Our favorite science news stories of 2022

Our favorite science news stories of 2022

Bumble bees that play with toys. A quantum parlor trick that tests our perception of reality. And artificial intelligence that protects you from other artificial intelligence. These may not have been the biggest scientific achievements of the year, but they were among our favorite and most popular online stories of 2022. Read on for the full list!

gold vessel
A gold vessel from an Avar tombKHM-MUSEUMSVERBAND

Not much is known about the Avars, a cryptic people who helped end the Roman Empire, then vanished from history. Now, DNA from their tombs sheds light on where they came from, and just how far and fast they came—a record in ancient human history.

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut
Novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who would have turned 100 this year, called for an ethical reckoning in science. RICHARD MILDENHALL/CAMERA PRESS/REDUX

Kurt Vonnegut wasn’t a scientist, but his writings have influenced countless researchers, even years after his death. This staff and reader favorite explores the messages the famed novelist left for the scientific community—and why his presence continues to be felt.

Graphic showing placental development of syncytin proteins

Can a virus become domesticated? Suppressyn isn’t going to curl up on your lap, but after invading our ancient ancestors about 30 million years ago, it appears to have settled down in our genome and become a sort-of friend, one that may be protecting us from other pathogens.

An Amazon Echo speaker
Home devices such as Amazon’s Echo can record everyday conversations.FABIODERBY/ISTOCK

These days, it seems like every piece of electronic equipment is snooping on us, from smart speakers to smartphones. The same artificial intelligence that enables this eavesdropping may also help prevent it, according to this story. Neural Voice Camouflage creates an audio smokescreen when we talk, outsmarting the artificial intelligence that may be listening in.

A NASA satellite records its own collision with an asteroid.NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

Scientists are people, too. They hoot, they holler, they even lose their mind, as this peek behind the curtains of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission shows.

Bumble bees roll wooden balls, seemingly just for fun (video at half speed).(Video) Samadi Galpayage; (Image) Richard Rickitt

It’s not quite the World Cup, but researchers have observed bumble bees playing with small wooden balls. The insects appear to be rolling the objects around for no other purpose than to have fun. Just one more reason to be nice to one of our favorite pollinators.

A child in a red coat with fall foliage in background
Vibrant fall foliage has inspired some parents to name their babies Autumn.FAMVELD/SHUTTERSTOCK

Beloved elders. Saints. Even movie characters. Baby names have all kinds of sources. This study shows nice weather can play a role as well, potentially even pushing a couple of rare monikers into prominence.

a row of skeletons being dug up by archaeologists
During a museum renovation, archaeologists uncovered rows of graves containing 38 medieval friar skeletons that were buried near the ruins of Cambridge, England’s Augustinian friary. CAMBRIDGE ARCHAEOLOGICAL UNIT

England’s 13th century friars lived a relatively sanitary existence. So why were they more likely to be riddled with parasites than their less hygienic contemporaries? The answer may lie in their surprising gardening practices.

two faces with waves around them
It only looks like telepathy, but a quantum game harpoons our usual sense of reality.KATERYNA KOVARZH/ISTOCK

It seems that every year a bizarre quantum physics story makes our top 10 list, and 2022 is no exception. This story involves pseudotelepathy, a matching game, and enough quantum weirdness to blow your mind.

Wild banana cut open
Breeding helped get rid of wild bananas’ seeds to create the fleshy fruit cherished today.JULIE SARDOS

For such a seemingly simple fruit, the banana has a surprisingly complex genetic history. So complex, in fact, that researchers are still struggling to figure out where and when the modern banana arose. This slippery tale was one of our most popular stories of the year.

#favorite #science #news #stories

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