The Most Amazing Science Discoveries You May Have Missed

While these stories may have not made Science’s ‘Top 10 science stories of the year’ list touting the biggest discoveries of the year, many interesting findings made headline in 2013.

Last year held plenty of off-beat and off-the-beaten-track findings and news: Humans ate the first test-tube hamburger, a plan to capture an asteroid was launched, and a mind-controlled prosthetic leg was made.

These are the kinds of findings that make science fun, so we decided to ditch the over-hyped stories and make a list of the most remarkable things you might have missed last year. Here are the incredible stories.

A hydrogen bond was photographed for the first time.

In September, scientists captured the first images of one of the most important physical interactions in the world -- the hydrogen bond -- which holds DNA together and gives water its unique properties.

These never-before-seen photos are an encouraging advancement in atomic force microscopy, a method of scanning that can see details at the fraction of a nanometer level.

See the world's first images of an actual hydrogen bond »

A skull from Georgia suggests that all early humans were a single species.

The analysis of a 1.8-million-year-old skull found in a region of Georgia suggests that the earliest members of the Homo genus actually belonged to the same species. The skull was discovered alongside the remains of four other early human ancestors, but had different physical features despite being from the same time period and location.

Researchers have traditionally used variation among Homo fossils to define separate species, but now think that early, diverse Homo fossils from Africa actually represent members of a single, evolving lineage -- they just looked different from one another.

Read more about the discovery of 'skull 5' »

For the first time in 35 years, a new carnivorous mammal was discovered in the Americas.

A relative of the raccoon, the olinguito, has been described as looking like a 'cross between a house cat and a teddy bear.'

The animal's discovery in the forests of Ecuador, confirmed in August, shows that the world is not yet completely explored. It's the first new species of mammal discovered in 35 years.

Read more about this adorable new carnivore »

People tasted the world's first 'test-tube' hamburger.

Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University succeeded in cooking a hamburger made from lab-grown meat. Stem cells taken from a cow are grown into muscle cells in the lab. Thousands of muscle strands are then layered together to build a patty.

The burger's creators believe that this technology could be a more sustainable way of meeting the growing demand for meat, although it still needs work: The first reviews of the burger's taste and texture were mixed.

Find out how it tastes »

The Milky Way actually has 10 billion potential Earths.

A new study suggests that one out of every five sun-like stars in the Milky Way galaxy has a planet that is properly positioned for water, a key ingredient for life.

Data collected by NASA's Kepler space telescope -- currently out of commission -- indicates the galaxy is home to 10 billion worlds, some of which could someday support human life.

Read about these future candidate Earths »

Gene therapy was used to cure type 1 diabetes in dogs.

Five beagles were cured of their canine type 1 diabetes using gene therapy -- a process by which the patient is inserted with DNA that produces a therapeutic protein to treat a disease. Four years after the treatment the dogs still had no symptoms of diabetes. The researchers hope to test the therapy in humans soon.

Read more about the study »

The Mars One initiative began accepting applications for a Mars colony.

Mars One, founded by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, launched its astronaut selection program in April.

More than 200,000 applicants applied for a one-way ticket to Mars, which says it will plant the first humans on Mars by 2023.

Here's how a colony on Mars could work »

An inventor created a suit that gives its wearer 'spider-sense.'

A suit outfitted with ultrasonic sensors gives the wearer the ability to tell when something is about to hit him that he cannot see. The suit identifies which direction the object is coming from, and then applies pressure to the skin of the wearer. Suits like these could theoretically give 'sight' to the blind.

Check out more images of the suit »

The mystery of how marijuana causes memory problems came to an end.

The molecular pathways responsible for marijuana-induced memory problems were finally discovered, after years of searching. The high from marijuana use comes from the chemical THC, which interferes with the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in learning and memory. It decreases the number of connections between brain cells in this region.

The study suggested that this effect can be stopped by over-the-counter pain relievers, restoring the brain's ability to form memories, leading to fewer side effects for patients who use it.

Read more on the science behind a marijuana high »

A new species of giant, air-breathing fish was found swimming in Brazil's Amazon River.

The first discovery of its kind in more than 150 years, the silver fish is an air-breathing freshwater fish that can grow up to 10 feet long.

