We have often joked that the perfect Wired Science story is about robot sharks with lasers in space. While we haven’t gotten a chance to write that one just yet, looking at this list of our most popular stories of the year, we’ve come pretty close. Golden-silk-spinning spiders, the mathematics of zombies and weird clouds were all among your favorites.
10. Mysterious, Glowing Clouds Appear Across America’s Night Skies
Speaking of weird clouds, number 10 on our 2009 hit list is the mysterious appearance of noctilucent clouds in the night skies over the United States and Europe.
These night-shining clouds typically form closer to the poles, but more frequent sightings in lower latitudes could be the result of human-caused climate change.
Image: The sky over Omaha on July 14, snapped by Mike Hollingshead at Extreme Instability
9. Astronauts Spot Mysterious Ice Circles in World’s Deepest Lake
Apparently our readers love a good mystery, judging from numbers 9 and 10 on our list.
In April, astronauts on the International Space Station took this photograph of circular formations in the ice on the surface of Lake Baikal.
Scientists later determined the strange circles were caused by methane rising from the lake bottom.
Every year Nikon gives out its Small World awards to some of the best photomicrography of the year.
Our collection of the top photos from each of the last 35 years was a big hit.
7. Stunning Views of Glaciers Seen From Space
Every one of our posts of images of the Earth from space has been a hit.
Some of the other galleries would be on this list as well, but we’re letting the glaciers represent the whole series for the year.
This image of Bear Glacier in Alaska highlights the beautiful color of many glacial lakes caused by light reflecting off the silt that is finely ground away from the valley walls by the glacier and deposited in the lake.
Image: GeoEye/NASA, 2005
6. Mathematical Model for Surviving a Zombie Attack
Oh, yes, somebody actually did a study on mathematics of a hypothetical zombie attack.
So, while we still don’t know what to do if an asteroid takes aim at Earth, we’re ready for marauding zombies.
This study, done by scientists who use epidemiological models to study the spread of disease, was irresistibly funny.
Image: Mark Lobo Photography
5. Biggest Meteor Shower of the Year Peaks Tuesday Night
The only way to explain why this story about a meteor shower that occurs every year was so popular is that our readers love space.
A lot. Any time we post the latest image from Hubble or Spitzer or Cassini, you ask for more.
This story was just a quick reminder to look up at the sky and catch some Perseids.
Image: Flickr/Tommy Huynh
4. Enormous Shark’s Secret Hideout Finally Discovered
The basking shark’s giant, gaping maw makes it look far more dangerous than it is, but it’s still a shark.
This story also had a mystery solved by scientists who managed to find the sneaky shark’s winter hideout in the Caribbean after 50 years of not knowing where the sharks disappeared to every year.
Image: Chris Gotshalk
3. Mysterious Tubular Clouds Defy Explanation
This photograph of crazy-looking roll clouds in Australia sparked a lot of discussion and led us to a scientist who did actually have an explanation for their formation.
We also learned how interested our readers are in strange clouds, so we followed up with a gallery of some of the weirdest, along with explanations from cloud physicists.
2. To Run Better, Start by Ditching Your Nikes
This story about the benefits of running barefoot, or nearly barefoot, outran all but one story this year.
We think its appeal stemmed largely from the first-person account, from our esteemed Gadget Lab editor Dylan Tweney, who abandoned his trusted running shoes for bare skin or minimal cover.
And also, this creepy photo of his gorilla feet in a pair of Vibram FiveFingers.
Image: Jon Snyder/Wired.com
1. One Million Spiders Make Golden Silk for Rare Cloth
One million spiders! It’s no surprise that this story tops our list for 2009. These guys built a replica of a turn-of-the-century 24-spider milking machine. That’s crazy, man.
It should also be noted that our top story came from our awesome intern Hadley Leggett.