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Bat Poop: The World's Greatest Fossilizer

Before lying under a blanket of poop, this is what the Aden Crater sloth looked like.
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Turns out, guano is actually the key to keeping the remains of extinct animals intact for tens of thousands of years. This week Scientific American examines the 11,000-year-old skeleton of a Shasta ground sloth housed at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History, the most complete fossil of this sloth species ever discovered. Found in 1928 at the Aden Crater volcano in New Mexico, the sloth had been buried under layers of bat poop for eons. The dried-out poop kept the skeleton from rotting away, and scavengers avoided the guano-covered sloth.

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The Loneliest Little Space Probe

An artist's rendering of what Philae should have looked like, had its landing gone as planned. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

Twelve years ago, the European Space Agency launched the unmanned Rosetta spacecraft with a very particular mission: land a space probe on a comet for the first time in human history. Rosetta reached Comet 67P in 2014 and launched the Philae space probe. But Philae malfunctioned while landing, bounced off the surface of the comet, and fell into a shadowy crevice under a cliff that prevented light from reaching the probe's solar panels.

Sweet, sad Philae at the site of its actual resting place. Photograph courtesy of ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team/PA

Eventually, its battery died, and scientists were unable to pinpoint Philae's exact location. It seemed like years of hard work and millions of dollars were lost in just a few hours. This week, after nearly two years of searching, the Rosetta spacecraft found Philae. Just a lonely space probe on a lonely piece of rock floating alone in space.

Plastic Clothes in Summer. Sure, Why Not?

Look, it might not be pretty, but this plastic-based fabric could very well prevent you from dying of heat exhaustion on public transportation in summer. Photograph courtesy of Yi Cui Group/Stanford University

Unpopular opinion: Summer is the worst season. Skin is at a greater risk for severe sunburn, no one's deodorant actually lasts all day, and sometimes it's so hot that it seems like the world is just melting into a giant puddle of concrete sludge. Summer wardrobes consist mostly of cotton garments, but engineers at Stanford University suggest that we may soon be wearing plastic fabrics to keep cool during scorching days.

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While sweat evaporates through cotton, the fabric still traps body heat emitted as infrared radiation against the skin. The Stanford researchers' new plastic-based textile allows this heat to escape, keeping wearers up to 4 degrees cooler than they would be if they were wearing cotton. So, we're calling it: Next summer's sartorial trend will be the nanoporous polyethylene jumpsuit.

The Science Guy Is Back

Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

Guys, Bill Nye is getting a new show. The man who popularized science as entertainment for an entire generation is coming to Netflix this fall. Bill Nye Saves the World will be a talk show geared toward an older audience than Bill Nye the Science Guy was, and will be devoted to the subjects that dominate both scientific and cultural conversation.

Bow-time game forever strong. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

Nye will bring on special guests and conduct experiments aimed at dispelling myths about vaccinations, climate change, genetically modified foods, and other topics. Basically, for every anti-scientific claim about a scientific issue made by political or religious leaders, Nye wants to set the record straight. Probably while wearing a bow tie.

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