It is the first new arapaima species to be discovered since 1847, and scientists believe understanding it can aid in river ecology conservation.

Meet the enormous new Amazonian fish »

New evidence helps explain how King Tut died.

Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamen was killed by a run-away chariot that smashed his rib cage, shattered his pelvis, and crushed many of his internal organs, including his heart.

He was hastily buried and after being sealed in his tomb in 1323 B.C. His mummified body accidentally caught fire and burned, possibly from flammable chemicals that built up in his decomposing body.

Read about the life and times of King Tut »

Scientists created 'mini-kidneys' out of human stem cells.

Stem cells

Scientists at that Salk Institute for Biological Studies created mini kidney-like structures from human stem cells. These early findings could be the first step for much-needed therapies for kidney disease, including techniques for growing replacement human kidneys.

Read more about the lab-grown kidney »

The first spacecraft left the heliosphere of our solar system.

Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, and for the past 36 years has been trekking across our solar system. NASA confirmed in September that it had finally passed into interstellar space, the first man-made object to do so.

Now about 12 billion miles from our sun, Voyager 1 is still under the influence of the sun's gravity and hasn't technically left the solar system entirely -- that could take another several tens of thousands of years. Still, the progress is remarkable and marks the starting point of real deep-space exploration.

Follow Voyager 1 on its 36-year-long journey »

High-energy neutrinos are detected from outside of our solar system.

A telescope buried under the Antarctic ice sheet recorded evidence of high-energy neutrinos, particles that originate outside our solar system, potentially from the same source as cosmic rays.

Finding these energetic particles may help scientists determine the birthplace of cosmic rays, an ongoing mystery.

Where do cosmic rays come from? »

The first entirely solar-powered aircraft flew cross-country.

Solar Impulse, a plane that runs off energy from the sun, successfully completed its historic trip across America in July. After making stops in several U.S cities, the journey ended with a dramatic landing at JFK airport due to a rip in the fabric on the lower side of the left wing.

The plane was not in any danger, and the trip proved that a solar-powered aircraft could fly, day or night, from coast-to-coast.

Here's how Solar Impulse flew from Pacific to Atlantic »

A man is using the first mind-controlled prosthetic leg.

Zac Vawter, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, became the 'test-pilot' for a bionic leg created by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The bionic leg uses electrodes and a microprocessor to read Vawter's intentions via muscle contractions in his thigh.

Partially funded by the U.S. Army, prosthetics like these could eventually give amputee soldiers the ability to better rehabilitate after losing limbs.

Find out how this mind-controlled leg works »

Vaccine researchers now have a 'blueprint' for a universal flu vaccine.

Because the flu virus evolves and changes so quickly, seasonal flu vaccines become ineffective after just one season. Vaccine researchers now believe that targeting the core of the virus, which is similar over the years and appears in different strains, is the key.

This can help them develop a universal vaccine that would only be needed once in a person's lifetime to guard them against all current and future strains of influenza.

Learn more about the potential vaccine »

NASA unveiled a plan to 'lasso' an asteroid.

NASA has a plan for an asteroid retrieval initiative that involves 'bagging' a small asteroid and dragging it back into orbit around the moon, to be visited later by astronauts who will bring samples back to Earth.

If successful, this would be the first-ever mission to identify, capture, and relocate an asteroid, also giving the space agency greater insight into identifying potentially hazardous asteroids.

Why Obama's crazy plan to 'lasso' an asteroid could work »

The existence of a new super-heavy element was confirmed.

Scientists confirmed in August that they created a handful of atoms of the element 115, temporarily called ununpentium.

Scientists shot a high-speed calcium beam at a thin film of the element americium. When atomic nuclei collided, some fused to create the super-heavy element.

Get to know the newest element »

NASA has successfully tested the first-ever 3-D-printed rocket component.

The U.S. Space Agency and Aerojet Rocketdyne tested a rocket engine injector made through 3-D printing, opening the doors to cheaper and more efficient space travel.

NASA said this space technology could eventually save companies time and money, as this 3-D-printed part cut the costs it would have normally taken to produce the same part without 3-D printing technology by 70 per cent.

