Science & Society


2014: the year crystallography went mainstream. CSIRO, CC BY-SA

By Mark Lorch, University of Hull

’Tis the season for listicles rounding up the stories of the year.

So with, the authority vested in me, here is a selection of six top, bottom and forgotten science stories of 2014.

A solid 12 years after most of its audience stopped watching "The West Wing", I decided to start - all 154 episodes. In the interest of transparency, I disclose I skipped two - one was a retrospective and one was nothing but a debate between two characters  that no one could care much about who were running for president to succeed the sitting president played by Martin Sheen. Real debates are boring enough but a fictional one written by one political side is really tedious.

There are lots and lots of claims about quality - seals of approval are common in lots of businesses, but in the 'sustainable' real estate industry they are frequently touted – and inherently meaningless due to a lack of transparency (see LEED program for energy savings is faith-based more than science-based?).



The cost of a degree just keeps rising. Is it still worth it? Shutterstock

By Robert Reich, University of California, Berkeley

The early admissions deadlines for universities across the country have come and gone, and acceptance letters are on their way. But with the cost of a four-year college education rising an average of 5% a year, many students and parents are likely wondering whether the cost of a degree is worth it.


A woman sniffs a glass of wine during a tasting event in Beijing. Reuters

By Pierre Ly, Puget Sound University and Cynthia Howson, University of Washington

China’s wine industry has exploded in recent years, with the number of wineries more than doubling over the past decade, propelling the country past Australia to become the world’s 7th-largest producer. What is driving this fast-paced growth and is the quality of Chinese wine improving?


World War One Christmas Truce Commemoration match – but it's debated whether the original ever happened. Mike Egerton/PA Wire

By William Keylor, Boston University


Smile, though your heart is aching. Morgan, CC BY

By Annie Austin, University of Manchester


Francesco Botticini's The Assumption of the Virgin shows the heavenly hierarchies at play.

By Martin Parker, University of Leicester

In the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale (1953), British MI6 agent James Bond designed his own martini, comprising three measures of Gordon's gin, one of vodka and half a measure of Kine Lillet (vermouth) shaken until it's ice cold and served with a slice of lemon peel.

He named it a 'Vesper' after his love interest Vesper Lynd but he never drank the Vesper again in the books.

Shaking a martini was...working class. Drink experts knew then and know now that you don't do it, because it aerates the drink as ice breaks off. You shake drinks with egg or citrus. It is believed that Fleming had his anti-hero order it shaken to thumb his nose at elites.