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The most popular stories of the year. (Jacqueline Moen)

Our Ten Most Popular Stories of 2012

What was the best small town in America, where is the real Springfield and what does a 40-foot-long snake look like? We answered these questions and more in 2012

1. 20 Best Small Towns in America

Earlier this year we thought it was high time to focus on small-town America—towns with populations less than 25,000—specifically. There is a certain charm to places like our top slot, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, which mints its own currency—BerkShares bills—to boost the eat-local movement in town, plays host to international festivals and is sandwiched between Monument Mountain and the Berkshires. If you didn't agree with our picks this year (many of you didn't), stay tuned for the 2013 edition to come out this spring—maybe your small town will make the cut. 

2.  Matt Groening Reveals the True Location of Springfield

A catchy headline brought in the “Simpsons” fans – the answer is Springfield, Oregon—but they stayed for the many insights  from the show’s creator  When we asked him 'Why Springfield?', he said it plainly: 

"I also figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, 'This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.' And they do."

3. In Space, Flames Behave in Ways Nobody Thought Possible

Ever since the days of the cavemen, fire has surprised us. Tests conducted earlier this year on the International Space Station showed that fire in space can be less predictable and potentially more lethal than it is on Earth. NASA has been working to answer some questions: Are some materials more flammable in space than on Earth? What about combustion changes up there and why?

 4.  Scientists Discover That Mars is Full of Water

Earlier this summer, an article published in the journal Geology reported evidence that Mars could be home to vast reservoirs of water. The debate dates back to the 1890s, but this research shifted our understanding of the geology of Mars, suggesting that the planet may have at some point in the past hosted life and increasing the chance that humans may someday be able to colonize it.

5. Triclosan May Impair Muscle Function

About K. Annabelle Smith
K. Annabelle Smith

K. Annabelle Smith is a writer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico who covers a wide variety of topics for Smithsonian.com. Her work also appears in OutsideOnline.com and Esquire.com.

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