Sunday, 3 January 2016

What Happened in 2015? An Incomplete Guide (The Tertia-quel)

In case you've forgotten what happened during 2013 2014 2015, or just forgot how long ago each event was, here's a rundown of some of the major events that occurred, in chronological order, during the totally-arbitrary solar sojourn that was the year 2013 2014 2015 CE.

It's not comprehensive - it'd be too long to read, if it were - and it might be a tad anglo-centric, but i've tried my best. Enjoy...

And yes, i did just copy that text out of last year's round-up. But then, why should i change it? :-P

And yes, i did just copy that text out of last year's round-up. But then, why should i change it? :-P


NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory detects an X-ray flare, coming from Sagittarius A* - the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way - that is 400 times brighter than usual. It's hypothesised that it might have been caused by the breaking apart of an asteroid falling into the black hole or by the entanglement of magnetic field lines within gas flowing into Sagittarius A*

It's found that genes related to cell division, DNA repair, cancer, and ageing might have helped the Bowhead Whale increase its longevity and cancer resistance. The Bowhead Whale regularly lives to more than 200 years old!

NASA announces the 1000th confirmed exoplanet discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope

Astronomers observe and measure a neutron star slipping out of view, because of the warp in space-time its orbit creates. The star is expected to reappear in about 160 years

Physicists create a metamaterial that produces backward rainbows. In a usual rainbow, the red colour is on the 'outside' and the bluer light, with the shorter wavelength, which is refracted more strongly, appears on the 'inside'. But metamaterials can fabricate negative refractive indices, which means everything works backwards... et voila, a backwards rainbow!

A new species of ichthyosaur, resembling a dolphin and a crocodile, is discovered in Scotland. Newspapers promptly ask whether it was an ancestor to the fictional creature called the Loch Ness Monster [facepalm]

A fatwa is declared in the north of Saudi Arabia, banning snow camels and snow men, stating that only lifeless things like ships and fruit (lifeless??) may be depicted. Note: this is not a statutory law, only a religious one

The first lab-grown, contracting human muscle is announced by Duke University

NASA and ESA celebrate 10 years since the Cassini-Huygens probe landed on Titan, the largest moon of the planet Saturn

The government in Tanzania bans witchdoctors, in an attempt to stop the killing of people with albinism for their body parts, according to Christian superstition

Eleven years after it mysteriously went missing on the surface of Mars, Beagle 2 seems to be found, in the Isidis Planitia. The leader of the mission - Colin Pillinger - died last year, frustrated by the lack of follow-up mission; but credited with injecting huge amounts of much-needed enthusiasm into European Space Science

NASA and the NOAA confirm that 2014 was the hottest year on record globally, following up a declaration of the same, by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) on the 5th of January. Later in the month, the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) concurs. And that's without the Southern Oscillation's help! Usually, peaks in temperature come with El Nino phases in the Pacific Southern Oscillation, but this new high has been set without 2014's El Nino arriving

A touching gallery, of art for blind people, is opened by a Spanish artistic group, and an artist who went blind in his 20s. They've taken some famous paintings, and then used a relief printing technique to make them 3D and thereby tactile to gallery visitors


According to a survey data release, most people aren't aware of the ubiquitous and benign presence of DNA in food. "According to a recent survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics, over 80% of Americans said they would support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” roughly the same number that support the mandatory labeling of GMO foods “produced with genetic engineering.”"

It's revealed that cone snails, that hunt and eat fish, disable their prey using a mixture of chemicals, including a type of insulin, that removes glucose from their blood, leaving them weak and disoriented, and easy to catch and eat


As part of the Open Worm Project, scientists map the brain of Caenorhabditis elegans, create software to mimic its nervous system, and upload it to a lego robot, which seeks food and avoids obstacles


NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto takes its first shots of the dwarf planet, as it gets close enough to resolve the Plutian surface. The first image releases will be later, in April

NASA's Opportunity Rover celebrates its 11th anniversary on the planet Mars, with this panorama from the top of Cape Tribulation:
And this one too:

Chemists (one of which being the YouTuber Thunderf00t) determine that alkali metals explode on contact with water due to a Coulomb explosion at the water-metal interface driving the reaction, instead of merely due to Hydrogen gas formation and its subsequent ignition. This overturns what was previously considered to be a well understood phenomenon, and has the potential to increase safety when handling reactive metals

