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Hank reviews the latest in science news, including the discovery of Element 115, the biggest volcano on Earth, and new insights into what it might mean to have small testicles.

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We've had some pretty great Science in September. In Chemistry we discovered the newest element; in Geology we discovered the Earth's biggest Volcano - how did we miss that for so long?; and in Anthropology, we found a huge advantage to having not so huge testes.

I'm Hank Green, welcome to SciShow News.


 The Biggest Volcano!

A team of geologists at the University of Houston says that it has identified the largest volcano in the world and its been right under our noses.

For about 20 years, scientists have been studying a feature called the Tamu Massif - a giant undersea mountain 1,600 kilometers east of Japan. They've known something volcanic was going on down there because the Massif is a huge dome of basalt - a volcanic rock - but since it's so deep, it's peak is about 2000 meters below the ocean surface, it's been hard to tell if the mass was one volcano or a composite of several.

Now new core samples and seismic reflection data published in the journal Nature Geoscience showed that the 23 meter thick flow surrounding the mound came from a single source, and in terms of sheer area, there's no doubting its size. Tamu Massif takes up 310,000 square kilometers - about the area of the British Isles.

I know what you're thinking "Ah, the biggest volcano on Earth - great, another thing to be afraid of". Finally, we have something you shouldn't worry about: the geologists say that Tamu Massif became extinct or inactive soon after it formed 145 million years ago. Makes you wonder, maybe there's a correlation between a volcano's size and how caring it is.

 Lil Testicles

Or at least it makes me wonder that because it turns out men with smaller testicles are more likely to be more caring fathers. Anthropologists at Emory University made this discovery which they published in Monday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team took MRIs of 70 American fathers while they were looking at photos of their kids and also interviewed the men and their partners about care-giving. The team found that testicular size was inversely correlated with the men's nurturing-related brain activity and how much parenting they did.

Though not a perfect correlation, the findings seem to corroborate what is known as the Evolutionary Life History Theory. This posits that animals have a limited amount of energy when it comes to reproduction. They can either spend it mostly on rearing young or mostly on mating and all of the fighting and flashiness and other stuff that goes with it. Since the men in the study who had smaller testicles, the glands most responsible for mating and mating behavior, also tended to be more responsive to their kids, the scientists say this suggests there is some kind of evolutionary trade-off between mating and parenting. So if you wanna have a nice relationship between you and your spouse and your child, just take out the calipers and check the ball size.

So yes, parenting, mating, they take lots of energy but you know what else takes a lot of energy?  Creating a new element.

 Element 115 is Real

Though a fictional version of Element 115 has been known for years by gamers, UFO buffs and conspiracy theorists everywhere, on August 27th, physicists from Lund University in Germany said that they had created the real thing.

Writing in the Journal of Physical Review Letters, they said that they had smashed atoms of calcium, number 20 on the Periodic Table, into atoms of americium, atomic number 95. In a few of the collisions, the atoms combined to form a super-heavy element with 115 protons.

So it sounds just like easy math adding protons together, but the process is not. In 2003, scientists did the same thing, but only succeeded in making one atom of the stuff. This time the German team managed to make 30 atoms - still not much. Both groups knew that they had succeeded by the x-ray emissions that their collisions released, since each element gives off a unique and predictable type of x-ray fingerprint.

Even their very modest creation of 30 atoms didn't last long because Element 115 decays within milliseconds into another lighter element. This means that it's not within the fabled "Island of Stability", which you gamers may have heard of. This hypothetical island is a group of super-heavy elements that would theoretically be so stable that they would take decades to decay. Even though most elements heavier that Uranium are really unstable and decay within seconds, some experts have theorized that an element could have so many protons and neutrons that it would stabilize itself. Then, depending on which games you play, this element would possess all manner of crazy chemical properties, from fueling alien spaceships to creating races of zombies.

Now, I'm sure that you don't buy into that stuff and it turns out that the world's official chemistry group isn't totally convinced about Element 115 either. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, which is in charge of confirming and naming new elements, says it's waiting for more research to be done before it formally adds 115 to the Periodic Table. So for now, its going by the unofficial nickname of ununpentium, from the Latin for 115.


Now this might be the last chance we have to name a new element, so if you have any idea what you would like it to be called, the International Union probably won't listen to you, but we will. Let us know in the comments below and don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and go to and subscribe.