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The Sciences

Top 100 Science Stories of 2007

The trends and events that most changed our understanding and our world

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The top 100 will be released in groups of 10 over the course of the month. Check back to see all of the science stories that made it.

1. China's SyndromeTainted products and choking pollution spark anxiety across the globe.- Related Web-exclusive feature: The Smoking Torch

2. Reawakening the Dormant MindStirring from a comalike state, a patient rewrites our understanding of consciousness- Related Web-exclusive feature: Diagnosing Consciousness

3. PlanetpaloozaA new crop of alien planets raises the bar on bizarre.

4. Arctic ThawRapidly melting ice in the Far North alarms climatologists and lures nations into competition for newly accessible trade routes and resources.

5. Rx for the FDAFaced with controversies over drug warnings and recalls, the drug agency tries to revamp itself.

6. Conservation Gets a Green LightCan fluorescent bulbs save the planet?- Related Web-exclusive feature: 25 Surprising and Simple Tips for a Greener Life

7. Dark MattersAstronomers unveil a new map of the mysterious invisible stuff that makes up 90 percent of the universe.- Related Web-exclusive feature: A (Dark) Matter of Time

8. Can Vitamin D Save Your Life?New studies highlight the importance of the forgotten vitamin.

9. The Genome Turns PersonalWith individual sequencing, medicine may soon be custom-tailored to your own DNA.Related Web-exclusive feature: Testing the Genome

10. T. Rex Time MachineIconoclast Mary Schweitzer isolates 68-million-year-old proteins and finally proves the kinship of dinosaurs and chickens.

11. Hormone Replacement Therapy Linked to Breast CancerIn 2003, breast cancer rates dropped rapidly, and several studies in2007 cited decreased use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as thelikely cause.

12. New Vaccine Blocks Bird FluAlthough avian flu made few headlines in 2007, the virus continued to claim lives in Asia, particularly in Indonesia.

13. Australia Faces a Waterless FutureThroughout 2007 in Australia, the evening news announced the levels ofthe nation’s reservoirs, billboards posted water consumptionstatistics, and the public fretted over reports of a strained economy.

14. Biologists Perform Genome TransplantIn June, biologists at the J. Craig Venter Institute announced that they had successfully transplanted the genome of one species of bacteria into another bacterial species...

15. Male Circumcision: A New Defense Against HIVMale circumcision cuts the risk of HIV transmission in men by about 60percent and should be scaled up in countries hardest hit by theepidemic...

16. Astronomers Find Huge Hole in SpaceAstronomers have long known that at the largest scale, the universelooks like sea-foam: clusters of galaxies surrounding large, emptybubbles...

17. Is Pollution Weeding Out Male Babies?The proportion of male babies being born in the United States and Japan has been steadily declining since 1970, according to a report published in June...

18. FDA Says Cold Medicine is Not For Children Under 6In October, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisers recommended against the use of most nonprescription cold and cough medicines for children under age 6...

19. Soot Began Harming Arctic A Century AgoIndustrial black carbon—­particularly in the period around 1900—left adirty, harmful human smudge on the Arctic, researchers say...

20. Fault Lines In Science PolicySeveral reports released in 2007 bolstered the case of those claiming the Bush administration stifles scientists and attempts to alter their research findings...

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21. Quantifying Global WarmingAlthough some governments and institutions are beginning to take action to rein in carbon dioxide emissions, the data supporting negative effects continue to accumulate. Here are some notable studies and efforts in 2007.

22. Pesticide Effects on Sex Last Generations in RatsA lab rat’s life is not a happy one, but for some it’s especially bleak...

23. Acid Rain Intensifies Threat To Marine LifeHuman-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is slowly acidifyingthe ocean, threatening a catastrophic impact on marine life...

24. Fish Fats Protect Retinas in MiceThere may be another good reason to eat fish, a food containing a fatty acid called omega-3...

25. African Lightning Stirs U.S. HurricanesIntense lightning storms in East Africa are linked to the creation of America’s hurricanes...

26. Controversy Over Cervical Cancer VaccineThis past year, several countries and at least 24 states in the United States introduced laws to mandate vaccination against cervical cancer for preteen girls...

27. Dying Star Leaves Trail Like a CometThe star Mira (Latin for “astonishing”), located in the constellation Cetus, has captivated astronomers since its discovery in 1596 by German astronomer David Fabricius...

28. Free at Last: Medical Workers Released in LibyaIn the early morning hours of July 24, 2007, six foreign medicalworkers walked out of death row in the African country of Libya andboarded a plane to freedom...

29. First Step to Wireless ElectricityThanks to wireless technology, rechargers could become a thing of the past...

30. How Hurricanes Influence ClimateIn May, a team of researchers announced that hurricanes play an underappreciated role in how heat is regulated in the oceans...

31. Court Limits Access To Experimental DrugsIn August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the power of the FDA to control patients’ access to unapproved drugs...

