Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, health, energy, and the environment.
Tonight's edition is a retrospective of the top science, space, health, environment, and energy stories for 2013. Current research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the 2013 Daily Kos Elections Calendar will resume in January with stories from the City of San Diego and the states of Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
This week's featured story comes from Scientific American.
Scientific American's Top 10 Science Stories of 2013
A carbon threshold breached, commitments to brain science made, mystery neutrinos found and human evolution revised—these and other events highlight the year in science and technology as picked by the editors of Scientific American
By The Editors
December 19, 2013
So many stories, so few slots. Our picks this year run the gamut from physics to biology to technology. But as a group, climate change wins in terms of having the most stories, followed by space science.
As usual, we had to leave out many exciting developments. To that end, we have decided to take a cue from Spinal Tap and turn it up to 11 with this top 10 list: specifically, a page of honorable mentions.
More stories about science in 2013 as well as this week's news after the jump.
2013 in Review
Nature (UK): 365 days: 2013 in review
From the US shutdown to breakthroughs in stem-cell therapies, the past 12 months have seen fluctuating fortunes for science.
Richard Van Noorden, Jeff Tollefson, Erika Check Hayden, Lauren Morello, Helen Shen, Declan Butler, Heidi Ledford, Alexandra Witze, Eugenie Samuel Reich, Quirin Schiermeier & David Cyranoski
18 December 2013
Shutdowns, lethal viruses, typhoons and meteorites — much of this year’s science news seemed to come straight from the set of a Hollywood disaster movie. But there were plenty of feel-good moments, too. Space exploration hit a new high, cash poured in to investigate that most cryptic of human organs, the brain, and huge leaps were made in stem-cell therapies and the treatment of HIV. Here, captured in soundbites, statistics and summaries, is everything you need to know about the science that mattered in 2013.
Nature (UK): 365 days: Nature's 10
Ten people who mattered this year.
18 December 2013
Feng Zhang: DNA’s master editor | Tania Simoncelli: Gene patent foe | Deborah Persaud: Viral victor | Michel Mayor: In search of sister Earths | Naderev Saño: Climate conscience | Viktor Grokhovsky: Meteorite hunter | Hualan Chen: Front-line flu sleuth | Shoukhrat Mitalipov: The cloning chief | Kathryn Clancy: An eye on harassment | Henry Snaith: Sun worshipper | Ones to watch
Nature via Scientific American: Nature News: Readers' Choice of Top Science Stories of 2013
See which science stories were most-read on Nature's Web site this year
By Nature magazine
December 17, 2013
The most popular news stories on our web site this year included viruses so large that they rival a bacterium, one of the longest-running experiments in history and how our universe could have been created in the collapse of a four-dimensional star.
Nature via Scientific American: Readers' Choices of Nature's Top Science Blog Posts in 2013
See which science blog posts were most-read on Nature's Web site this year
By Nature News Blog
December 21, 2013
The tragic death of Internet-freedom activist Aaron Swartz, a Taiwanese researcher's findings on trial for libel, and inflated impact factors were some of the most popular stories on our Newsblog in 2013.
Science Magazine: Notable Developments
December 20, 2013
Find out what Science staff considered the top breakup, breakdowns, breakout, and genomes of the year, as well as 2013's top fossil, politico, vertebrate, and invertebrate.
Science Magazine: The Year's Best Stories
December 26, 2013
The best and most popular stories of 2013, as chosen by readers and editors.
Science News: Top 25 stories of 2013, from microbes to meteorites
by Matt Crenson
3:00pm, December 13, 2013
Last year it was easy to choose a story to lead our annual Top 25 list. The discovery of the Higgs boson was a watershed moment, ending a decades-long quest by thousands of physicists to fully describe the subatomic realm.
This year, nothing so momentous came to pass. But science isn’t just about dramatic announcements and tremendous technical feats. Anyone who reads Science News regularly appreciates that great new insights often arise from countless little bits and pieces of new knowledge. This year, careful readers may have noticed a steady accumulation of revelations about the bacterial communities that call the human body home. It has long been known that those microbes are essential to processes like extracting nutrients from food and fighting off their less benign brethren. But this year a growing body of research demonstrated that bacteria engage their hosts so vigorously that in some situations, scientists are left wondering which party is the tail and which is the dog.
