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  • Letters to the Editor

    Reader favorites of 2013

    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,...

    12/31/2013 - 08:05 Technology, Science & Society
  • Science Visualized

    Best maps of the universe, bugs and all

    Maps from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite reveal the cosmos in a range of microwave and infrared frequencies.

    Planck’s primary mission was to precisely measure the cosmic microwave background, or CMB, which is 13.8-billion-year-old radiation that allows astronomers to probe the universe’s first moments (SN: 12/28/13, p. 21). The CMB appears as speckles; blue regions are...

    12/30/2013 - 15:38 Cosmology, Astronomy
  • The List

    Unusual new species names of 2013

    1. Siats meekerorum

    Newly found fossils of this dinosaur show it was anything but meek, probably terrorizing the ancestors of Tyrannosaurus rex.

    2. Cardiocondyla pirata

    The pirate ant gets its name from the dark ribbon across females’ eyes, resembling a pirate’s blindfold for walking the plank.

    3. Cthulhu macrofasciculumque

    Found in termite hindguts, this tiny creature with more than...

    12/30/2013 - 10:12 Animals
  • The List

    Top genomes of 2013

    Scientists continue to decode the genetic blueprints of the planet’s myriad flora and fauna — both alive and long dead — shedding light on biology, evolution and disease. Highlights from the year include:

    View as a slideshow

    1. Comb jellies

    A genomic analysis of comb jellies confirmed that the squishy marine predators are the new oldest animals, bumping the much simpler sea sponges...

    12/29/2013 - 11:18 Genetics
  • The List

    Top exoplanet finds of 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:

    View as a slideshow

    1. The Earthiest

    Kepler-78b is most similar to Earth in mass, diameter and composition; it could be made of rock with an iron...

    12/28/2013 - 11:38 Astronomy
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Meteorite makes an impact


    When a known asteroid passed within 28,000 kilometers of Earth on February 15, astronomers hoped it would serve as a wake-up call about the danger of meteorite impacts. As it turned out, astronomers got more than they had bargained for. On that same day, a 19-meter-wide space rock plowed...

    12/27/2013 - 11:00 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Gift of steroids keeps on giving


    Once a cheater, always a cheater, a mouse study found — at least when it comes to steroids.

    The result, reported in October, strongly implies that anabolic steroids like testosterone give doping athletes a competitive advantage for years — perhaps even decades — after they stop...

    12/27/2013 - 10:00 Physiology, Cells
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Odd cicada history emerges


    For a few weeks in 2013, a chorus of headlines about the raucous reproduction of periodical cicadas just about drowned out the real cicada news.

    This was the year for a cohort of big, reckless, ruby-eyed bugs to break out of the soil for their first and only chance to mate after 17...

    12/27/2013 - 09:00 Animals, Evolution
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Visitor from the Oort cloud


    Comet ISON was an ordinary-sized comet with an extraordinary story. It started out millions of years ago in the faraway Oort cloud (SN: 10/19/13, p. 19), where remnants of the early solar system hang out in deep freeze. A passing star may have given one of these remnants a nudge,...

    12/27/2013 - 06:45 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Progress made toward twin prime proof


    Some pan for gold, some pan for prime numbers. Yitang “Tom” Zhang may have found both.

    Zhang, a mathematician at the University of New Hampshire, stunned the mathematical world in May when he reported a major step toward solving one of the oldest outstanding problems in number...

    12/26/2013 - 16:30 Numbers