December 26, 2015 | Science News

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December 26, 2015

Editor's Note

Because it highlighted discovery at its most basic, Pluto won our No. 1 spot in the top 25 science news stories of 2015.
By Eva Emerson | December 17, 2015
Magazine issue: Vol. 188, No. 13 , December 26, 2015 , p. 2

Features

Archaeornithura meemannae illustration

Feature

From an ancient sponge ancestor to the Carolina Butcher, scientists learned a lot about life on Earth this year.
stained brain tissue

Feature

Under rare conditions, an Alzheimer’s-related protein may have jumped between people, scientists reported this year.
Isomorphic graphs

Feature

In what may be a once-in-a-decade advance, a computer scientist claimed to have devised an algorithm that efficiently solves the notorious graph isomorphism problem.
Brain cell nets

Feature

Holes in nets that surround nerve cells may store long-term memories, scientists proposed this year.
Wolf rib bone

Feature

This year’s dog research suggested older origins and a new location of domestication for man's best friend.
receipt handling

Feature

Evidence is accumulating that at least one popular alternative to bisphenol A can enter the body and trigger developmental and physiological changes.
Flasks

Feature

A die-off of bacteria in a carefully controlled lab experiment offered an evolutionary lesson this year: Survival depends not only on fitness but also on luck.
Kennewick Man skull

Feature

Ancient DNA identified 8,500-year-old Kennewick Man as a Native American relative.
pentaquark

Feature

Two particles discovered in 2015 are each composed of five quarks.
photo illustration of rat running fast

Feature

The discovery of speed cells in the brain filled in a missing piece in the understanding of how the brain creates an internal map of the world.
wallaby

Feature

Studies published this year add dodging death, flirting and mothering to the tasks that artificial light can discombobulate in wild animals.
melanoma cells

Feature

Researchers looking for mutations linked to cancer have found that not all genetic alterations should be targeted equally.
ship ocean

Feature

Some explosive science offered a glimpse into how tectonic plates slide around Earth’s surface.
mars salt flow

Feature

New data from the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter supported the presence of salty water on Mars.
experimental setup for superconductivity test

Feature

Compelling but not quite confirmed research in 2015 suggested that hydrogen sulfide is a superconductor at temperatures as high as 203 kelvins.
MESSENGER

Feature

The New Horizons mission to Pluto was the No. 1 science story of the year. Here some other notable space missions.

Feature

The Roadmap Epigenomics Project, unveiled in February 2015, is the first in a series of 3-D looks at the human genome.
photo illustration of quantum experiment

Feature

A new version of an experiment proposed in 1964 confirmed a counterintuitive tenet of quantum mechanics.
hydrothermal vents

Feature

Microbes discovered in Arctic mud this year could be the closest relatives yet found to the single-celled ancestor that made life so complicated.
geysers on Enceladus

Feature

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is offering the best evidence yet that Saturn's moon Enceladus could be a great place to search for extraterrestrial life.
a stack of papers

Feature

In 2015, several research groups reported the extent to which experimental results don't hold up to replication.
ice shelves in Antarctica

Feature

New climate research showed that the much-discussed warming hiatus never happened, carbon dioxide levels are higher than ever and Earth is heading toward a new normal.
aging woman

Feature

People grow old at different rates, but the underlying drivers of aging may be the same: molecular havoc wreaked inside of cells, scientists suggested in 2015.
stone tool

Feature

From a South African cave to an East African rift valley, fossil and archaeological finds reported in 2015 added new twists to the evolution of the human genus.
CRISPR

Feature

The gene editing system CRISPR has opened the door to new scientific advancements — and ethical concerns.
Pluto

Feature

Long out of reach, Pluto came into focus in 2015 with the New Horizons mission.
Top 25 science stories of 2015

Feature

Pluto up close, the power gene editor CRISPR, new early human kin and more make Science News' list of the top 25 science stories of 2015.

Feature

Don’t always believe what you hear. These truisms turned out to be false in 2015.
Parkes telescope

Feature

This year, researchers solved the riddle of mysterious radio bursts, the Erdös discrepancy problem and an elusive acid.
Ebolavirus

Feature

After more than a year of furiously developing and testing potential Ebola vaccines, two candidates have risen to the top and may soon be available for use.

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Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.

Editor's Note

Because it highlighted discovery at its most basic, Pluto won our No. 1 spot in the top 25 science news stories of 2015.

