Watson Wins at Jeopardy
In February IBM’s artificially intelligent supercomputer, Watson, won more than three times as much money on Jeopardy! as either of the competing human trivia champs. Despite a few bugs in its language processing, the computer’s performance was an impressive demonstration of the increasing speed and power of ai. (And if you ask us, Watson’s mistrust of puns made it seem all the more human.)
Angry Birds Bring Physics to Phones Everywhere
This beloved mobile game has given millions of users an addictive crash course in trajectory, gravity, and mass as they topple towers armed with a slingshot and brightly colored birds. The app debuted in 2009 but scored big this year, winning Webby and Appy awards for best game, surpassing 350 million downloads, and even inspiring an amusement park in China.
Scientists Descend on Comedy Central
Comedians-slash-news anchors Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have hosted an impressive roster
of science notables this year, including astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, neuroscientist David Eagleman, and string
theorist Brian Greene, who called Colbert “a bag of particles governed by the laws of physics.”
Bjork Gets Biophilic
The Icelandic singer-songwriter’s latest project, called Biophilia, is one big love letter to science. Her tour, which kicked off this June in the U.K., is complete with Tesla coils, sound bites of David Attenborough, and pendulum harps that use gravity to make music.
We Lose a Tech Icon
When rumors circulated about a possible iPhone 5 release on October 14, Steve Jobs fans seized the date and declared it Steve Jobs Day, inviting people worldwide to honor the beloved CEO by wearing his trademark outfit: jeans, a black turtleneck, and tennis shoes. Jobs, who resigned as Apple CEO in August and passed away in October, revolutionized the personal computer, phone, and music industries.
Contagion Steven Soderbergh skillfully deploys an all-star cast in this taut pandemic thriller—made extra-terrifying by a global outbreak scenario too plausible for comfort.
Source Code It’s got a smart, suspenseful plot played out in Groundhog Day-like time loops. And it’s the first good Jake Gyllenhaal movie in longer than we can remember.
Super 8 Director J. J. Abrams’s collaboration with producer Steven Spielberg occasionally falters under its self-consciousness, but at heart it’s a nostalgic, darker version of E.T.
X-Men: First Class Set early in the Cold War, this origin story rejuvenates the mutants’ flagging franchise with a likable cast, snappy effects, and sly nods to the future for fans who know how the story ends.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes The spookily believable CGI apes made this a compelling watch—even if the brain science bits were beyond shaky.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon It took in more than $1 billion at the box office, but let’s be real: This film was more of a mess than it made of downtown Chicago.
Cowboys & Aliens The guns vs. rayguns premise had potential, but the real showdown here was between sci-fi and western clichés. And a movie named Cowboys & Aliens shouldn’t take itself so seriously.
Green Lantern Even Green Lantern’s light couldn’t fend off an abysmal script and stilted acting.
The Adjustment Bureau
It had the makings of an Inception-style blockbuster, with great star chemistry and fast-paced action. But the film is a metaphysical muddle: We couldn’t shake the feeling we had just seen a very high-budget philosophy lecture.