32. Tooth DNA Dates The First AmericansIt’s probably the happiest root canal ever...

33. How to Erase a Single MemoryWe have all forgotten things, but what if we could choose to erase a particular memory...

34. Sleuths Track Mystery Bee Die-OffA honeybee killer is on the loose in America...

35. First New Class Of HIV Drugs in 10 YearsThe fight against HIV/AIDS is costly, contentious and, for drug companies, a calculated risk.

36. Space Tourism Survives Fatal BlastThe momentum building behind the space tourism industry does not seem affected by the July industrial explosion...

37. How Killer Electrons Form in SpaceSuperstrong pulses in Earth’s magnetic field can drive electrons to near light speed...

38. Math Advance Threatens Computer SecurityAn international team of mathematicians announced in May that they had factored a 307-digit number—a record for the largest factored number and a feat that suggests Internet security may be on its last legs.

39. Plants Using Quantum ComputersIn the traditional view of photosynthesis, the energy carried by photons streaming from the sun is transferred by bouncing from one chlorophyll molecule to the next...

40. Ceramic Tubes Rein In Carbon Dioxide PollutionSmall ceramic tubes resembling fine drinking straws could be used to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, at the same time producing useful by-products...

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41. Black Hole Feasts At Milky Way’s CenterA blaze of X-rays from the center of our galaxy is the burp following a gargantuan (and rather messy) cosmic feast, astronomers reported in February: A massive black hole there devoured something the size of the planet Mercury, and in the process, let loose an outburst so intense that we still see the echoes six decades later.

42. California Bans Phthalates In Plastic ToysIn October, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill prohibiting phthalates in products intended for young children.

43. Human Genome Reveals Signs Of Recent EvolutionNew genetic evidencesuggests that evolution has continued to shape our species powerfully over the past 100,000 years.

44. Ebola Outbreak In Congo DownsizedFrom April to September 2007, the largest outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagicfever since 2003 unfolded in the Kasaï Occidental province of theDemocratic Republic of Congo

45. Astronauts’ Image TarnishedMaybe someone spiked the Tang? In 2007, NASA’s astronaut corps madeheadlines more for sex, violence, and booze than for space exploration.

46. E. coli Outbreak Prompts Massive Meat RecallIn September, the Topps Meat Company of Elizabeth, New Jersey, issued the second largest beef recall in U.S. history...

47. 248-Dimensional Math Problem SolvedOne hundred twenty years after it was first discovered, mathematicians have successfully mapped out a 248-dimensional object called E8.

48. Robotic Ankle Takes First StepAlthough they provide mobility to thousands of people, conventionalprosthetic ankle-foot combinations cannot match the spring in a naturalstep.

49. Chilies Domesticated 6,000 Years Ago in the AmericasSome prehistoric people in the Americas were cooking up spicy meals even before they could make the pottery to serve them in.

50. Created: A Glass That BendsChinese researchers announced in March that they had created glass that can be bent into right angles without shattering.

51. Wastewater Decimates Minnows

Birth control pills work wonders in preventing human reproduction.Unfortunately, they’re also effective on an unintended target...

52. Amazing Battery Made of . . . PaperImagine a battery as flexible as paper—because it is made of paper.

53. High-Intensity MRI Could Catch Alzheimer’s, MSCombining a megapowerful magnet, multiple detectors, and carefullytweaked contrast, a new MRI technique developed at the NationalInstitutes of Health (NIH) provides an unprecedented look at the finestructure of the brain.

54. High Altitude Determines Who Survives in TibetDarwinian natural selection is at work among the communities living in the Tibetan mountains...

55. New Technique Nails Down the AmpIf there’s one thing physicists can’t abide, it’s ambiguity

56. Calculus Was Developed in Medieval IndiaTwo British researchers challenged the conventional history of mathematics...

57. Distinctive Dinosaur Death ThroesWhen the dinosaurs died out some 65 million years ago, many perished in the exact same iconic pose...

58. Superlens to Zoom In On Living CellsScientists longing to sneak a peek at the molecular machinery of livingcells came one step closer to that goal in March with the creation oflenses that break the limits of current light microscopy.

59. Medieval Mosque Shows Amazing Math DiscoveryThe mosques of the medieval Islamic world are artistic wonders and perhaps mathematical wonders as well.

60. Diamonds From Outer SpacePumicelike, dark, and exotic, carbonado diamonds don’t look like the gemstones on engagement rings

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61. Unsustainable Soil Use Can Cause Civilizations to CollapseEarth is running out of soil.

62. Human Egg Harvesting Succeeds In July, a group of doctors in Montreal presented a paper announcing a live birth resulting from an egg harvested before maturity...

63. The First Robot That Walks Like a Human: LazilyUsing a set of simple rules for moving and two knifelike feet, a robotin Germany has learned not only how to walk with a remarkably humangait...

64. Cloned Hamburger, Anyone?Meat and milk from cloned cattle, pigs, and goats are safe to eat, the Food and Drug Administration has declared...

65. Physicists Expose Light’s Weird Quantum NatureFor the first time, physicists have observed in photons one of the weirdest and most basic phenomena in quantum mechanics...

