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Top science videos around the Web

Which videos from 2010 are getting good ratings from a science standpoint? The end-of-the-year spotlight is focusing on subjects that range from a Batman-like device that taps electricity from power lines, to a robot that can fold and stack towels fresh out of the dryer, to a "Crittercam" confrontation between a sea lion and an octopus.

The video about the Bat Hook, shown above, was the most viewed on the "Armed with Science" website. The gadget, technically called the Remote Auxiliary Power System, or RAPS, was created by an engineer at an Air Force research lab in Dayton, Ohio. When tossed over a power line, a blade cuts through the insulation and completes a circuit that brings electricity down to the user.


RAPS was designed to help special ops forces recharge and power up their devices in the field, though it seems like a must-have for any would-be superhero.

The team at New Scientist is counting down their best videos of 2010. No. 7 is the video story about a game of Tetris played on sheets of cascading water droplets, one behind the other, to give a 3-D effect:

New Scientist's No. 5 is a video about a giant, interactive version of mathematician John Conway's Game of Life. Stay tuned as the countdown continues to No. 1.

Over on National Geographic News (where I'm a frequent contributor), an Australian sea lion outfitted with a Crittercam filmed itself hunting, and eating, a large octopus to win honors as the most viewed news video of 2010:

Other must-sees from National Geographic include booty-shaking tree frogs and a mutant all-black penguin.

An avatar called Cleverbot, which uses the collective intelligence of everyone to carry on conversations with those who interact with it, leads the Discovery Science Channel's list of the top 10 videos of 2010:

Fans of E.T. shouldn't miss this video showing how gravity could affect the look of alien life. More gravity on Earth, for example, might have given humans squat legs, or perhaps no legs at all.

Science360, a daily news service put together by the folks at the National Science Foundation, doesn't track the most viewed videos per se. But Science360's multimedia editor, Michael Minvielle, told me that the staff does keep tabs on which of the website's roundups (or "issues") are most viewed, and each issue contains a link to a video of the day.

Its most-viewed issue includes a video of a towel-folding robot that takes advantage of groundbreaking vision technology to inspect a towel from all sides, estimate its shape, pick out borders, detect corners and get to the task of folding:

 Another popular issue includes a handy video explaining, visually, just how small a nanometer really is. Think in terms of all the people in the world crammed into a teeny tiny toy model of a Mini Cooper.

Here are some of our favorite videos from the past year. Feel free to weigh in with a comment about your favorite, either from msnbc.com's offerings or from elsewhere on the Web.

Update for 2 p.m. ET Dec. 28: A Cosmic Log correspondent has pointed out the "Symphony of Science" videos, which uses auto-tune magic to set the cosmic pronouncements of science guys (and gals) to music. If you watch only one, watch "A Glorious Dawn," starring Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. But why watch only one?

Update for 2:10 p.m. ET Dec. 29: Discovery News has come out with its "top 10 grossest, coolest, weirdest videos of 2010":


John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).