2013 was a ripper of a year. Here are some of my favourite things that happened over the last 12 months.
(Credit: Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary)
Buttercup the duck gets a new foot
3D printing has been gaining in leaps and bounds, with some pretty significant advancements occurring in 2013 — including the 3D print of a fully integrated electronic device. But my favourite, simply because it was so cute, was Buttercup the disabled duck's new foot, created using 3D printing technology. The new foot itself wasn't 3D printed; instead, 3D printing company NovaCopy printed a mould, modelled from the foot of Buttercup's sister, which was used to cast a silicon foot for Buttercup. Look at how adorable he is, waddling around on his new limb!
Google Nexus 5
I'm not the kind of person who is attached to their phone constantly. I am not good at Twitter or Snapchat or any of the things that seem to keep people I know glued to the screen. The Nexus 5 — and KitKat's integration of Google Now — changed how I interact with my phone. It's become a sort of personal assistant, providing me with a constant stream of practical information and curated, personalised content — and the camera is superb. I've been treating my friends to rather more photos of my cat, which is exactly how the world should be.
(Credit: David Parry/PA Wire)
Lab-grown meat cooked and eaten for the first time
Now, we're a loooong way off the commercial viability of lab-grown meat (this burger cost €250,000, or around AU$385,200, to develop), but the world's first-ever lab-grown burger is a massive step. Being able to grow meat in a laboratory could potentially decrease factory farming (and provide cruelty-free meat), ease the strain raising beef cattle places on the environment, and provide meat to areas that can't support a meat industry and therefore rely on imports. What about that is not to love?
(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)
Zombies are getting really tired. Scratch that — they've been tired for a long time. When I watched Cargo, though, I was blown away — it was a sensitive, poignant, heartbreaking story beautifully told, a far cry from the blood and guts and violence you usually see. It elevated zombie fiction beyond the gory schlock-fest into a well-thought-out treatise on humanity and love.
While we're on the topic of intelligent zombie stories, I subsequently went on to watch BBC drama In the Flesh and trust me — it's well worth your time.
It's been an amazing year for mobile games, but my favourite is still the incredible Year Walk, released by Swedish developer Simogo back in February. I love the spooky and this game delivered it in spades: a story about a young man going on a vision quest at midnight in the dark woods. With a pair of headphones on, the sounds of the woods kept me on the edge, and the puzzles are truly brain-stretching and original. It's not a long game, but it left a lasting impression — and really distinguished Simogo as a developer to watch beyond the cute (albeit well made) arcade titles that came before.
Science destroys earworms
I don't just get earworms. I get fat, writhing, monstrous creatures that inhabit my head for weeks ("Korobeiniki" is particularly unruly). Previously, my method had been singing a different catchy tune loudly, which in the worst instance does nothing and in the best replaces one vermicious inhabitant for another. Then science got involved — apparently, the best way to banish an earworm is something I love doing anyway: puzzle games. If your brain is busy, there's no room in there for a song to get stuck in a loop. It changed my life.
(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)
The Centrifuge Brain Project
This is a work of dark, subversive genius. It documents the life work of fictional scientist Dr Nick Laslowicz, who's out to prove that centrifugal force improves human cognitive function — through the use of colossal, deadly fairground rides (achieved with CGI). If you like your humour black as pitch and dry as a bone (and I very much do), you'll love it.
(Credit: Phil Torres)
The spider puppet-master
Technically this happened last year, but the discovery was unveiled this year, so I'm still counting it: scientists discovered a new species of spider deep in the Peruvian Amazon. Not just any spider, though: a cunning creature that builds in its web a decoy spider about four times its size. It crafts the spider out of any debris that happens along, then sits hidden in the web, tweaking strands to make the decoy spider move and appear alive. Nature is crazy wonderful.