66. Great Ancient City Unearthed in SyriaWhile the corpses of their enemies still lay on the battlefield, thevictors celebrated by slaughtering cattle and holding a gigantic feast.

67. Mars Rover Delves Into CraterAfter hunkering down for six weeks to ride out a planet-spanning dust storm, the Mars rover Opportunity got back to work...

68. Glue Clues From GeckosA team of biomedical engineers and materials scientists at NorthwesternUniversity have invented a glue that behaves like the adhesive on aPost-it note...

69. Frozen Baby Mammoth UnearthedLast May, a Siberian reindeer herder named Yuri Khudi chanced upon the world’s most intact mammoth remains...

70. How the Body Protects the GutAlthough the immune system is constantly patrolling for foreigninvaders...

71. Tooth IDs Famed Egyptian Queen

A misplaced tooth held the clue to the identity of one of the world’s most powerful queens...

72. Crust Formed Early In Earth’s HistoryGeologists took a new look at a sequence of old rocks in southwestGreenland and discovered the earliest example yet of plate tectonics.

73. Parasite Invades Its Host’s DNAIn August, researchers reported that bacteria can transfer nearly their entire genome into the cells of a multicellular host.

74. Musical Scales Mimic Sound of LanguageThroughout history, humans of many cultures have found approximately the same small set of sound frequencies musically appealing...

75. Stone-Age Asteroid May Have Wiped Out Life in AmericaSome 13,000 years ago, the Clovis people wandered North America, hunting ground sloths, mammoths, and other creatures...

76. Immune Cells Show Off Their Deadly GripMacrophages are big, fuzzy-looking immune cells that move through theblood and tissues, engulfing and destroying any foreign invaders...

77. The Biggest Squid Ever CapturedSome so-called fish stories turn out to be the real thing. In February,New Zealand fishermen plying the waters of the Ross Sea near Antarcticahauled up a real live sea monster...

78. Tablets Of Unknown Ancient Script SurfaceIn 2007, excavators of a remote site in southeastern Iran reportedfinding evidence of a writing system that dates back more than 4,000years.

79. Salamander Tongue Strikes Like A CrossbowThe most powerful animal in the world? It might be the salamander.

80. Robots Evolve And Learn How to LieRobots can evolve to communicate with each other, to help, and even to deceive each other...

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81. Longest Mammal Migration TrackedHumpback whales migrate farther than any other mammal...

82. Fossils of a 300-Million-Year-Old Forest Found“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,” Robert Frost wrote...

83. Why Loneliness Is Bad for YouFeeling lonely can make you sick.

84. Chimps Show Altruistic StreakFor years, lacking evidence to the contrary, most scientists had assumed that altruism is unique to humans...

85. Semi-Identical Twins DiscoveredTwins are normally either identical—the result of a single spermfertilizing a single egg, which then splits and duplicates itself—orfraternal, developing from two separate eggs fertilized by two separatesperm...

86. World’s First Trees UnearthedWhen staffers from the New York State Museum dug out two massivefossils from a Catskills quarry, they solved a 130-year-old mystery.

87. Magnetic Brains Give Birds An Inner Compass

Birds have good vision, but their brains turn out to be even more eagle-eyed.

88. Did Mice Domesticate The House CatThe house cat—like domestic grains and farm animals—originated in the Fertile Crescent, probably about ten thousand years ago...

89. Food Additives’ Effect on ChildrenCan food additives affect children’s behavior?

90. Angkor Was a Vast CityThe temples of Angkor are architectural marvels and international tourist attractions.

91. Disgraced Korean Cloner Accidentally Created Novel Stem CellsKorean researcher Woo Suk Hwang claimed in 2004 to have created a humanembryonic stem cell line...

92. First Fossil Of A Leaf Insect FoundTo escape prying predators, fragile fauna often become masters of the art of disguise.

93. Andean Crops Cultivated Almost 10,000 Years AgoArchaeologists have long thought that people in the Old World wereplanting, watering, weeding, and harvesting for a good 5,000 yearsbefore anyone in the New World did such things.

94. Saturn Seen In New Light<Delivering more than just pretty pictures, the Cassini spacecraft returned an impressive collection of photographic firsts ...

95. Secrets of Egg Formation GlimpsedUnlike other cells in mammals, eggs lack centrosomes—crucial stabilizing structures that organize strandlike proteins...

96. Function of Appendix ExplainedIn September, a team of surgeons and immunologists at Duke University proposed a reason for the appendix...

97. Hot-Tailed Squirrels vs. RattlesnakesCalifornia ground squirrels have it rough...

98. Twin Probes Watch Sun’s Fury in 3-DAstronomers got a new perspective on the sun in April...

99. Who Shrunk the Dogs DownChihuahuas, Boston terriers, and Pomeranians have this much in common...

100. Tiny Origin of The World’s Largest FlowerThe world’s biggest flower—which weighs 15 pounds and smells of rottingflesh...

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