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2014 Inside Science Superlatives

2014 Inside Science Superlatives

Inside Science’s editors bring you their favorite stories from the “class of 2014.”

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 - 19:45

Sara Rennekamp, Contributing Editor

It’s been an exciting year at Inside Science covering the latest and greatest of science news and some of the more offbeat stories that might not have made it on your radar. To ring in the New Year, we’re bringing you a list of some of the best science stories to cross our desk in 2014.

Most Likely to be Famous: The British Invasion In Space

February 9th, 1964 was an unforgettable evening for the American fan base of a certain British rock band. This was the night that the Beatles took the stage on the Ed Sullivan Show for their stateside debut. Fifty years later, we celebrated the Beatles’ triumphant entry into the U.S. with an infographic that follows the radio waves sent out by that broadcast through their half-century-long journey through space.

 Biggest (Almost) Breakthrough: Scientists Report Evidence For Gravitational Waves In Early Universe

It was a snow day in Washington D.C. and most of Inside Science’s staff were homebound, but we nonetheless covered some breaking news out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The research team behind the BICEP2 experiment announced that they discovered the most direct evidence to date of Einstein’s theory of rapid expansion: gravitational waves in the initial moments of the universe. The reaction from science news outlets was swift and exuberant. But a few months later, evidence surfaced that the findings might not have been as groundbreaking as they thought.

Hindsight is 20-20: My 1975 “Cooling World” Story Doesn’t Make Today’s Climate Scientists Wrong

As it was in the case of the BICEP2 announcement, sometimes a little distance from a project can shed new light. This is certainly true in the case of climate change research. In the 1960s and 70s, a considerable amount of research showed that the Earth’s climate was cooling rather than warming. Following this research, Peter Gwynne wrote a story for Newsweek in 1975 outlining the cutting edge research of that time and its possible implications. But, as data amassed and scientists continued to study our world’s curious climate, it became clear that the Earth's climate is warming, in large part due to human activity. In 2014, Peter Gwynne set the record straight.

Always On The Phone: Turn Your Smartphone Into A Science Lab

Smartphones can be used for so much more than selfies or Angry Birds. Researchers in Washington State have developed a device that can transform an ordinary smartphone into a portable microscope. This kind of innovation could be a game changer for rural areas and third world countries where diagnostic labs are not easy to come by.

Best Eyes: Why Nerds Need Glasses

Some stereotypes exist for a reason. In the case of the consummate nerd caricature, which includes a pocket protector, disheveled hair and horn-rimmed glasses, the glasses at least may have a basis in a deeper truth. A new German study found that children who spent more time immersed in books from a young age were more likely to become nearsighted enough to require corrective lenses.

Most Musical (tie): Going Into A Trance To Play Music, For Lightning Speed, Prodigious Memory, Phenomenal Multitasking, See A Musician

Musical ability may not be a superpower, but many professional musicians certainly exhibit a set of skills that an untrained eye or ear might describe as supernatural. But, as many of them will tell you, practice makes perfect.  

Science on the Big Screen: Interstellar’s Black Hole Once Seen As Pure Speculation

Last November, Christopher Nolan dove headfirst into heavy science fiction with his epic film “Interstellar,” this time with some world-class physicists by his side. The movie itself was a rollercoaster of visual stunners, mind-boggling physics and raw human emotion, speculating on some of the deepest questions in science and of human existence. The science behind the fiction was based on some of today's most sophisticated physics theories. In this story, we explain some of that science as well as the fascinating history of the theory of black holes. In a follow-up blog post, we talkedwith the film's science consultant, physicist Kip Thorne, to explore whether the early science critiques of the movie were too harsh.

Most Patriotic: How George Washington Can Inspire Honesty In Kids

Do not make your child’s bedtime reading decisions lightly. A new study found that children who were read the story of “George Washington and the Cherry Tree” – a story in which young George’s honesty is praised and encouraged – displayed more honest behavior immediately following the story than children who were read  “Pinocchio” or “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” – stories in which the protagonist’s dishonesty is punished.

Most Artistic: Science And Art Meet, Unveiling Mystery and Cultural Tragedy

“Charm can fool you. Beauty fades,” says the Book of Proverbs. Even the greatest artistic masterpieces in the world will eventually corrode into decay. This story explores the tragic but inevitable deterioration of some of the world’s greatest art. But, even in the midst of loss, new insights can be uncovered, including an entirely different painting hidden beneath a familiar Picasso masterpiece.

Best Car: How Much Range Do Electric Cars Need?

Despite the unusually low oil prices of late, Americans are becoming more and more inclined to buy hybrid vehicles that allow them to avoid the gas pump as much as possible. But, many car buyers are reluctant to make the leap to a totally electric vehicle, often citing the vehicles’ limited range as the primary complaint. But, researchers show that even the limited range of the current electric vehicles on the market still meets the needs of most commuters’ daily driving habits. So, what else is holding them back from going electric?

Thank you for making this year such a wonderful year for Inside Science. Join us in 2015 for even more science news and insights. Happy New Year!

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