These curiosity-piquing Weizmann advances show why creativity in science is so important
Top 10 Science Stories

From Hawking radiation to scorpion pincers to the “love hormone,” these studies may not have grabbed the most headlines this year, but they sure got our attention

It’s time again to look back at the previous year and honor the best in any number of fields: movies, books, music – and, of course, science! Choosing only a handful of achievements was challenging, as Weizmann Institute scientists produced some truly amazing work in 2019. Our Top 10 may not have made the most headlines, but are more than worthy of the spotlight: they’re important, compelling, hope-giving … even fun.

In no particular order, here are The Curiosity Review’s Top 10 Science Stories of 2019:

  1. What’s the best time to exercise? Gad Asher tells us to get moving in the evening. His research shows that later-in-the-day workouts use less oxygen, “making workouts more efficient and improving athletic performance,” reports The Washington Post.

  2. A mass die-off took place two billion years ago in which up to 99.5% of life was destroyed – far more than during the dinosaur extinction. As Newsweek stated, the breakthrough by Peter Crockford and colleagues could shed light on how Earth will change in the future.

  3. Noam Sobel showed that we do better on tests if we inhale at the same time we’re presented with a problem. This finding can benefit our everyday lives – and help improve the skills of people with attention and learning disorders.

  4. Aviv Ofir was part of a global team that identified two potentially habitable – even potentially inhabited! – planets. As The Jerusalem Post reports, they circle a red sun approximately twice as big and old as our sun … and are a mere 12 light years away. Investigations continue.

  5. Our disproportionately big brains give us considerable advantages over other animals – and more brain-related problems, too. Rony Paz found why: such complex machinery is more prone to error. This helps explain why humans are so susceptible to ADHD, anxiety, depression, PTSD – even autism.

  6. Scorpion pincers are multipurpose tools used for defense, getting food, digging, mating. Daniel Wagner’s nanoscale study of the pincers’ intricate exoskeletons revealed evolutional variants, such as thinness for speed. Understanding why the differences evolved and how the exoskeleton’s parts work together could help scientists design sophisticated new materials with highly specific properties.

  7. The devastating brain cancer glioblastoma has a poor prognosis. Itay Tirosh, working with MIT and the Broad Institute, found one reason why: glioblastoma cells not only have as many as four “states,” but can move between states, making the cancer extremely difficult to treat. The discovery could lead to new therapies, says the Economic Times.

  8. Ulf Leonhardt provided the first-ever evidence of Hawking radiation – theorized by that late physicist to be emitted by black holes near their event horizons – by creating an analogue of a black hole, which produced the radiation in the lab.

  9. Aiming to improve climate prediction capabilities, Ilan Koren and colleagues created a group of tiny satellites to perform “CT scans” on clouds, reports Israel21c. Like those that peer inside our bodies, the cloud CTs will reveal details of 3D structures and properties, “using human health as guidance for the planet’s health.”

  10. Yes, the “love hormone” oxytocin helps us bond, but it’s also involved in social interaction, childbirth, stress and appetite regulation, even illness. The hormone is stored at quick-release sites in the brain, but once used, how is it replenished? Gil Levkowitz revealed how oxytocin is restocked, work that could help with disorders – like autism – thought to be linked to the oxytocin-release process.

Keep coming back to The Curiosity Review in 2020 for more incredible tales from the lab!