[Originally posted Dec. 23, but now greatly expanded and updated.]
Lists! We got'em! Send us more (via suggest stories).
It's the time of year of slow news except for fiscal cliffs in the present case, a season when media like putting together compendia of the year's high and low points mainly because the news hole is aching for fodder and some readers like these things.
The big daddy of these score sheets isn't even put together mainly by ordinary journalists but by a committee including senior editors at Science Magazine. The magazine's journalists did select a long list of their favorite news stories, available to people registered to see the content (it's free). But the magazine's premium list of scientific developments is the chief bellwether for the rest of us. So let's start with it. If you haven't time to follow the link here they are:
- Breakthrough of the Year: The Discovery of the Higgs Boson. (story by Adrian Cho).
Science's runners up are, with no particular rank order as one ponders their layout on this page;
- Denisovan genome,
- genome engineering in which DNA stretches are selectively targeted for removal and relacements swapped in
- first protein structure measured via X-ray laser
- high-accuracy measurement of the third neutrino mixing angle (a possible avenue to understanding to matter-antimatter) in China and chiefly by Chinese and US researchers
- ENCODE project that fills in gaps between genes
- remarkable landing sequence by NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars
- control of bionic limbs by thought
- confirmation of majorana fermions in which the matter and antimatter versions are the same
- manufacture of mouse eggs from stem cells.
Onward. I'll remark, among other things, on any general science lists that don't have Higgs at the top.
One thing to notice is that these lists don't share priorities. Some, such as that at Science, reflect what somebody thinks were the most important scientific developments. That makes them the biggest stories if not necessarily the best-reported ones. Some others however put the stress on the reporting explicitly - looking for the best bits of journalism without so much regard for the stature of the science behind the accounts. And both those different kinds of filter may be applied to sub-genres or additional ways of breaking things down.
- Discover Magazine: Top 10 Stories of 2012: Number two is Curiosity's Mars landing. It has not found much huge science yet but the engineers and their management of the so-called seven minutes of terror has wowed a lot of people already. The list has quite a lot of overlap with Science's.
- Wired : Top Scientific Discoveries of 2012; Other than the H-particle and that Mars rover, one finds quantum teleportation, Space X's low orbit delivery service, and penetration of Lake Vostok.
- The Guardian (UK) - Top 10 most popular environment stories of 2012, that is, most popular ones that the Guardian wrote itself. One of them is itself a list: 10 things you should never flush down your toilet. Others are, to be sure, serious enough.
- The Guardian (UK) Suzanne Goldenberg, John Vidal, Damian Carrington, and Fiona Harvey: Drought, icemelt, superstorms ... a review of 2012's environmental news ; This is a superior to the previous list just above. It is a reflection by staff reporters, heavy on climate change and energy. Odd it is that the Guardian would have two lists of notable environmental news for the year. To add to the Guardian's look-back portfolio, an editorial: How science confounded the year's gloom. (See UPDATES below for yet more)
- BBC - Science news highlights of 2012 ; Quite a few of them, sorted by month. Higgs and Curiosity are there, natch. Also a crab named Hoff. All are plucked from BBC's own archive. The Beeb has other lists and galleries, including 2012: The year in space, and 2012: The year in technology ;
- LiveScience - Wynne Parry: The 7 Hottest Climate Change Stories of 2012 ; Wow, one of them is not bad news, exactly. It's the US decline in greenhouse gases, ascribed to natural gas taking a bigger share of power generation while coal ebbs a bit.
- Space.com - Elizabeth Howell: Most Extreme Space Discoveries of 2012 ; Literal superlatives all - as in biggest map of the universe, smallest solar system, most monstrous black hole...
- USA Today: Top 10: Science studies cited in 2012 ; Here's an odd duck - a media story list that turned to an authoritative data source (Thomson Reuters and its citation logs) to reveal what got the most scientists so excited they put a kudos to it via footnotes and such. First here too, it appears but the list is mostly a gallery with captions that don't explan much, is the Higgs.
- Gizmodo - Jamie Condliffe: The 13 Most Amazing Science Stories of 2012 ; Some of the usuals - and a few that might be called Amazing If True, which is a lot different than the standard Amazing But True. Including one on "Warp Speed" and a way to go many light years in a few hours, thanks to such things as a White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer. Right. This one looked so stupid to me I went digging around to show why. Instead, evidence popped up that it has some grounding in remote plausibility. Check this pdf at the Johnson Space Center's site. It has a picture of that hypothetical hyperdrive gizmo.
- Slate/Bad Astronomy Blog - Phil Plait: The Best Astronomy Images of 2012 ; Including one gas cloud that is saying 'no' to something. Plait of course knows his space eye-candy. Worth looking through them all.
- LiveScience- Stephanie Pappas: The 10 Most Blushworthy Science Stories of 2012; Including 'Gym orgasms are real!' ;
- LiveScience via CBS - Christopher Wanjek: Top five retracted science stories of 2012; Very funny. Derived from Ivan Oransky et al's Retraction Watch.
More to come ...
