Top Ten Weirdest Science Stories Of 2014

2014 was a pretty great year for science. A probe from the European Space Agency physically landed on a moving comet for the first time. Lockheed Martin made a significant technology breakthrough relating to nuclear fusion power. Oh, and the world's biggest-ever dinosaur, the "Dreadnoughtus", was discovered. There were also a bunch of science stories that grabbed headlines simply for being weird.

Science picture from Shutterstock

The below collection of announcements were handpicked by the Australian Science Media Centre [AusSMC] as the weirdest stories of the year. From Bigfoot's DNA to ancient fossilised sperm, these are the inventions, discoveries and research studies that made you look twice on social media.

Beautiful beards debunked

Beard picture from Shutterstock

In April, an Australian study found that beards are only attractive to women when the look is uncommon. When the majority of males in a community wear facial hair, it quickly becomes a turn-off.

"The researchers said their findings reflect patterns seen in other animals – females tend to find rare features attractive in potential mates," AusSMC explains. "But there’s good news for non-hipsters - the team found being clean shaven is considered more attractive when everyone else is sporting a beard."

See the full report here.

Is Bigfoot real?

Bigfoot picture from Getty Images

In July, scientific researchers published a detailed analysis of more than 30 tufts of hair thought to be from yetis, bigfoot and other extraordinary ape-like creatures. The results showed that most of the hair samples came from ordinary animals including bears, dogs, cows, horses and humans.

Two of the hair tufts from the mountains of India and Bhutan did not match any living animals. They did, however, match an extinct species of polar bear thought to have died out around 40,000 years ago. In other words, it's back to the drawing board for amateur cryptozoologists.

See the full report here.

The dangers of a passionate kiss

Kiss picture from Shutterstock

In November, a study published in the open access journal Microbiome found that a passionate kiss between humans can transfer as many as 80 million bacteria. The results showed that when couples intimately kiss at relatively high frequencies their salivary microbiota become similar. There was also a lot more of them. But there's also good news -- the researchers found that lots of kissing is good for our health as it primes our immune systems to fight off any infections we pick up from our partners later.

See the full report here.

Chicks with dicks

In April, scientists discovered a new species of insect with opposite sex organs: the female Neotrogla has a "penis" while the male Neotrogla sports a "vagina".

"During sex, the aggressive female penetrates a vagina-like opening on the male’s back with a barbed penis-like organ, grappling the couple together," AusSMC explains. "The pair bond so tightly that, when separated by the scientists, the male's body is ripped apart, leaving his genitals behind. And, to top it all off, these females put male lovers to shame – mating can last up to 70 hours."

See the full report here.

How TV's House cured a real-life patient

In February, doctors in Germany were faced with an unusual case of life imitating art when a patient was found to be suffering from the same symptoms as a character on the US TV medical drama House. The solution to his ailment was subsequently lifted from the TV show which led to a complete recovery.

"Their patient was suffering from seemingly inexplicable severe heart failure, as was the fictional physician's," explains AusSMC. "The medical misanthrope diagnosed his patient as suffering from cobalt poisoning caused by a metal hip implant, and when the real-life doctors replaced their own patient’s metal hip implant with a ceramic one, he rapidly recovered."

See the full report here.

The "Robopenguin"

In November, researchers began field testing a remote-controlled rover disguised to monitor penguin populations in the Antarctic by posing as one of their babies. The "robopebguin" proved to be a success, with emperor penguins trying to communicate with it and allowing it join a crèche of real chicks. Scients

The robotic penguin will be used to monitor the effects of climate change on wild penguin populations without disrupting their natural behaviour.

See the full report here.

Giant ancient sperm discovered

In May, supersized sperm fossils were discovered in Queensland which are at least 16 million-years-old. These fossilised baby-makers were ten times as long as the ostracod crustaceans that produced them and 20 times the length of human sperm.

"The scientists used X-rays to figure out how the giant sperm fit inside the bodies of animals a tenth of their size, but just why the sperm are so large remains a mystery," AusSMC explained.

See the full report here.

Female hurricane names deadlier than males?

In June, US scientists compared the death tolls of hurricanes with male and female names between 1950 and 2012. They found that the females have, on average, killed more than the males. The researchers suggest this may be due to an assumption that hurricanes with feminine pose less risk than their male counterparts, causing people to underestimate the danger.

However, other scientists have rubbished the report due to the fact that all hurricanes were "female" until 1979, and that average fatalities have generally decreased over time.

See the full report here.

Caveman salad

In June, scientists analysed fossilised human feaces believed to be more than 50,000-year-old, making it the oldest poo on record. It revealed that Neanderthals were omnivorous, with evidence of berries, nuts and other plant matter as well as meat. The feaces also showed that our primitive ancestors were riddled with a number of parasitic worms.

See the full report here.

Lucid dreaming untapped

In May, German scientists said they’d untapped the secret to lucid dreaming and better controlling a dream’s "plot". Delivering a mild electric current to the frontal and temporal brain regions of 27 dreamers was found to alter their neural patterns. The effected subjects became aware they were dreaming, and were able to exert greater control over the dreamworld.

See the full report here.

Originally published on Lifehacker Australia