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Unlawful Knowledge

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Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Imagine the following: a man is charged with the brutal rape of an elderly woman. After rounds of interrogation, he finally cracks and confesses. During his trial, that confession is retold to the jury, and it is riddled with facts that only the attacker could have known: how he entered the home, where he struck his victim, etc. The jury, of course, convicts the accused.

In the matter of Eddie Lowery, something akin to the above happened. He was accused of—and confessed to—the rape of a 75-year-old woman, recounting his bad acts in great detail. Lowery served a decade in prison for his crime. Or, rather, Lowery served a decade in prison for the crime of some other man. Because, despite what he somehow knew, Eddie Lowery was innocent.

As reported by The New York Times, Lowery was exonerated when DNA evidence demonstrated that someone else was the rapist, not Lowery. But that came well after his parole, 10 years after his conviction. And it came after the trial, the confession, and, importantly, a 7-hour interrogation by police. University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett—who studied the stories of roughly 40 such innocents who confessed—offered a likely theory to the Times centering upon these lengthy interrogations. The stress leaves the accused in poor mental shape, looking for any way to end the badgering by police. So they confess, perhaps in hopes that their weak grasp of salient facts will later demonstrate the confession to be an empty one.

But something else occurs during that interrogation, argue Garrett and others. The police, most likely unintentionally, make mention of these facts here and there, and the accused may remember them and, subconsciously, reintroduce them into their confessions. (Or, perhaps, the police “correct” the accused along the way.) So instead of being able to point to clear and convincing evidence that your “confession” was anything but, the accused unintentionally demonstrate their guilt—falsely.

Lowery would find himself back in the legal system after this imbroglio—he brought an action against the district which wrongly convicted him, and received a $7.5 million settlement.

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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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