On Jan. 12, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, a nation widely considered the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Disaster relief experts estimated that 230,000 lives were lost during the earthquake and in its aftermath. Later in the year, another disaster struck Haiti: a cholera outbreak. In mid-November, more than 900 people were dead from cholera and another 14,000 were hospitalized.
Movie mastermind James Cameron directed the box office smash hit "Avatar," which opened in theaters in 2009. By early 2010, "Avatar" had become the highest-grossing movie of all time, edging out "Titanic," another of Cameron's films. Here, models in Sydney, Australia, dress like characters from "Avatar" to promote the film's release on Blu-ray and DVD.
Scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute gave the world its very first working synthetic cell. The team created an entire artificial genome and inserted it into a cell without DNA to make it functional -- all for the bargain price of $30 million. Here, Craig Venter testifies before U.S. Congress in May about the promise of synthetic genomics.
On May 10, President Obama nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. By Aug. 5, Kagan's appointment had been confirmed, and she stepped up as the 112th Supreme Court Justice of the United States. During months of scrutiny, Kagan's toughest critics questioned her about restricting military recruiting at Harvard Law School when she served there as dean.
The opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver was darkened by tragedy. On Feb. 12, luger Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia was killed during a training run. His fellow countrymen march somberly in the ceremony here, their country's flag trimmed in black for mourning.
Thirty-three Chilean miners were trapped a half-mile underground for more than two months when the San Jose copper-gold mine collapsed, burying them in 700,000 tons of rock. For two weeks, officials presumed the miners were dead, but all men survived and were rescued during a painstaking mission that began Oct. 12 and concluded the next day. This aerial photograph shows the area where the men were trapped.
Conan O'Brien assumed the helm of "The Tonight Show" after Jay Leno's retirement in May 2009. But NBC offered Leno a primetime comedy slot and later proposed pushing back Jay's show to 11:35 p.m. -- when "The Tonight Show" was on. O'Brien refused the deal and took a $45 million buyout for his team. Fans crawled out of the woodwork to support the kooky, redheaded comic. O'Brien launched "The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour," then signed a contract with TBS to star in the show "Conan."
This year was full of ups and downs for the planet's favorite natural satellite. We learned that the moon has way more water than we thought, but U.S. astronauts won't necessarily get to set foot on it any time soon, with the cancellation of NASA's Constellation program. Maverick space entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Elon Musk may be our best bet.
The U.S. November election was one of the most charged in recent history as Republicans sought to regain control of Congress. New faces from the Tea Party, including Christine O'Donnell, rallied for voter support to show the strength of this burgeoning political party. After the ballots were counted, Republicans had secured a majority in the House, but not in the Senate.
Easily the world's biggest sporting event, the 2010 FIFA World Cup was hosted in Africa for the first time. Here, the stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, is electric with a pregame show just before the final match in which the Netherlands and Spain faced off.
Putting an end to bullying became serious business in 2010. One bullying victim who made national headlines was Phoebe Prince, who hanged herself after enduring taunts from girls at a South Hadley high school in Massachusetts. Here, Ashley Longe (left), Flannery Mullins (center) and Sharon Channon Velazquez (right) attend a hearing at juvenile court. The three girls all faced charges of bullying.
This was the year of Betty White! After a dynamite Super Bowl commercial put the aging star back in the spotlight, a Facebook campaign popped up to get Betty White hosting "Saturday Night Live." At age 88, she became the oldest host of the show and was awarded an Emmy in August for her hosting stint.
Arizona voters OK'ed medical marijuana, courtesy of Proposition 203, making Arizona the 15th U.S. state to do so. Meanwhile, Californians smoked up the headlines with Proposition 19, a move to legalize marijuana that was defeated, with 54 percent of voters rejecting the ballot measure and 46 percent approving it. Here, a man smokes licensed medical marijuana at Germany's annual hemp parade. Germany legalized the drug's sale and possession for medical use in 2009.
