Top Ten Science Blog Posts of 2011

Cats, zombies, earthquakes, chickens—our readers have an eclectic taste

Cats and earthquakes were popular subjects this year.
Cats and earthquakes were popular subjects this year. Image courtesy of flickr user 37prime

It’s that time of year when journalists and bloggers put together their reviews of the past 12 months. But the list below is unlike any other. You may have noticed that Surprising Science tends to cover science a bit differently than other blogs and publications do. Combine that with a diverse (and, of course, fabulous) readership, and you’ve got an interesting list of most-read stories for the year. (If you’re looking for a more traditional 2011 retrospective, we recommend the lists from Discover, Scientific American and Science.)

#10 Earthquake in Washington, D.C.: On August 23, the Smithsonian offices, along with a good portion of the Northeast, shook due to a magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Mineral, Virginia. In a weird coincidence, I had been researching earthquakes in unexpected places when the quake took place, and so people in my office jokingly blamed me for the incident.

#9 14 Fun Facts About Chickens: Following the earthquake and Hurricane Irene, we took a break from natural disasters with weird chicken facts. My favorite? That a female bird can eject the sperm of a rooster if she decides she doesn’t want his chicks.

#8 The Science Behind the Japanese Earthquake: On the morning of March 11, we woke up to news of a powerful earthquake off the coast of Japan. That shaking, however, would soon be overshadowed by the devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster that followed.

#7 Examining Telecommuting the Scientific Way: Unfortunately this post did not have the result I’d hoped, and I’m still not allowed to telecommute. (But if anyone has been successful in using these arguments, please let us know in the comments below.)

#6 The Secret Lives of Feral Cats: After a study in which scientists tracked feral kitties, we weighed in on the question of whether it was better to trap the cats, spay/neuter them and release them back into the wild or, as some advocate, euthanize any found. The blog came down on the side of catch and release, but we discovered many readers who have a serious hatred for these felines.

#5 The Curious World of Zombie Science: We examined an interesting trend in science, the study of human zombies, including computer models of the spread of the zombie disease, potential ways zombies could be created and how math could save you from a zombie attack.

#4 The Myth of the Frozen Jeans: Levi’s and the New York Times claimed that freezing your jeans would kill the germs that make them smell. Scientists who study bacteria disagree.

#3 Five Historic Female Mathematicians You Should Know: Our list, a companion to a top ten list of historic female scientists, included the creator of the world’s first computer program and a contemporary of Albert Einstein.

#2 Life Without Left Turns: A study that found that intersections constructed to eliminate dangerous left turns were more efficient than traditional intersections added to my convictions that getting rid of left turns would be a good thing. But not all my readers agreed.

And #1 The Glow-in-The-Dark Kitty: A story about Mayo Clinic researchers who created a fluorescing cat as part of their studies on feline HIV, which they hope would lead to insight on human HIV and AIDS, sparked a debate in the comments about the ethics of the research.