. Wow.

These are hilarious, but it's all in good fun.

Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP.

The winners all have a chance to bow out if they don't want to take part. And if they do want to accept their awards, they're invited to Harvard, where they're greeted with an adoring audience, (real) Nobel laureate emcees, prizes, and even an opera.

Marc Abrahams, who started the prizes, said the prizes are unique because it's not about who's the best or the worst or the most important.

"The only thing that matters is that it makes people laugh and then think," Abrahams said.

And there are a couple things we can take away.

Such as just because something is funny doesn't mean it can't still be helpful (imagine using the itchy mirror trick for a kid with chicken pox or in a burn ward). Or maybe these prizes show that science is still a human endeavor, and humans are, in the end, pretty weird, funny little animals ourselves.

But most of all, Abrahams hopes these can be a kind of inkblot test. People so often get told what's good and bad, but these prizes are so off-the-wall, they kind of defy any pat analysis. Abrahams hopes that each person will end up thinking and deciding for themselves which of these are good, silly, stupid, hilarious, or secretly brilliant.

As for me, I think I'm going to change up my wardrobe and then see what this whole badger thing is about.