A famous 1936 image shows the people of Nebraska sprawled on the capitol lawn to escape record-breaking temps that had turned their AC-free homes into slow roasters. These vintage photos can make modern summer heat seem cool in comparison. But it isn't. Average temperatures today are warmer than they were a century ago. And this week, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the first six months of 2017 the second warmest on record. First place went to 2016.
The invasive species didn't mean to be bad. Not really. Often introduced to solve uniquely human problems like pests or erosion, plants and animals that find themselves in a new place, far from their native habitat, aren't actually making an effort to destroy everything they nibble on or colonize. They're just growing and flourishing the way living things do.
Move over Tyrannosaurus rex: There's a new prehistoric carnivore in town. Meet the Razanandrongobe sakalavae, an ancient crocodile from Madagascar measuring as much as 20 feet long by 5 feet wide. Razana's name comes from the native Malagasy for “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava.” This croc had steak knives for teeth, and was the first of its subfamily to live mostly on land.
As big as the state of Delaware. Twice as big as Luxembourg. When Larsen C, a Western Antarctic ice shelf—otherwise known as a floating mass of ice attached to land—finally separated itself from the mother shelf earlier this week, the news didn't just send waves rippling across the Wendell Sea. It also launched a thousand size analogies (it's twice the volume of Lake Erie, in case you were still having a hard time visualizing it).
Not everyone is familiar with the tardigrade (also known as the water bear, also known as the moss piglet, previously known as "animalcules"), and that's a damn shame. They're less than a millimeter long, sure, but they're almost certainly the most indestructible animals on the planet. You can expose them to the unforgiving vacuum of space, starve them for decades, dehydrate them for literally-who-knows-how-long, boil them, mash them, stick them in a stew, whatever, and as soon as you return them to normal conditions they'll perk right back up and go on their merry way. Their abilities are so obscenely awesome that some scientists are convinced they contain an unprecedented ratio of DNA that's "stolen" from other organisms by way of horizontal gene transfer, though these results proved controversial.