Four Earth-sized planets detected orbiting the nearest sun-like star – Astronomers have discovered four Earth-sized planets orbiting the nearest sun-like star, tau Ceti, which is about 12 light years away and visible to the naked eye. These planets have masses as low as 1.7 Earth mass, making them among the smallest planets ever detected around nearby sun-like stars. Two of them are super-Earths located in the habitable zone of the star, meaning they could support liquid surface water.

Source: Fabo Feng, et al. Color difference makes a difference: four planet candidates around tau Ceti. arXiv, 2017.

Energy-efficient light bulbs increasing light pollution, new study suggests – Despite an increase in energy-efficient LED bulbs, surface light pollution has increased around the world, according to a team of international researchers led by Christopher Kyba, who's originally from Alberta.

Source: Christopher C. M. Kyba, et al. Artificially lit surface of Earth at night increasing in radiance and extent. Science Advances, 2017.

Cumberland Sound, a spa retreat for bowhead whales in need of deep exfoliation – Strange behaviour by bowhead whales in Cumberland Sound, Nunavut, left researchers perplexed — until they realized the whales were using boulders like pumice stones to exfoliate their skin.

Source: Sarah M. E. Fortune, et al. Evidence of molting and the function of “rock-nosing” behavior in bowhead whales in the eastern Canadian Arctic. PLOS ONE, 2017.

Watch these bizarre flies dive underwater using bubbles like scuba suits – Mark Twain said of these mysterious flies in California's Mono Lake: “They pop up to the surface as dry as a patent office report.”

Source: Floris van Breugel, Michael H. Dickinson. Superhydrophobic diving flies ( Ephydra hians ) and the hypersaline waters of Mono Lake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017.

The real science behind the unreal predictions of major earthquakes in 2018 – There's a curious connection between earthquakes and the Earth's rotation. But that doesn't mean the planet is in for a major shaking next year.

Source: R. Bendick, R. Bilham. Do weak global stresses synchronize earthquakes?. Geophysical Research Letters, 2017.

'Big Bird': Galapagos Study Shows New Bird Species Developed In Just Two Generations – The "Big Bird” finch species came about after a cactus finch from Española Island flew over to Daphne Major and mated with a local species. There are now 30 members of this new species on the island.

Source: Sangeet Lamichhaney, et al. Rapid hybrid speciation in Darwin’s finches. Science, 2017.

Prions Found in Skin of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Patients – Infectious protein aggregates from the skin of human patients can cause disease in mice.

Source: Christina D. Orrú, et al. Prion seeding activity and infectivity in skin samples from patients with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Science Translational Medicine, 2017.

Kevlar-Based Synthetic Cartilage Mimics Real Tissue – Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a synthetic replacement for cartilage. Dubbed “Kevlartilage,” the new material combines Kevlar nanofibers and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) to recreate the “magic” of cartilage. The rubber-like …

Source: Lizhi Xu, Xueli Zhao, Chuanlai Xu, Nicholas A. Kotov. Water-Rich Biomimetic Composites with Abiotic Self-Organizing Nanofiber Network. Advanced Materials, 2017.

Even 8,000 years ago, a meal without wine was like a day without sunshine – Earliest evidence of wine in the Near East has been found, in Georgia.

Source: Patrick McGovern, et al. Early Neolithic wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017.

Genetic Mutation in Amish Linked to Longer Life – Mutations in both copies of SERPINE1 can result in blood clotting disorders, but carriers might enjoy lifespan and health benefits.

Source: Sadiya S. Khan, et al. A null mutation in SERPINE1 protects against biological aging in humans. Science Advances, 2017.