Human evolution has also produced an impressive body of new knowledge, though some of it only deepens existing mysteries. For example, the oldest hominid DNA ever analyzed linked 400,000-year-old bones from Spain not to the Neandertals that later dominated the region, but to mysterious early hominids known from sites thousands of kilometers to the east. It will probably be a few more years before anyone can explain what is becoming an increasingly controversial era of human evolution.
This year also demonstrated that big findings can be big letdowns. After a spectacular landing on Mars in August 2012, the Curiosity rover looked for elevated atmospheric methane concentrations that would have been telltale evidence for the presence of microbial life. Anything over a few parts per billion would have given us a clear choice for 2013’s top story. But Curiosity detected an average methane concentration of only 0.18 ppb, a finding that landed it in 17th place.
NBC News: Year in science: Old bones yield new revelations about kings and genes
Alan Boyle, Science Editor NBC News
Dec. 27, 2013 at 7:47 PM ET
Genetics isn't just for the living, as the past year's scientific revelations have demonstrated. Whether it's identifying King Richard III's long-lost bones or tracing humanity's tangled family tree, DNA analysis is shedding new light on mysteries that have lain buried for ages.
New technologies addressed longstanding questions in other contexts during 2013. Here are five of the year's leading themes, plus five bonus scientific highlights and links to five additional end-of-the-year roundups.
Discover Magazine: The top 100 science stories of 2013
Discover's top 100 double issue is jam-packed with the best in science from the past year.
From space exploration to medicine, technology, paleontology and the environment, we've got every field covered, and our countdown puts these discoveries in context so you can understand the bigger picture.
Read about the latest in quantum computing, advancements in growing organs from stem cells, the discovery of Earth's biggest volcano and signs of life on Mars — just a few of the top science stories of 2013.
CNN: Top science and space stories of 2013
By Elizabeth Landau and Matt Smith, CNN
updated 2:33 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
It has been a thrilling year of discovery in many areas of science, but also a sobering time -- federal funding cuts threaten the future of innovation, and rising carbon dioxide levels foreshadow environmental and health challenges linked to climate change.
This was the year we learned that Mars was habitable billions of years ago, and also that Lady Gaga reportedly intends to be the first artist to sing in outer space in 2015 (will the papa-paparazzi follow?).
Let's take a spin around some of the major science stories from 2013:
LiveScience: The 13 Most Obvious Scientific Findings of 2013
Here's a sampling of the unsurprising research of 2013—with a few notes on why scientists bothered
By Stephanie Pappas and LiveScience
Common sense is no replacement for science; plenty of "everyone knows" knowledge has had its legs cut out from under it by a well-designed study. Nevertheless, some research turns up results that don't exactly shock and awe.
Such no-duh research usually has a serious underlying purpose, from the study of why people cheat to the roots of racism. Researchers have to understand the basics of everyday phenomena in order to understand them, after all.
Here's a sampling of the unsurprising research of 2013 — with a few notes on why scientists bothered.
LiveScience: Weird! Strangest Science Stories of 2013
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
December 27, 2013 01:19pm ET
2013 was a year with major scientific breakthroughs — the Higgs boson was finally caught, and scientists managed to coax human DNA from 400,000-year-old fossil bones in Spain.
Along the way, however, scientists also found that the world is even stranger than we thought. From penis-snatching fears to the mystery daddies in humans' genetic past, here are 10 of the most bizarre science stories of 2013.
Discovery News: Top Myths Busted in 2013
The Year That Wasn't
by Benjamin Radford
Dec 18, 2013 06:00 AM ET
This past year was a strange one, with a variety of popular beliefs being busted. Some were welcome news: Other myths left a funk like a fart-filled balloon when they burst. Here, in no particular order, are seven popular stories and myths busted in 2013, ranging from the scientific to the sublimely pseudoscientific ...
Looking Ahead to 2014
Discovery News: Unexplained Mysteries of 2013
by Talal Al-Khatib
Dec 20, 2013 09:00 AM ET
Science is all about the pursuit of truth. New discoveries can provide answers, but they can also open the door to new questions.
Explore some of the mysteries left unsolved at the end of the year.
Fox News via Discovery News: New Year’s Tech: What to Expect in 2014
Dec 27, 2013 09:00 AM ET
You’ll be wearing the hottest thing in technology in 2014, but it won’t be Google glasses or a smart watch. The New Year will be all about getting fit and staying healthy.
“What will be hot are wearable health devices such as NikeFuel Bands, Fitbit, and Jawbone UP,” seasoned tech analyst Tim Bajarin told FoxNews.com.
