December 23, 2017 | Science News


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December 23, 2017View Digital Issue

Editor's Note

Acting Editor in Chief Elizabeth Quill reflects on some of the top scientific stories of 2017.
By Elizabeth Quill | December 13, 2017
Magazine issue: Vol. 192, No. 11 , December 23, 2017 , p. 2


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A gravitational wave discovery is the year's biggest science story — again.

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Editor's Note

composite image of top science stories of 2017
Acting Editor in Chief Elizabeth Quill reflects on some of the top scientific stories of 2017.

Year in Review

From giant African elephants to tiny tardigrades, scientists discovered some surprising biology this year.
Missions to Jupiter and Saturn made big headlines, and 2017 also saw exciting updates from missions of years past.
illustration of neutron star collision
A rare and long-awaited astronomical event united thousands of astronomers in a frenzy of observations.
CT scans of Homo sapiens fossils
Human evolution may have involved the gradual assembly of scattered skeletal traits, fossils of Homo naledi and other species show.
satellite beaming light down to telescope in China
Quantum communication through space is now possible, putting the quantum internet within closer reach.
Larsen C ice shelf break
The hubbub over the iceberg that broke off Larsen C may have died down, but scientists are just getting warmed up to study the aftermath.
single cell embryo
Scientists edited viable human embryos with CRISPR/Cas9 this year.
illustration of TRAPPIST-1
The discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a single cool star fuels a debate over what counts as good news in the search for life outside the solar system.
1-month-old baby with microcephaly
The number of Zika cases in the Western Hemisphere have dropped this year, but the need for basic scientific and public health research of the virus remains strong.
football players colliding
Examinations of NFL players’ postmortem brains turned up chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 99 percent of samples in large dataset.
researchers measuring wheat
Studies show that rice, wheat and other staples could lose proteins and minerals, putting more people at risk of hunger worldwide.
CAR-T cells
The first gene therapies approved in the United States are treating patients with certain types of leukemia and lymphoma.
Swedish grave excavation
Some findings reported in 2017 are potentially big news, if they hold up to additional scientific scrutiny.


horseshoe bat
Viruses infecting bats could recombine to re-create SARS.
HAWC experiment in Mexico
Pulsars might not be behind excess antimatter, gamma-ray observations suggest.
neutron star collision
Scientists size up neutron stars using gravitational waves and light.
white-crowned sparrow
Eating small amounts of a neonicotinoid pesticide can disorient white-crowned sparrows.
woman reaching for inhaler
Adult women have higher rates of asthma than men, and testosterone’s effect on the immune system may partly explain that difference.
dead sea scrolls
Skeletons suggest a group of celibate men inhabited Dead Sea Scrolls site.
ocean water samples
Mysterious nitrite-oxidizing bacteria capture more carbon than previously thought and may be the primary engine at the base of the deep ocean’s food web.
blue whale
Though many blue whales tend to be “right-handed” when hunting for krill, one specific barrel roll move requires a lefty twist.
In quantum systems, heat can flow “backward,” from cold to hot.
emerald ash borer
Tests answer some questions about the emerald ash borer’s hidden taste for olive and fringe trees.
microcube diagram
A new metamaterial has a seemingly impossible property: It swells when squeezed.
Hamipterus tianshanensis
A treasure trove of pterosaur eggs and embryos gives tantalizing clues to the winged reptile’s early development.
ancient jewelry
A secret stash at an ancient site in Israel called Megiddo illuminates the Iron Age practice of hoarding wealth.


harbor porpoise
Patricia Brennan and colleagues found certain female ocean mammals have vaginal folds that give them an advantage in mating
Synthetic DNA has come a long way since it arrived on the scene half a century ago.
Hanny’s Voorwerp
Glowing clouds of gas known as Hanny’s Voorwerp offer a way to study galaxies and black holes in the distant past.
bowl of cookie batter
Flour, though low in moisture, can sicken people with E. coli toxins if it is eaten raw.

Reviews & Previews

collage of book covers
Science News writers and editors make their picks for top science books of the year.

Letters to the Editor

morpho dragonfly
From Cassini and eclipses to ladybugs and dolphins, Science News online readers had a wide variety of favorite stories on our website.

Science Visualized

Hurricane visualization
Swirls of sand, sea salt and smoke make atmospheric currents visible in a new NASA visualization.


illustration of neutron star collision
A gravitational wave discovery is the year's biggest science story — again.