- Smithsonian.com (hat tip to Hannah Waters at the outlet's Ocean Portal) : The Ten Best Ocean Stories of 2012 ;
- RealClear Science - Alex B. Berezow, Ross Pomeroy (hat tip to the service's sci. ed. Berezow): Top 10 Science Stories of 2012: one story is a two-fer, a combo of deep diving (James Cameron) and super-stratosphere sky diving (Felix Baumgartner's supersonic free fall from near-space). Not sure that's science, but it IS something editors look from from their science writers. Interesting that they rank SpaceX's orbital commerce ahead of the Mars rover and ENCODE, behind you-know-what at #1.
- Nat'l Geo/ Not Exactly Rocket Science - Ed Yong: Hidden Gems of 2012 ; I dunno if these 14 gems are hidden, as master-tweeter Yong wrote them all himself and thus presumably told his huge following all about them. But it is guaranteed to be a unique list. Yong deliberately ignored any stories he did on the years consensus biggies. No Higgs, ENCODE, or the idiocy of Italian jurisprudence in coping with seismology. It is, therefore, a delightful and quirky list. I like the one on squid eyes. Also good is the one on rorqual jaw neural wiring - Yog's fine big-gulp whale story made it into a tracker round up last May.
- The Guardian - Eric Hilaire, James Kingsland: Best science stories of 2012 - in pictures ;
- Scientific American : The top 10 science stories of 2012 ; Higgs is #2! Tops goes to Sandy the Superstorm. Sci Am is a bit hard to scroll through. At a site called Smartplanet writer Laura Shin takes the list and provides it, with effusive credit, in easier-reading style.
- whoops two more from SciAm (Hat tip to Bora Zivkovic) : The Most Popular Scientific American Stories of 2012 in which the Mayan so-called doomsday comes up, legitimately; ;Kate Wong: The Most Fascinating Human Evolution Discoveries of 2012 ;
- And this comes to our attention because SciAm picked it up. Live Science - Jeanna Bryner, Stephanie Pappas: 12 Obvious Science Findings of 2012 ; Such as, if one starts drinking even before the party starts, one will probably wind up drinking more than most everybody else there who did not. And smoking weed makes you dumber.vAlso discovered perforce at LiveScience, in addition to the hot climate science list and blushworthy stories we caught up there first time around: Benjamin Radford: Total Hooey: The Strangest Non-Stories of 2012 ; Stephanie Pappas: 10 Weirdest Animal Discoveries of 2012 ;
- RedOrbit - 2012 Was No Ordinary Year For Science ; ;
- Columbia Journalism Review/The Observatory - Curtis Brainard: Must-reads of 2012: science ; Not a list of the most important science news events, but a list of most memorable ways, in Brainard's sharp judgment, that outlets and writers presented the topics they tackled.
- Science News (hat tip to Alex (-andra) Witze: Science News Top 25 ;
- io9 (Hat tip to Dan Petrovic) Robert T. Gonzalez, Annalee Newitz: The Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2012; Seventeen of them! The authors do not put numbers on them to explicitly provide a rank. But the first one down is the new Mars rover. Higgs is fifth. It has much overlap with Science's top ten. A vulgar headline that is also excusable is down a bit on the list, "The Environment is Falling to Shit, and People are Taking Notice" with its illustration the Bloomberg/Businessweek cover that says large "IT'S GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID."
- CNN - Elizabeth Landau: Danger meets discovery: Top 10 science stories of 2012 ; Mars Curiosity 1st, Higgs 2d.
- Seattle PI (Right, it lives on as a news site on line) 10 top space and science stories of 2012 (NW centric) ; In the regional-angle dept. they give high marks to some news about the 9000-yr-old Kennewick Man found 16 years ago along the Columbia River (the new fillip: his remains say stud muffin) and to a new childhood leukemia treatment. But most of the list is the global biggies - Mars #2, Higgs #1.
- Popular Science - A grab bag of sub-category lists, including Best Longreads of 2012 from its own pages, mostly features on such things as a climate change denier who wiki-logged the bejabbers out of Hurricane Sandy, a nine-year-old who spouts off like a post-doc on advanced space and physics topics, and the stress of being a climate change scientist (hate mail etc inlcuding worse). Also, Our Favorite Science Infographics of 2012 and The Greatest Science Photos of the Year ;
- Australian Science (Hat tip to the author) Danica Radovanovic: The Highlights of 2012 ; A few from Down Under, but lots on the usual biggies too. Radovanovic is editor in chief of Australian Science Magazine. It calls itself a science and blogging network.
- Climate Central - Andrew Friedman, Michael Lemonick, Dan Yawitz: Sandy Tops List of 2012 Extreme Weather & Climate Events ; I like No. 9 ; "Derecho Blows Into Lexicon." You're really paying attention if you recall what a derecho is. This list is US-centric. It's a US operation after all. American weather figures prominently in 8 of the 10 listings (the others being about the arctic, and the growing string of months since we had a cooler than average month by a metric that counts the 70s and 80s as average).
HAPPY NEW YEAR!