“These types of wearables -- along with wireless blood pressure kits like iHealth -- will see serious consumer interest and exciting products next year.”
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
Green diary rescue: Climate change deniers love 'dark money' backers, fracking controls, LEDs
by Meteor Blades
This week in science: The 2013 "Besties"
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Science Magazine: Breakthrough of the Year 2013
Watch a video of the 2013 scientific Breakthrough of the Year and the nine runners-up, ranging from transparent brains to exploding stars.
Smithsonian Magazine: The Coolest Science of 2013, in GIFs
December 24, 2013
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a GIF is easily worth a million. The file format—which uses a series of images to produce a looping video, like a flip book—is a tremendous way to convey all sorts of moving wonders, and 2013 was the year that the GIF truly went mainstream, with GIFs of celebrities, sports and politicians filling the Web.
But 2013 was also a banner year for science—so much so that the word ‘science’ was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. It’s appropriate, then, that we use the GIF to explore some of the coolest, weirdest, most remarkable science stories of 2013. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of amazing science GIFs from 2013, in no particular order.
LiveScience: Photos: Best Wild Animal Selfies
By Laura Poppick, Staff Writer
December 11, 2013 10:00am ET
Humans are not the only creatures getting in on the craze that has won "selfie" the title of Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries. Unbeknownst to them, wild animals have also picked up on the trend, albeit a bit less earnestly than their human counterparts.
LiveScience: Gallery: Zoo Babies Born in 2013
By Andrea Thompson, Planet Earth Editor
December 23, 2013 10:36am ET
Get ready to squee: It's time for LiveScience's annual look back at all the adorable babies born at zoos around the world over the past year, one birth for each month. From a U.S. panda cub boom to fluffy swan hatchlings, we've got enough cute to get you through to the New Year.
Discovery News: Best Ocean Animal Photos of 2013
by Jennifer Viegas
Dec 19, 2013 06:00 AM ET
The Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition, organized by the Underwater Photography Guide, announces its 2013 winners.
Discovery News: Carnivore Plant Tops BioScapes Contest: Photos
by Discovery News
Dec 16, 2013 01:30 PM ET
This is the 10th year Olympus has sponsored the photo contest, which features microscope-based photography.
Discovery News: Best Geek Reads of 2013
io9's Esther Inglis-Arkell is back to recommend her favorite sci-fi and nonfiction books of the year!
NASA: From Earth to Deep Space: NASA 2013 Highlights
NASA highlights its accomplishments in air and space for 2013.
NBC News: Year in space: Meteor blows up, comet dies — and rovers are on a roll
Alan Boyle, Science Editor NBC News
Dec. 26, 2013 at 8:47 PM ET
The stage has been set for space ventures that will occupy our attention here on Earth for years to come — thanks to a meteoric blast over Russia, a couple of rovers on the moon and Mars, and the rise of private enterprise on the final frontier.
The top space stories aren't just about what happened in 2013: They're also about global trends in scientific discovery and technological competition. For example, China's successful moon landing could point to larger geopolitical shifts. The progress made in spaceflight by ventures such as SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic could point to new economic opportunities.
Every December since 1997, we've reviewed the top stories of the previous 12 months and the trends likely to dominate the next 12 months in space science and exploration. And we've left it up to you to decide what should lead the list. To refresh your memory, 2012's top story was the Curiosity rover's landing on Mars, and 2013's top anticipated trend was SpaceShipTwo's flight to outer space.
That Virgin spaceflight hasn't happened yet, but it could be on tap for 2014. Take a look at these rundowns for the year behind and the year ahead, cast a vote for your favorites, and tell us what we're missing in the comment section:
Space.com: 6 Biggest Space Science Discoveries of 2013
by Nola Taylor Redd, SPACE.com contributor
December 28, 2013 02:00pm ET
The year 2013 saw a wealth of discoveries, insights, and milestones that advanced the fields of astronomy and other space sciences. From extrasolar planets to extraterrestrial neutrinos, these finds have made sure that 2013 has been an unforgettable year.
Here's a look back at some of the most stunning space science revelations of the year:
RedOrbit: Best Of The Best: The Top NASA Stories For 2013
Every year, it seems NASA announces several exciting new developments or first-ever achievements and 2013 was no different. From entering into Martian surface to leaving the Solar System, NASA continued to leave its mark on human history this past year.