Biologists find that it is possible to recover one of the chemicals in egg white - a clear protein called lysozyme, which makes up ~3.4% of the egg's white, which as an enzyme, is used to eat through the cell walls of invasive bacteria. Given that this process does nothing for the yolk, and involves throwing 96.4% of the white away, the claims that this process is like 'unboiling' an egg, seem rather fatuous. This research will win an Ig Nobel Prize, in September

Sociologists find, using research on three US States - Minnesota, Mississippi and Alabama - that gasoline prices are linked to vehicular 'incidents' like crashes, and injuries, and that this association might be causative. They hypothesise that a $2 per gallon price drop would result in an additional 150 crashes involving a death, 5,000 producing injuries and 35,000 causing property damage, in Minnesota alone.

A survey of the 'general public' and members of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) finds that they have starkly different views on a range of subjects: GMOs, nuclear power, fracking, climate change, etc. Unsurprisingly, the AAAS members' opinions are far more likely to be concordant with evidence, but the fact that there are no cases of unanimity demonstrates that  known evidence is the key determinant of belief and rightness


It's found that, when flying in formation, birds take it in turns to go at the front. V-formations form, because wings leave streams of 'clean air' behind them, making it more energy efficient to fly there, than at the front.

A UCLA department has found a population of bacteria so similar to their ancestors, that left marks in rocks 1.8 billion years ago, that they can state that the bacteria haven't evolved in almost 2 billion years

NASA releases images of Pluto, showing Charon - one of Pluto's five moons - orbiting it

NASA/ESA releases images of three of Jupiter's moons transiting it at once. Apparently it's a rare occurrence to catch Io, Callisto and Europa, all between the camera and the host planet, at the same time

US News presenter Brian Williams becomes the subject of a popular misunderstanding of the science of memory, when he conflates two of his own, and broadcasts the erroneous result to the nation

A court hears about a man who claimed Barack Obama was an alien, and punched his mother at her home in Telford, Shropshire, when she laughed at the claim

A quantitative analysis of the journal/magazine Nature finds taboo language to include four 'bollocks' and ten 'fucks' amongst other terms


The discovery of fossils of two interrelated ancestral mammals, in modern-day China, pushes the estimated original diversification of arboreal and subterranean mammals to more than 160 million years ago

Moth tails - the trailing material on the back ends of moths - are found to have utility as wind-breakers. They introduce turbulence into the air behind them, so that it's more difficult for bats to track, using their echolocative abilities. When the tails are there, bats are much more likely to miss the moth's body, and hit the tails instead


A third species of seadragon is found off the southern coast of Australia - the ruby seahorse. Its red colour is camouflage, in the deep waters where it lives

Limpets are found to use a mineral-protein composite that's three orders of magnitude stronger than kevlar, under tension

Molcular biologists find that penguins are only capable of tasting saltiness and sourness, and incapable of sensing sweetness, bitterness and umami - the only animal species known not to be able to feel any of these sensations. It's thought that the extreme cold renders the proteins that encode for sweet bitter and umami reception useless anyway, and so have been selected against

The quack supplements industry is revealed to have been using sock puppets (fake accounts) on Twitter to bully the New York Attorney General out of imposing much-needed regulation on Supplements industry businesses


A CT scan reveals that the Buddhists have also practiced mummification, at least around the 11th/12th centuries CE. But whereas the ancient Egyptians simply removed organs and buried their dead relatives to help them get to 'the afterlife', the Buddhists replaced the organs with scriptures, in order to help them 'power up' to Buddha level

The UK's Dishonourable Member of Parliament for Holland & Barrett - David Tredinnick - and current Conservative MP, bullishly declares that the NHS can be saved by serving patients with Astrological fraud. Sorry, Dave - geocentric superstition is not a medicine; scientists are not bullies for 'dismissing' it as a completely pseudoscientific farce; and it's not "racist" to respect truth and honesty

An economist uses data on the effect of air-borne particulates, to estimate that air pollution in India costs the population an aggregate of 2.1 billion life years. 660 million people in India live in air considered inadequately clean by India's Air Quality Standard


