Editor's Picks: Dark Lasers, Solar Flares and More

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Above, you’ll see some of the top images of the week. Click on each one to explore the story behind it.

In case you couldn’t get away from the beach this past week, here are five can’t-miss Discovery News stories:

5. Dark Lasers Shoot Beams of Night

Ordinary lasers would be considered failures if they didn’t emit light. But this new technology is no ordinary laser.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and JILA, a joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado at Boulder, have developed a laser that fires off “dark pulses.” In other words, instead of light, this laser shoots night.

The technology could be applied to fiber optics to improve communication. Pulses of light fade or degrade over long distances to cause noise and errors. Dark pulses don’t have the same drawbacks.

4. New Yeasts Could Yield Tastier Light Beers

Sure, the euro is sinking like a stone. Yes, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Belgium and other nations in the European Union are up to their ears in debt. And it’s true, France and Germany are at each others’ throats over how to stabilize the euro zone.

However, don’t think for a second that Europe has lost sight of its priorities.

Discovery News’ David Teeghman reports that the European Union has invested 3.4 million euros in a yeast research program that could lead to better-tasting light beer.

Light beer, of course, is the drink of choice when you need to wash down a financial bailout of an entire country — and who knows how many more of those are yet to come?

Bottoms up!

3. Is a Devastating Solar Flare Coming to a City Near You?

It’s no secret that the sun has been acting rather strange lately, and it’s very difficult to predict what it will do next.

Because of our dependence on satellite communication and electronic devices, we need to be able to stay on top of solar weather patterns.

Although the likelihood of a devastating solar flare is low, damage to our infrastructure by solar activity has happened in the past and it will happen again. The sun’s 11-year peak — or “solar maximum” — is due in 2013.

So I guess that really just leaves us with one question: Does anybody have a spare panic room?

2. How to Dispose of a Dead Whale (Dynamite Optional)

Now, we’ve all seen the video of the beached whale blown to bits by dynamite in the 1970s. It didn’t end well, but how exactly do you move a dead animal that weighs several tons?

To quote Homer Simpson: “The word ‘unblowupable’ is thrown around a lot these days.” In other words, just because dynamite didn’t work once doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try it again.

There are alternatives, however. Click on the photo or the link above to find out more from Discovery News’ Kieran Mulvaney.

1. Ancient Humans May Have Dined on Hyenas

If you’re stepping out to your favorite restaurant this weekend, be sure to ask your waiter if they have hyena on the menu. (Even if they don’t, order it anyway. Chefs only respect patrons that order off-menu, no matter how impossible the request.)

Now we already know that hyenas have hunted humans. But between 117,000 and 183,000 ago, it looks like humans may have dined on hyena.

Spanish researchers have found evidence of human “processing” of hyena bones in an ancient hyena den.

Although this certainly raises questions about the kinds of game early humans would hunt, I only have one: What exactly does hyena taste like?

Those were my top five stories. Here are the most popular stories of the week:

5. Japan’s Solar Sail Photographed in Orbit

Given that Japan is an island nation, they should probably know a thing or two about sailing — even if they’re navigating through space. This solar sail is actually constructed of a large, thin membrane that can be used much like a sail on ship, and could be help guide future spacecraft through the cosmos.

4. Man’s Voice Reveals His Fighting Ability

While a man’s singing voice can be a reflection of, well, how well he can sing, the depth of a man’s speaking voice can reveal his upper body strength and — more importantly — his fighting ability.

3. Underwear That Could Save Your Life

A clean pair of underwear can always come in handy. But soon U.S. military personnel may find that wearing underpants could save their lives. Find out more here.

2. Airplanes Punch Holes in Clouds, Make it Rain

Although the formations they leave behind may look more like something created by a UFO, certain types of aircraft — turboprop and jet airplanes — can change clouds’ formation, potentially leading to rain or snow.

1. NASA Aircraft Videos Hayabusa Re-Entry

Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft returned from a seven-year-long mission to retrieve asteroid samples, and the probe couldn’t have met a more spectacular end to its journey.