On March 23, President Obama signed the health care reform bill, known more formally as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The bill became law but encountered major opposition in Congress; it didn't win a single supporting Republican vote. Later, the bill would be contested by lawmakers, who claimed that it was unconstitutional.
Adult film star Veronica Siwik Daniels and attorney Gloria Allred watch Tiger Woods apologize for his behavior at a live press conference. The golf superstar surprised fans and sponsors with a massive sex scandal, which he dubbed "selfish and foolish." In late August, Woods and his wife, Elin Nordegren, finalized their divorce, leaving her with a $750 million settlement and custody of their children. Woods wasn't the only athlete with a sex scandal this year; in October, football player Brett Favre was accused of sending explict text messages and photos to media personality Jenn Sterger.
The eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano snarled global air traffic and confounded well-intentioned spellers worldwide. The natural disaster led to more than 100,000 cancelled flights and more than $1 billion in damage. Travel insurance never looked so good. Here you can see the cloud rising from the erupting volcano on April 18 in the bucolic town of Eyjafjallajokull.
June 18 was the opening day of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando. Fans of the book and movie series lined up to get a taste of butterbeer and take a tour of Hogwarts Castle.
Robonaut 2, the handy humanoid robot headed for the International Space Station, learned to deal with the disappointment of shuttle delays, just like a regular astronaut. During some downtime, R2 flexes for the camera. Meanwhile, robots bound for the battlefield didn't see any delays in their deployment.
On April 23, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed bill SB 1070 aimed at locating, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants. The bill empowered Arizona law enforcement officials to hold in custody anyone they think might be an illegal resident of the United States. Here, protesters march at a rally to show their distaste of the bill.
Who dat? The New Orleans Saints made their city proud by winning Super Bowl XLIV, where the team faced off against the Indianapolis Colts. The Saints restored festivity and cheer to a still-stricken city that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The BP-owned Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico was rocked by an explosion on April 20. What resulted was one of the largest oil spills in history, with five months of almost-steadily leaking oil pouring into the surrounding waters. Federal government estimates put the oil spill at 172 million gallons; Columbia University researchers estimated 185 million gallons. In July, the well was capped, and in September, it was declared dead. Economic and environmental recovery efforts will continue for some time to rehabilitate the water, wildlife and livelihoods of Gulf fishermen. Here, a boat is at work collecting oil on April 28.
"Marriage comes and goes, but divorce is forever." So goes the tagline of the new Huffington Post divorce section, dreamed up by owner Arianna Huffington, writer/director Nora Ephron and The New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley. Huffington, pictured here, pushed the site section live on Nov. 8. It chronicles divorce news, offers self-help advice to singles and features op-ed pieces on the subject. What big couples split in 2010? Al and Tipper Gore, Kelsey and Camille Grammer, and Tony Parker and Eva Longoria-Parker, to name a few. Much-beloved Tinseltown couple David Arquette and Courteney Cox have separated, but she hasn't said the "d" word yet.
We have antimatter, particle people! Scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced they created and trapped 38 hydrogen antimatter atoms for a fraction of a second. Antimatter spaceships can't be that far behind, can they? The picture shows a view of CERN's ALPHA experiment, where the antimatter was created.
There were no survivors in the plane crash that killed the president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, his wife, Maria, and senior Polish officials on April 10. The 95 passengers on board were en route to a ceremony honoring the Polish prisoners killed under Stalin's regime in 1940. The pilot flying the 20-year-old plane had been warned by air traffic controllers to divert his course and avoid heavy fog, but he did not heed their instructions. Here, members of the Polish clergy attend a memorial for the men and women killed in the crash.
In a live televised conference on July 8, basketball great LeBron James explained that he would be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat. James said he hoped "fans [would] be respectful" of his decision and that "Akron (Ohio) is always home for me." But fans were crushed ... except those in Miami, of course.
It's a 30-story-deep hole in the ground , but don't call it a sinkhole. Geologist Sam Bonis told Discovery News that the chasm that opened up in Guatemala City in June was caused by human activity instead of natural forces. The not-a-sinkhole was likely formed from steadily flowing waters of a burst sewer pipe or storm drain that chipped away at the volcanic pumice rock foundation the city is built upon.
