Before queuing up “Auld Lang Syne,” let’s reflect on 2013.
The Year of the Selfie brought us a government shutdown, a new pope, intelligence leaks of unparalleled proportions, and the Hyperloop. Physics’ greatest mystery — the theory of how particles acquire mass — was resolved. Some “leaned in,” others twerked.
We collectively named “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the anonymous inventor of Bitcoin, Business Insider’s Person of the Year.
From politics to sports, entertainment, finance, and more, people have done extraordinary things this year. These are the people who impressed us the most.
Most Impressive Person of the Year
Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym used by the anonymous inventor of Bitcoin, the electronic currency that seemingly came out of nowhere and has been taking over financial market headlines since.
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that doesn't actually exist in the physical world, only as cryptic code in computers. Unlike the U.S. dollar, it's controlled privately, keeps no record of the identity of its owner, and can be transacted without the government's knowledge.
There have since been numerous attempts -- comprehensively tracked by Hilary Sargent, AKA Chart Girl -- to determine Nakamoto's identity, but nothing conclusive has yet emerged.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pioneered a three-tier approach -- nicknamed 'Abenomics' -- to get the Japanese economy humming again. The plan buoyed the Japanese stock market up more than 51% year to date.
Abe was elected in 2012 on the promise that he would pursue extremely aggressive stimulative policies, which included weakening the yen. The currency's plunge effectively makes the country's exports cheaper and stoked some moderate inflation.
It seems to be working. The Japanese index is at its highest level in almost six years.
Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke steered the U.S. out of the worst financial crisis and ensuing recession in the last 80 years.
The methods that Bernanke used to keep the economy going were untested -- a highly accommodative monetary policy and near-zero interest-rate policy that's expected to outlast the man himself. His tenure as head of the U.S. central bank ends in January.
Bernanke made transparency and independence hallmarks of his leadership. He shocked market participants earlier this year with the decision not to taper despite pressure from more conservative economic thinkers.
20-two-year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway won the World Chess Championship in November and ushered in a whole new era of the game.
His FIDE rating, the chess world's mathematical system for ranking tournament players, was the highest in history, even before Carlsen mopped the floor with reigning champion Viswanathan Anand.
What's more, he plays a beautiful, unpredictable game. Carlsen was celebrated by former champion Garry Kasparov as a player who can 'sense harmony on the board like virtuoso musicians with perfect pitch.' His indomitable creativity forces opponents to make mistakes, as shown statistically with his unmatched nettlesomeness score.
And this could be just the beginning: 'I think I can get a lot better,' Carlsen told Business Insider.
Carlsen has also done wonders to make chess cool, becoming a G-Star model in 2010.
Twitter pulled off the most anticipated tech IPO of the year, thanks to CEO and professional chaos-wrangler Dick Costolo.
Since taking the helm in 2010, he cleaned out the board, monetized the micro-blogging site, and oversaw its public filing.
With an opening share price of $US26, Twitter's stock jumped 73% on its first day. Revenue is up 104% year-over year, and is on course to go well over $US500 million for 2013.
In less than a year, Ted Cruz went from being the GOP's ultimate conservative purist to one of the most despised men in the U.S. Senate. Still, the Tea Party darling has made an impression with his take-no-prisoners, make-no-compromises approach to legislating.
The freshman minority senator from Texas provoked the federal government shutdown earlier this year. In a quest to undo the President's signature legislative achievement, he staged a 21-hour faux 'filibuster' to defund Obamacare. He failed then, but Cruz believes the program's abysmal launch is evidence that his fight succeeded in bringing attention to its problems.
Despite his sinking popularity among Republicans, Cruz proved that the future of American politics calls for moxie and a passionate Twitter following, not seniority.
The twerking princess of pop music, Miley Cyrus shed her Disney Channel veil and brilliantly rebranded herself to attract an older audience.
Jaws dropped during her explicit performance at MTV's Video Music Awards in August, and her music videos for 'We Can't Stop' and 'Wrecking Ball' went viral. She parodied herself and Michelle Bachman on 'Saturday Night Live,' smoked pot while accepting an MTV Europe award, and stuck her tongue out. A lot.
The new image is paying off for the former 'Hannah Montana' star. She has a net worth of $120 million.
Texas State Senator Wendy Davis became a liberal folk hero overnight after staging an 11-hour pro-choice filibuster.
Back in June, Senate Democrats chose Davis, of Fort Worth, to head up the filibuster effort because of her background as a teen mum who went on to graduate from Harvard Law School. Her efforts killed a Texas bill that would have created the most restrictive measures on abortion in the nation, though it was partially reinstated by a federal appeals court days later.
Davis, who landed a profile in the September issue of Vogue, recently announced a run for Texas governor.
Francois Englert and Peter Higgs won the Nobel Prize in physics for their theory of how particles acquire mass -- a discovery hailed as the biggest scientific breakthrough of this century.
In 1964, the winners separately proposed a theory that rests on the existence of the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that provides proof of an invisible field that pervades all of space and slows particles down, in turn, giving them mass. Scientists confirmed its existence last year.
