Our favorite science news stories of 2018

Every year, Science publishes hundreds of news stories, both online and in our weekly magazine. And whereas many of these highlight huge advances in research (some of which get a nod in our breakthroughs of the year), a lot are simply cool stories that resonated with us, our readers, or both. And that’s what this list focuses on—some of our coolest and most popular online news stories of the year. It’s an eclectic mix, and you’re sure to find at least a few you’ll want to read—or read all over again.

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The secret sex life of strawberries

Strawberries aren’t just delicious—they have the youngest known sex chromosomes of any plant or animal, meaning they branched into male and female forms relatively recently. This fascinating story explores how they did it—and what the implications are for the rest of the kingdom of life.

NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY

Outer space may have just gotten a bit closer

Some of our favorite stories fundamentally change our understanding of how the world works—and where that world begins and ends. In this case, it’s the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. It turns out that it’s a lot closer than we thought.

DEAN MOUHTAROPOULOS/GETTY IMAGES

Most ankylosaurs were fossilized belly up. Now, scientists think they know why

A dinosaur story seems to make our list every year, and this one’s a doozy. Most fossils of the heavily armored ankylosaur are found upside down. The reason was a mystery for decades, but thanks to an unusual collaboration between paleontologists and armadillo experts, scientists may finally have an answer.

MICHAEL BLANN/GETTY IMAGES

Quantum measurements could power a tiny, hyperefficient engine

You’ve heard of a steam engine and an internal combustion engine—but how about a measurement engine? This unusual device—based on a bizarre aspect of quantum mechanics—could run with nearly 100% efficiency, far greater than a car engine. It’s all hypothetical for now, but physicists say it might actually be possible to build one.

National Geographic Creative/Alamy Stock Photo

Naked mole rats defy the biological law of aging

Naked mole rats: Is there anything they can’t do? These homely little mammals rarely get cancer, don’t feel some types of pain, and can survive up to 18 minutes without oxygen. They also appear not to age, according to this story.

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This Roman ‘gate to hell’ killed its victims with a cloud of deadly carbon dioxide

The ancient Romans staged elaborate sacrifices at what they believed were entrances to the underworld. The animal victims died quickly, but the humans who accompanied them returned unharmed. Is this proof of the supernatural, or is there a much simpler, geological explanation?

Lia Betti

Birth canals are different all over the world, countering a long-held evolutionary theory

It’s known as the “obstetrical dilemma”: the idea that two opposing evolutionary forces have shaped the human birth canal. But this story—one of our most popular of the year—suggests this long-held theory may not hold up. Far from just a paradigm shift, the work could improve practices surrounding childbirth.

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‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ Video of mating deep-sea anglerfish stuns biologists

You can’t argue with a cool video, and this is one of the coolest we saw this year: the first known footage of anglerfish—some of the creepiest denizens of the deep—mating. One expert says: “It was really a shocker for me.”

R. CHABUKSWAR ET AL.; ARXIV:1804.07389V1, 2018, ADAPTED BY J. YOU/SCIENCE

This ocean path will take you on the longest straight-line journey on Earth

Let’s pretend you’ve got a boat—and a lot of free time. What path would send you on the longest ride in the world, without ever having to touch the steering wheel? The question, first posed on reddit, now has an answer, thanks to a team of resourceful scientists.

NICOLLE R. FULLER/Science Source

Your gut is directly connected to your brain, by a newly discovered neuron circuit

You may think your gut has a mind of its own—especially when it wakes you up in the middle of the night in search of brownies. This isn’t too far from the truth, finds our most popular item of the year. Our gut has a direct connection to our brain through a neural circuit that allows it to transmit signals in mere seconds. The findings could lead to new treatments for obesity, eating disorders, and even depression.