Readers’ picks: The best stories of 2021

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How can you fight misinformation on social media? What’s going on inside of volcanoes? How affectionate are you and why does it matter? How does science fiction influence technology? Our most popular stories show that our readers are widely curious. Read on if you are, too.

Readers’ picks: The best stories of 2021

By Diane Boudreau

Dec. 20, 2021

At their core, research and innovation are about hope — a belief that we can make a positive impact on our health, our environments and our relationships. Over the course of 2021, the stories that attracted readers to our site reflect that sense of hope, from tips you can use to make your life better right now to exciting discoveries and ventures that offer promise for tomorrow.

Here are the top 10 topics our readers couldn’t get enough of over the past year. We hope they intrigue and inspire you, too.

10. Business park in space

Working from home became the norm for many people during the past couple of years, but have you ever thought about working from space? ASU is collaborating with Blue Origin to build an orbiting office park within the next decade. Read about it in “Office space.”

9. Taking the stress out of relationships

When we posted tips for reducing relationship stress at the start of 2020, we had no idea a global pandemic was going to push us all to whole new levels of tension. It’s not surprising that “Love factually: 11 tips for reducing relationship stress” is still among our most-read stories of 2021. Give it a look before your holiday gatherings.

8. Fiendishly fascinating

Vampires and zombies and werewolves — oh my! From “Frankenstein” to “The Walking Dead,” tales of monsters never cease to intrigue us, but why? In “Monsters among us,” ASU researchers explore the cultural and psychological significance of monsters. First published in 2012, this article’s continued popularity reflects our enduring fascination with all things spooky.

7. The next big thing in med tech

Rapid advances in technology offer limitless opportunities to enhance health care — from new ways to diagnose diseases to improvements in accessibility. The Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator helps innovative medical technology startups advance. Learn about the 2021 cohort of companies in “Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator boosts health startups.”

6. Deflecting diabetes — deliciously

This holiday season, add a bit of homemade vinaigrette to your veggies for a simple and delicious health boost. “A spoonful of vinegar helps the sugar go down” shares research on using vinegar as a safe, inexpensive option for preventing diabetes. This article from deep in our archives shows that readers are always interested in taking control of their health.

5. Students innovating education

Two ASU students are traveling to Turkey this month to compete in the Red Bull Basement Global Final, Dec. 13–15. Brinlee Kidd and Sylvia Lopez will represent the U.S. as they pitch their automated note taking tool, Jotted. Learn more about these stellar students and their innovative idea in “ASU students named US finalists in Red Bull Basement global competition.”

4. First, you have to imagine

From satellites to submarines to smartphones, many of the technologies we use today were originally conceived by writers and artists. Science fiction not only shapes the technologies we use, but also helps us explore the social and cultural implications of these inventions. Read more about it in “Science fiction: Shaping the future.”

3. Hugs for health

How affectionate are you? Lots of people want to know, based on traffic to our affection scale. This is no average internet quiz, however. It was a measurement tool used in research exploring the effects of being affectionate on your health. Read more in “Expressing love can improve your health” and “The effects of affection.” Spoiler: hugs help your heart — emotionally and physically. 

2. An eruption of information

How do volcanoes form and what causes them to erupt? What is the difference between lava and magma? Can scientists predict eruptions? How can you stay safe if you are near a volcano? ASU volcanologists answer these questions and more in “Your burning questions about volcanoes, answered.”

1. Fighting falsehoods with facts

Our most-visited story of 2021 shares advice on avoiding misinformation. Before you share that meme or “like” an audacious headline, read “Seven ways to protect yourself against misinformation.” Misinformation is nothing new, but modern technology means it spreads farther and faster than ever before. Find out how some ASU researchers are creating solutions in “An algorithm to detect fake news.”