We here at Science write and edit hundreds of stories every year for our online news site. We think they’re all great, but some rise above the pack—either because tons of our readers like them, or because they’re fun, strange, or amazing enough to become our personal favorites. If you’re looking for the most important scientific discoveries of 2015, check out our Breakthrough of the Year. But if you want to see some of 2015’s quirkiest offerings, read on.
Always wearing a sweater to work—even in the middle of the summer? Blame Povl Ole Fanger, a Danish scientist who in the 1960s developed a model that predicted comfortable indoor temperatures for the average worker of the day—a 40-year-old man sporting a three-piece suit. Now, researchers say they have built a better model by taking modern attire and demographics into account.
Scientists have finally solved the mystery of why the Dutch are so tall. Tall Dutch men on average have more children than their shorter counterparts, and more of their children survive, researchers have found. The findings, say scientists, are an impressive example of human evolution in action.
“What we’re talking about here is a means of mind control on a massive scale that there is no precedent for in human history.” That’s how this story starts, and it just gets wackier from there.
Are you as altruistic as a rat? Even when offered a piece of chocolate as an alternative, the rodents prefer to save a comrade in trouble—a sign that humans aren’t the only animals who feel empathy.
Of all the hypotheses of how dinosaurs died, this may be the strangest. A team of scientists proposes that mysterious dark matter may seep into Earth’s core about once every 30 million years, triggering massive volcanoes and ripping apart continents.
If you’re thinking about taking Chinese as a second language, you might consider Spanish instead. This study reveals that if you want to spread your ideas far and wide, some languages are much better—and slightly more surprising—than others. (Note that this story actually published in late 2014, but it missed our cutoff for last year’s list.)
One of the most fascinating medical stories of the year is about a woman whose serious genetic immune disease was apparently cured in her 30s when one of her chromosomes shattered into pieces and reassembled. The phenomenon is known as chromothripsis, and it could pave the way for therapies for a variety of diseases.
Don’t forget what this plant looks like—it could make you rich someday. A scientist has found that a thorny, palmlike plant in Liberia seems to grow only on top of kimberlite pipes, which are known to contain diamonds. Now get digging.
Is it a dragon, a flying reptile, or something far more banal? One of our favorite stories of the year finally solves a lingering debate that has pitted rock art researchers and archaeologists against young-Earth creationists for decades.
It’s a question that’s been asked by everyone from kindergartners to physicists. Now, scientists have an answer—or at least a better answer than they had before. Our favorite story of the year is also one of the most fun.