The European Space Agency proposed a 3-D-printed moon base »

A new 3-D interactive map of the human brain visualizes its features down to the microscopic level.

A new 3-D brain model created from super-thin slices lets researchers clearly see features of the brain down to 20 microns (less than the width of a human hair). This closer look at the brain could 'revolutionise our ability to understand internal brain organisation,' researchers say.

See close-ups of the human brain slices »

The Supreme Court ruled that natural human DNA may not be patented.

A Supreme Court ruling decided that natural human DNA can't be patented. They did rule, however, that cDNA, which is artificially-made DNA, can be patented. It was one of the most controversial cases of the year, which SCOTUSblog called 'a significant patent ruling for the biotechnology industry.'

Specifically, this impacts genetic tests for things like the BRCA genes, mutations of which can potentially lead to breast and ovarian cancer. Learning she is a carrier of this gene is why Angelina Jolie elected to have a double mastectomy late last year.

Read a breakdown of the ruling »

Samples from Mars show that the planet could have once supported life.

Last February, NASA's Curiosity rover used its onboard drill to obtain the first powder rock sample ever collected from the surface of another planet. The first scoop had traces of sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon, scientists found -- all elements that are considered necessary to support life on Earth.

Check out evidence of past microbial life on Mars »

A 3.5 billion-year-old fossil containing the most ancient life forms on Earth was unearthed.

Evidence of ancient microbial communities that lived 3.5 billion years ago brought fresh insights into the debate of how life began on Earth.

Their seashore location, close to sun and water, suggests that they harvested energy through photosynthesis, rather than eating minerals found in rock. This means that bacteria evolved very early in Earth's history.

Dive into the debate of how life began on Earth »

A new textured surface stays completely dry by naturally repelling water

A hydrophobic, microtextured surface that behaves like butterfly wings was created by researchers at MIT. It traps air on the surface, providing a buffer between the actual surface and water droplets. Ridges in the surface break up the droplets into smaller drops that bounce off quicker than large drops.

One application, the researchers say, is in aircraft. It works so quickly that even in super-cold environments the water doesn't stick long enough to freeze. By making the surface of aircraft engines repel water before it ices up, they could potentially reduce the amount of frost that builds up.

Watch the water-repellent surface at work »

Belgian surgeons described a 'new' human body part.

The anterolateral ligament -- a pearly, resistant piece of tissue in the human knee -- was finally described in literature in August, officially giving the body part recognition after it was first noticed by French surgeon Paul Segond in 1879.

The two Belgian surgeons who re-discovered the ligament believe it could help future treatment of ACL injuries.

Dissect the new human body part »

A newly discovered dinosaur was identified as a cousin of the Tyrannosaurus.

The Lythronax argestes, or, the 'king of gore,' stalked the Earth about 80 million years ago, and turned up in southern Utah as the oldest member of the tyrannosaur family ever discovered.

Its discovery is helping paleontologists to flesh out the T-rex family tree.

Get to know the 'King of Gore' »

During sleep, our brains are flushed out to remove toxins, researchers found.

When mice sleep, fluid-filled channels (pale blue) between neurons expand and flush out waste.

In tests on mice, researchers discovered that the harmful cell waste that accumulates in the brain while the cells are working is removed twice as quickly during sleep when the cells aren't working. That's because channels open up between the cells and flush waste away. This is the first major mechanical reason for why we need to sleep.

One of the toxins removed from the cells is the kind that builds up during Alzheimer's; understanding this not only helps us understand our need for sleep, and possibly control it better with drugs that turn it on and off, but could also lead to new ways to treat and prevent such diseases.

Read more on why we need sleep »

Anthropologists found 400,000-year-old DNA from hominins.

Skeleton of the remains found in the cave.

Human remains found in an underground cave in Spain could contain missing key information to our origins.

The DNA that the researchers extracted from the remains indicated that these ancient hominins, though they looked Neanderthalic, were more genetically related to the Denisovians -- a completely different ancient human species on the human evolutionary tree.

Even more intriguing, this DNA was found thousands of miles and hundreds of thousands of years away from where scientists thought Denisovians evolved, so the discovery of these remains here throws everything we thought we knew about ancient humans and how they migrated and evolved into question.

Meet the 400,000-year-old humans »

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