The apex of a meme occurs, in which delusion, trolling, and groupthink lead large numbers of people to perceive a blatantly blue-and-black dress to be gold-and-white. Some scientists try to molly-coddle the wrongness-exhibiting people with explanations of 'colour constancy' but that just doesn't cut it - the colours are clear. My diagnosis: psychological deviation by memetics


It's reported, including by the Daily Fail, that non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is actually real, according to a study. Well, as mentioned on this blog in August last year, evidence has suggested that NCGS, unlike Coeliac Disease, doesn't exist. And what of this study? Do the researchers really think NCGS is real? Well, no

The Natural History Museum, in London, having used two different computational modelling techniques to 'flesh out' scans of their Stegosaurus - 'Sophie' - and to thereby postdict its mass, calculate that the living Sophie would have weighed ~1560 Kg - the mass of a large cow or small rhino

Astronomers announce that they've observed a star breaking the galactic speed record! It's been seen doing 1,200 kilometers per second (2.7 million miles per hour) which is enough for it to escape the Milky Way galaxy. It was accelerated to this speed by the supernovaing of its binary partner

Geologists find the largest impact zone on/in the planet, in Australia, indicating an impact four times the size of the one that changed the climate enough that it wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs, flying reptiles (my kin), and the marine reptiles! The crater was buried a long time ago, but the remaining camber left in the bedrock is 400 km wide

It's found that, like with butterflies and some birds, some chameleons control their colour using nanostructures - not by redistributing pigments in their skin

Researchers date the remains of a sponge, found in China, to be 600 million years old, making it likely to be the ancestor of all modern sponges

Researchers solve the mystery of the dancing droplets, in which drops of aqueous solutions chase each other around a surface, apparently without an energy source

The SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) takes this beautiful shot of the Sun, showing two coronal holes and a highly-active shiny patch on the right, where a feared solar storm came from, potentially threatening Earth infrastructure

Researchers hook up sensing equipment to the body of a Giant Flower Beetle to observe it as a kind of cyborg research subject. As it's an insect, it can't feel pain, but it can explore nooks and crevices unexplorable by humans

Lane Labs-USA is fined $955,000 to make reparations to customers sold supplements by fake claims of health benefits. Lane Labs-USA is one of the companies profiting from the pseudoscientific claim that shark cartilage is good for people's bones, and hence osteoporosis cases

The results of a study into intelligence and what might determine it, done in Brazil, is one of many to be abused by pro-breastfeeding advocates this year. Just one of the variables tested was breastfeeding, and the correlation was insufficient to support a causation

Male rats are engineered, that get sexually aroused when exposed to blue light, even causing some of them to ejaculate. It's conjected that the development might help people suffering erectile dysfunction

A total solar eclipse happens

NEO 2014 YB35 - an asteroid measuring less than 1 km across, passes a mere 11.7 lunar distances - that's 4.5 million kilometres - from the Earth, but not as close supersitionists feared it would

It's declared that fish oil - the hugely-popular supplement that quacks love to throw at you, for everything, nowadays - does not work. The purported wonderfulness is that the omega-3 in fish oil is good for the brain, and the heart. The sum total of evidence, examined by the National Institutes of Health, shows that fish oil does not work at preventing heart attack or stroke

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) reveals that the Moon has two tails, like a comet: one made of sodium gas, and the other made of nanoscale dust particles


The Loch Ness Monster returns to the Newspapers again, with yet another extinct marine species being presented as a 'possible relative' of the fictional beast. This one's a boney fish called Pterichthyodes milleri, which lived 500 million years ago

A total lunar eclipse occurs. Another will occur on the 28th of September

Brontosaurus is back! A reanalysis of its skeleton leads to it gaining its own genus, instead of being relegated as a species of apatosaur. If you don't understand, just take a look at my expertly created diagrams :-D

An analysis of 94,500 Dutch citizens between 1935 and 1967 finds that taller men there have more children than shorter ones, suggesting that sexual selection is probably responsible for the increase in Netherlanders' tallness by 20cm over the last 200 years. The Dutch are currently the tallest population in the world

Complex organic molecules are detected in a young star system for the first time

The newly-discovered ancient 'terror bird' of South America (Llallawavis scagliai) turns out to have had quite poor hearing. The metre-tall carnivore's narrow low-frequency hearing, would have been effective for hunting purposes, in excluding less-relevant sounds

