125 Million Years Ago, One of the World's Very First Flowers Bloomed

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iStock

Ferocious dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the early Cretaceous Period (145 to 100 million years ago), but beneath their giant feet, a tiny—yet important—evolutionary movement was beginning to take root. During the previous Jurassic Era, the world had been filled with ferns, conifers, and cycads, and nary a flower bloomed. This changed around 125 million years ago, our fossil records show, when one of the word’s very first flowers, Archaefructus liaoningensis, sprouted in what is now northeastern China. This preserved plant marks the beginning of angiosperms, which are fruiting plants that rely on animals to spread their capsule-enclosed seeds.

In the video below, PBS Eons explains why angiosperms were so important to early life on Earth, and how they took over the world to eventually account for more than 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial plants.

19 Common Things Science Hasn’t Figured Out

YouTube
YouTube

Whether we want to admit it or not, everyone cries. And while experience has taught us that it's a seemingly natural reaction to being either incredibly sad or incredibly happy, scientists have yet to figure out exactly why that salty discharge pours from our eye sockets when we're feeling emotional. It could be a way to bond with our fellow humans, or a way to alert someone else that something is amiss. But these are all just guesses, as weeping is just one of many everyday behaviors the world's smartest brains still haven't quite cracked the code on yet.

Join editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy as she digs into the science—or lack thereof—of 19 seemingly normal things we do that are a mystery to scientists (you can add sleeping, laughing, and hiccuping to that list, too) with the first edition of our all-new Mental Floss List Show. There's a fancy new set, a fancy new host, and plenty of mind-boggling topics we'll be discussing. So put on your smartypants and check out the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

A Clue on the Ceiling of Grand Central Terminal Shows How Dirty It Was 30 Years Ago

iStock.com/undercrimson
iStock.com/undercrimson

The mural above the concourse at Grand Central Terminal is one of the most gawked-at ceilings in New York City, but even daily commuters may have missed a peculiar feature. Tucked at the edge of the green and gold constellations is a rectangular black mark. The apparent blemish didn't get there by mistake: As Gothamist explains in its new series WHY?, it was left there by restorers when the ceiling was cleaned more than 20 years ago.

Prior to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's renovation of Grand Central in the 1990s, the concourse was a lot dirtier. The station itself was constructed in Manhattan in the early 1900s, and the celestial scene that's on the ceiling today was painted there in the 1940s. It took only a few decades for tobacco smoke and other pollutants to stain the mural so badly that it needed to be restored.

Using Simple Green-brand cleaning solution and cotton rags, conservators spent two years scrubbing nearly every inch of the ceiling back to its former glory; the one part they skipped was a 9-inch-by-18-inch patch in the northwest corner. Sometimes, when doing a major cleaning project, preservationists will leave a small sample of the art or artifact untouched. If the cleaning products did any damage to the paint, the patch gives future preservationists something to compare it to. It also acts as a snapshot of what the mural looked like in its old condition.

To hear more about the mural and its dirty secret, watch the video from Gothamist below.

[h/t Gothamist]

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