KSJ Tracker December 18, 2013

(UPDATES* ) Lists, we got'em: The tops, the bottoms, the whateverist science stories of the year.

[4 sets of updates]

It's that time of year and we're gathering your lists, checkin' in haste, tryin' to get ones that're hardly a waste.

    Yep, journalists and editors and their ilk with time to fill are totting up and publishing their annual compilations of superlatives of all sorts and polarities. The more interesting ones tend to be lists of news ranked regardless of whether the list-makers' pub staff covered it at the time. Less engaging are simple repeats of the stories that a pub happened to do itself and about which it still feels most swell. But either kind may make the cut, which portal relies on a strict scoring system of merit based mostly on whim and happenstance.

    So here's the launch of  Annual Tracker List of Lists, one that will grow as we find or get tipped to additional, worthy entries. After this gestates awhile I'll go through and look for any consensus on what is the top science news event of the year. Anyone with suggestions please send them via the "Suggest a Story" function on ksjtracker's site.

      So far:

  • Discover Magazine (Jan-Feb issue) Top Stories of 2013: The top one being new signs of long-gone life on Mars, and on down the top ten to Supreme Court on gene patents, CO2 at 400 ppm, Snowden's leak and tech vs. privacy, stem cells and lab-made organs, Voyager 1 enters interstellar medium,  prime number math landmarks, ancient family genomes, obese children, and a ten-dimensional 'simplification' of quantum mechanics. Lots of pay walls stop full perusal, but the list runs 100 items long.
  • RealClearScience : Two notable lists. The Best of the Best (top 10); and The (ten) Worst of the Worst (Biggest Junk Science of 2013) ; The good'uns ones include the life and death of comet ISON,  The Supreme Court's kibosh on some gene patents, and the Chelyabinsk meteor , the baddies comprise an assertion that vaccines make one gay, Time Mag's cover on how to cure cancer, and my favorite:  'Anti-Vaxxer Jenny McCarthy Joins The View ; The editors note that, unlike last year when the Higgs was so far ahead of the rest it was like it had a valence all to itself, this year was a you-pick'em derby.
  • Australian Science Media Centre: Top 10 science stories of 2013 and even more fun, The 10 weirdest science stories of 2013 which pertain to the ten basic smells including popcorn, to penis size and its significance, and farts on a plane.
  • Time Magazine - Several lists:  Top 10 Space Moments culminated by "Voyager 1 Officially Leaves Solar System" which is crap, as this noble little machine has (my hobbyhorse is a'rocking) perhaps pierced the heliopause and is maybe bathing in interstellar medium but until it leaves the Oort cloud's comets behind it is IN THE FREAKING SOLAR SYSTEM WHICH IS BEST DEFINED BY GRAVITATIONAL DYNAMICS AND ORIGINS OF CHUNKY CONSTITUENTS AND NOT THE WANLY BILLOWING CHEMISTRY AND FIELDS OF THE ERRATIC NEAR VACUUM OUTSIDE THE VEHICLE, GOT IT!!!!!;  Top 10 New Species with "T. Rex's uncle" first ;  Top 10 Green Stories led by California's cap and trade program launch, Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs with the topmost being a baby cured of HIV;  and more. Time's master list of lists, across all fields scientific or not, is quite a production.
  • Times (UK) Top Ten Science and Technology Stories of 2013 ; Pretty dull and arcane - the list appears to be of the 'most read' stories, not best, from The Times. More intriguing to some may be another of its lists, "Top 10 most read sex stories." Hmm. After a glance, looks to be that most of these are pretty dull too.

UPDATE 1  -  Dec 19:

  • AAAS Science Magazine: Top 10 Breakthroughs of 2013; Numero Uno is Cancer Immunotherapy. Medical developments snagged eight of the ten slots. A new solar cell material and discovery of a cosmic ray birthing room are the sole representatives of other broad fields of science.
  • Scientific American: Top 10 Science Stories of 2013; A much different and conventionally more newsy list than Science's. Tops is "sequestration" in the US, a body blow to scientific research. Others include the Russian meteor; the proliferation of drone applications for science, snooping, attacking, and Amazon's intended delivery service; links between fracking and earthquakes, and neutrinos from outside the solar system (Hmm, SN1987A was definitely outside the solar system, but point taken).
  • Wired Science: Top Scientific Discoveries of 2013 ; An eclectic list, without much overlap with others. But it has Voyager I leaving (wait for it, and recall the gratuitous rant I threw a few bullets up...) NOT the solar system! Thank you Betsy or whoever decided to keep the Oort cloud in the solar system and said simply that our humankind's far emisssary has instead left the solar wind's realm and  "tasted the space between the stars." A cranky but sensible commenter notes that while the list hed calls its items "discoveries," many are conjectures, inventions, or interesting events but not distinct scientific discoveries.

UPDATE 2 - Dec. 23;

UPDATE 3 - Dec. 27-28:

  • Live Science - Stephanie Pappas: Duh! Most Obvious Findings of 2013; Such as that men who cheat have stronger than average sexual appetites, and that women respond more to flirtations from men who are carrying guitars than those with nothing in their hands. [CORRECTED from earlier mis-attribution to Real Clear Science).
  • CNN - Elizabeth Landau, Matt Smith: Top science and space stories of 2013; Rover Curiosity on Mars and another falsity - the 'crossing of Voyager 1 out of the solar system.' The solar system later semi-defined in a way that omits many comets and some dwarf planets just so the interstellar medium and the heliopause can be considered its border (for Philadelphia-based newsworks, ksj co-tracker Faye Flam wrote among the best, most accurate stories on this topic several months ago. It tells readers exactly what Voyager 1 is up to) ; This piece is not just a list, but a disjointed discussion of science, mostly on space science but some on the IPCC, paleontology, the sequester, and newly found species.
  • Longform via Slate - Longform's Best Science and Tech Stories of 2013; I really do have to get out more - that is, out of reading news shorts and articles. I'd read only one, for sure, of these: Rolling Stone's story by Jeff Goodell on the blind hubris of the City of Miami acting as though it has prospects of existing for more than a handful of decades. Also, I think I'd read the one from the London Review of Books on Google's buses in SF and the tech invasion of the self-absorbed that they carry about (but not the New Yorker's and writer George Packer's similary dystopian take on the SF Bay Area's tech blindness to the struggling, complex world outside its wireless bubble of self-declared world-shaking ingenuity). Quite a list, with other entries from Matter and Foreign Policy. Not one of them is particularly cheery, most are depressing.

Update 4 - Jan 1 

  • LiveScience - Stephanie Pappas: The 10 Best Science Stories of 2013; Very unusual #1 - The forensics of Richard III, in which the wounds of his final battle (a horse, a horse, he got none of course), and his seriously curved spine. Others are also seen on ohter lists - oldest known human DNA, confirmation of the HIggs Boson (which was 2012's consensus winner on scanter evidence), subglacial Antarctic life, T. rex's ancestor, Curiosity rover on Mars, China's moon landing, a few more ...


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