It’s the end of year as we know it, and I feel fine

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when a columnist can fill his allotted space simply by looking back on everything he wrote about in the previous 365 (give or take) days.

However, it would be too easy to simply look back at the columns that appeared in the newspaper. Instead, here is “the year that was” as seen by Hassenpfeffer: short items (one from each month) I linked to that may have passed you by:

January: Scientists have, for the first time, used a form of ink-jet printer to create jets of living cells. The technique could be used to grow biological tissue or even human organs. Boy, and you thought your inkjet cartridges were expensive.

February: Apparently, as we age, we grow more vulnerable to distraction. The process begins in middle age and…oh, look, you can play Solitaire on the computer!

March: Muscles powered by alcohol! No, this isn’t an argument for heavy drinking by athletes. According to New Scientist, though:, “Methanol-powered artificial muscles have been created by researchers aiming to create battery-free robotic limbs and prosthetics.”

April: “Hearing glasses” is not a typo: it’s a new Dutch invention that amplifies sounds for wearers coming from the direction they are looking, while suppressing other background sounds, allowing people with hearing difficulties to single out the voice of another person in a crowd, for example. An excellent idea!

May: Scientists and engineers say it’s becoming possible to create a “cloak” that would steer all electromagnetic radiation around an object, essentially rendering it invisible. The CBC compared it to Harry Potter’s cloak, but the good old Romulan cloaking device from Star Trek seems a better fit to me. In either case, it’s cool!

June: How have I lived for (almost) 47 years without reading anything about the Antikythera Mechanism? New research seems to confirm that it is the world’s oldest surviving astronomy computer and may rewrite our understanding of just how technically capable the Greeks were.

July: “New Study Shows People Sleep Even Less Than They Think.” That’s because they’re still sitting up after midnight reading articles with headlines like “New Study Shows People Sleep Even Less Than They Think.”

August: Flipper, call your lawyer: a scientist in South Africa says dolphins are dimwits–their large brains are simply an adaptation to being a mammal who lives in cold water, and aren’t wired for advanced information processing at all.

September: The fault lies in our brain, not in bogeymen, that we feel creepy, according to the accidental discovery that stimulating a part of the brain called the left temporoparietal junction caused a young woman to believe a strange, shadowy young man was standing just behind her…when there was really no one there at all.

October: Teen fights alien invasion using only his imagination! (OK, technically he played Space Invaders using just brain waves to control the game, which is plenty cool enough, but I still like my version.)

November: Talk about a chill down your spine: “…a team headed by Dr. Moshe Shoham of Haifa’s Technion has created a novel propulsion system for a miniature robot to travel through the spinal canal, powering through cerebrospinal fluid.”

December: Organic chicken? No, thanks. Turns out “…organic poultry is actually less nutritious, contains more fat and tastes worse than its mass-produced equivalent, research has shown.” That’s going to make some people squawk.

And there you have it! (There’s an unwritten law that any roundup of the previous year must contain the phrase “And there you have it!”) Keep visiting this space in 2007 for more interesting tales of technology and sagas of science.

Have a Happy (and scientific!) New Year!

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