This past year, we went on some amazingly strange journeys and made some bizarre discoveries. We ventured into realms of weird science, and delved into the meaning of pop culture. We asked some dangerous questions — and sometimes, the results were too complicated to boil down to a few snappy paragraphs.

So here are the best long reads that io9 published in 2012, including essays as well as journalism.


Top image: Just one of the dazzling images from the image and VFX design studio Framestore that io9 was lucky enough to feature in 2012 — this one was part of a celebration of our dreams of space exploration at the American Museum of Natural History. See more beautiful images here.

I Paid Strangers $50 To Tie Me Up And Scare The Shit Out Of Me

I slowly make my way down a hallway lit only by the glow of a few TVs strewn about the floor. As I creep forward, so does a figure on the screens. The footage is a live feed of myself projected onto each television. More »

Corvids: The Birds Who Think Like Humans

Someday I will come up with a good reason why I am friends with the neighborhood crows. For now, I can say that it started when I looked up from my office window to see this big flock of crows hanging out on the roof of an apartment building nearby. More »

Are allergies for real?

Allergies were pretty much completely unknown until the beginning of the twentieth century, and allergic diseases have skyrocketed in the last twenty years, and well over half of all Americans are allergic to an airborne substance. More »

Why Mass Effect is the Most Important Science Fiction Universe of Our Generation

Mass Effect is epic. It's the product of the best parts of Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and more with a protagonist who could be the love-child of Picard, Skywalker, and Starbuck. More »

Is Every Living Thing On Earth Related?

We're distantly related, you and I. Somewhere deep in the past, the two of us share a common ancestor. The same can be said for us and chimps. Or chimps and alligators. But what about alligators and sycamore trees? Or humans and Tyrannosaurus rex? Are you and I, as paleontology expert Brian Switek puts it, distant (distant, distant, distant) cousins of the great, tyrant lizard? More »

Is Game of Thrones‘ gratuitous sex worse than the gratuitous violence?

One of the biggest things people noticed about Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones was something that wasn't there: nudity and explicit sex. The show totally failed to meet whatever quota you might imagine it would have for naked skin and heaving bosominess. More »

How Autism is Changing the World for Everybody

There's not much doubt that autism, along with Asperger Syndrome, is finally becoming accepted as a normal part of the human fabric. Even if some people still see autism as a condition that needs to be "treated," it's increasingly obvious that people on the autism spectrum are finding ways to succeed in our neurotypical-based society. More »

Why I Write "Strong Female Characters"

If you're familiar at all with my work, you've noted that, not only do I frequently write stories with female characters as my protagonists, but these women share certain traits. They tend to be quite smart, if not all of them well-educated. They tend to be physically active, most capable of taking a punch as well as throwing one. They tend to be driven, goal-oriented, and willing to go to great lengths to secure their aims. More »

Why Can't We Stop a Hurricane Before It Hits Us?

We can send people into space and put vehicles on Mars - why can't we stop a hurricane in its tracks, before it comes to our major population centers and starts rolling for damage? Here are some methods that people have suggested for preventing, or stopping, a hurricane - and why they might not work. More »

Technologies that we've lost – and the quest to find them again

Greek fire. Damascus steel. These are two technological innovations whose secrets are said to be lost to time. Even the original schematics for the Apollo missions have disappeared into the mists of history, forever hidden inside hopelessly obsolete computers. More »

Why Manga Publishing Is Dying (And How It Could Get Better)

If in 2007, manga was like a foreign movie star who had arrived on American shores to make it big, the last four years have been like watching that star run out of roles, run out of money, sell their house, go into rehab, and end up barely limping along in infomercials. More »

How NASA might build its very first warp drive

A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. More »

What happens to women denied abortions? This is the first scientific study to find out.

Abortion is a hotly debated and poorly studied medical procedure. There are a few studies of dubious validity that connect abortion to mental illness and drug use. More »