NASA releases its first colour image of Pluto and Charon, captured by the New Horizons spacecraft. More follow

The Japanese L0 Series maglev becomes the first train to operate at a speed of 600 kilometres per hour (370 mph) managing such speeds for more than 11 seconds, according to Central Japan Railway

Astronomers make the first ever direct detection of a spectrum of visible light reflected off an exoplanet

The 25th anniversary of the day the Hubble Space Telescope left Earth, nestled in the shuttle Discovery's cargo bay

The first genetically engineered human embryo is designed, such that if it were to grow up, it would not develop the genetic disease Beta thalassemia


Californian senators respond to the Disney Measles Disaster, in which more than 140 people contracted measles on the Disney site there. 70% of the victims were completely unvaccinated, and Californian lawmakers have been subject to death threats from anti-vaccers, because of the movement

A WHO announcement declares that air pollution in Europe costs it US$1.6 trillion per year, through the effects of morbidity and eventual mortality

The World Health Organization (WHO) declares that rubella has been eradicated from the Americas, thanks to the MMR vaccine

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft concludes its four-year orbital mission over Mercury by crashing into the planet at a velocity of approximately 14,080 km/h (8,750 mph), impacting at 54.4° N, 149.9° W, near the crater Janácek


Zoologists report that the fin whale has stretchy, bungee-cord like nerves running along the ventral region of its body, so that it can suck in large amounts of water (and thereby food) without feeling the intense pain that non-stretchy nerves produce when put under tension

Archaeornithura meemannae, a new species of prehistoric bird that represents the oldest known member of the modern bird lineage, is discovered

Zoologists identify a species of predatory cockroach-like insect from a 100-million-year-old amber-preserved fossil. Its only known remaining modern relatives are praying mantises

The NOAA announces that atmospheric CO2 remained above 400 parts per million (ppm) throughout March of 2015 - the first time it had been at this level for an entire month. The current concentration of greenhouse gases is the highest it has been for millions of years

In the same week that we hear about a single gene majorly influencing the shape of birds/reptiles' beaks/snouts, we have a story about a dinosaur with quite an exceptional snout. Saurornitholestes sullivani was similar to Velociraptor, but with a larger braincase around the area of the olfactory bulb, which implies a better sense of smell.

Biologists find that male spider mites of the species Tetranychus urticae are prone to accidental necrophilia, due to their habit of waiting next to immobile female larvae for them to emerge and mate. It seems cadavers are better at staying still than living females

It's reported that measles infection has been found to undermine the immune system, increasing susceptibility to other diseases too

Ornithologists find the first evidence that dinosaur eggs were coloured, by analysing oviraptor eggs for pigments, and finding the same two that make modern birds' eggs mottled blue-green


The opah is confirmed to be the first known quasi-endothermic fish, able to regulate the temperature of its body by redistributing heat from hotter parts. It recycles warm blood from near the muscles that power its fins, and back around its body

NASA reports that the Kepler space observatory has observed KSN 2011b - a Type Ia supernova in the process of exploding: before, during and after

Spanish priest and exorcist Father José Antonio Fortea declares that he has absolutely and thoroughly exorcised the whole of Mexico, so it is now completely free of demons, spirits, violence, abortion, and probably Jews, Gays, and Atheists, too, as Catholic Christian Religionists seem to not like them very much either

The UK's Conservative government officialises, for the first time, its intent to outlaw "legal highs" with its Psychoactive Substances Bill. A torrent of scientists and non-morons point out that this act would cover most things in the world, but as i write this, in 2016, the Tories are still pig-headedly insisting that it can work

A new version of the Cheetah robot is demonstrated, that can jump over obstacles while running


For the first time, researchers grow a limb of animal, in a laboratory. In this case, a rat's leg

Analysis of 60 million tweets about 1000 news events leads to the conclusion that roughly a quarter of tweets on Twitter are not credible i.e. bullshit

The Large Hadron Collider is reactivated after a two-year pause, during which upgrades and repairs took place. The machine is now able to experiment with higher energies, increasing from 8 to 13 trillion electron volts (TeV)

Researchers report the discovery of what what appears to be the remnants of red blood cells and connective tissue in 75 million-year-old dinosaur fossils

A woman in Belgium is the first in the world to give birth to a baby using transplanted ovarian tissue frozen when she was still a child

Dreadnoughtus schrani is downsized in estimation of parameters, reducing its weight from 59 tonnes to 40, but keeping its length at 26 metres


The Phoebe Ring - so-called because the moon 'Phoebe' is believed to be the primary source of the ring's material - is revised to be much bigger than previously thought. Estimates of size have increased from 200 to 270 times Saturn's radius. That means the Phoebe Ring has an inside edge 6 million km from Saturn, and an outside edge 16 million km from it!

