The Most Amazing Science Images of 2010

Launch the gallery below, and enjoy our favorite pictures of the year, all in one place

Every issue of Popular Science begins with two amazing, full-page images in a section called Megapixels. Here we have assembled all of those beautiful images from this year's issues and supplemented them with much, much more. Together, they tell a vivid story of the impressive year that was in science and tech. Launch the gallery below, and enjoy our favorite pictures of the year, all in one place:

Click to launch our favorite science, technology, and general PopSci weirdness of the year

These pictures cover the year that was 2010 in the way we'll remember it: from disasters like the Gulf oil spill and the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull to incredible achievements like the construction of the world's longest underground tunnel; from medical improvements like spray-on stem cells to discoveries like NASA's new arsenic-loving bacteria; and, not least, utter silliness like a six-wheeled sports car or an endless variety of lovable robots. It's amazing to see it all in one place--the good, the bad, the ugly, the tube-nosed fruit bat--and we think you'll enjoy it as much as we do.

Echolocation Fail
Echolocation Fail
Both captured wild bats and juvenile bats that had never previously encountered large bodies of water were placed in a room with smooth and textured wood, metal and plastic plates. Bats of all species repeatedly attempted to drink from the smooth plates, but never from the textured plates. This is because the smooth plates replicate the mirror-like echo reflection exhibited by bodies of water. Such surfaces reflect most of the bats' echolocation energy away from it, but some energy hits the surface perpendicularly, sending an echo back directly beneath the bat. Water is the only such surface that behaves this way found in nature, so when the bats encountered similar properties in this artificial environment, they assumed the smooth plates were water.Dietmar Nill
Which Is the Robot?
Which Is the Robot?
That dancer out front is actually a robot named HRP-4C, created by Japan's Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. HRP-4C and her steel legs of doom held their own during a choreographed dance early this year.YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
Ping-Pong Playing Terminator
Ping-Pong Playing Terminator
Meet TOPIO 3.0, the ping-pong-playing robot. Made by Vietnam's first-ever robotics firm, TOSY, the bipedal humanoid uses two 200-fps cameras to detect the ball as it leaves the opponent's paddle. TOPIO's braina€"processors and an artificial neural networka€"analyzes the ball's path to choose the best return. Last fall, TOPIO 3.0 debuted at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo.Kim Kyung-Hoon
E. Coli Sculpture
E. Coli Sculpture
This 41-inch-long sculpture of the Escherichia coli bacterium is part of British artist Luke Jerram's "Glass Microbiology" series of portraits. Other organisms he has vitrified include HIV, SARS and swine flu. In this depiction of the rod-shaped E. coli, two flagella trail from one end while hairlike pili surround a capsule full of tangled nucleoids.Luke Jerram
Completing Delhi's New Subway Line
Completing Delhi's New Subway Line
A worker stands inside one of the Metro tunnels under construction in New Delhi, India, in preparation for the Commonwealth Games that took place in October. To overcome the challenges of a tight three-and-a-half-year schedule and construction underneath a densely populated city, engineers used 14 tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) to dig the underground thoroughfare.Anindito Mukherjee
The Worst Toxic Gas Leak in History, 25 Years Later
The Worst Toxic Gas Leak in History, 25 Years Later
Eleven-year-old Salu Raikwar, born with six fingers on both hands, walks near the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. In December 1984 an estimated 27 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the plant and into the environment. The disaster resulted in the death of more than 6,000 people. Now, with the passing of the 25th anniversary of the disaster, anecdotal evidence and reports not publicly available suggest a long-lasting legacy in the form of higher rates of cancer, delayed growth, and birth defects like webbed or extra fingers and cleft palates in children of parents exposed to the chemical, but no comprehensive studies have been made.Reinhard Krause
