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17 Important Things Science Taught Us In 2013

Bee superpowers, living in a pretend spaceship and a mammal that has sex until it falls apart. 2013 was a rollercoaster ride of a year for science.

1. Bees can sense the electric fields of flowers.


Oh, and flowers have electric fields. This helps bees determine which flowers still have nectar. And it was the first time such an ability had been detected in insects.

2. There are over 1000 exoplanets that (almost) definitely exist.

ESO/M. Kornmesser / Via

And there could be billions of rocky planets with water at their surfaces in the galaxy.

3. There's an insect that has gears. / Via

It's called a planthopper and its two hind legs connect together with interlocking teeth. Like gears!

4. There is roughly 2 pints of water in every cubic foot of soil on Mars.

Nasa / Reuters

Just one of Nasa's Curiosity rover's brilliant finds.

5. You can use a blue whale's wax earplug to work out its life history.

Michael Mike L. Baird Mike L. Baird

Kind of like tree rings. Except made of wax. From a whale's ear.

6. Interstellar space sounds kind of eerie.

NASA / Via

In September the Voyager 1 spacecraft sent us a recording from its new vantage point in interstellar space. And its... pretty creepy, actually. But also cool.

7. Climate change is definitely happening.


In September the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the summary of their latest report. The full report is the work of hundreds of scientists and concludes that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

8. Sometimes you have to wait three years for an intergalactic neutrino, then 28 turn up at once.

Artist’s impression of IceCube / Jamie Yang, The IceCube Collaboration.

IceCube, an underground Antarctic telescope detected high-energy neutrinos from outside our solar system for the first time this year.

9. Seahorse's heads are perfectly adapted to stealthily stalk their prey.

Brad Gemmell

Which is handy, because their prey are really sensitive to tiny ripples in the water.

10. A new carnivorous mammal that was discovered in Colombia is possibly the cutest thing ever.

Juan Rendon /

Hola, olinguito! It was the first such new species found in 35 years.

11. Sometimes not finding something can be almost as useful as finding it.

Flickr: luxdarkmatter / Creative Commons

The first result from an experiment called LUX didn’t find any dark matter, and actually contradict hints of the stuff seen by other experiments. But it did put some useful constraints on what dark matter isn't and will help scientists eventually work out what it is.

12. Living in a pretend spaceship can get you down.

ESA / Via

The Mars 500 crew lived in a "spaceship" in a Russian car park for 500 days. They got out in 2011, but data from the stay is still being analysed now. In January this year we learnt that four of the six crew had trouble with sleeping or developed depression during the mission. One crew member had such chronic sleep deprivation that he accounted for the majority of errors in concentration and alertness tests all crew undertook.

13. It's possible to grow something that looks remarkably similar to a developing brain in a lab.

The "cerebral organoids" are pea-sized and reached a similar level of development to a nine-week old fetus. But they're not capable of thought. It's not a brain in a jar. But it's still exciting.

14. There's a mammal in Australia that has sex until it disintegrates.

Flickr: couchy / Creative Commons

For two or three weeks the antechinus mates with as many females as possible before almost literally falling apart and dying from exhaustion.

15. If a meteor falls in Russia, lots of videos of it will be available because everyone has dashboard cameras in their cars.

AP Photo/ Nadezhda Luchinina,

The asteroid that exploded over the skies of Chelyabinsk in February injured over 1000 people. Scientists were able to reconstruct exactly how the whole thing happened.

16. The US and the Soviet Union are not the only countries that can send a rover to the moon.

China Stringer Network / Reuters

China landed its Chang'e 3 probe and first lunar rover, Yutu, on the moon this December. It's already planning its next unmanned trip in 2017, when it will try to bring back samples.

17. The Milky Way has four arms, not two.

J. Urquhart et al. Background image by Robert Hurt of the Spitzer Science Center.

Turns out its hard to tell what a galaxy looks like when you're living inside it.

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