Astronomy Picture Of The Day celebrates its 20th anniversary

#HaveAWank happens


After more than 100 years, Erythropsidinium's single eye (Erythropsidinium is a single-celled plankton) is finally linked to a purpose - directing the cell's harpoon, for hunting purposes. How it might achieve this coordination without any nervous system remains a mystery

By reactivating a single gene, colorectal cancer cells in mice stop growing and re-establish normal intestinal function within four days, according to a study published in the journal Cell

Zoologists report that the majority of kangaroos are left-handed. In humans, 90% of people are right-side hand dominant, and majorities are leg, eye, ear, and nose right-side dominant too. But in kangaroos, it's the lefties that dominate. Especially Eastern Grey and Red kangaroos, which are known for learning manual dexterity, and so show more inclination to side dominance

Physicists report that they've used ultra-short pulses of X-rays to film shock waves in diamonds, for the first time - a technique that enables researchers to follow the rapid, dynamic changes taking place.

A major study confirms that the Earth is going through the start of a mass extinction event, the likes of which have not been seen for at least 65 million years. It is being precipitated as a result of human actions over the past 500 years

Geophysicists report that all of the biggest impact craters on Earth have now been identified, with none left to be found at 6 km or greater width

The discovery of Pappochelys is announced by biologists - a genus of early lizard (very small: <20cm long) that appears to have been a key ancestor in the lineage stretching up to modern turtles. Pappochelys lived 240 mya, and is thought to have been a metaphorical stepping stone in the evolutionary bid to develop defence against attacks from below

The WHO announces that Cuba has become the first nation in the world to have officially eliminated mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and syphilis - a feat described by the WHO as "one of the greatest public health achievements possible"


The question: 'Why do seahorses have square tails, and not round ones?' is answered. Seahorses' tails have a spinal column down the centre, and a box-like array of plates on the outside, which, according to an international team of mechanical engineering researchers, is a stronger and grippier structure than without the plates

Entomologist David Charbonneau affirms that half of ants of the Temnothorax rugatulus species spend most of their time lazing around, doing nothing at all

Solar Impulse 2 does it! With a record-breaking 5-day (118-hour) journey from Japan to Hawaii, pilot Andre Borschberg becomes a record holder for the longest duration of flight ever. Not just solar-powered, but of any type. The record was previously held by Steve Fossett, who flew around the world in a jet plane, back in 2006

Kent Hovind is released from jail, having done a 9th of his 10-year sentence for tax fraud, claiming that Gawd never told him to pay it. He immediately resumes broadcasting his wrongness, over the internet


Research shows that chameleons' eyes are sufficiently independent that they can roam individually, most of the time, but sufficiently interdependently that they can collaborate when necessary

CERN researchers using the LHCb experiment report observing two exotic particles belonging to a new class of matter - pentaquarks - with a reliability of 10 sigma, meaning the result could only occur by fluke with a 1 in 10^22 chance!

With the New Horizons spacecraft now located around Pluto, images of Pluto and its moons start coming back, in never-before-seen detail

Romantic liaison website Ashley Madison is hacked, betraying tens of millions of people's personal details to prudes and frauds

Scientists report the discovery of the Weyl fermion after an 85-year search. The Weyl fermion discovery is later declared one of the 'top ten breakthroughs' of 2015, by Physics World

Researchers announce the development of a metamaterial that bends faster under lighter pressure, and slower under higher pressure

The latest global analysis of temperature data from the NOAA shows that the first half of 2015 was the hottest such period on record, at 0.85 °C (1.53 °F) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.09 °C (0.16 °F). The Earth also experienced its hottest ever June

The results of a trial involving 1,322 patients shows further evidence that solanezumab can slow Alzheimer's disease

The board director of the Chiropractors Association of Australia is forced to resign, after being caught assaulting a baby in a pediatric (children's) hospital. She sneaked in to 'treat' the baby, using Chiroquacktic 'manipulation' that can damage joints and cartilage, and even kill, by breaking bones, joints and blood-vessels.

