Among those who left us during 2010: Charlie the smoking chimpanzee.
Caterpillars who whistle? Crickets with giant cojones? Help us decide which scientific tales from the past year are worthy of the Weird Science Awards.
This year's nominees have to meet a high standard for scientific weirdness. Weirdies from past years include glow-in-the-dark cats, glow-in-the-dark puppies, reattached rabbit penises and a 2,700-year-old pot stash.
Fortunately, we have some good precedents to follow: The Ig Nobel Prizes, announced in September, included some choice slices of scientific weirdness — and we've included one of the Ig-winners on our 30-choice menu (the one about the slime mold). The aim of the Ig Nobels, administered by Marc Abrahams of the Annals of Improbable Research, is to recognize "research that makes people laugh and then think." That's a fine criterion for our Weirdies as well. But you could also consider scientific tales that make you laugh, and then make you ask, "What were they thinking?"
Other criteria include things that make you go "Ewww," such as the story about crickets with huge testicles ... or make you go "Auugh," such as the chicken-or-egg study ... or make you go "Hmmm" and reflect upon the foibles of human or animal nature, such as the tale of the chimp who was forced to stop smoking. (That's a double-header selection, as you'll see below.)
In any case, it's up to you to decide which of these 30 stories win the Weirdie laurels in 2011. Choose your favorite candidate on the long ballot at right, and the 10 top vote-getters will be honored in a roundup published after the first of the year. Here's the list, arranged in chronological order from January to December:
- Better transit systems ... with slime mold?
- Steak dinners go back 2.5 million years
- World's strongest insect revealed
- Bat's song hits nature's highest note
- To scientists, laughter is no joke
- Ancient building came with DIY instructions
- Scientists work on artificial cat brain
- Fish are scared of their own reflections
- Scientists get frog to shake his booty
- Secrets of surfing crocodiles revealed
- Mammoths ate their own poo, scientists say
- Neanderthal men had arms like Popeye
- Which came first, chicken or egg?
- Stone Age carving may be ancient sex toy
- Scientists find biggest rat that ever lived
- Why it's OK for birds to be gay
- Ants vanquish elephants to save a tree
- Political victories make guys turn to porn
- One smoking chimp dies ... another is rescued
- Why whale poop is good for the ocean
- Oops! Maya doomsday date corrected
- Fruit flies stuffed to study human obesity
- Did beer lead to rise of civilization?
- Cricket's testicles set world record
- Chinese noodle dinner buried for 2,500 years
- Glow-in-the-dark plants invented
- Prehistoric storks dined on real-life hobbits
- Caterpillars can whistle, scientists find
- Did Leonardo paint initials in Mona Lisa's eye?
- What makes female squirrels so sex-crazed?
Feel free to leave a comment below if you want to cast a write-in vote for some other slice of scientific weirdness from the last year — or if you just want to reflect on the weirdness (or non-weirdness) in the world around us.
More of the year in review:
- Year in science
- Year in space
- Year in archaeology
- The worst tech of 2010
- The 2010 Weird Science Awards
- Complete coverage of the year in review