Kids love 'em and trade 'em, and some adults wear them on their wrists, too, alongside grown-up watches and diamond bracelets. We can't really explain the Silly Bandz fad, but we can explain what Silly Bandz are: silicone rubber bracelets in the shape of animals, sports mascots, letters, numbers and almost anything else you can imagine. It's like magic -- when you hold one in your hand, it retains its shape, but when you slip it on your wrist, it's just a plain old rubber band. Here, Isabella Marino from Hollywood, Fla., models her collection of Silly Bandz.
More than a decade after its publication, The Lancet retracted the first paper to connect autism with the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The paper's lead author, Andrew Wakefield, was later barred from practicing medicine in the U.K. Here, a woman holds a sign outside the General Medical Council's London office on the day the organization issued its ruling.
The European Union played a few rounds of financial dominoes this year, with the Greek economy suffering the first spectacular collapse, followed by Ireland and much speculation about the health of Spain and Portugal. By the end of 2010, and roughly 200 billion euros and two bailout packages later, the EU still hadn't managed to quell financial fears.
This year was big business as usual for media giant Facebook. The social networking site's CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new e-mail and messaging system in November, and former business rival Myspace conceded defeat (kind of) when it explained that its users would be able to link their profiles to their Facebook accounts. Other news for Facebook? It went Hollywood when "The Social Network" hit theaters on Oct. 1. The film explored the inception of Facebook and profiled its founder, who, according to some critics, didn't come off as very likeable.
News correspondent Helen Thomas had been reporting for more than 50 years before her sudden retirement in June. The 89-year-old journalist was the first female to join the White House Correspondents' Association, but despite her impressive resume and history in Washington, she quickly found herself out of favor after remarking that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine." Thomas later apologized for her statement, but she was ultimately forced to retire after losing her endorsement and employment by the speaking and news agencies to which she belonged.
Dan Akerson, CEO of the newly public automaker General Motors, presents the Chevrolet Volt hybrid electric vehicle in Detroit. This car, with VIN No. 00001, is the first factory-produced Volt, and nearly 1,000 workers will be hired over the next two years to produce even more of what some auto industry insiders are calling "the most advanced car ever made."
A U.S. president's child getting married is the closest thing Americans have to a royal wedding. On July 31, Chelsea Clinton wed Marc Mezvinksy in Rhinebeck, N.Y., with nearly 400 guests in attendance. The bride wore Vera Wang, and her mother, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wore Oscar de la Renta. Next year, wedding lovers the world over will be watching as Prince William weds Kate Middleton; the couple announced their engagement on Nov. 16.
CHNOPS, the mnemonic device science teachers devised to help you remember the six essential elements involved in life, may have to undergo a slight revision. Researchers from NASA's Astrobiology Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey convinced a microbe to trade its phosphorus for arsenic, the first ever life form we know of to incorporate the poisonous element into its bodily machinery. In this picture, NASA holds a news conference to announce its discovery; that's the microorganism in question displayed in the background.
On Nov. 23, North Korea launched a deadly and destructive artillery attack against South Korea -- and the world responded angrily. Two marines died in the attack, and 15 soldiers and citizens were injured. Several nations declared their condemnation of the attack, including the United States, which called it a "belligerent action." Here, damage to the island of Yeonpyeong is shown to its full extent.
President Obama, Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd pose after signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act on July 31. This piece of legislation is designed to shield Americans from predatory lending and other "abusive financial services practices," according to the bill, as well as cease governmental bailouts of big businesses. The bill is significant because, according to The White House Blog, it prioritizes the needs of the American middle class above Wall Street and other special interest groups.
Apple diehards jumped for joy on Jan. 27, when the iPad was announced. Soon, they'd have the world at their fingertips -- literally -- in the form of a 1 1/2-pound, 9.7-inch tall device that allows users to browse the Web, watch video, listen to music and employ their favorite iPhone apps. On April 3, the iPad tablet computer hit stores; those who didn't spring for the pricey device just had to wait until June 24 to get a shiny, new toy. That was the day that iPhone 4 became available.