Lithium is found to have been ejected by a supernovaing stellar system, for the first time ever. This is interesting, and baffling, because lithium is associated with young stars

Scientists report that the Philae spacecraft, that landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014, detected at least 16 organic compounds, of which four (including acetamide, acetone, methyl isocyanate and propionaldehyde) were detected for the first time on a comet

The first aurora beyond the Solar System is reported, on a brown dwarf called LSR J1835+3259, 18 light years from Earth


An ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada is found to be 100% successful in an initial (and therefore small) trial


Two species of frogs, living in Brazil, are the first to be recorded as being venomous. Not poisonous - venomous. A single gram of venom from Bruno’s casque-headed frog (Aparasphenodon brunoi) would be enough to kill 80 people, or 300,000 mice

Analysis of an image of the Valles Marineris on Mars, taken on the 21st of July, leads to the conclusion that the white streaks are shallow seeps of salty water ice. The existence of Martian brine is confirmed in late September

10/8/15Astronauts snack on the first food ever to be grown off-Earth, on the ISS - a crop of lettuces

The Raelians declare that the Jews have been officially replaced as the chosen people, and must leave the 'holy land'. Such arrogance! They must have been taking lessons from the Jews themselves...

Marine biologists announce their observations of tropical octopusses, having sex face-to-face, beak-to-beak - something never seen before, in an octopus species

Google reshuffles its franchises, and changes its name to Alphabet... and definitely not for tax avoidance purposes ;-)

An endangered species, the black-footed ferret, is successfully reproduced using frozen sperm from a ferret that had been dead for 20 years

NASA reports that there is "no scientific basis" that the world will end, due to the rumoured impact of an asteroid near Puerto Rico between 15 and 28 September 2015. This is, of course, not the only paranoid rumour to be quashed, this year

It's announced that, using stem cells, researchers have developed a miniature human brain in a dish with the equivalent maturity of a five-week-old fetus. The neuroscience community is cynical, especially due to the lack of intention to publish. The world's still waiting, so it looks like the claim was bogus

Thierry Legault takes the first ever photograph of the ISS transiting a solar prominence, as it transits the Sun

Mad Islamists from 20 countries put a fatwa on climate change, and command 1.6 billion people to fight it for Allah

Mad Islamists in ISIS enforce a fatwa on heathens, heresy and history, by desicrating artefacts in Palmyra, including a temple, originally built due to Canaanite religion

Efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine make headway, with the test of a successful vaccine that works in mice, monkeys and ferrets

Thanks to vaccination, perinatal (maternal and neonatal) tetanus infection is eliminated in India. In comparison, in 1988, it killed ~160,000 young children in the country

Ah, you mammals, you're all the same. Capuchins and rhesus monkeys both see the Delbouef illusion, the way humans do. That's the one where a circle is perceived to be bigger, because the circle around it is smaller


Scientists report the discovery of Pentecopterus decorahens, the oldest described eurypterida (sea scorpion), an extinct arthropod group that lived as early as 467.3 million years ago. It had an estimated length of up to 1.83 metres. It has been described as "the first really big predator"

BP is fined $18 billion, to be paid over the next 15-18 years, for causing the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill through its reckless solipsism

Paleontologists report a new human-like species, and possible early human - Homo naledi - based on the discovery of 15 partial skeletons, the largest single find of its type in Africa

Fossils found in Sima de Los Huesos (the 'pit of bones') in Atapuerca, northern Spain, are dated to 300,000-400,000 years old. The Atapuerca hominins could turn out to be common ancestors of neanderthals and sapiens, ancestors of just neanderthals, or be early neanderthals themselves

A 28-year-old paralysed man becomes the first person to feel physical sensations through a prosthetic hand that's directly connected to his brain

The factoid that eating seven bananas will kill you goes viral, in the anglophone media. The veganist claim is absurd - it would take 400 bananas-worth of potassium to kill an average man!