Discovery News: Reader's Choice: Favorite Space Story of 2013
by Ian O'Neill
Dec 27, 2013 03:00 PM ET
Every year at Discovery News we reach out to our loyal readers to find out what their favorite space stories were for 2013. These aren't necessarily the biggest science stories nor the biggest discoveries; they are the stories that engaged YOU over the past 12 months. 2013 has been nothing short of epic for adventures in space -- but after pooling your nominations and taking web traffic into consideration, you voted and there is a clear winner for the year. So, what was the "Reader's Choice: Favorite Space Story of 2013"?
Science News: Top exoplanet finds of 2013
by Ashley Yeager
11:38am, December 28, 2013
With the addition this year of 180 new worlds to the Paris Observatory’s list of confirmed exoplanets, there are now more than 1,000 known planets orbiting stars other than the sun.
Here are some of the year’s most notable finds:
Space.com via LiveScience: Strange New Worlds: The Amazing Alien Planet Discoveries of 2013
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer
December 27, 2013 04:25pm ET
While astronomers didn't bag that elusive first "alien Earth" in 2013, they made plenty of exciting exoplanet discoveries during the past year.
Here's a list of the top exoplanet finds of 2013, from a tiny world about the size of Earth's moon to a blue gas giant on which it rains molten glass:
Grist: The top 13 green stories of 2013: The good, the bad, and the muddled
By John Upton
The environmental news this year was full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and deeply conflicted protagonists.
Smithsonian Magazine: Six Things We Learned About Our Changing Climate in 2013
December 27, 2013
2013 was a great year for science. We discovered hundreds of exoplanets, found yet more evidence of ancient water on Mars and learned all about our species’ own evolution.
But it’s important to remember that, in terms of the long-term survival of both our species and all others on the planet, 2013 is remarkable for a much darker reason. It’s a year in which we’ve pushed the climate further than ever away from its natural state, learned more than ever about the dire the consequences of doing so, and done as little as ever to stop it.
As greenhouse gas emissions soar unabated and the ramifications become rapidly apparent, here’s a rundown of what we learned about climate change in 2013:
LiveScience: 2013's Wild, Unforgettable Weather: A Roundup
by Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
December 26, 2013 03:43pm ET
Floods, fires and typhoons -- weather fueled by heat led the news in 2013. In Colorado and central Europe, tropical moisture fed heavy rains and floods. Australia was ravaged by heat waves and wildfires for much of the year. Warm Pacific Ocean temperatures fueled major tropical storms that devastated the Philippines and Asia.
The unusually warm temperatures are on pace to set a heat record, making 2013 one of the warmest years in more than a century, according to a report released in December by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The first 11 months of 2013 are the fourth warmest (averaged around the globe) since record-keeping started 134 years ago.
While it's too soon to say whether the extreme heat played a role in the wild weather of 2013, or how big that role was, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did release a report this September blaming human-caused climate change for some of 2012's worst weather extremes.
LiveScience: Countdown: 2013's Wildest Weather
The Year of Extremes
By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
December 26, 2013 02:53pm ET
This year was one of the warmest on record. The extra heat helped fuel devastating weather worldwide, such as raging wildfires and widespread droughts. Typhoons and tornadoes took a terrible toll in 2013, despite a dearth of tropical storms and twisters in many parts of the world. Here, LiveScience counts down seven extremes from 2013's wildest weather, in roughly chronological order.
The Weather Channel: Weather.com's Top 13 Weather Stories of 2013
Another Year of Extremes
Weather paradoxes characterized 2013.
The preliminary U.S. tornado count for 2013 from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center and severe weather expert, Dr. Greg Forbes, is running about two-thirds of average, one of the lowest counts in at least eight years. However, we still had numerous, destructive tornado outbreaks.
The Atlantic hurricane season was one of the least active in decades, but Mexico and the Philippines took hard hits.
The massive drought of 2012 relented, and was outright erased in some places. Yet, some large, destructive wildfires destroyed homes and changed lives.
Did we also mention a parade of notable winter storms?
Smithsonian Magazine: The Top Five Ocean Stories of 2013
December 24, 2013
Although we landlubbers may not realize it, it’s been a big year for the ocean and the people who study it.