Tube-Nosed Fruit Bat
Tube-Nosed Fruit Bat
We here at PopSci can't get enough of this tube-nosed fruit bat, a rare species found in Papua New Guinea this year who looks like Yoda, but more adorable. He's the unofficial mascot of our chat room. The bat, which still does not have a name (beyond Yoda Bat, of course), was observed by Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program researchers in New Guinea's mountainous Muller Range.Piotr Naskrecki/iLCP
A Simulated Black Hole Event in the LHC's ATLAS Detector
A Simulated Black Hole Event in the LHC's ATLAS Detector
If this is what a black hole looks like, imagine a Big Bang.CERN/ATLAS
Sandy, Salty Swirls
Sandy, Salty Swirls
In the Tanezrouft Basin of south-central Algeria, vegetation is sparse and sand is plentiful. Images like this one, taken by Japan's Advanced Land Observing Satellite, provide researchers with an easy look at hard-to-reach areas to survey natural resources, monitor disasters, and track vegetation coverage.Courtesy ESA
Oscar the Cat
Oscar the Cat
British housecat Oscar lost both his hind paws in a farming accident, an injury which normally leads to an undignified rolling cart solution. But Oscar instead received a groundbreaking surgery in which prosthetic legs were grafted directly onto his ankle bones, called an "exoprosthesis." This first-of-its-kind operation allows Oscar to walk normally. Check out more animal modifications in our gallery.via Irish Times
Fruit Fly Embryo
Fruit Fly Embryo
In this micrograph of a dorsal closure in a fruit-fly embryo, the protein actin is marked red, prominent around the gap in the epithelial cells. The microtubules that give shape to cells are green, and epithelial cells with their microtubules destroyed are blue. This dorsal closure is similar to the healing of wounds, and could help scientists figure out ways to improve the process in humans.Damian Brunner
Bacterial Colony
Bacterial Colony
Poisons unleashed when colonies of bacteria get too close create a toxic "no-man's-land" in between.Eshel Ben-Jacob
Whispering Gallery of Photons Measures Nanoparticlces
Whispering Gallery of Photons Measures Nanoparticlces
In this illustration, a tiny particle alights on a doughnut-shaped piece of glass, demonstrating a new kind of detector developed by researchers at Washington University. The technology could someday detect viruses and measure nanoparticles engineered for pharmaceutical delivery. Nanoparticles disrupt the light waves resonating within the doughnut, setting off the detector. According to electrical-engineering professor Lan Yang, these microresonators are much less susceptible to environmental noise than other detectors. Yang predicts that the sensors will be ready to leave the lab in five years.Kim Kyung-Hoon
ISS Receives a Welcome Upgrade
ISS Receives a Welcome Upgrade
During a five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, NASA astronaut Robert Behnken opens the insulation flap of a newly installed camera system for aligning modules during construction and reaches inside. He's working on the last major American addition to the International Space Station, now 98 percent complete, with a pressurized volume of 28,947 cubic feet and a habitable volume of 12,420 cubic feet. Completed in February, the Tranquility node boasts a seven-window cupola offering a 360-degree view of Earth below.NASA
Bioluminescent Critters
Bioluminescent Critters
Most bioluminescence in the ocean is blue, the color that travels furthest through seawater, but there are interesting exceptions such as the yellow bioluminescence of some pelagic worms (e.g. Tomopteris sp. shown at top)Edith Widder
The Development of Dubai
The Development of Dubai
The aerial image on the left shows Dubai in the year 2000. On the right, Dubai today.NASA
Rescue Workers Train For Disaster
Rescue Workers Train For Disaster
In January, a missile struck a plane and two buses at Cologne-Bonn Airport in Germany, littering the tarmac with bodies: 14 dead and 77 injured. About an hour later, a suicide bomber went on to claim 23 more victims using a bomb containing cesium-137. And then everyone dusted themselves off and went home. After 17,000 hours of planning, some 1,900 police officers, firefighters, and rescue and airport workers joined in this, the airport's largest-ever disaster-preparedness drill, where "missiles" and "radiological weapons" threatened the airport.Roberto Pfeil
