At the start of 2022, the James Webb Space Telescope had just begun its voyage, and in mid-July the first images were released to the public, provoking our imaginations. This renewed interest on what exists beyond our planet seemed a fitting antidote to a year where media coverage was consumed by climate change, conflict and sports.

But even the stars aren’t safe: the Ukraine-Russia conflict dominated the news and threatened peace in space. At the start of the year, the Doomsday clock was at 100 seconds to midnight, indicating a that we are at a moment in history that is “both perilous and unsustainable;” in November, fears of a potential Russian nuclear attack heightened.

Possibly as a way to address or undo some of the challenges we have contended with, two of our most popular stories explored whether it was possible to travel through time, and if parallel timelines could exist. And as another avenue for imagining different ways of being, the growing popularity of the metaverse hinted at the emerging possibilities of virtual space.

One of our most popular science stories published by The Conversation Canada brought together two of my favourite things: octopuses (they’re compelling and intelligent) and cities. Octopolis and Octlantis are two octopus-occupied “cities” off the coast of Australia. There, octopuses — who were assumed to be solitary creatures — live, play and fight together, demonstrating that they can produce a culture, which makes farming them a contentious issue.

This past year, taking a closer look helped us learn more about ancient life on Earth. New DNA analysis techniques revealed that mammoths were around more recently than thought. And a closer examination of two overlooked fossils in Alberta and Uzbekistan revealed them to be newly discovered species of apex predators.

As we head into 2023, I’m looking forward to more stories that evoke or satiate our curiosity about the world around — and beyond — us.

Until then, all the best.

Nehal El-Hadi

Science + Technology Editor

Year in Review: Science + Technology

Amid tensions on Earth, the United States claims that ‘conflict in space is not inevitable’

Kuan-Wei Chen, McGill University

Our reliance on space infrastructure means that conflict in space would have global catastrophic consequences. But a recent declaration by the United States provides hope.

I visited nuclear shelters in Prague to see how cities could prepare for nuclear war

Jack L. Rozdilsky, York University, Canada

Cold War-era bunkers in Prague have been repurposed as tourist sites and nightlife venues. With war in Ukraine bringing renewed nuclear threats, could these bunkers revert to their original purpose?

Can we time travel? A theoretical physicist provides some answers

Peter Watson, Carleton University

Theories exploring the possibility of time travel rely on the existence of types of matter and energy that we do not understand yet.

Time travel could be possible, but only with parallel timelines

Barak Shoshany, Brock University

Scientifically speaking, for time travel to exist, so must parallel timelines. This theory addresses the paradoxes that arise when studying the possibility of time travel.

The hidden world of octopus cities and culture shows why it’s wrong to farm them

Kristin Andrews, York University, Canada

Octopus build cities, establish hierarchies and show social group behaviours. Domesticating will mean creating a new kind of octopus, with ecological and ethical implications.

What is the metaverse, and what can we do there?

Adrian Ma, Toronto Metropolitan University

The metaverse is being hyped as a game-changing virtual platform that will transform our digital lives. But it has some inherent challenges to overcome in order to achieve mass adoption.

Ancient DNA suggests woolly mammoths roamed the Earth more recently than previously thought

Tyler J. Murchie, McMaster University

Permafrost in the Yukon is a treasure trove of ancient environmental DNA, but climate change threatens these rich historical archives.

The discovery of two giant dinosaur species solves the mystery of missing apex predators in North America and Asia

Darla K. Zelenitsky, University of Calgary

Two recent discoveries in Alberta and Uzbekistan have identified the top predators in those regions during the Cretaceous period. Fossils that had been in storage for years included the jawbones.