In 2016 scientists made a discovery sure to usher in a new era of physics: for the first time, they detected gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago. Meanwhile the Zika virus, after lying low for nearly 70 years, mounted an aggressive global attack. Climate change aggravated social crises in the Middle East, contributing to a mass exodus of refugees. Scientific American covered all these events in print or on digital platforms. In this special collection, you'll find those stories and more.
To choose the articles in this volume, my colleagues and I polled our editors for their favorite pieces and compiled the stories and events that drew the greatest attention of our readers and the world. We selected the most important news in science, of course, but also included entries that were particularly compelling reads, such as one that describes dramatic advances in treating cancer by inducing the immune system to attack tumors and another that muses on whether we might actually be living in a computer simulation. Science moves fast, and so, where needed, we have updated facts or added an editor's note highlighting major new developments. For example, just a few short months after we reported the detection of gravitational waves in February, physicists detected gravitational waves for the second time.
The stories that follow cover the gamut from the smallest machines to the biggest structures in space, from technology that promises hands-free driving to tools capable of altering human evolution. If you read no other articles about science from 2016, read these.