Researchers reported on how animals can live on wood that falls into the deep sea, what we can learn about pollution from blue whale earwax, and how remoras–fish that sport a suction cup on their head–evolved these strange headpieces that allow them to attach to larger animals such as sharks and whales. More than three percent of the ocean is now specifically protected, and 71 ships carved new shipping routes into the melting Arctic ice. And, sadly, Typhoon Haiyan, a likely beacon of climate change, killed thousands of people in the Phillippines in November.
But there were five big themes that kept coming up throughout the year.
NBC News: Cocoa frogs, walking sharks among coolest species identified in 2013
Nidhi Subbaraman NBC News
Dec. 26, 2013 at 12:03 PM ET
On remote forest tree-tops and in deep Arctic oceans, researchers spotted and identified a varied collection of new species in 2013. Among them: a "cocoa frog" from Suriname, a shark that walks, and a tarantula the size of a dinner plate.
Though this year’s haul of new species runs into the thousands, researchers estimate that there are about 8 million species still unidentified by science skulking in remote corners of the world, and sometimes hiding out right under scientists' noses.
And that’s not including most of the microbial world. "When you throw in the bacteria and archaea and cyanobacteria and those early groups, all bets are off," Quentin Wheeler, incoming president of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and founder of the International Institute for Species Exploration, told NBC News.
Science is catching up with Mother Nature — but slowly. About 18,000 species are discovered every year, and as of 2013, "we’re fast approaching 2 million named things," Wheeler said.
Smithsonian Magazine: A Recap of Our Five Favorite New Species of 2013
December 23, 2013
New species of insects, fungi, spiders, plankton, plants and even small mammals and reptiles are pretty commonplace. If you have enough expertise and spend enough time in the field, you are almost certainly guaranteed to uncover a new species, even if you’re searching in an urban center or an already well-explored country.
Finding a larger animal–a new bird or carnivore, for example–is a much rarer event. But such discoveries do happen, especially as genetic studies are drawing a much finer line between science’s traditional definition of what is and is not a species. Sometimes those new species turn out to be right below our noses, in museum collections or long-ignored field anecdotes.
Whether discovered using genetic sequencing or traditional field sleuthing, here are five of the most sensational species reveals of the year:
LiveScience: 13 Amazing Species Discovered in 2013
By Andrea Thompson, Planet Earth Editor
December 27, 2013 11:11am ET
Every year, scientists add to the catalogue of life on Earth: discovering and describing species not previously known to exist. Some, as might be imagined, are uncovered in the depths of little-explored jungles, but others have been found in cities, hiding in plain sight. Some have been mistaken for species that are close relatives, while others were so small or in a place so remote they simply escaped notice. From orchids to frogs with a chocolate-y hue to ants that look like they're wearing an eye patch, LiveScience takes a look at 13 of the fascinating new species announced this year.
LiveScience: What?! The 10 Weirdest Animal Stories of 2013
By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer
December 21, 2013 11:32am ET
Cute animals are an Internet genre of their own. But sometimes, Mother Nature's creations are downright weird.
The past year had its share of bizarre animal discoveries, from butterflies that feast on the tears of turtles to a two-headed shark fetus. Speaking of shark fetuses, they can sense predators even while they're still in their egg cases. Like we said: weird.
Read on for some of the strangest animal discoveries of 2013.
LiveScience: The 12 Weirdest Animal Discoveries
Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
December 20, 2013 12:10pm ET
Mother Nature has a strange sense of humor. Her creations include zombie worms and penis fish, not to mention turtles with a strange way of getting rid of urine. Read on for some of the weirdest animal discoveries ever.
Huffington Post: 13 Of The Biggest Health News Stories Of 2013
By Amanda L. Chan
Posted: 12/27/2013 8:36 am EST
2013 was not a quiet year for health news. Disease outbreaks, new guidelines and celebrity diagnoses made headlines and got people talking. While a year-end roundup of the biggest health stories is bound to be incomplete, we did our best to cull the topics that generated the biggest buzz -- and had the biggest impact -- in the U.S. and abroad.
Healthline: The 12 Top Health Stories of 2013
Written by Kristen Fischer
Published on December 4, 2013
In 2013, countless health headlines caught our attention. Here are the 12 stories the Healthline team felt were most compelling.
Top Health Stories
Something new is always happening in the health field, and it can be tough to stay on top of all the latest developments. That’s why the team at Healthline has rounded up their picks for the most important medical news stories of 2013.