Heart Muscle Cells
Heart Muscle Cells
Heart muscle cells (shown in green), regress to a more youthful state after injury, start dividing again (indicated by a red marker) to replenish lost cells and then mature a second time into cardiomyocytes.Courtesy Dr. Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte/ Salk Institute for Biological Studies
King Tut's Only Grandmother
King Tut's Only Grandmother
Scientists once suspected that this 3,300-year-old corpse was King Tutankhamun's mother. They were close. The mummy is now believed to have been his grandmother—his only grandmother.Nasser Nasser
Orion Weld
Orion Weld
The bulkhead and nosecone of the Orion spacecraft are joined using friction stir welding at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, La. Nondestructive evaluations will validate the strength and integrity of the weld before the spacecraft is prepped for ground testing in flight-like environments, including static vibration, acoustics and water landing tests. Unfortunately, the Orion project was eventually cancelled amongst other NASA cuts in the 2011 budget laid out by the Obama administration.NASA
This Chip Can Sift Martian Soil For Alien DNA
This Chip Can Sift Martian Soil For Alien DNA
Someday, microfluidics chips like this one might suss out life on Mars. The chip, developed by Gary Ruvkun, a professor of genetics at Harvard University, would ride along on a soil-collecting rover and search for microscopic life within Martian dust. It will use a combination of buffer solution, detergent and high-frequency sound waves to disrupt the cells, causing any minuscule Martians to release their genetic material. Chemicals in the chip would then amplify the DNA found and label it with fluorescent dyes.C. Carr
Ostracod
Ostracod
External and internal views of a 425 million years old ostracod crustacean; total length: 5mm. The internal view (shell removed) shows preserved soft-parts of the animal, such as limbs and eyes.Courtesy David Siveter, Derek Briggs, Derek Siveter, Mark Sutton
Atom Corral Is a Major Step Toward Quantum Computing
Atom Corral Is a Major Step Toward Quantum Computing
This maze of electrodes, known as a surface-electrode ion trap, brings us closer to building quantum computers—that is, computers that could manipulate the quantum-mechanical states of atoms to process data millions of times as fast as today's most powerful supercomputers do. Whereas computers now use transistors to crunch 0s and 1s, a quantum computer could theoretically perform dozens of calculations simultaneously by zapping charged subatomic particles, called ions, with a laser.Jason Amini
Largest-Ever Solar-Powered Boat
Largest-Ever Solar-Powered Boat
In February, the Swiss company PlanetSolar SA unveiled PlanetSolar, a floating test bed for renewable energy, during a ceremony held in Kiel, Germany. The $15-million catamaran measures 49 feet wide, 25 feet high and 102 feet long and weighs 94 tons. It is equipped with 5,380 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels, and its four motors run entirely on solar power (when it's cloudy out, energy stored in batteries powers the boat).Christian Charisius
A Map of the U.S. Made of Slime Mold
A Map of the U.S. Made of Slime Mold
The "roads" on this agar-gel map of the U.S. may not quite mirror reality, but they could help scientists build more-robust networks in the future. Physarum polycephalum, a type of slime mold, grows tendrils in search of food and withdraws extraneous arms to focus on the most efficient paths between sources. Although the American map is just an illustrative model made for Popular Science, researchers in the U.K. have used slime mold to create similar replicas of local roads and railways, backed up by computer models.Andy Adamatzky and Jeff Jones
Thorax
Thorax
The goal with the CT Image Contest was to create a beautiful images with a low dos scan, by using a Siemens Somatom definition scanner. This is a CT-scan of thorax, aorta and heart. Findings were normal.Courtesy Petter Quick
Inexpensive Cataract Surgery in South Asia
Inexpensive Cataract Surgery in South Asia
