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The Top 10 Science Stories of 2010 [Slide Show]

A microbe with an artificial genome, a volcano with an almost unpronounceable name, a disaster that blackened Gulf waters—these and other events defined this year in science and technology

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1. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

On April 20, a well-head blowout at BP's Macondo oil well (pictured) set off an explosion on board the Deepwater Horizon rig floating about a mile above. The blast claimed 11 lives, sank the rig and unleashed a three-month deluge that spewed 750 million liters of crude oil (and natural gas) into the Gulf of Mexico.....[ More ]

2. The Haiti Earthquake and Cholera Outbreak

January's magnitude 7.0 earthquake created a long tail of death and destruction . Although the images of a wrecked capital city—stemming in large part to a lack of enforceable building codes—were stunning, the damage is still playing out nearly a year later.....[ More ]

3. Major Advances in HIV and AIDS Prevention

The encouraging results from the Thai HIV vaccine trial late in 2009 boosted hope that the retrovirus could eventually be beaten . This year witnessed new strides in prevention. A tenofovir-containing vaginal gel could help women avoid infection even if their partners refused to wear a condom.....[ More ]

4. Synthetic Life

Will March 26, 2010, go down in history as the dawn of man-made life ? That's the day scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute inserted an entirely synthesized genome into Mycoplasma capricolum cell and turned it into Mycoplasma mycoides.....[ More ]

5. Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull

On March 20, a volcano in Iceland with an unpronounceable name erupted—and kept erupting over subsequent weeks. All told, Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced "AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl-uh"), whose name means "island mountain glacier" for the ice sheet it melted, injected some 250 million cubic meters of ash into the atmosphere.....[ More ]

6. A New Direction for NASA

Since the dawn of the U.S. space program the nation has entrusted NASA, and NASA alone, to build and launch the rockets that carry its astronauts into orbit. That may soon change. As part of a massive shake-up of the agency proposed by President Obama in February , private companies would step in to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station after the space shuttle is retired in 2011, freeing NASA to set its sights on more distant destinations such as Mars .....[ More ]

7. WikiLeaks

The U.S. learned a hard lesson in data security on November 28 when WikiLeaks , an organization championing whistle-blowers, began publishing what it claims will amount to more than 250,000 leaked U.S.....[ More ]

8. Return of the Electric Car

More than a decade after its EV-1 electric car was "killed," General Motors's Chevrolet Volt (pictured) began shipping in December to car dealerships in California, New York State, Texas and Washington, D.C.....[ More ]

9. A Microbe That Lives on Arsenic... Or Does It?

It all began with a vague but tantalizing press release: NASA issued a statement in late November about a forthcoming press conference "to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." Speculation that NASA had found ET ran rampant, but the actual finding turned out to be much more down to Earth.....[ More ]

10. Neandertal Genome Decoded

Long a topic of scandalous speculation, the occasional interbreeding of early humans and Neandertals was backed up by DNA evidence this year with the first major draft of the Neandertal genome . In a May paper in Science , researchers concluded that for those with roots outside of Africa, some 1 to 4 percent of a person's genetic material likely came from Neandertals.....[ More ]

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