The Higgs boson is nicknamed the 'God particle' because it is so central to our final understanding of matter.
The newly elected Pope Francis launched a crusade against unfettered capitalism, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality.
Since becoming the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March, the Argentina-born Francis developed a platform that criticises the 'idolatry of money,' beseeches politicians to guarantee all citizens work, education, and healthcare, and calls on rich people to share their wealth.
Francis has set an example for austerity in the Church, living in a Vatican guest house rather than the ornate Apostolic Palace and travelling in a Ford Focus.
Under Reed Hasting's forward-thinking leadership, Netflix became a bona fide threat to the cable model.
After bouncing back from the biggest PR fumble of 2011, the company's CEO is helping it to disrupt the television industry by majorly investing in original programming. 'Orange Is the New Black' won critical acclaim, while 'House of Cards' and the resurrected 'Arrested Development' nabbed Primetime Emmy awards.
Next up, Disney and Netflix (which just surpassed HBO in subscribers) are partnering to deliver four original Marvel TV shows.
Veteran activist investor Carl Icahn stepped back into the spotlight with a net worth up $US5.5 billion this year, thanks to big bets on Netflix and Herbalife.
He halved his 9.98% stake in the online streaming service in October after making a 457% return.
Icahn also made financial TV history when he called out hedge fund manager Bill Ackman for his short position the vitamin maker Herbalife, calling him a 'sore loser' and 'crybaby.' Now he's picking fights with Apple, imploring CEO Tim Cook to return more of its cash to shareholders.
He led the Miami Heat on a 27-game winning streak, and then logged 960 minutes in the playoffs while serving as the team's primary ball-handler, playmaker, and post threat.
LeBron's field goal percentage rose to an unfathomable 56.6%, and his three-point percentage crossed the 40% threshold for the first time.
Jennifer Lawrence holds one of the most successful film franchises -- 'The Hunger Games' -- in her quiver, and kicked off the year with an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in 'Silver Linings Playbook.'
She's perhaps the first bona fide movie star to emerge since Robert Downey Jr. blasted off as 'Iron Man' in 2008, but she's doing it on her own terms. This year, J-Law treated America to an instalment of offbeat interviews with the press and a GIF-able trip walking across the Oscar stage.
The highly anticipated 'Hunger Games' sequel, 'Catching Fire,' scorched the box office competition, earning more than $670 million worldwide.
The co-founder of PayPal made headlines with two major announcements: his plans to build a driverless car, and his proposed designs for the Hyperloop, a new mode of transportation that can get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes.
Shares of Tesla, his electric car company, are up more than 300% year-to-date, and his solar panel installer SolarCity is also on a tear. SpaceX launched its first commercial satellite into orbit, and is under agreement with NASA to resupply the International Space Station.
Vladimir Putin regained his grip on power after he took on the role as undisputed leader of opposition to Obama's planned intervention in Syria, and won.
When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria could avoid attack by turning over its chemical weapons, Putin pounced. He proposed a plan to place Syria's weapons under international control, which would delay a U.S. congressional vote in favour of a diplomatic solution. Essentially, he put the U.S. in check.
Putin also came out on top of the Edward Snowden saga as the rogue U.S. National Security Agency analyst ended up in Moscow under the control of Russia's Federal Security Service.
Russia's president is knee-deep in preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics Games, which take place in February 2014. The country has spent £50 billion, making these the most expensive Winter Games in history. He's attempting to make events at 'Putin's Olympics' -- as Sochi residents are calling it -- accessible to all countrymen by implementing a flexible ticketing policy.
'Leaning in' paid off for Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook who wrote the year's most talked-about feminist manifesto.
'Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead' examines why women's progress in achieving leadership roles in the workplace has stalled, and offers solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential. It sold nearly 150,000 copies in its first week, and remains No. 2 on Amazon's list of top-selling books.
Sandberg, credited with bringing adult supervision to Facebook, cleared $US91 million worth of Facebook stock, making her one of the world's few self-made billionaire women.
Former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden perpetrated one of the greatest intelligence leaks in U.S. history.
In May, Snowden snuck as many as 200,000 classified documents out of an NSA facility, fled to Hong Kong, and distributed them to journalists. The collection -- which includes NSA intelligence reports, spying requests from other U.S. government agencies, and information on the mass surveillance of citizens -- disrupted American ties with allies and benefited adversaries.
The famed whistleblower is holed up in Russia, where Putin granted him asylum in August. Snowden faces espionage charges in the U.S.
Evan Spiegel turned Snapchat into a cultural phenomenon, and reportedly turned down a $US3 billion all-cash buyout from Facebook to keep his hands on it.
Snapchat is an app that allows users to send each other videos and photos that disappear after a maximum of 10 seconds. Spiegel's company handles 400 million photo messages per day, and the Pew Research Center reports that 9% of all Americans who own mobile phones use it.
At an age when most players start declining, Serena Williams is dominating the sport more than ever.
She wrapped the season with 11 titles, two Grand Slams, 78 overall wins, and a decisive finish atop the Women's Tennis Association rankings. Her 95% winning percentage is the highest of her career.
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