COVID-19 Vaccine, Sharks and Mezcal

A month’s worth of cool science stories, summed up.
Alistair Jennings, Contributor

(Inside Science) -- Researchers published two notable papers this month about the results of trials on new vaccines for the new coronavirus. One comes from a set of laboratories in China, the other from Oxford University in the U.K. And the results are pretty encouraging, and pretty similar.

International scientists monitored shark activity on a tropical reef in French Polynesia. They set cameras across the reefs, baited them with about 1 kilogram of oily fish and then counted how many sharks paid a visit to the cameras in the first hour. This is the largest ever global study of reef shark populations in their coastal habitat and it’s pretty shocking: Nearly 20% of the reefs had no sharks on them at all.

Another group of researchers were trawling the ocean depths looking for fish that hide in the dark. Specifically, ultrablack fish that reflect tiny amounts of visible light -- less than 0.5% of what hits them. How are these fish so black? The answer lies in their skin.

And lastly -- Mezcal. But how do you know if it’s the good stuff? Mezcal makers have a trick: They pour a bit into a glass and look for the bubbles -- if the bubbles are bursting quickly, chuck it away, but if they last for 30 seconds or more, then you’re onto a winner. Now fluid dynamics researchers have discovered why that trick works. Good Mezcal has around 50% alcohol content, and the team found that when water is mixed half and half with alcohol it becomes more viscous -- gooier -- which makes the bubbles less likely to pop.


1 - China vaccine study

2 - Oxford vaccine study

3 - Inside Science - second wave

4 - Shark study

5 - Ultra black study

6 - Mezcal study

Author Bio & Story Archive

Ali Jennings has his PhD in neuroscience from University College London.