More than 150,000 people visit the Science News website each week, and tracking that traffic lets us know which news stories and blog posts catch readers’ attention. The favorites sometimes mirror editors’ picks in our Top 25 list, but there are always a few surprises.
Top magazine news stories
1. Health risks of e-cigarettes emerge (#7 in Top 25)
While vaping is less detrimental to your health than smoking, it comes with the risk of inhaling toxic chemicals and promoting antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections (SN: 6/28/14, p. 9).
2. Earliest pants worn by horse riders
Two pairs of ancient wool trousers, roughly 3,000 years old, protected the legs of Asian nomads while they straddled horses during long journeys and mounted warfare (SN: 6/28/14, p. 16).
3. Forecast: Cloudy, 100% chance of ash
A simulated eruption of the big volcano under Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming predicts a pileup of ash across the country. Depths range from a couple of millimeters in New York and Atlanta to more than a meter in nearby states (SN: 10/4/14, p. 32).
4. A tale of touching tubes
A decades-old math puzzle about how to arrange seven cylinders so each touches all the others finally receives a satisfying solution (SN: 5/3/14, p. 15).
5. Artificial sweeteners may tip scales toward diabetes (#9 in Top 25)
Saccharin comes under scrutiny in a study that shows how the sugar substitute can disrupt the gut’s microbial communities, potentially kicking off problems with the body’s metabolism (SN: 10/18/14, p. 6).
Top blog posts
Some science never dies
Occasionally, an article will have long-lasting appeal. Here are a few of this year’s most-viewed stories that weren’t written in 2014.
A prayer for Archimedes (2007)
A newly uncovered text by the Greek mathematician reveals the early development of calculus.
The anorexic brain (2013)
Brain scans expose the neurological roots of the eating disorder.
Immersed in Klein bottles (2001)
An astronomer sets out to create a real-world version of an odd mathematical shape with just one side.
The most (and least) realistic movie psychopaths ever
Forensic psychiatrists reviewed 126 films to figure out which psychopath portrayals are most true to life (SN Online: 1/14/14).
A timeline of a baby’s first hour
Infants have a lot to do when they arrive in the world, and examining these early moments may help hospitals develop better methods to encourage breastfeeding (SN Online: 10/9/14).
Addiction showcases the brain’s flexibility
The brain has an amazing ability to adapt, a trait that’s vital to understanding the complex neuroscience behind addiction (SN Online: 8/5/14).
Siberian crater mystery may be solved
Methane gas pooling under thawing permafrost might be to blame for the 30-meter-wide hole that opened up in Siberia in July (SN Online: 8/1/14).
After 2,000 years, Ptolemy’s war elephants are revealed
A genetic study sheds light on an ancient account of a battle between African and Asian war elephants (SN Online: 1/21/14).