Ten Cool Science Stories You May Have Missed in 2014

ICYMI, there’s a newfound coral reef in Iraq, the smallest force has been detected and more in this year’s surprising science

Arachnophobia, coral reefs, artificial cells and strange amphibians starred in some of this year's science finds you might have missed. (Clockwise from top left: Sciepro/Science Photo Library/Corbis; Thomas Pohl; Radboud University; and Stephen Dalton/Minden Pictures/Corbis)

So in 2014 we landed a spacecraft on a comet, took video of an elusive deep-sea anglerfish and found out a lot about Richard III. But what were the year's important, unusual or just plain fun scientific finds that may have gotten lost amid the flurry of headlines?

We dug around and found a few discoveries that might surprise you, presented here in no particular order:

First Plastic Cell Made With Working Parts

For something so tiny, a biological cell is a remarkably crowded place. In multi-celled creatures known as eukaryotes, each cell is packed with even smaller structures—organelles—that have specific functions, often related to controlling chemical reactions. To better understand cell chemistry, scientists at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands created the first artificial cell with actual working parts inside. They trapped tiny spheres filled with enzymes inside a water droplet and coated the whole thing with a polymer. The resulting "plastic cell," described in the January issue of Angewandte Chemie, initiated a cascade reaction among the enzymes inside, essentially mimicking the way organelles function.

About Victoria Jaggard

Victoria Jaggard is the science editor for Smithsonian.com. Her writing has appeared in Chemical & Engineering News, National Geographic, New Scientist and elsewhere.

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