The Weather Channel: Mother Nature and Your Health: The Top Stories of 2013
By Jeffrey Kopman
Published: Dec 23, 2013, 10:05 AM EST
Many of the most notable events of the past year stem from the issue that matters most to our daily life: our health. The past year featured numerous groundbreaking discoveries and history-making events that further solidified the link between humans, our planet and, of course, the weather.
Discoveries that were made this year about climate change and public health could shape the way humans all over the world live their lives beyond 2013.
The animal kingdom gave humans a new rash of deadly diseases.
Meanwhile, the struggle to avoid chemicals and antibiotics in an effort to live an organic, healthy life continued — as our food production practices were put into question.
LiveScience: All About You: Top 10 Human Nature Stories of 2013
Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer
December 23, 2013 10:33am ET
Human beings are fascinating animals, capable of intense love or boiling hatred, deep contemplation or flagrant debauchery, selfless service or self-serving acts. Psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists and other students of the human condition reaped a bounty of knowledge about the inner workings of today's Homo sapiens in 2013.
From political beliefs to social deviation to sexual attraction, here are the highlights of what science found out about you this year:
LiveScience: Sex Studies: Blushworthy Headlines of 2013
By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer
December 20, 2013 11:03am ET
The worst stereotypes of science suggest that it's boring, staid, or overly complex.
Not these studies. More often than people may think, science gets downright dirty, peering into bedrooms and asking nosy questions about secret fantasies. The science of sex is anything but dull.
With that in mind, here are 10 of the sex stories most likely to have caused blushing in 2013.
Archaeology: Top 10 Discoveries of 2013
ARCHAEOLOGY's editors reveal the year's most compelling stories
By THE EDITORS
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The most celebrated archaeology story in recent memory is the 2013 confirmation that bones thought to belong to King Richard III, found beneath a parking lot in Leicester, were, in fact, those of the infamous English monarch. Naturally, it leads our Top 10 Discoveries of 2013.
But a discovery needn’t involve a historical figure whose life was dramatized by no less a personage than Shakespeare in order to make the cut. In archaeological hot spots such as Egypt and Rome, the news was every bit as exciting. On the coast of the Red Sea, archaeologists uncovered Egpyt’s oldest port. And just 20 miles outside Rome, the discovery of that city’s first monumental architecture—the iconic building style so tightly associated with the ancient Romans—was announced.
Elsewhere, evidence for cannibalism at Jamestown revealed what a perilous enterprise the colonization of the New World was, and on what tenuous ground the fate of the American colonies rested. In northwestern Cambodia, aerial mapping of the environs of Angkor Wat has changed our understanding of the growth and nature of the ancient Khmer Empire. And, in central Ireland, a part of the world known for its well-preserved ancient human remains, the oldest bog body was found, dating back some 4,000 years.
This year’s discoveries span millennia, come to us from far-flung locales, and offer what archaeology can always be counted on to deliver: a close look at the astounding diversity and range of human innovation and creativity. The oldest among these finds, skulls unearthed in Georgia, may alter scientists’ understanding of our earliest ancestors—long before civilization emerged or kings such as Richard III ruled.
annetteboardman is taking the week off.
LiveScience: What We Learned About Human Origins in 2013
Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience Contributor
December 28, 2013 12:16pm ET
The existence of a mysterious ancient human lineage and the possibility that the earliest humans were actually all one species were among the human-evolution-related discoveries of 2013. Other breakthroughs include the sequencing of the oldest human DNA yet.
Here's a look at what scientists learned about humanity and human origins this year:
LiveScience: GPS Helped Forecast 2012 Earthquake
By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
December 26, 2013 01:24pm ET
Scientists were watching closely as a subduction zone along Costa Rica built to its breaking point in 2012.
When a magnitude-7.6 earthquake finally ripped open the offshore fault on Sept. 5, 2012, cracking buildings and collapsing a bridge, it was one of the first successful quake forecasts using GPS monitoring. (A forecast is a probability that an earthquake of a specific size will strike a specific location, and sometimes offers a time window. A prediction, on the other hand, says the quake will or will not occur during a specific time. It's like the difference between saying there's a 50 percent chance of rain on Monday and your house will be rained on Monday morning.)
"We're not predicting an earthquake," said Andrew Newman, a geophysicist at Georgia Tech. "The timing is something we still don't have a good handle on. But we can say where, and how big," Newman told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.
