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.
How closely related to humans were Neandertals? When did our ancestors diverge from theirs? What diseases might we have had in common? These questions and a thousand others could unravel as scientists retrieve more and more Neandertal nuclear DNA from the distant past--read the full account of how researchers obtained this sequence data
The discovery that RNA, like DNA, can also pass traits down through generations could have startling implications. As one researcher put it, "a particularly intriguing possibility is that such RNAs regulate other non-genetic modes of inheritance, such as metabolic or behavioral imprinting."
Not to mention images of lakes of liquid methane and Earth-like dunes on Titan
Researchers comparing humans to our closest living relatives identified 49 areas of rapid evolution in the human genome, then plumbed just one of them, which may be linked to the rapid evolution of our brains. Months later, a different study showed that the old saw about humans and chimps sharing 98% of their DNA just isn't so--it's more like 94%
Unfortunately, the firm appears to have made claims that its research doesn't quite support--an event that said as much about hype surrounding new discoveries (and the way they're disseminated) as it said about stem cell research.
Even though she predated the original Lucy by about 100,000 years, this fossilized three-year-old rocked the world of paleontology. Her discovery also gave our editors a chance to conduct an experiment in new journalism, which included soliciting reader feedback
in advance of the appearance of a feature story on Lucy's baby in the pages of Scientific American.
Our online coverage included a Q&A with the enterprising fossil hunter who found this 3.3-million-year-old girl
, as well as a multimedia presentation of the fossils themselves.
Perhaps you heard about the astonishing 50 new species scientists unearthed in Borneo
, but what about the new monkey genus
(the first in 83 years), the 52 new species of fish, shrimp and coral that showed up in a survey of the seas of New Guinea
, the new piranha
discovered, along with 12 other new species of fish, in Venezuela, or the Kha-Nyou, a "living fossil" that is a member of a family thought to be extinct for the past 11 million years