In February, Raj Kaliya Dhanuk lay on an operating table in Nepal with weights on her eyes, preparing to undergo cataract surgery. The weights help reduce pressure within the eyeballs before surgery, which makes the procedure easier. During the operation that followed, Sanduk Ruit, the co-director of the Himalayan Cataract Project, removed Dhanuk's clouded ocular lenses, the structures in the eye that focus light, and replaced them with synthetic ones.Gemunu Amarasinghe
The UK World Expo Pavilion
The UK World Expo Pavilion
These acrylic rods make up the Seed Cathedral, the centerpiece of the U.K. Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China. Encased at the tip of each 25-foot-long rod are seeds provided by China's Kunming Institute of Botany. Sixty-six feet tall and consisting of 60,000 rods, the structure took about four months to install at a rate of approximately 536 rods a day.John Mahoney
It's Spelled "Eyjafjallajokull"
It's Spelled "Eyjafjallajokull"
Drivers in Iceland head away from the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption that began in mid-April, bringing European air travel to its knees.HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Images
Oil Globules on Orange Beach
Oil Globules on Orange Beach
Ocean waves affect an oil spill in two ways. They help carry the oil from its source to land—in this case, from the Deepwater Horizon drilling site in the Gulf of Mexico to Orange Beach on the Alabama shore—and they also churn the oil slicks into smaller globules that wash up on beaches and stick to sunbathers' feet.Dave Martin
The Tiniest Superconductor
The Tiniest Superconductor
This image shows the smallest superconductor, which is only .87 nanometers wide.Courtesy Dr. Saw-Wai Hla and Kendal Clark
Giant Floating Crane Searching For Clues to Korean Maritime Disaster
Giant Floating Crane Searching For Clues to Korean Maritime Disaster
A floating crane prepares to raise from the depths a South Korean navy combat corvette that mysteriously split in two and sank on March 26. To allow military and civilian investigators from South Korea, the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and Sweden to examine the 1,322-ton ship, a tag team of cranes—one capable of lifting 2,200 tons, the other, 3,600—retrieved the two pieces from the ocean floor.Getty Images
Why You Should Keep Your Face Away From Big Fireworks
Why You Should Keep Your Face Away From Big Fireworks
This unlucky blast-test dummy was the star of the Consumer Product Safety Commission's annual July press event on the National Mall in Washington. The commission, which regulates fireworks' explosive power, here vividly shows the potential of pyrotechnics for bodily harm. The mannequin's Styrofoam head, filled with cornmeal to simulate brains, was close to a professional-grade explosive, with a "quick match" fuse that burns almost instantaneously. (Consumer-grade pyrotechnics have a six-second fuse.) The commission estimates that fireworks were responsible for 9,000 injuries in the U.S. last year. Most of the injuries from firecrackers and sparklers are burns and cuts, but the decapitation demonstration is a reminder that the night can end in other ways.Manuel Balce Ceneta
Lung On a Chip
Lung On a Chip
This ersatz lung, no bigger than a multivitamin, could represent a new pharmaceutical testing method. On it, researchers have created an artificial alveolus, one of the sacs in the lungs where oxygen crosses a membrane to enter the body's blood vessels. A polymer sheet that stands in for the membrane is in the blue strip. On one side of the sheet, blood-vessel cells mimic a capillary wall; on the other, lung-cancer cells mimic lung epithelial cells.Kristin Johnson/Donald Ingber/Benjamin Matthews/Martin Montoya/Dongeun Huh/Akiko Mamoto/Hong Yuan Hsin
Webb Telescope
Webb Telescope
Ball Aerospace's Jake Lewis is reflected in one of the mirrors on a James Webb Space Telescope Array, in the X-ray and cryogenic facility for testing.David Higgenbotham
Potentially New Species Of Acorn Worm
Potentially New Species Of Acorn Worm
