Our favorite science news of 2022 | Sciences

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

A gold vessel from an Avar tombKHM-MUSEUMSVERBAND

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

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

Kurt Vonnegut was not 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.

Graph showing placental development of syncytin proteins

Can a virus be tamed? Suppressyn isn’t going to curl up in your lap, but after invading our ancestors around 30 million years ago, it seems to have settled into our genome and become something of a friend, one that may be protecting us from other pathogens. .

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

These days, it seems that all electronic equipment is spying on us, from smart speakers to smartphones. The same artificial intelligence that enables this espionage can also help prevent it, according to this story. Neural Voice Camouflage creates an audio smokescreen when we speak, outsmarting any artificial intelligence that may be listening.

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

Scientists are people too. They scream, scream, and even lose their minds, as this behind-the-curtains look at NASA’s double-asteroid redirection test mission shows.

Bumblebees roll wooden balls, apparently just for fun (half speed video).(Video) Samadi Galpayage; (Picture) Richard Rickitt

It’s not exactly the World Cup, but researchers have observed bumblebees playing with small wooden balls. The bugs seem to be rolling the objects for the sole purpose of having fun. Just one more reason to be nice to one of our favorite pollinators.

A boy in a red coat with fall foliage in the background.
The 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 that nice weather can also play a role, potentially even pushing a couple of weird nicknames to prominence.

a row of skeletons unearthed by archaeologists
During a museum renovation, archaeologists discovered rows of graves containing 38 skeletons of medieval friars who were buried near the ruins of Cambridge, England’s Augustinian friary. CAMBRIDGE ARCHAEOLOGICAL UNIT

The English friars of the thirteenth century lived a relatively hygienic existence. So why were they more likely to be plagued with parasites than their less hygienic contemporaries? The answer may lie in their amazing gardening practices.

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

It seems like every year a weird quantum physics story makes our top 10 list, and 2022 is no exception. This story involves pseudo-telepathy, matching gameplay, and enough quantum weirdness to blow your mind.

Wild banana cut open
Breeding helped rid wild bananas of the seeds to create the fleshy fruit prized 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 tales of the year.

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