William Gibson’s seminal sci-fi novel Neuromancer opens with an unforgettably bleak line: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” The dystopic 1984 novel is set in Chiba City, Japan, but it may as well have been set in Rome in 2018. In a photo of the city posted to Reddit on Thursday, the sky appeared to be obscured with the densest TV static.

At the horizon line of the viral image, you can just make out the remains of a sunset, in pale blue and orange, struggling to push through the monochrome fuzz. It’s no use. The irrepressible mass of black specks, barely any light shining between them, aggressively subdues the sun into its pathetic corner.

Dystopic though this year has seemed, this is not an image of Rome succumbing to the singularity. Rather, it’s actually an image that has repeated itself in various iterations for centuries. It’s not static that’s filling the sky; it’s thousands and thousands of starlings.

Thousands of starlings flood the sky over Rome in this viral Reddit image posted Thursday.

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Starlings, a type of small, annoying (hey, even Audubon says so) songbird, return in huge numbers to Rome each autumn, seeking warmth and refuge from frigid Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. By some estimates, up to 4 million birds descend on Rome each year, drawn to the city’s relative warmth compared to neighboring regions. Four million birds is a lot of birds — certainly enough to obscure the sunlight in a small patch of sky.

That starlings turn the ancient city into a sci-fi movie set is the least of the Roman population’s concerns about the tiny birds. The biggest issue is that they poop everywhere, covering streets, buildings, Vespas, and trees with thick layers of foul guano. Since the starlings feast in the copious olive groves outside of Rome, their poop is also especially oily.

Starlings prove there is strength in numbers.

In recent years, Romans have struggled to find a way to control the swarming birds, since the peregrine falcons, their natural predators, have not succeeded in shepherding them. Many residents have had to resort to pruning the trees on which the birds nest and blasting the cries of predatory birds on loudspeakers to frighten the starlings away. Some have tried using trained falcons to drive them away (not eat them, their owners assured the press). Others scare them in a charmingly old-fashioned way: by banging on pots and pans.

So, while this phenomenon appears to be a horror scene from the tech-inundated future, it’s actually a remnant of an age-old natural force, serving as a reminder that nothing humans devise can ever be more terrifying than what nature has already wrought.

On Monday, scientists revealed the first images of a human inside the world’s newest total body scanner, called EXPLORER. The name is fitting because this scanner really leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, tracking the way drugs and disease progress through every nook and cranny in the body.

Designed by biomedical engineering professor Simon Cherry, Ph.D., and biophysicist Ramsey Badawi, Ph.D. at University of California, Davis, this scanner produces images that look like a hybrid between a PET scan (which is often used to find tumors) and an X-ray, all in ghostly black and white. But what’s interesting about EXPLORER, which will be officially unveiled at the Radiological Society of North America meeting on November 24th, isn’t that it produces detailed images of tissues or bones. Cherry tells Inverse that it can also create 3D movies showing where certain drugs may end up in the body.

Scientists are raising millions and millions of parasite-infected mosquitos, cared for by robots. They also plan to release them into major population centers, too — but don’t worry — it’s for your own good.

These millions of mosquitos belong to Verily Life Sciences, one of Google’s sibling companies under the Alphabet umbrella. The subsidiary is on a mission to eliminate one of the most hated pests on the planet: mosquitos. So to accomplish their mission, the group partnered with the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District and MosquitoMate. In a study called Debug Fresno, the team tried to show they they could effectively target just one of the 3,500 species of mosquitos that exist, Aedes aegypti.

There’s no more epic way to celebrate the International Space Station’s golden birthday than with a cinematic time lapse.

Brought to Earth by European Space Agency astronaut turned time lapse expert Alexander Gerst, the ESA released its longest continuous time lapse filmed from the ISS yet, in honor of the weightless laboratory’s 20th anniversary on November 20. In just under 15 minutes, Gerst takes viewers on an awe-inspiring tour of our blue dot from 400 kilometers — about 249 miles — above.

This December, Inverse is counting down the 25 most WTF moments in the world of science in 2018. Some are gross, some are amazing, and some are just, well, WTF. There are stories on kangaroos that got high on DMT, surprising research into fake news, a weird fact about early memories, a scientific study on booze, an explanation for why you’re sad after sex, and an appreciative ode to Neanderthals.