Most Important Science Stories of 2006
Humans controlled computers with the power of thought, built an invisibility cloak, cracked the mystery of a 3,000-year-old computer, discovered a new element, unearthed a missing link and kicked Pluto out of the planet club--and those are just the highlights.
Tiktaalik, Pluto, and the Antikythera mechanism are just a few of this year's top science stories
Image: NASA, JO MARCHANT/NATURE, Ted Daeschler
After a week of contentious public and private debate, a small cluster of astronomers voted to demote Pluto from its planetary status. The world wept, and we wept with you
Dubbed Tiktaalik roseae
, this large, predatory fish bears a number of features found in the four-limbed creatures that eventually gave rise to all amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Plus, it gave our editor in chief another chance to take on creationism.
The climate models were as dire as ever
, despite some researchers' ongoing attempts to deny that anthropogenic climate change is even happening
. Meanwhile, the effects of global warming
continued to multiply, including more intense monsoon rains
, the migration of America's breadbasket to Canada
and the contraction of the Earth's atmosphere.
(There was some good news, as well: levels of atmospheric methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas, mysteriously stabilized
An interview with the Crocodile Hunter revealed that he was more than just a showman, and possessed a deep commitment to animals
, education and environmental conservation.
Why would anyone pass up the "Nobel Prize of mathematics" plus a $1-million bounty? Perhaps a detailed study of the man who did all of the above
holds the answer.
Resveratrol blew up big this year as the miracle molecule in wine that could extend your life by 60 percent--if you're a yeast cell, that is. Other researchers saw it differently--Forget Resveratrol, Tannins Key to Heart Health from Wine
argues that wine's beneficial effects on heart health depend more on the traditional vintner's art than on the wonder molecule resveratrol. Either way, a little knowledge about the chemistry of wine