This animal, which lives more than a mile and a half below the ocean's surface, is one of three potentially novel species of acorn worms discovered on a deep-sea expedition in June. Expedition participant Monty Priede and his team from Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland are currently analyzing the creature's DNA while another member of the expedition, Nicholas Holland, a marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, compares specimens with two species of acorn worm already described. The newfound critters, which Priede describes as "very fragile," are around five inches long when their bellies are full but shrink to about two inches after they evacuate their guts. Very little is yet known of these worms' life cycles. To date, only about 5 percent of the world's ocean habitats have been explored.David Shale
Stem Cell Exerts Pressure On Microscopic Posts, Reveals Its Own Future
Stem Cell Exerts Pressure On Microscopic Posts, Reveals Its Own Future
Like a child, a stem cell can grow up to be just about anything. Eventually it picks a job, however, during a process called differentiation. Scientists can influence, if not always control, the outcome by applying compounds called growth factors. Now Jianping Fu, a biomedical and mechanical engineer at the University of Michigan, and his colleagues have discovered that the force exerted by a stem cell onto a surface is an important part of in both predicting and altering what type of cell it will develop into. Fu placed a stem cell on a scaffold of 13-micron-long silicone posts and found that the amount of force the cell exerted on those posts indicated it would eventually become a fat cell. But he also found that when he stiffened the surface by shortening the posts, it caused the same line of stem cells to turn into bone. Knowing how to predict and manipulate the fate of stem cells will make therapies based on them—for spinal-injury repair, bone grafts, skin transplants—easier to develop.Jianping Fu
HERCULES Laser
HERCULES Laser
The new amplifier of the HERCULES laser fires. The laser is now capable of producing a beam so intense scientists believe it sets a world record.Courtesy Anatoly Maksimchuk, Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan
Beijing Olympics Water Cube Is Now a Water Park
Beijing Olympics Water Cube Is Now a Water Park
The Beijing National Aquatics Center, or Water Cube, was built to house the swimming events of the 2008 Olympics. (Its polymer walls, which reduce energy costs by minimizing the need for lighting and heating, won a PopSci Best of What's New award in 2006.) The building's designers intended for it to live on after the Olympics, however, and in August it revealed a new purpose after a 10-month metamorphosis. The center now houses the Happy Magic Watercube water park, a tangle of state-of-the-art rides such as the Aqua-Loop, a vertically looping waterslide with a unique launch system—the floor drops out from under the rider—and the Body Slide (above). Happy Magic's $30 entrance fee is about one ninth the average monthly income of local residents, yet it has attracted thousands of visitors every day since it opened.How Hwee Young
Heavy Ion Collisions as Seen by the ALICE Experiment
Heavy Ion Collisions as Seen by the ALICE Experiment
The milestones just keep coming over at the Large Hadron Collider. The latest: CERN researchers have glimpsed for the first time the so-called quark-gluon plasma that existed in the early universe before things cooled enough for neutrons, protons, and all the matter in the universe as we know it to form. Via heavy lead ion collisions underway at the LHC over the last month, researchers have recreated the conditions in the universe just a billionth of a second after the Big Bang. The results – publishing in the journal Physics Review Letters – come just three weeks after CERN researchers began circulating heavy ions through the LHC, an impressively swift feat by just about any scientific standard. In some respects, researchers found just what they thought they might by creating these mini Big Bangs: quarks and gluons unbound, roaming freely in a sort of subatomic soup. But the way they are observing this quark-gluon plasma is revealing new phenomena for the first time as well.CERN/ALICE
ReCell Spray-on Skin Grafts
ReCell Spray-on Skin Grafts
And to think we once thought spray-on bandages were revolutionary. Doctors at the University of Utah's Burn Care Center are reporting success in their pilot project testing stem cell solutions sprayed directly onto burns. Combining a red-cell-free concentration of the patient's own platelets and progenitor cells with calcium and thrombin, researchers created a solution that is sprayed on to burns topically. In tests, the spray has proven effective in the treatment of small burns and seems to improve the likelihood that a skin graft will take, which could carry positive implications for the application of this technology to other types of transplants.Photo courtesy of Avita Medical
