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It's boom time for weird science

Kyoto U. / INAH / The Daily Citizen / NBC

The weirdest science stories of 2011 include (clockwise from top left) the one about the game-playing chimps, the update on the 2012 Maya apocalypse, a bird-death epidemic and the zodiac debate.



Even with the supposed Mayan doomsday coming up, it's going to be hard for 2012 to match 2011 when it comes to weird science: What other year can boast a bird-killing "aflockalypse," a chupacabra prowling around the nation's capital, two Loch Ness-type monster sightings and two doomsday predictions. (News flash: The predictions were wrong.)

That's why the Weird Science Awards exist: To pay tribute to the strange but scientific (or pseudo-scientific) tales of each year. This year's winners of the fifth annual Weirdies will take their place alongside glow-in-the-dark cats and dogs, reattached rabbit penises, the 2,700-year-old marijuana stash and the Stone Age sex toy as talismans of this wacky age.


We're offering 30 nominees from the past year, and it's up to you to pick the top 10 award-winners. One of the nominees — the one about pee pressure — is a laureate from this year's Ig Nobel award ceremony, which honors "research that makes people laugh and then think." You can use that as your judging criterion, or you can go for the article that makes you laugh, and then ask, "What on earth were they thinking?"

Write-in votes and second-guessing are encouraged; you can register them in your comments below.

The 10 nominees that get the most votes as of noon ET on Jan. 3 will be recognized as the 2012 Weirdy winners, and to mark the occasion, we'll review the year in weird science on Wednesday with Ig Nobel creator Marc Abrahams.

Here are the nominees from the past year, in chronological order:

Review the nominees, then cast your vote. We'll talk about the winners next Wednesday on "Virtually Speaking Science." In the meantime, take a walk down memory lane with these Weirdies from past years:

More year-end reviews:


Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.