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Calling all readers: Vote for Ohio State’s Coolest Science Story of 2021

Finalists studied black holes, COVID dust, fossils, leisure and quantum materials

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for the Ohio State News research communications team, when we invite readers to vote for the university’s Coolest Science Story of the Year.

This is our fifth annual contest, and the winner receives a trophy from Ohio State News and a $500 award from the Ohio State’s Enterprise for Research, Innovation and Knowledge.

We’ve written over 170 science stories this year, making it a difficult task to select the list of five finalists. But whittle down to that finalist list we did:

Black hole is closest to Earth, among the smallest ever discovered: Scientists discovered one of the smallest black holes on record – and the closest one to Earth found to date. It was dubbed “The Unicorn,” in part because it is, so far, one of a kind, and in part because it was found in the constellation Monoceros – “The Unicorn.”

COVID-19 in our dust may help predict outbreaks, study finds: A study done in rooms where COVID-19 patients were isolated shows that the virus’s RNA – part of the genetic material inside a virus – can persist up to a month in dust, a finding that offers another option for monitoring COVID-19 outbreaks in specific buildings, including nursing homes, offices or schools.

Newly identified saber-toothed cat is one of largest in history: Researchers completed a painstaking comparison of seven uncategorized fossil specimens with previously identified fossils and bone samples from around the world to describe a new species: a giant saber-toothed cat that lived in North America between 5 million and 9 million years ago, weighing up to 900 pounds and hunting prey that likely weighed 1,000 to 2,000 pounds. 

A quantum step to a heat switch with no moving parts: Researchers discovered a new electronic property at the frontier between the thermal and quantum sciences in a specially engineered metal alloy – and in the process identified a promising material for future devices that could turn heat on and off with the application of a magnetic “switch.”

Think leisure is a waste? That may not bode well for your mental health: Feeling like leisure is wasteful and unproductive may lead to less happiness and higher levels of stress and depression, a series of studies revealed. Researchers examined the effects of a common belief in modern society: that productivity is the ultimate goal and time’s a-wasting if you’re just having fun.

Voting starts today and is open for one month, until 5 p.m. Jan. 21, 2022. The process is decidedly unscientific: Participants may cast one vote per day until the poll closes.

Thank you in advance for deciding which story will reign as Ohio State’s Coolest Science Story of 2021!

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