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:
- Animals die in 'Aflockalypse'; technology gets blamed
- Pole shift forces makeover of airport runway
- 13th zodiac sign causes stir, but astrologers shrug
- World's smallest periodic table inscribed on shaft of hair
- Gorilla wows spectators by walking like a human
- Fungus turns ants into zombies to do its bidding
- Picture of 'Bownessie' monster causes a stir
- Microbes in lake and meteorite spark weird-life debate
- Sugar wards off death for flies hooked on meth
- Chimps play video games with a sense of self
- He-she birds cross the animal world's gender lines
- Loch Ness monster-like beast filmed in Alaska
- Father of cryonics movement frozen for the future
- Dog's glow-in-the-dark effect has an on-off switch
- UFO fans latch onto report of underwater anomaly
- Mysterious orange goo gunks up Alaska shore
- Chupacabra? It's probably a mangy old fox!
- Science reveals how to win at 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'
- Dolphins learn how to use shells to catch fish
- Corpse-dissolving machine invented
- Cleverbot chats like human, passes Turing test
- Tool-using fish caught for first time on video
- Ig Nobel Prizes: Judgment clouded by pee pressure
- Preacher's doomsday prediction goes wrong ... twice!
- Roman-era couple held hands for 1,500 years
- Spot the devil that's hidden in Giotto fresco
- Mexico adds another brick to 2012 Maya legend
- These beds haven't been made in 77,000 years
- Scientists say Shroud had to be created in a flash
- Just this once, Samoa drops Friday from the calendar
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:
- 2011 Weird Science Awards
- 2010 Weird Science Awards
- 2009 Weird Science Awards
- 2008 Weird Science Awards
More year-end reviews:
- 11 scientific twists from 2011
- The biggest ancient mysteries of 2011
- The year in space | 2011 slideshow
- Who's on the A-list for bad celebrity science?
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.