Technology Review: 2013: The Best Energy Stories of the Year
By Kevin Bullis
Clean energy technology made progress in 2013, but low-carbon energy isn’t growing fast enough to meet goals for limiting climate change. That would require switching energy sources as fast as France did when it converted almost all of its electricity generation from fossil fuels to nuclear power in just 30 years. While solar panels and wind turbines are being installed quickly, worldwide fossil fuel consumption is rising even faster, causing greenhouse gas emission rates to go up. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is drawing up carbon dioxide rules that will shut down coal plants, but they will do little to reduce emissions more than low natural gas prices already have by prompting a shift away from coal. Meanwhile, coal consumption is increasing around the world.
Huffington Post: 5 Big Energy Stories of 2013
Posted: 12/26/2013 5:02 pm
The U.S. is awash in oil and natural gas. China's air pollution is so bad some cities were nearly shut down. A massive typhoon wreaked havoc in the Philippines. These are some of the top stories of the past 12 months.
Amid these developments, however, there are signs that some businesses, consumers, and governments are moving toward a growing understanding of the risks of climate change. The question is whether we will shift course quickly enough to reduce the incoming threats of more extreme weather events and other climate impacts.
As we prepare to turn the corner to a new year, here's our take at five of the standout climate and energy stories of 2013.
Energy Trends Insider: Top Energy Stories of 2013 – Honorable Mention
By Robert Rapier
Dec 24, 2013
My Top 10 energy related stories of 2013 ended up being a 3,500 word story, so I decided to break it up into three parts. Today I will list some of the stories that could have arguably been placed in a list of Top 10 energy stories for the year. Later this week I will list stories 6-10 of my Top 10, and then early next week I will list my Top 5.
Note that this list of Honorable Mentions simply entails the headline without any detail, and are in no particular order. The Top 10 goes into detail on each story, which is why the story ended up being so long.
Also read The Top 10 Energy Stories of 2013 (#6-10)
. Part 3 will come out next week.
Physics Today: The year in reviews: Five books that stood out in 2013
Books editor Jermey Matthews picks the five most "intriguing" books that were reviewed this year in the pages of Physics Today.
Jermey N. A. Matthews
While visions of sugar plums danced in the heads of some children awaiting Saint Nicholas, visions of revised classic textbooks, revealing biographies, and enlightening popularizations danced in mine. This month, as I considered the 52 books Physics Today reviewed in 2013, the five below surfaced as the most "intriguing" ones based on their reviews. Separate from this exercise, four of the featured book authors were also interviewed throughout the year for Bookends (links to each Q&A are included in the summaries below).
Such lists are always open to debate. Which books should have made the cut? Which ones should have been left off? What is this book editor's definition of intriguing, and does it match yours?
On the last question, I encourage you to read the review summaries below and the full reviews (linked to the titles), and judge for yourself. Then share in the comment section your own top five list—from this past year, or of all time—of nonfiction science books; don't limit yourself to books reviewed by Physics Today.
LiveScience: Communicating Underground Via Chemical Signals
By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer
December 18, 2013 05:00pm ET
A new molecular communications system could beam messages and data underground, underwater or inside the body, where other forms of communication aren't practical.
Plants and animals use molecular signaling all the time, from sweet-smelling flowers to insect pheromones. Bees, for example, use pheromones — signaling chemicals among animals — to alarm each other when there's a threat to the hive.
Now, a team of researchers has shown that this chemical language can also be used to send messages in environments where electromagnetic signals can't be used, such as in tunnels, in pipelines or underwater.
Science Crime Scenes
Discovery News: Alan Turing Granted Pardon for Being Gay: Photos
Dec 26, 2013 07:40 AM ET
Computer scientist Alan Turing, born in 1912, was a man light years ahead of his time. He performed groundbreaking computer science work long before the concept even existed. An artificial intelligence test he developed remains relevant today. During World War II, his cryptanalysis work helped Allied convoys safely cross the Atlantic.
Turing was also openly gay. In 1952, he was convicted for homosexuality and punished by being chemically castrated. Just two years later, he died after eating a cyanide-laced apple. An inquest ruled the death a suicide, but friends and family dispute the finding.
Now, finally, after several petitions, appeals and even an apology from prime minister Gordon Brown in 2009, Turing has finally received a pardon. It was granted on December 24 under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling.
Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy
Red Orbit: Conservationists Reflect On Four Decades Of Endangered Species Act
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
December 28, 2014
Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, the landmark piece of legislation designed to protect critically imperiled creatures from extinction in the US due to economic growth and development.
