Happy New Year, everyone. Welcome to the year two-thousand fourteen! Well. That makes it official: I can now no longer distinguish between the present and future. Everything after “2014” sounds like science-fiction.
But let’s not forget the past. Here are—in my humble opinion—the more interesting things that happened in 2013.
1. The Formosan clouded leopard declared extinct
After a 13 year study in the forests of Taiwan, the Formosan clouded leopard was officially declared extinct in the spring of last year. The last live sighting was in 1983, by a group of indigenous hunters. Ironically, those hunters consider it taboo to hunt the animal. The leopards went extinct in the usual way, from habitat loss.
In less depressing news, anxious BBC reporter Chris Stark had the most unprofessional—and therefore best—celebrity interview ever, when he regaled Mila Kunis with tales of his chronic dipsomania, drinking “lad bombs” with his friends, “Sir Dosser,” “The Convict” and “Chango, the Beast.” I’ve since made added “Have a drink with this guy” to my to-do list.
Then there was the scandal of finding “traces of horse meat” in cheap frozen burgers at Tesco and Iceland. Personally, I don’t see what the fuss is about. Raw horse meat is one of my favourite sushi toppings, and it’s even credited as being the secret for the renowned longevity of people from Nagano, Japan, the oldest people in the world. If living a long time is something you’re into, eat raw horse meat. Seriously. All you get in British burgers are “traces.”
The most hilarious moment of the scandal was the CEO of Iceland making disparaging comments about the Irish, followed by a bizarre comparison of horses and badgers. Priceless.
4. Andy Murray wins Wimbledon
Andy Murray has never been a media darling. His laconic speaking voice and sometimes dour demeanour leave his interviewers underwhelmed. But he got his own back when he finally won Wimbledon. Instead of turning to the cameras, his gave his celebration money-shot to the crowd. Apparently, the most famous image of his win was snapped by some regular bloke.
The future king of the UK was born this year, and the world’s media went mad for the it. Well, waiting for it. The highlight (of the waiting) came when BBC reporter Simon McCoy gave refreshingly frank appraisal of the fact that nothing was happening.
Depending on your point of view, this was either fascinating, cutting-edge science (gee whiz technophiles) or stomach-churning immorality (animal rights activists). Either way, I thought it was quite interesting. Basically, a team of researchers at the RIKEN-MIT Centre for Neural Circuit Genetics, artificially inserted a false memory of fear in the brains of mice. At the very least, there’s a Twilight Zone episode in here somewhere.
Over the summer, former US NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, exposed mass surveillance of basically everything on the internet by the US government. The program was called “PRISM” and it had it’s own logo. Yes, it did. Which raises perhaps the most interesting question of all. Why does a top secret spy program needs a logo? It sort of makes me think they were asking for it.
Years ago, I read a debate between a pair of astronomers who argued over how much warning we would have if an apocalyptic meteorite struck the earth. One estimate was measured in months, while the other in seconds. I’m not sure how much warning Russians had before these ones filled the sky, but this was certainly the coolest imagery of 2013.
9. Chris Hadfield in space
Anyone who tells you Chris Hadfeild’s cover of Space Oddity proves that Canadians make the best astronauts is probably committing a cognitive bias logical fallacy. However, the video definitely proves that Chris Hadfield is the coolest astronaut since Neil Armstrong, regardless of nationality. But yes, he’s Canadian.
Was it just me or did it seem like it wasn’t just Mandela who died that day? It felt like it also killed off our collective faith in our leaders. He was surely the planet’s last truly great statesman, an almost entirely unimpeachable politician. Now that’s he’s gone, who have we got? Ralph Nader? Is that the best we can do? Sigh.
Then there was Thamsanqa Jantjie, the schizophrenic sign language interpreter, whose brain unfortunately chose one of the most publicised events in history to more or less turn into custard.