The Queen, in 3-D
The Queen, in 3-D
Queen Elizabeth II wears 3-D glasses on a trip to Sheffield University. Not pictured: The Queen's mind being totally blown.John Giles - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Arsenic-Loving Bacteria
Arsenic-Loving Bacteria
Biologists have isolated a bacterium that can use a deadly chemical in place of one of life's key building blocks, in a finding NASA says could have major implications for astrobiology and our understanding of life on Earth. In the study, researchers examined a bacteria living in a very salty and arsenic-heavy lake in northeastern California, not far from Yosemite National Park. Contrary to hysterical news reports, it is not a space alien, nor is it a€œnew lifea€ a€” it's an existing bacteria that lives in a difficult environment and was deliberately manipulated in a lab.Courtesy Science/AAAS
Covini C6W
Covini C6W
The Covini C6W, from Italian maker Covini Engineering, has been in the works for 32 years. It has lots of nice racing parts--a 4.2-liter Audi V8, a fiberglass/carbon fiber body over a tubular steel frame, 434 horsepower, a top speed of around 185 mph--and two very unusual additions that make it stand out. Don't bother rubbing your eyes: This thing really does have six wheels. According to Jalopnik, the C6W is inspired by a 1976 race car with two sets of front wheels, designed to reduce drag and "increase air penetration." But those don't really factor into the C6W's design--instead, the extra two wheels provide better braking, grip, and absorption of frontal impact, and reduce risk of aquaplaning and deflated tires. They also greatly increase the amount and magnitude of head-turning, but that's not really a benefit that can be precisely measured.Covini
EARL, the Bowling Robot
EARL, the Bowling Robot
EARL, which stands for Enhanced Automated Robot Launcher, a hulking behemoth of a machine, is actually a tool used for specs and certification at the United States Bowling Congress (not to be confused with the United States Congress, a marginal political organization which boasts not a single expert bowling robot). The robot is capable of throwing balls anywhere between 10 and 24 mph, as well as putting a spin of between 50 and 900 rpm on its throws.Bowling Digital
The World's Best Bomb Detector
The World's Best Bomb Detector
After six years and nearly $19 billion in spending, the Pentagon task force assigned to create better ways to detect bombs has revealed their findings: The best bomb detector is...a dog. The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO (the Pentagon should really take a page from DARPA and make catchier acronyms) has been working on this problem for years, but it's only getting more serious. There have been more roadside bombs in Afghanistan in the first eight months of this year than in the same period in 2009, so the work JIEDDO is doing is under extra scrutiny.Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall
Super K Sonic Booooum
Super K Sonic Booooum
On our short list of dreams here at PopSci is to paddle around inside Super-Kamiokande, the giant Japanese subterranean pool that is the world's most sensitive subatomic particle experiment. We haven't been invited yet, even after featuring the Japanese awesomeness chamber in our neutrino detector gallery -- but meanwhile British artist Nelly Ben Hayoun has thoughtfully built a 72-foot-long replica of Super-Kamiokande out of Mylar balloons, where guests can sail through the expanse of pseudo-photomultipliers by just shelling out 5 pounds and tugging on a Tyvek protective coverall. Installed at the Manchester Science Festival this week, the Super K Sonic Booooum installation will also offer visitors the chance to create their own super-sensitive neutrino-detecting globe, with help from physicist Jonathan Perkin and glassblower Jochen Holz.Nick Ballon via Super K Sonic Boooooum
Star Motion in Omega Centauri
Star Motion in Omega Centauri
