The top ten stories you’ve been reading on our site in 2018

Each year hundreds of thousands of people view articles on our site and we’re always interested in what you’re looking at. This year we had readers from 225 countries and territories. This includes one reader from each of Tonga, Chad, São Tomé and Príncipe, San Marino, Montserrat, Kiribati and Equatorial Guinea. Thank you very much for reading!

So, to mark the end of 2018, we thought we’d share the top ten stories, as read by you. And don't forget to read our month-by-month review of the year.

10. UK giant ichthyosaur is one of the largest animals ever

The 205 million-year-old jaw bone of a prehistoric reptile belongs to ‘one of the largest animals ever’ a group of international palaeontologists reported.

The bone belongs to a giant ichthyosaur, a type of prehistoric aquatic reptile, and experts estimated the length of this specimen’s body would have been up to 26 metres, approaching the size of a blue whale.

9. Microwaves could be as bad for the environment as millions of cars, suggests new research

Microwaves usage across the EU alone emits as much carbon dioxide as nearly seven million cars according to a study by the University.

Researchers at the University carried out the first ever comprehensive study of the environmental impacts of microwaves, considering their whole life cycle, from ‘cradle to grave’.

8. Scientists train spider to jump on demand to discover secrets of animal movement

Scientists unlocked the secrets of how some predatory spiders catch their prey while hunting by successfully training one to jump different distances and heights for the first time.

The aim of the research was to answer the question of why jumping spider anatomy and behaviour evolved the way it did, and secondly, to use this improved understanding of spiders to imagine a new class of agile micro-robots that are currently unthinkable using today’s engineering technologies.

7. 'Human brain' supercomputer with 1 million processors switched on for first time

The world’s largest neuromorphic supercomputer designed and built to work in the same way a human brain does was fitted with its landmark one-millionth processor core and switched on for the first time.

The million-processor-core ‘Spiking Neural Network Architecture’ or ‘SpiNNaker’ machine is capable of completing more than 200 million million actions per second, with each of its chips having 100 million transistors.

6. Jack the Ripper letter mystery solved by Manchester researcher

A forensic linguist from The University of Manchester who analysed letters supposedly signed by Jack the Ripper concluded that two of the most famous examples were written by the same person.

The Whitechapel murders that terrorised London in 1888 are still remembered thanks to the legend of Jack the Ripper, who was never caught.

In addition to the gruesomeness of the murders, Jack the Ripper’s name and persona were popularised by more than 200 letters which were received following the murders. These letters are essentially what made him famous, and it has often been suggested that they were written by journalists to sell more newspapers.

5. Fringe benefits: drug side effects could treat human hair loss

A new drug could ease the distress of men and women who suffer from baldness, according to researchers from The University of Manchester’s Centre for Dermatology Research.

The study showed that a drug originally designed as a treatment for osteoporosis has a dramatic stimulatory effect on human hair follicles donated by patients undergoing hair transplantation surgery.

4. Manchester rises in world university league table

The University of Manchester rose five places in the latest QS World University Rankings - to a position of 29th.

The University equalled its highest ever position of 29th, which was achieved in 2016, and was ranked 6th in the UK – exceeding the 2016 place of 7th.

3. Infection outbreaks at hospitals could be reduced by copper-coated uniforms

Doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals could soon be wearing uniforms brushed with tiny copper nanoparticles to reduce the spread of bacterial infections and viruses, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), at hospitals.

Material scientists at The University of Manchester, working in collaboration with universities in China, created a ‘durable and washable, concrete-like’ composite material made from antibacterial copper nanoparticles. They also developed a way of binding the composite to wearable materials such as cotton and polyester, which has proved a stumbling block for scientists in the past.

2. University reaches highest-ever position in latest world rankings

The University reached its highest-ever position in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

Manchester was listed as the 34th best institution in the world, jumping four places in comparison to the previous year’s results. The table also ranked us as the 8th best university in the Europe, and 6th in the UK.

1. Research reveals stronger people have healthier brains

The most read story of the year was about a study of nearly half a million people which revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Dr Joseph Firth, an Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Manchester and Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University, crunched the numbers using UK Biobank data.

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