Whew! What a year for the science section at International Business Times. As you ring in 2012, we take a look back at the most popular stories of 2011. Note, some popular stories such as the Higgs boson near discovery and the first Earth-like planet are so new that they haven't become popular enough for our charts. See our 2012 prospective for where we think the freshest discoveries are heading in the New Year. In ascending order, the top science stories at International Business Times were:
Humans ran off Neanderthals from what's now the southwest of France, leading to the dominance of mankind, according to research released in July.
The researchers concluded that the massive migration - humans outnumbered Neanderthals 10 to one - pushed the humanoids to less attractive regions and eventually caused their demise.
In November, an independent research team pinpointed the human migration to between 43,000 and 45,000 years before present.
In May, the Texas Board of Education proposed that science classes teach creationism alongside evolution as an alternative to the biological phenomenon. Creationism is a religious belief system that states creation happened in a directed manner from an unnamed intelligent creator, a notion that evolutionary biologists reject.
The proposal generated controversy and a series of hearings as it has in other states with similar proposals. However, in July, the education board unanimously rejected the proposal in a 14-0 vote.
These supplements reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution is the core of modern biology, and is a central and vital concept in any biology class, Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said in July. That these supplements were adopted unanimously reflects a long overdue change in the board. I commend the board for its refusal to politicize science education.
NASA researcher Roy Spencer caused some heat under people's collars when he concluded that much of the Earth's heat dissipates into space and that carbon dioxide is a minor factor of global warming.
Spencer's conclusions were greeted with media attention that the results would give climate change denialists fodder.
The conclusion was suspect to several scientists - after all, Spencer authored the 2008 book Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies That Hurt the Poor.
He's taken an incorrect model, he's tweaked it to match observations, but the conclusions you get from that are not correct, said Andrew Dessler, atmospheric science professor at Texas A&M University.
The latest update from Spencer was a temperature update in November that stated the latest global temperature anomaly was 0.12 percent of a degree Celsius.
The possibility for ancient Martian life grew in August after scientists announced evidence that the red planet was once watery.
The planet contains crevices, much like those found in dried up riverbeds and former lakes.
NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form ... and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the time of the discovery.
In December, the proof became stronger when the NASA rover Opportunity found an 18-inch vein of plaster of Paris, gypsum, a definite sign that water once existed, scientists said.
This is the single most bulletproof observation that I can think of that we've made this entire mission, Steve Squyres, lead researcher and Cornell University planetary scientist, told the Daily News in the U.K.
Hurricane Irene may not have attacked NYC as many feared, but the storm left a path of destruction including at 42 dead and $2.6 billion in damage.
The deaths included six due to storm surges or waves, 15 deaths due to winds and 21 due to flooding, according to a post-storm report published by the National Hurricane Center.
In NYC, the media unleashed a frenzy of updates and speculations since many feared the storm would cause severe damage.
Life really may have originated from space, a once-outlandish idea that got credence in August when NASA scientists confirmed that meteors contained complex molecules that form DNA, one of the the building blocks of life.
People have been discovering components of DNA in meteorites since the 1960s, but researchers were unsure whether they were really created in space or if instead they came from contamination by terrestrial life, Michael Callahan, lead researcher said in a statement at the time. For the first time, we have three lines of evidence that together give us confidence these DNA building blocks actually were created in space.
Two gigantic holes in the Sun's magnetic field may release gas from the star, according to observations announced in February.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spotted the two holes in Jan. 10, which show up as dark spots on the Sun.
The coronal holes allow solar wind to escape, which we won't say much here, since that would give away our number one story of 2011.
The Kepler mission - the NASA planet-hunting space telescope launched in 2009 - had a successful year finding alien worlds, a planet in a habitable zone and most interestingly, the first Earth-sized planet outside the solar system.
At the beginning of 2011, the telescope had identified 1,200 planets, a number expanded to over 2,200 by the year's end.
In February, astronomers announced the telescope found two planets that shared the same orbit - unheard of. Then in September, Kepler identified a planet that orbited two stars 200 light years away.
In early December, Kepler researchers found the first planet outside the solar system in the habitable zone, an orbit where water is likely to exist.
By mid-December, researchers announced the first Earth-sized planets located 1,000 light years away.
Astronomers estimate in 2012 or in the next few years, an Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone may be found.
Conspiracy theorists had their day in April when a faked document made the rounds that cited that U.S. officials recovered three flying saucers in Roswell, N.M. in June 1947.
Our reporter should have seen this hoax from a mile away.
Finally, our top story of 2011, a story that will likely stretch into the next decade. Solar storms. Most people consider weather to be a very Earthly phenomenon, but, of course, the Sun affects our climate.
In August, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that solar storms could affect the Earth's climate in the upcoming decade.
Specifically, the federal agency predicts four extreme solar blasts that would deliver high levels of radiation and heat and could impact both power grids and human health.
The last solar storm, in 1989, caused an electrical outage of six million residents of Quebec, a province in Canada.
The Sun undergoes an 11-year cycle, which is expected to reach a peak in 2012, which will make the year interesting in terms of weather.