Omega Centauri, a globular cluster here in the Milky Way containing nearly 10 million stars, is an extremely busy hub of stellar activity. Those 10 million stars, all crammed together in a relatively tight space, are all swarming around a common center of gravity. Centuries ago it appeared as a single star, but the stargazing abilities of Hubble have allowed astronomers to pick out the individual stars and chart their positions.NASA, ESA, J. Anderson and R. van der Marel (STScI)
Comet Hartley 2
Comet Hartley 2
The Deep Impact probe, part of NASA's EPOXI mission, has successfully returned never-before-seen images of the comet Hartley 2 as it flew near Earth this morning, only the fifth comet nucleus ever visited by a spacecraft.Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL
Gamma Ray Bubbles
Gamma Ray Bubbles
A Harvard astronomer and his team have turned up something quite big while running publicly available data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and by big we mean both in scientific magnitude and in astronomical size: two massive gamma-ray emitting bubbles extending 25,000 light-years both north and south of the Milky Way's center. The researchers aren't sure where they come from or why they're there, but the discovery of this massive new structure in the heart of our own galaxy is being equated to discovering a new continent on Earth.NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
An Exoskeleton for Kids
An Exoskeleton for Kids
If you think you can't motivate the kids to put down the Sega or whatever it is they're playing with these days, Japanese robotics manufacturer Sakakibara-Kikai would beg to differ. The company that created the Landwalker bi-pedal exoskeleton has created a five-and-a-quarter-foot exoskeleton just for the kiddies that is sure to captivate even the most technophobic youngster, assuming such a thing exists.Sakakibara-Kikai
Hungary's Toxic Mess
Hungary's Toxic Mess
Scenes of caustic red sludge surging through pastoral Hungarian villages this year evoked a familiar blend of human pathos and righteous anger that most of us had shelved shortly after the BP well was capped. Then the news cycle turned over and our attention moved elsewhere. But as emergency workers in western Hungary slog through ankle deep rivers of toxic red muck to clear roads and contain the growing mess, the hardest job hadn't even started: the cleanup of an estimated 30 million cubic feet of alkaline mud covering some 16 square miles of Hungarian countryside.NASA Earth Observatory
The Year's Best Microphotograph
The Year's Best Microphotograph
This close-up of a mosquito heart is the winner of this year's Nikon Small World microphotography contest. Check out the other winners in our gallery.Jonas King
Wye Junction, at the World's Longest Tunnel
Wye Junction, at the World's Longest Tunnel
The Gotthard Base Tunnel, two parallel tubes of over 35 miles each through the Swiss Alps, is a ridiculously ambitious undertaking, one that has taken 14 years so far and still has a few left to go before it'll be operational. But the Swiss achieved a major milestone back in October: One of the tunnels broke through, cementing the Gotthard's place as the world's longest tunnel.Creative Commons: Cooper.ch
The Famous, Influential Mandelbrot Set
The Famous, Influential Mandelbrot Set
As modern mathematicians go, few were better known or more celebrated than Benoit Mandelbrot. The father of fractals died this year at age 85, prompting reflection on his contributions to geometry and our understanding of natural phenomena. Here's one of our favorites.Wikipedia
Orcus Patera
Orcus Patera
The European Space Agency has released a series of new images of Orcus Patera, a long crater near Mars's Mons Olympus whose rim rises some 6,000 feet. But the images, taken by the Mars Express craft, only deepen the mystery of the crater's origin. The ESA says "the most likely explanation is that it was made in an oblique impact, when a small body struck the surface at a very shallow angle." Sounds almost definitely like aliens.ESA
Tarantula Nebula
Tarantula Nebula
The ESO's VISTA telescope has released a magnificent picture of the Tarantula Nebula in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. The image was taken at the start of VISTA's Magellanic Cloud survey, covering 184 square degrees of sky (about a thousand times the visible surface area of the moon).ESO/M.-R. Cioni/VISTA Magellanic Cloud survey. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit
Fruit and Vegetable Insides
Fruit and Vegetable Insides
