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.

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.

For most people in the United States, venomous snakes rank pretty low on the list of things to worry about on a daily basis. But for millions of people around the world, especially those who live in tropical regions and in communities that are a long way away from cities, dying or becoming permanently disabled as a result of a venomous snake bite is a disturbingly real possibility. Nearly 93 million people worldwide are at high risk of dying from snake envenomation, according to a new study by an international team of tropical disease and public health experts. It’s an issue one of the study’s authors tells Inverse is “a global problem.”

Earth is littered with evidence of intrepid, ancient peoples who had one big thing in common besides the genus Homo: they moved. Over millions of years, they spread throughout the world, leaving traces of their journey behind. Scientists are slowly closer to nailing down the details of this great migration, but every new discovery of ancient art, tools, and bones forces them to re-evaluate the story of our ancient kin. Now, a new discovery in China, described in a new Nature paper, upends our history books even further.

Ask any card handler who they think is the greatest card mechanic of all time, and Richard Turner will likely be the first name out of their mouth. He’s so much more advanced than his peers that it prompted one gambling regulator to say this: “The world’s best cardmen practice the moves until they do them right. Richard Turner practices the moves until he can’t do them wrong.”

When you’re ripping into a big box of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, you usually know what to expect: sugar, puffed wheat, and … that’s about it. But at least 100 people in the US received an unexpected and unwanted ingredient in their Smacks this summer: Salmonella. Officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday an update in the investigation into the outbreak, which has sickened 100 people in 33 US states, leading to 30 hospitalizations and zero deaths.

It took three of the world’s largest radio telescopes to get a better picture of what the YE5 asteroid looked like, but when NASA finally caught a glimpse of the planetoid, the agency was shocked. While working to improve NASA’s asteroid detection and tracking capabilities, scientists discovered that YE5 is a double asteroid, a rare instance of two equal-mass objects orbiting each other.