Features

MESSENGER
The New Horizons mission to Pluto was the No. 1 science story of the year. Here some other notable space missions.
Parkes telescope
This year, researchers solved the riddle of mysterious radio bursts, the Erdös discrepancy problem and an elusive acid.
Don’t always believe what you hear. These truisms turned out to be false in 2015.
Top 25 science stories of 2015
Pluto up close, the power gene editor CRISPR, new early human kin and more make Science News' list of the top 25 science stories of 2015.
Pluto
Long out of reach, Pluto came into focus in 2015 with the New Horizons mission.
photo illustration of quantum experiment
A new version of an experiment proposed in 1964 confirmed a counterintuitive tenet of quantum mechanics.
CRISPR
The gene editing system CRISPR has opened the door to new scientific advancements — and ethical concerns.
stone tool
From a South African cave to an East African rift valley, fossil and archaeological finds reported in 2015 added new twists to the evolution of the human genus.
aging woman
People grow old at different rates, but the underlying drivers of aging may be the same: molecular havoc wreaked inside of cells, scientists suggested in 2015.
ice shelves in Antarctica
New climate research showed that the much-discussed warming hiatus never happened, carbon dioxide levels are higher than ever and Earth is heading toward a new normal.
a stack of papers
In 2015, several research groups reported the extent to which experimental results don't hold up to replication.
geysers on Enceladus
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is offering the best evidence yet that Saturn's moon Enceladus could be a great place to search for extraterrestrial life.
hydrothermal vents
Microbes discovered in Arctic mud this year could be the closest relatives yet found to the single-celled ancestor that made life so complicated.
Archaeornithura meemannae illustration
From an ancient sponge ancestor to the Carolina Butcher, scientists learned a lot about life on Earth this year.
The Roadmap Epigenomics Project, unveiled in February 2015, is the first in a series of 3-D looks at the human genome.
Flasks
A die-off of bacteria in a carefully controlled lab experiment offered an evolutionary lesson this year: Survival depends not only on fitness but also on luck.
stained brain tissue
Under rare conditions, an Alzheimer’s-related protein may have jumped between people, scientists reported this year.
mars salt flow
New data from the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter supported the presence of salty water on Mars.
ship ocean
Some explosive science offered a glimpse into how tectonic plates slide around Earth’s surface.
melanoma cells
Researchers looking for mutations linked to cancer have found that not all genetic alterations should be targeted equally.
wallaby
Studies published this year add dodging death, flirting and mothering to the tasks that artificial light can discombobulate in wild animals.
photo illustration of rat running fast
The discovery of speed cells in the brain filled in a missing piece in the understanding of how the brain creates an internal map of the world.
pentaquark
Two particles discovered in 2015 are each composed of five quarks.
Kennewick Man skull
Ancient DNA identified 8,500-year-old Kennewick Man as a Native American relative.
Wolf rib bone
This year’s dog research suggested older origins and a new location of domestication for man's best friend.
Brain cell nets
Holes in nets that surround nerve cells may store long-term memories, scientists proposed this year.
Isomorphic graphs
In what may be a once-in-a-decade advance, a computer scientist claimed to have devised an algorithm that efficiently solves the notorious graph isomorphism problem.
Ebolavirus
After more than a year of furiously developing and testing potential Ebola vaccines, two candidates have risen to the top and may soon be available for use.
experimental setup for superconductivity test
Compelling but not quite confirmed research in 2015 suggested that hydrogen sulfide is a superconductor at temperatures as high as 203 kelvins.
receipt handling
Evidence is accumulating that at least one popular alternative to bisphenol A can enter the body and trigger developmental and physiological changes.

News

illustration of scissors cutting DNA
Gene editing research can move forward, but not for reproductive purposes, international summit committee says.
stone tool from Monte Verde
Stone tools, charred animal bones and fire ash found at the Monte Verde site in Chile indicate people reached South America’s southernmost territory at least 18,500 years ago.
quartz spheres with Einstein photo
It took more than 50 years, but an experiment testing general relativity has finally come to a close.
E. coli K12 bacterium
Helpful E. coli bacteria that live in the guts of animals produce proteins that can decrease an animal’s appetite only 20 minutes after receiving nutrients
illustration of Earth's magnetic field
Earth’s waning magnetic field is returning to its long-term average, not heading toward a catastrophic magnetic reversal, new lava analysis suggests.
Anopheles stephensi mosquito
Researchers have created a gene drive that prevents mosquitoes from carrying malaria.
thin ice in Arctic Sea
Thinning Arctic sea ice could boost heat-trapping water vapor in the air during autumn and winter, leading to more ice loss.
Tiny mollusk eyes in chiton armor can pick up rough images.
toad
Treating both tadpoles and their ponds for infection by deadly Bd chytrid fungus lets midwife toads go wild again.
In competition for selenium, testes draw the nutrient away from the brain.
Alzheimer’s-targeted antibodies make neurons misbehave even more, a study of mice shows.
The pygmy slow loris truly hibernates, making it the first primate found outside Madagascar to do so, a new study says.
The genomes of conifers — pine, cypress and yew trees — doubled twice in the distant past.
Phobos in 1977
Mars’ moon Phobos will shatter and create a temporary ring around Mars 20 million to 40 million years from now.
Bioelectric molecules can form wires and conduct electricity in cut roses, researchers find.
illustration of the larynx
Lab-grown vocal cord tissue could lead the way to better treatments for people with vocal problems
A baby planet is still growing in the disk of gas that encircles a young star.

Notebook

Scientists on dunes
Mechanical engineer and geophysicist Nathalie Vriend explores noises in the desert that are triggered by sand sliding down dunes.
Chickens
Moms aren’t always the only ones that pass mitochondrial DNA to offspring, a study of chickens finds.
Sheep with scrapie
Five decades later, scientists still puzzle over what causes multiple sclerosis.
man with books
The 10th edition of International Classification of Diseases went into effect in 2015, and it included some interesting additions.
Fireworks
Fireworks and other pyrotechnics severely reduce visibility during celebrations such as New Year’s Eve and Guy Fawkes Day, researchers report.

Reviews & Previews

book collage
The Science News staff offers its must-read picks of 2015.

Letters to the Editor

ganymede
Science News' online readership sometimes surprised us with their clicking habits this year.

Science Visualized

MERS network map
The Middle East respiratory syndrome virus, which infected 186 people in South Korea in 2015, quickly spread within and between hospitals via a handful of “superspreaders.”