08/22/2014 09:18 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

This Week in Science: Space Plankton, Life Under Ice, and Big City Spiders

Seven days; lots of science in the news. Here's our roundup of this week's most notable and quotable items:

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Russian cosmonauts said they found sea plankton growing on the windows of the International Space Station. More and more parents are refusing vitamin K shots for newborns due to anti-vaccination fears, placing babies at risk for severe brain and intestinal bleeding. The recent "hiatus" in the rise of global temperatures despite increasing greenhouse gases may be thanks to the Atlantic Ocean acting as a heat sink.

Most birds can't taste sugar, but it turns out that hummingbirds repurposed taste receptors normally sensitive to savory flavors and turned them into sweet detectors. A medium-sized black hole was spotted for the first time. Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice at record speed; the amount of water both ice sheets are contributing to sea level rise has doubled since 2009. An Antarctic lake sealed beneath 2,600 feet of ice is teeming with microscopic life.

It's still unclear if the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp actually helped two aid workers recover from the disease. A vaccine against an Ebola relative, the Marburg virus, proved effective in monkeys. Escargot is not a French invention, it turns out; ancient humans living in Spain 30,000 years ago appear to have enjoyed snacking on snails.

star just 1,000 light years from Earth may contain chemical shrapnel from the explosive death of one of the first stars to arise after the Big Bang. Seals may have brought tuberculosis to the Americas 1,000 years ago. Cities are breeding bigger spiders.


'This Week In Science' is presented by the World Science Festival, an annual celebration of science in New York City. To see engaging scientific conversations, learn about new discoveries and more, check out the Festival website.