Reader favorites of 2013

'CANYON OF FIRE'  A Science Visualized photo of the 3 million kilometer per hour expulsion that scarred the sun was one of SN's most read stories online this year.


For this issue, the editors selected the 25 most important and intriguing science stories of the year. But online readers seemed to point to a different bunch, showing just how subjective such an exercise can be. While it’s difficult to gauge reader opinions based solely on letters, we can and do follow readers’ mouse clicks online. Here are the most popular magazine stories of the year, according to website statistics.

Top 10 most-read stories


Life found deep below Antarctic ice

Editor Janet Raloff, freshly back from Antarctica, scooped other science magazines with this story of living cells discovered in Lake Whillans, which sits 800 meters below the surface of an ice sheet (SN: 3/9/13, p. 12).

2 Shorter-winged swallows evolve around highways

Over 30 years, cliff swallows’ wings got shorter on average, possibly making them more nimble, and the number of the birds killed along roads in Nebraska plunged (SN: 4/20/13, p. 17).

3 Counting cracks in glass gives speed of projectile

Physicists discover a simple relationship between the number of cracks in a plate of glass and the speed of the object that broke it (SN: 6/1/13, p. 15).

4 The bright side of sadness

A feature story on bad moods reveals their surprising upsides, such as an analytical thinking style, better memory for detail and greater fairness (SN: 11/2/13, p. 18).

5 Ratio for a good life exposed as ‘nonsense’

A much-touted ratio of positive to negative emotions that supposedly enables life success was exposed as mathematical bunk (SN: 9/7/13, p. 5).

6 Heavy drinkers get extra brain fuel from alcohol

People consuming eight or more drinks per week get bonus energy from acetate, a breakdown product of alcohol (SN: 4/20/13, p. 8).

7 Bioengineered kidney transplanted into rat (#2 in Top 25)

A rat kidney stripped down and then rebuilt with new cells is functional and even produces small amounts of urine (SN: 5/18/13, p. 14).

8 Tiny human almost-brains made in lab (#2 in Top 25)

Human stem cells in a laboratory experiment form neural balls containing various brain structures and neuron types (SN: 9/21/13, p. 5).

9 Hottest temperature ever measured is a negative one (#14 in Top 25)

Potassium atoms chilled to just above absolute zero are flipped to a high-energy state using lasers and magnets, sending the particles into a negative kelvin range that is paradoxically hot (SN: 2/9/13, p. 10).

10 Solar explosion forms ‘Canyon of Fire’

A September eruption (shown at top) leaves a huge scar where a filament of charged particles blasted away from the sun (SN: 11/30/13, p. 32).

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