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1Jan 2014

List of lists, parsed and strained, to reveal what? CO2's rise, stem cell cloning, a Russian meteor, and Voyager's exit to somewhere were big 2013 news.

List of lists, parsed and strained, to reveal what? CO2's rise, stem cell cloning, a Russian meteor, and Voyager's exit to somewhere were big 2013 news.

   This is not a meta analysis, for I never met an analysis I could not screw up. I don't even do spread sheets with any semblance of skill. But after spending a few hours mooshing and scoring the list of lists post that has been updated several times in the last two weeks, here is the closest I can get to a consensus gradation of top science stories for 2013. That is, as indicated by various publications' subjective efforts to do the job all by themselves. As you go along, to learn more about specific items from the lists consult that preceding link.

  No sense standing about so, according to methods described below, the four supposedly top stories are:

1. Atmospheric CO2 reached 4oo parts per million for the first time in modern history. A winner, even though no list I saw put it at number one. This is like being the number one ranked tennis player in the world without winning a single big tournament - but reaching the semis or finals every time.

2. Progress in cloning human stem cells and getting them to differentiate.

3. The Chelyabinsk meteor that spectacularly blew up high in Russia's sky.

4. The exit of Voyager 1 from the realm of the solar wind to become the first manmade object to bathe in the interstellar medium (misconstrued by some but not all media, as rantingly declared by yours truly ad pretty much nauseum, to mean it is leaving the solar system. However, it is still within the sun's dynamical suzerainty - at least one dwarf planet and many comets orbit the sun at greater distance).

 Trailing these are such news events as further discoveries of water and hints of life on Mars, exploitation of a gene-snipping method called CRISPR that nature invented for us in microbes, a Supreme Court decision restricting patents on genes, progress toward cancer immunotherapy, life in a subglacial Antarctic lake, and a few more stragglers.

   The strongest conclusion to be drawn is that, in contrast to last year's hands-down  winner, discovery of what sure looks like the Higgs boson, 2013 had no single event, or even two or three of them, that put much daylight between them and the pack. A second lesson is that Science Magazine's breakthrough of the year, Cancer Immunotherapy, didn't appear on any other, more news-rooted list. The gurus as Science each year probably scoff at mere newshounds.

   Long may the two magisteria thrive and a Happy New Year to all!

   As for methods, I selected eight published lists for scrutiny. No weighting was applied to favor some lists over others, even though the listmakers clearly vary widely in terms of experience and reputation. From each list, the top six counted in the contest. I figured if something didn't make anybody's top six, pffft. One pub, Time Magazine, had several lists so I just counted the top three of each of its sublists. Points were awarded in serial order: 6 points for a #1, 5 for a #2, etc. (and just 3-2-1 points for each item in Time's lot). Science magazine had a number one, and an unranked list of runners-up. Anything on that latter list got three points, a more or less random solution to ambiguity.

   Some lists, which didn't have succinct rankings or were not quite on topic, were left out of the analysis. Here is the first cut at the chosen subset from the list of lists after reduction to its top 6 entries (with special treatment for Time Mag):

Discover Stories: (special kudos for amplituhedron, even though it did not make this post's cut, at 10)

New Signs of Long-Gone Life on Mars

Supreme Ct. nixes gene patents

CO2 hits 400 ppm

Snowden reveals NSA spying

Stem Cells – Closer to Growing Organs

Voyager goes interstellar

 

Real Clear Science:

Human embryos cloned

Chelyabinsk Meteor

Subglacial Antarctic Lake Life

Life on Mars

CRISPR Revolution (Bacterial immune system app)

Supreme Court on gene patents

Australian Science Media Ctr

Voyager leaves solar system

CO2 levels 400ppm

Human embryonic stem cells cloned

Artificial meat for burger eaten

HIV signs cleared from infant

Oldest life evidence in Australia

Time Mag (several lists, here are 3 uppermost from each)

Top space list:

Voyager exit of something

Chelyabinsk Meteor

20 billion Earths estimate

Top new species

Lythronax argests – T. Rex early kin from Utah

Panthera blythae – giant panther 4.4 mybp Tibet

New Turkish Scorpion ,  Euscorpius lycius

Top Green Stories

Calif Cap and Trade

EPA regulating climate including CO2

CO2 tops 400

Top Med

Infant ‘Cured’ of HIV

New, laxer standards for statins (cholesterol busters)

New pregnancy test tells how far along preggers is

AAAS Science Mag

Cancer Immunotherapy

Runners Up: Genetic Microsurgery, CLARITY brain imaging, Human Cloning, Mini organs in vitro, cosmic particle accelerators, perovskite solar cells, brain repair during sleep, Human microbiota do a lot, Architecture of vaccines (form dictates design)

Scientific American

Sequestration

CO2 400

Chelyabinsk meteor

Typhoon Haiyan, strongest landfalling storm ever seen

Oldest Human DNA, 400,000 years

Neutrinos from outside solar system

Wired Science

Voyager’s exit

CRISPR – inspired genome editing

Billions of Earths

Global warming – cause for the pause.

See-through brains

Intergalactic neutrinos

LiveScience

Richard III Forensics

Higgs Boson confirmed

Oldest Human DNA

4 billion year old water discovered

Subglacial Antarctic Life

Newly discovered T-rex relative

Step Two - the aggregate scores of the so-proclaimed top news events of 2013 (scores off individual lists, followed by the total)

CO2 400 ppm 3, 5, 1, 5 ......................................................14

Stem Cells, Cloning 2, 6, 4 ................................................ 12

Chelyabinsk meteor 5, 2, 4 ..............................................   11

Voyager exit 1, 3, 6 ............................................................ 10

Water-Life on Mars 6, 3 .................................................... 9

CRISPR gene snipping 1, 5 ............................................... 6

Supreme Court decision on gene patents 5, 1 .................. 6

Cancer Immunotherapy 6 ................................................ 6

Life in subglacial Antarctic lake 3, 2................................. 5

Oldest Human DNA 3, 2, ................................................. 5

HIV evidence cleared from infant 2, 3............................. 5

T-rex relative 3, 1.............................................................. 4

Neutrinos outside solar system 1,..................................... 1

Anybody with the energy to repeat the process and who wishes to scold me in public for cruddy arithmetic and makes a good case, please let me  know (use the suggest a story function of this site or if you have it my personal email). I will amend this sucker as needed.

 

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