Previous: The Cat That (Maybe) Ate an Entire Species
Next: Are the Bees Okay Now?



View count:148,550
Last sync:2022-11-12 21:00
2018 was full of exciting discoveries and incredible advancements in the field of science. So today, we are taking a look back at 2018 to highlight three more great science news stories!

Hosted by: Hank Green

SciShow has a spinoff podcast! It's called SciShow Tangents. Check it out at
Support SciShow by becoming a patron on Patreon:
Dooblydoo thanks go to the following Patreon supporters: Alex Schuerch, Alex Hackman, Andrew Finley Brenan, Sam Lutfi, D.A. Noe, الخليفي سلطان, Piya Shedden, KatieMarie Magnone, Scott Satovsky Jr, Charles Southerland, Patrick D. Ashmore, charles george, Kevin Bealer, Chris Peters
Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?
Quietest Science:
Oldest Science:
Magneticiest Science:

Image Sources:

"Magnetic Field"
Credit; UTokyo-ISSP
Lab website;
"An approach to 1000 T using the electro-magnetic flux compression"
D. Nakamura, H. Sawabe, and S. Takeyama
Rev. Sci. Instrum. 89, 016106 (2018).
[ ♪INTRO ].

More scientific papers come out every year than anyone could ever read, and there are more incredible advancements than we here at SciShow could ever hope to make videos about. So we wanted to take a look back at 2018 to highlight three more ways scientists have taught us about our world and about ourselves.

Welcome to 2018’s Science Superlatives! First up: a team of entomologists — with the help of about 200 elementary schoolers — have won our expertly curated, totally-not-made-up-for-this-video award for the “Quietest Science of 2018” for work they conducted during the 2017 solar eclipse that swept across the United States. Total solar eclipses interrupt the daily lives of all sorts of animals, from birds who suddenly think it’s bedtime to humans who gawk at the sky.

And different animals’ reactions to the temperature drop and sudden darkness can teach scientists about the kinds of environmental cues they use to keep track of time. So well before the 2017 eclipse, entomologists in Missouri and Oregon decided to try and use it to study bees. But they needed help — which they got from a couple hundred members of the public in.

Idaho and fourth and fifth graders from schools in Missouri. They left a total of 17 small microphones in fields and outside schools, designed to record bees buzzing by. Afterwards, the students used a computer program to identify when individual buzzes started and stopped within the recordings.

Thanks to all that assistance, the team discovered that bees are really affected by changing light levels during an eclipse. As the day got darker, they slowed down or stayed airborne longer. And during the several minutes of totality, when the Moon completely blocked the Sun, there was just one single buzz heard across all those different microphones — compared to an average of a buzz every couple minutes per mic in full daylight.

This opens up all sorts of interesting questions, like where were the bees during the darkness, and whether they stopped flying because they couldn’t see well or because of some other reason. And even though they couldn’t answer those this time around, there’s another eclipse coming through Missouri in 2024, and the team says they’ll be ready for it — with another batch of amateur entomologists. According to the winners of our completely legitimate “Oldest Science of 2018” award, our species first learned to draw sometime before 73,000 years ago.

That’s the age of the oldest drawing we’ve ever found, discovered in 2018 in a cave in South Africa. It’s no da Vinci, but it’s still a milestone in human history. Before this find, the oldest drawings we had were from about 64,000 years ago — and those were probably from Neanderthals.

Paleontologists have found evidence that anatomically modern humans made paints about 100,000 years ago, but the oldest painted thing was from about 40,000 years ago. Before then, it seemed like people only made engravings — grooves cut into something else, like a stone or an egg. And those inevitably leave scientists arguing whether the carving was done for the sake of art, or if they were just a byproduct of something else, like sharpening one stone with another.

Drawings are clearer: Someone 73,000 years ago definitely took a piece of red ochre, sharpened it to a point, and used it to draw lines on a stone. Figuring out why — if they were drawing something, or marking ownership, or counting — is pretty much impossible. What we do know is that these nine lines aren’t the whole story.

They seem like they continue past the edge of the stone, so it was probably part of larger rock — and a larger drawing — which broke off at some point in the past. The scientists are hoping they can find the rest of the stone so they can see this ancient artist’s full drawing and maybe even figure out what the lines represent. Usually, when you say that an experiment went better than expected, it’s just a way of saying that it went well.

But we know that our final story today worked better than expected, because the strongest indoor magnetic field in history broke the equipment designed to contain it. And since I’ve already done two of these, we might as well award this team of physicists from the University of Tokyo an award for “Magnetic-iest Science of 2018”. Magnetic field strength is measured in units of tesla.

Common fridge magnets might be about a hundredth of a tesla, while the field in an MRI can reach about 3 tesla. But all that is nothing compared to the 1,200 tesla produced in that lab in Tokyo. They started with a tube of very thin copper foil surrounded by a thick metal ring, with a smaller magnetic field — about the strength of an MRI — going through both of them. Then they quickly forced a huge electric current through the ring, generating a much stronger magnetic field.

And that generated a field of its own in the foil tube, all following the rules Michael. Faraday and others discovered back in the 1800s. The fields in the ring and the foil repelled each other, ultimately crushing the flimsy foil at a rate of about 5 kilometers a second.

That squeezed the original MRI-strength field into a very tiny space over about 40 millionths of a second. And when magnetic fields get squeezed, they get stronger. The team expected this one to get about 200 times stronger, reaching around 700 tesla.

So they built a shell around the experiment that could handle debris from a field that strong. Instead, they got 1,200 tesla — and some exploding equipment. To put that into perspective: if you had a magnet that strong the size of a watch battery you could probably lift an entire airplane.

People have made fields more than twice as strong as that by using a TNT explosion to squeeze the foil, but TNT is hard to use indoors… for obvious reasons. And if you can’t make the magnetic field in a lab, you can’t study what goes on with much precision — like if you want to learn more about how electrons behave in super-strong fields, or answer other questions from quantum physics. So this group in Tokyo has shown that indoor experiments can finally start to rival those outdoor explosions, giving physicists a new environment for experiments with super-strong fields.

As long as their lab equipment doesn’t blow up. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow! And a special thank you to our patrons.

We really can’t say it enough: we couldn’t make SciShow videos if it weren’t for your support. If you want to learn about joining our patron community and helping us do all the things that we do, all the info is over at And if you want to stick around next year and stay up to date with all the amazing science that’s going to happen, be sure to click on that subscribe button.

And I wanna give a final shoutout to our writing staff here at SciShow, who makes a possible for us to have content coming out even this time of the year. Working hard, making episodes. Thank you, guys. [ ♪OUTRO ].