If you are what you eat, then it makes sense to know what your food actually is. Taking this notion to a perhaps extravagant but nonetheless entertaining degree, someone out there decided to run a bunch of common fruits and vegetables--pictured here, left to right, are durian, mushrooms, and tomato--through an MRI machine. The resulting videos and images let you see the Earth's bounty in a whole new way (literally).Inside Insides
Osprey
Osprey
A V-22 Osprey is refueled before a night mission in central Iraq.Courtesy U.S. Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane
Ping-Pong Balls in Zero Gravity
Ping-Pong Balls in Zero Gravity
PopSci's Senior Zero-Gravity Correspondent Paul Adams reported from G-Force One, a Boeing 747 that flies in a parabola to simulate zero gravity. Also featured: over two thousand ping-pong balls.Courtesy Northrop Grumman
Solar Snake
Solar Snake
Earlier this year, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught a glimpse of a huge snakelike tendril of magnetic plasma on the sun, extending hundreds of thousands of miles across the surface.NASA/SDO
Travelling Telescope
Travelling Telescope
When it becomes the successor to the illustrious Hubble later this decade, the James Webb Space Telescope's infrared eye will peer further into the edges of space (and time) than any telescope before it. But while the real thing is undergoing final construction at Northrop Grumman HQ, an exact 1:1 scale model has been touring the world, giving us a chance to get close to a realistic representation of an unconventional-looking spacecraft that will soon be the source of the most amazing images of the cosmos we've every seen. We paid a visit to the JWST in Lower Manhattan's Battery Park city. Take a look at our photo gallery to see more.John Mahoney
Robonaut, Packed in His Crate
Robonaut, Packed in His Crate
Robonaut, who was supposed to start his career as the first humanoid robot in space this week, remains while the shuttle Discovery sorts out its problems.Courtesy NASA
Thermal Bats
Thermal Bats
Thermal infrared image of flying Brazilian free-tailed bats in Texas. Yellow is warmest; red is warm; green is cool and blue is coolest. Though scientists remain extremely concerned about widespread bat death, research on the mammalian fliers continues.Thomas Kunz, Boston University
The Retrieval of Hayabusa
The Retrieval of Hayabusa
JAXA, Japan's space agency, retrieved the Hayabusa spacecraft in the Australian outback after its seven-year journey, and promptly began the process of opening it (trickier than it sounds, apparently).JAXA
Crewman Yue, a Mars500 Crew Member
Crewman Yue, a Mars500 Crew Member
A six-man crew spent 520 days simulating a round-trip voyage to Mars--and got a little goofy along the way. Crewman Yue does not approve. Check out our gallery for more.IBMP
Telenoid, the Larval Robot
Telenoid, the Larval Robot
This new Japanese robot, officially named the Telenoid R1 but christened here at PopSci as the LarvaBot, is meant to be minimalistic to draw attention to its highly realistic facial structure. Unfortunately, the "minimalistic" body is the most distracting thing we've ever seen.via Pink Tentacle
Laundry Bot
Laundry Bot
This laundry-folding robot takes us one step closer to a true Jetsons future. Hello, Rosie! Check out our post for an adorable video of the PR2 bot.University of California at Berkeley
Airplane Graveyard
Airplane Graveyard
Better known as the "Boneyard," this is the place, just outside of Tucson, where nearly 5,000 aerospace vehicles have gone to die. Feel free to spend the rest of the work day scoping out the new high-res Google map.Google/GeoEye
The Launch of Atlantis
The Launch of Atlantis
The beginning of the end for the space shuttle Atlantis was this launch back in May. After budget cuts and a reevaluation of NASA's space program, many future launches will source from private companies like SpaceX.NASA
Happy 10th Birthday, Asimo
Happy 10th Birthday, Asimo
Asimo, Honda's iconic humanoid robot, poses with the improbably named dancer Papaya Suzuki. Asimo's tenth birthday passed this year.STR/AFP/Getty Images
Bomb-Defusing Robot Hand
Bomb-Defusing Robot Hand
This robot hand, demonstrated by England's Shadow Robot Company, was designed to help in bomb disposal, with the delicate touch and advanced dexterity that job requires.BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images