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka returns to Earth, in conclusion of a record-breaking two-and-half years in outer space, up at the ISS. He's spent 879 days in outer space, so far, in five separate stints, beating fellow Russian Sergei Krikalev's record for total time up there, at 803 days

The London Arms Fair returns to the Excel Centre, welcoming infamous despots from all around the world to deal in illegal arms and instruments of torture. This is the first London Arms Fair at which Amnesty International were banned from reporting on the goings-on within.

Research finds that coelacanths have an obsolete lung, hidden in their abdomen. Being fish, they breathe using gills; but they might have used the lung, the way some modern fish do, to cope with environments where little oxygen is dissolved in water, or to gain extra oxygen from pulmonary respiration (as breathing with lungs is called) at the surface

The Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded, including one for the observation that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when a patient is driven over speed bumps; and one for the observation that the word "huh?" seems to exist in every human language

VW is exposed as a corrupt super-corporation, as its systematic deception of air pollution-preventing regulatory agencies over the last decade start to become public

Todd Reichert sets a new human-powered speed record, riding a recumbent bicycle to 137.9 km/h, in Battle Mountain, Nevada

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) breaks the world record for quantum teleportation, by transferring quantum information across 100 km, along an optical fibre, from one photon to another - four times further than the previous record

Paleontologists claim to have found the origin of enamel, in skin, through fossil fishes dating back more than 400 million years; one of which has an enamel-like substance called ganoine in its skin


Anita Sarkeesian dons her puppy dog eyes, to plead with Google and the United Nations, to ban her critics

The Saudi Arabian government admits that it spent the equivalent of £200 billion in 2015 alone, accommodating the Hajj - an Islamic ritual that's cost at least 700 mortalities, and 850 morbidities, in 2015 alone. That's a lot of cost, with no benefit, for the sake of a phantasm!

Angustopila dominikae, the smallest snail ever found, is reported in Southern China. The species measures just 0.86mm in height


Nearly one-third of cactus species face extinction, according to the first comprehensive global assessment, largely due to illegal trade and other human activity


Feminist and Goldsmiths College 'student diversity officer' Bahar Mustafa is arrested for hate speech, having called for the killing of 'white men' on Twitter, in a hashtag

Two new research papers, about the foot and hand of Homo naledi, confirm that it was physically capable of both climbing trees and walking on the ground, but would also have been capable of precise manual manipulation

Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald win the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass."

'male-male excretory pore plugging' becomes the new euphemism for gaysex, with the exposition that nematodes - Caenorhabditis elegans - emit pheromones that evoke sexual desire in the males of their kind

NASA announces that the New Horizons spacecraft has detected blue skies and water ice on Pluto

An Astrophysics PhD student wins an award as 'World Porridge Making Champion'. Included in those he beat, were a medical doctor, a museum manager, a biochemist and a cook. Physics rules all :-D

Identification of the features of a 125 million year old mammal skeleton, pushes back the evidenced history of mammalian fur and ear development. Spinolestes xenarthrosus is a fossil with remarkably intact guard hairs, underfur, tiny hedgehog-like spines and even evidence of a fungal hair infection

A shop in Bishop's Stortford gets in trouble for having a backwards apostrophe on its storefront


The first direct observation of a solar system being torn apart by a white dwarf is described in the journal Nature. The star, known as WD 1145+017, is transited by at least one, and probably several, disintegrating planetesimals, with periods ranging from 4.5 hours to 4.9 hours

Back To The Future fans converge on Hill Valley - the fictional hometown of Marty McFly - to celebrate the arrival of a date that Marty visited in the film series

The New Horizon spacecraft gains a new target - an object 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto, known only as 2014MU69, which it should reach by 2019

A publicly-funded Swiss study claims that potatoes are the most wasted vegetable, with only half actually being eaten. Potatoes are rejected by farmers, vendors, and consumers, for blight, infestation, parasitism, and just not looking quite pretty enough

Comet Lovejoy is found to be releasing large amounts of alcohol and sugar into space. Both are relatively simply organic molecules - glycolaldehyden, and ethanol of boozing fame

The oldest abecedary ever found, is dated to ~1500 BCE. It's literally an alphabet, but before a-b-c, was a-b-g (alpha-beta-gamma) and before that '-b-g (aleph-beth-gimel) which on this abecedary is seen in a different order - HLHM (halaham) which was used for Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Arabian and Classical Ethiopian scripts.

