20 Things You Didn't Know About … The Year in Science

1. Across the nation, we were deeply divided … between those who heard “laurel” in a sound clip and those who insisted it was “yanny.” The actual word in the audio file, circulated on social media in May, was “laurel.” (Sorry, Team Yanny.)

2. The word perceived in the low-quality recording of an online pronunciation guide depended on factors such as whether a listener’s hearing was biased toward low or high frequencies, according to a Current Biology study published in July.

3. Such auditory illusions are essentially our brains trying to make sense of ambiguous information. Want a little more brain ambiguity? Paleoanthropologists are rethinking a basic idea about how our gray matter evolved.

4. Modern human brains are exceptionally large and complex, and researchers assumed size came first, or at least in tandem with the development of sophisticated cerebral structures.

5. But in May, in the journal PNAS, a team used endocasts — impressions of the cranium’s interior — to reconstruct the brain of Homo naledi, a distant cousin of ours first described in 2015.

6. The smaller-brained South African hominin appears to have had some of the architecture associated with advanced cognitive processes. The findings hint that human brains may have evolved complexity first and size second.

7. Marine biologists are taking a creative approach to studying some other squishy stuff: delicate invertebrates such as jellyfish. A new, origami-inspired tool offers a way to collect data on the animal without damaging it.

8. Described in July in Science Robotics, the device looks like a flower when open but, once its five “petals” close around the specimen, resembles a translucent soccer ball, allowing scientists to catch and release invertebrates without harm.

9. The culprit in the first space-based whodunit has yet to be caught. First reported in September as possible micrometeorite damage, a small hole that caused a drop in pressure in a Soyuz transport craft docked at the International Space Station now appears to have been drilled.

10. Russia’s space agency pushed back against media reports suggesting botched construction, and hinted instead that it may have been a deliberate action by a crew member once the craft had left Earth.