According to National Geographic, the law has helped recover more than 30 species and prevented the extinction of 99 percent of all species it was designed to protect since it was originally signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973.
The first species to be declared fully recovered under the Endangered Species Act was the brown pelican in 2009. Since then, the Act has been credited with saving hundreds of US species from extinction, including the bald eagle, the American alligator, sea otters and pumas.
NBC News: Think 2013 was a bad year for health politics? Just wait for 2014
Maggie Fox NBC News
Dec. 27, 2013 at 4:25 AM ET
It was the gift that kept on giving: The disastrous roll-out of the health-insurance exchanges provided daily fodder for Republican opponents of Obamacare. And the dire state of U.S. health care, coupled with a headlong rush by people to get health insurance, gave Democrats ample opportunity to say “we told you so.”
So once it’s January 2014 and people can start having their new insurance and all the deadlines have passed, can we relax and talk about something other than health reform?
Not a chance, say experts. They predict 2014 will be, if anything, worse than 2013.
Science Magazine: Person of the Year: Michael S. Teitelbaum
By Beryl Lieff Benderly
December 23, 2013
Every December, Science Careers names a "Person of the Year" to honor an individual who has made an especially significant and sustained contribution to the welfare of early-career scientists. This year, we are delighted to salute Michael S. Teitelbaum, a distinguished demographer and visionary official at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Combining scholarship and policy analysis with practical action and judicious deployment of the foundation's resources, Teitelbaum has played major roles in numerous important advances that have enhanced the careers and lives of thousands of young scientists.
Among his significant accomplishments is helping to create the Professional Science Master's (PSM), an innovative degree now awarded by some 140 universities that integrates graduate science training with subjects such as management, finance, ethics, and regulatory affairs to prepare students for a wide range of nonacademic, science-based careers.
Teitelbaum was also instrumental in establishing the National Postdoctoral Association, the only national membership organization dedicated to the professional welfare and advancement of the nation's postdocs; before that he helped establish the Postdoc Network, a groundbreaking online community of postdoctoral scientists. (Created with a grant from the Sloan Foundation, the Postdoc Network was part of Science's Next Wave, the predecessor to Science Careers.) In addition, Teitelbaum has run the Sloan Research Fellowships program, which seeks out especially promising young investigators in a number of scientific fields and awards them 2 years of unrestricted grants.
Science Writing and Reporting
Nature via Scientific American: Nature's Best Science Features of 2013
The editors of Nature picked these feature stories as the best among the magazine's longer journalistic reports of the year
By Nature magazine
December 25, 2013
The status of women in science, the nature of black holes and the role of cattle domestication in human prehistory were the topics of some of our favorite long-form pieces of 2013.
Science is Cool
National Geographic: Hidden Gems of 2013
by Ed Yong
By this time of the year, we are drowning in Best Of 2013 lists, featuring the most important events and discoveries of the year. I like to take a different tack here: I’ve deliberately strayed away from things that made other lists, like those from Wired, Nature, Scientific American, Science and, yes, National Geographic. There will be no Voyager, dark matter, olinguitos, BRAIN Initiative, or H7N9. For the same reason, and with sadness, I’m also omitting a few topics that I covered including the oldest hominin DNA ever sequenced, and lab-grown model brains.
Instead, this is a list of my favourite stories, compiled for no other reason that I loved learning and writing about them. It’s a list of unexpected finds and underappreciated progress. Enjoy.
Red Orbit: 2013 Was A Big Year For Robotics
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
December 27, 2013
From the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge to Google’s many robotic acquisitions, 2013 seemed to be the “Year of the Robot.” Only time will tell if the past year was a turning point for all things robotic.
LiveScience: Doomsday: 9 Real Ways Earth Could End
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
December 19, 2013 02:59pm ET
Catastrophic climate change and hostile aliens routinely play prominent roles in Hollywood visions of apocalyptic endings to humanity's stint on planet Earth.
In fact, from the 1950s "The Day the Earth Stood Still" to the 1960s "Planet of the Apes" to more recent apocalyptic flicks like "The Day After Tomorrow," and "After Earth," doomsday has been explored plenty in fiction.
But although these blockbusters may be pure fantasy, many scientists are worried about other perilous scenarios — some of which are even scarier than anything that's been depicted on the silver screen.
From pandemic fungus to robot insurrection, here are 9 apocalyptic visions that scientists foresee.