Is your office rather empty this week? Looking for something to read to fill the time? How about some great science and nature stories from Smithsonian? Here are my ten favorites from the past year:
The Truth About Lions (January): Staff writer Abigail Tucker visits Craig Packer, who has been running the Serengeti Lion Project, the most extensive carnivore study ever conducted, for more than three decades. In Tanzania, these kings of beasts are on the decline because of one pervasive problem—people.
The Human Family's Earliest Ancestors (March): New fossil finds in Africa are expanding the human family tree and changing what we think about what our earliest ancestor's looked like and how they moved.
Dark Energy: The Biggest Mystery in the Universe (April): Seventy-three percent of the universe consists of dark energy. Writer Richard Panek traveled to Antarctica to see how scientists are trying to discover just what that mysterious stuff is.
How Our Brains Make Memories (May): Our memories aren't as permanent and unchanging as we may think (or like), but this idea has important implications for dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
A Puffin Comeback (June): A biologist is testing methods for reintroducing bird species by luring puffins, those adorable black-and-white birds with outsized, stripey beaks, back to Maine.
Jellyfish: The Next King of the Sea (July/August): Fish, coral and plenty of other sea creatures—including most of the tasty ones—aren't doing so well under threats like ocean acidification. But jellyfish are thriving and appear poised for a takeover.
The Origins of Life (October): Scientists have a good idea of how evolution works, but how life began is still fuzzy. Writer Helen Fields visited a mineralogist who thinks he's figured out where to look for the origins of life—rocks.
The Colorado River Runs Dry (October): The Colorado River ran from the Rockies to the sea for six million years. Why doesn't it now? Dams, irrigation and climate change.
How Male Elephants Bond (November): Biologist Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell writes about her research findings that male elephants are far from loners. They have a complex society of their own.
Dinosaurs' Living Descendants (December): Fossil finds in faraway China have been key to the conclusion that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs millions of years ago.