From colonizing Titan to raising geniuses: 2016’s most popular science stories

It was a momentous year in science: Astronomers detected gravitational waves for the first time, Zika virus spread around the globe and drought accompanied war to fuel a mass migration of refugees in Syria. These were among the stories our editors felt were the most important of 2016, and we invite you to read the entire collection.

But we also wanted to know which stories most captured our readers’ attention this year, so we looked at the data. Here is a list of the two most visited articles in each of our core topic areas. And because U.S. election news led the headlines in 2016, scroll down to see our top five stories about President-elect Donald Trump.

Space and physics

1. Hints of new, exotic particles observed at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider stand to shake up foundational ideas in physics.
Read Here: Is Particle Physics About to Crack Wide Open?

2. A member of the Cassini mission to Saturn and a science writer made the case that one of Saturn’s frigid moons is humans’ best option for an extraterrestrial home (sorry, Mars).
Read Here: Let’s Colonize Titan

Sustainability and climate

1. Faced with the rigors of a changing climate, Israel turned its drought-inflicted water deficit into a surplus with a string of new desalination plants.
Read Here: Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here

2. A study published in October showed that the polar vortex is shifting toward Europe, raising the potential for icy weather to dip into lower latitudes this winter.
Read Here: Dreaded Polar Vortex May Be Shifting

Mind and brain

1. A long-running investigation of exceptional youths revealed what it takes to produce a whiz kid.
Read Here: How to Raise a Genius: Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children

2. New research is showing that female children with autism often display unique traits, leading many to be misdiagnosed.
Read Here: Autism — It’s Different in Girls


1. Researchers devised a new approach to harvesting superstrong fabrics — some even able to conduct electricity.
Read Here: Silkworms Spin Super-Silk after Eating Carbon Nanotubes and Graphene

2. In April some of the top minds in physics gathered to debate, in seriousness, whether human existence may just part of an alien’s computer program.
Read Here: Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?

Health and medicine

1. Scientists gathered more evidence that a widespread parasitic infection can alter human mood and behavior.
Read Here: Rage Disorder Linked with Parasite Found in Cat Feces

2. Even mild concussions sustained during recreational athletics or other activities might be more detrimental than anyone anticipated.
Read Here: A Single Concussion May Triple the Long-Term Risk of Suicide

Elections 2016

Of course, the biggest news of the year — even for science — was the election of businessman and reality TV star Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the U.S. Here are our top five stories about Trump’s successful quest for the Oval Office.

In the lead up to the election, Scientific American evaluated the candidates’ knowledge and positions on STEM issues.
Read Here: Grading the Presidential Candidates on Science

One of our bloggers, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, conducted an early assessment of Trump’s personality and the true motivation behind his actions.
Read Here: Donald Trump’s Real Ambition

In September Trump appointed a notorious climate change doubter, Myron Ebell, as the head of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team.
Read Here: Trump Picks Top Climate Skeptic to Lead EPA Transition

As evidence of Trump’s troubling views on science, Scientific American published a collection of his tweets and other public commentary.
Read Here: Trump’s Views on Science Are Shockingly Ignorant

Once the surprising election results were in, one of the country’s most renowned journalists issued a call to action.
Read Here: Dan Rather: Now, More Than Ever, We Must Stand Up for Science