Some Americans took umbrage when a proposal was drafted for an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in New York City. Here, Nihad Awad, the National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, speaks about the proposal at a press conference held near the site.
Some may remember this as the year our collective vices took a hit. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services proposed bigger and more graphic warning labels on cigarette packs, like the one pictured. The FDA put a halt to caffeinated alcoholic beverages, too. Get your caffeine and your alcohol from two cans, people -- not one.
Students in London protested tuition hikes by flocking in droves to city streets and demonstrating at 12 universities. What began as peaceful protests turned violent, resulting in arrests, injuries and damage to private property and public transportation. Across the United Kingdom, thousands of college students participated in marches, classroom walkouts and protests.
Pierre Le Guennec might be the most prolific Pablo Picasso collector in the world -- and he didn't pay a cent for his 271 lithographs, paintings and sketches by the artist. Le Guennec was Picasso's longtime electrician, and he revealed his collection to Picasso's son, Claude, in late November to get the works authenticated. Suspicions about Le Guennec's vast collection led to its seizure until Picasso's family can determine whether he came by the art rightfully or criminally.
Proposition 8, which 52 percent of California voters passed in 2008 to stipulate that marriage should exist between a man and a woman, was back in the press this year with California federal appeals court judges deliberating whether it is constitutional. The case may be handed up to the Supreme Court. Same-sex marriage is legal in five states and in the District of Columbia.
Controversial pop superstar Lady Gaga wore a dress made of raw meat to the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 12 to protest the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the U.S. military. When talk show host Ellen DeGeneres asked Gaga about the dress, the singer said she didn't want to offend the vegans and vegetarians, she just wanted to make a point. DeGeneres responded by presenting her with a bikini made of kale.
It's hard to forget the White House party crashers who rose to fame in late November last year. On Nov. 24, 2009, Tareq and Michaele Salahi elbowed their way into a White House state dinner without invitations. In 2010, we watched the fallout. The Salahis appeared before lawmakers when subpoenaed by the House Homeland Security Committee, and though the couple remained tight-lipped while pleading the fifth, they await possible criminal charges. Desiree Rogers, the Obama administration's social secretary, left her position on Feb. 27 after receiving criticism for the security breach, which many insiders regarded as her mistake.
Even if you don't quite understand what Google TV is, you've probably laughed at the Kevin Bacon commercial. In October, Google announced its partnership with Sony to create a TV-viewing/Internet experience that will allow users to search for and watch Web videos, play games, view photos and chat with friends on their televisions.
On Aug. 31, President Obama declared an end to the combat mission in Iraq. Here, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits troops at Camp Ramadi, where he attended a ceremony that commemorated the end of the mission.
At long last, the Beatles and iTunes came together on Nov. 16. This was also the year that an unlikely candidate edged out the Beatles in popularity: the cast of the hit Fox TV series "Glee." "Glee" performers racked up 75 Billboard top 100 singles, while the Beatles' record is 71.
Will you remember the name Steven Slater next year? The JetBlue flight attendant gained notoriety and street cred when he abruptly quit his job after being verbally assaulted by a passenger on flight 1052 from Pittsburgh, Pa., to New York City on Aug. 9. And Slater evacuated as quickly as humanly possible ... by deploying the emergency slide and getting out of dodge. He was later arrested at his home and charged with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.
WikiLeaks launched in 2006, but there's a chance you didn't hear much about the nonprofit site until this summer, when it published more than 76,000 documents about the war in Afghanistan. The site gained even more traction in November, when it revealed memos from the U.S. Department of State. As Washington went into damage control mode, WikiLeaks struggled to find a Web server to support its content. More trouble began for WikiLeaks in early December when the site's founder, Julian Assange, was arrested for sex crimes.
It's a big, big universe out there, one potentially filled with 3 sextillion stars, according to research from Yale astronomer Pieter van Dokkum and his colleagues. Check back in 2011 to learn more about which ones you should wish upon.