The Fortingall Yew, in Perthshire, central Scotland, which is thought by biologists to have maybe lived for 5000 years or more, and has for hundreds of years been recorded as male, grows berries for the first recorded time. This is odd, because yews are dioecious, and only female yews grow berries!

Rosetta discovers oxygen on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko


Researchers at the VUMC Cancer Center Amsterdam develop a blood test that, from a single drop of blood, can diagnose six different types of cancer with a sensitivity of 97%, and ~6-8% probability of a false diagnosis, in healthy patients

Asteroid 2015 TB145, a near-Earth asteroid roughly 600 meters (2,000 feet) in diameter, passes 1.27 lunar distances from Earth - a lot closer than NEO 2014 YB35 did on the 27th of March


Astronomers announce the discovery of a lone gas giant planet, and conject that the observed surface temperatures seen signify the presence of molten metal and silicates in storms in the planet's atmosphere

Gene-edited immune cells are used to treat ‘incurable’ leukaemia in a one-year-old girl, for the first time

Barack Obama becomes the first President of the USA to cancel a major infrastructure project because of its impact on the climate

Peru's environment minister announces that a national park is to be made, covering 14,170 square kilometres of the country's Amazonian basin. The park will cover an estimated 3,000 species of plants and animals, many of them found nowhere else in the world

Conspiracy theorists completely fail to uncover the endemic doping in Russian athletics organisations, but an actual investigation by the World Anti-Doping Commission succeeds. Funny, the way an actual, skeptical investigation is necessary, to actually find things, isn't it ;-)

Pope Franks's faith caves in, to the Science of Climatology, but he continues to believe in demonic possession

It's been called the "theoretical computer science result of the decade". Mathematicians announce that they've made a huge advance in using algorithms to resolve graph isomorphism

Rosetta's OSIRIS experiment reveals that the colour of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is actually a faint red. Only three regions - Hapi, Hathor, and parts of Seth - are reduced in red light, suggesting an abundance of water in these regions

Astronomers at the University of Arizona capture the first image of an exoplanet being formed in a protoplanetary disk. The object, LkCa 15 b, is located 450 light years away, orbiting a young star named LkCa15

Medical doctors use virtual reality in surgery for the first time, while clearing the blocked coronary artery of a male patient

The genome of the tardigrade - the only animal able to survive in the vacuum of space - is published, revealing that 17.5% is 'foreign' DNA, received via horizontal gene transfer, from other organisms. That's ~6000 genes, and more than in any other animal


Players of the game Noby Noby Boy finally get 'girl' to reach Pluto. I have no idea what i just said :-D

Human vocal cords are grown from scratch, for the first time ever, taking two weeks to create 170 of the mucosa (flaps) that are present in a human larynx


Scientists look through the eyes of the West Indian fuzzy chiton - a shelled marine mollusc with eyes made of aragonite rock - and see an extremely pixellated blob. But hey, it's better than nothing, right?


Blood vessel-like structures found in an 80 million-year-old hadrosaur fossil are confirmed to be original to the animal, and not biofilm or other contaminants

New Scientist catches up with my 'brain sex is bullshit' essay, from 2014

Japan decides to flout the UN International Court of Justice's ruling in March of 2014, by sending its first whaling fleet into Antarctic waters for 2 years, with the stated aim of killing 333 minke whales for 'scientific' purposes. Wings up, everyone who believes them...

Deap see fish, living in the mediterranean, are found to have the diets of the humans above, in their stomachs. Marine scientists have found 70% marine fish in 445 fishes' stomachs, quantities of plastic, and 5-6% food from human activity

The gene editing technique known as CRISPR is declared 2015's Science breakthrough of the year, for its potential to explore genetic function, and correct genetically inherited illness

A praying mantis survey in and around Rwanda increases the number of known species in the country by 155%

Cassini makes its final flyby of Enceladus, the moon of Saturn

Scientists report the discovery of a new type of basaltic rock, rich in ilmenite, a black mineral, on the moon by Chang'e-3 - the Chinese spacecraft that landed on the moon in 2013

And that's 2013 2014 2015 summed up. From Chandra to Chang'e. But like i said at the top - there is a lot i've left out - and i know it.

I wonder what will happen, in 2014 2015 2016. Don't just wait for it, though - make it happen - and make the most of this recurring solar sojourn.

On with 2015 2016....


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