More than 11 million people visited the Science News website this year. Check out this recap of the most-read stories of 2018, and the most popular stories published this year on each of our blogs.
Top 10 stories
1. Male birth control pill passes a safety test
Men who took a prototype once-daily contraceptive pill for about a month saw their testosterone and other reproductive hormones safely plummet to levels known to halt sperm development, a small study found (SN Online: 3/21/18).
2. A 5,000-year-old mass grave harbors the oldest plague bacteria ever found
The skeleton of a long-dead Scandinavian woman yielded bacterial DNA showing that she contracted the earliest known case of the plague in humans (SN Online: 12/6/18). The ancient microbe’s genetic code could help uncover the origins of the deadly disease.
3. What I actually learned about my family after trying 5 DNA ancestry tests
Interested in unraveling your DNA to learn more about your family history? Science News writer Tina Hesman Saey took DNA ancestry tests offered by several consumer genetic testing companies and shared the good, the bad and the confusing (SN Online: 6/13/18).
4. The brain may clean out Alzheimer’s plaques during sleep
A provocative theory that sleep deprivation can cause the brain’s garbage disposal to short-circuit, leading to Alzheimer’s disease, is getting renewed attention (SN Online: 7/15/18).
5. This South African cave stone may bear the world’s oldest drawing
At more than 70,000 years old, red lines crosshatched onto a rock found in a South African cave may be the oldest known drawing, some archaeologists contend (SN Online: 9/12/18).
6. Wombats are the only animals whose poop is a cube. Here’s how they do it
The stout marsupials native to Australia can thank their elastic intestines for their distinctive cubelike feces. Wombats’ cuboid nuggets mark their territory, but the stackable scat can even be rolled like dice, one scientist found (SN Online: 11/18/18).
7. Mars (probably) has a lake of liquid water
A 15-year-old Mars orbiter spotted signs of a salty lake beneath the Red Planet’s south polar ice sheets (SN Online: 7/25/18). In contrast to past hints of water on Mars, this lake might mark the first discovery of a long-lasting cache of the liquid.
8. Astronomers scrutinized last year’s eclipse. Here’s what they’ve learned
Astronomers observed the 2017 total solar eclipse from the ground and the air, and found some never-before-seen features of the sun’s atmosphere (SN Online: 5/29/18).
9. Last year’s solar eclipse set off a wave in the upper atmosphere
The August 2017 solar eclipse also launched a wave in the upper atmosphere that was detected from Brazil after the eclipse ended (SN Online: 5/26/18). Though past eclipses have set off waves in the ionosphere, this was the first time scientists had seen one in the uncharged part of the atmosphere.
10. Physicists finally calculated where the proton’s mass comes from
A proton’s mass is more than just the sum of its parts (SN Online: 11/26/18). And now scientists know just what accounts for the subatomic particle’s heft.
Top blog posts
Context | Tom Siegfried
In honor of his centennial, the Top 10 Feynman quotations
Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman was a curious character who made many quotable observations on science and life (SN Online: 5/11/18).
Science Ticker | Science News Staff
Here’s the key ingredient that lets a centipede’s bite take down prey
A so-called “spooky toxin” helps tropical centipedes overpower large prey. Insight into how the venom affects lab mice may lead to a treatment for people who receive painful bites from these leggy creatures (SN Online: 1/22/18).
Growth Curve | Laura Sanders
A new study eases fears of a link between autism and prenatal ultrasounds
The increasing number of ultrasound scans that women receive during pregnancy are not associated with rising rates of autism diagnoses, scientists found (SN Online: 2/21/18).
Wild Things | Sarah Zielinski
How a deep-sea geology trip led researchers to a doomed octopus nursery
A recently discovered colony of purple octopuses chose the wrong brooding spot on a rocky outcrop. They will probably die because of the warm, low-oxygen water seeping from the rock (SN Online: 5/15/18).
Scicurious | Bethany Brookshire
To regulate fecal transplants, FDA has to first answer a serious question: What is poop?
Fecal transplants are promising treatments for some illnesses, but putting effective regulations in place is proving to be a tricky business (SN Online: 5/18/18).
Science & the Public | Science News Staff
Forget Pi Day. We should be celebrating Tau Day
Replacing the mathematical constant pi with the constant tau could make certain math subjects easier for students to learn (SN Online: 3/14/18).