From “murder hornets” to life on other planets, the most popular Washington State University research coverage in a year dominated by COVID-19 was largely tangential to the pandemic—playing on questions of how things could get worse, or how we might leave this troubled planet altogether. Other stories that saw wide audiences involved the pandemic more directly or research so novel it could not be ignored like the creation of the first-ever surrogate sires, male livestock able to pass on the most-desired genetics of donor animals.
This was not a typical year, but the news stories about WSU research that did the best still had a focus on real-world impact. Health-related stories, in particular, did well, such as whether parents should hide their stress from kids, the potential benefits of cannabis or whether exercise helped people deal with their pandemic fears.
Among many top articles about important research happening in the College of Arts and Sciences, the idea of “superhabitable” planets, worlds that might be better than our own, caught a lot of people’s imaginations across the globe. Astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an adjunct WSU professor in the School of the Environment and also with the Technical University in Berlin, and his colleagues came up with a set of characteristics that are better for life and found 24 of these potentially wonderful planets.