Our most read articles of the year

From COVID, to sex, to space junk ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Sometimes editors at The Conversation might have a hunch about the pieces that are going to be well-read. I was pretty sure when I commissioned “How long does sex usually last?” it’d get a few clicks.

But sometimes the pieces that go viral are a complete surprise. I had no idea hundreds of thousands of you would be interested in a piece from a soil expert examining the oxygen content of the top layer of the moon – perhaps we’re all planning our escape from this planet we’re halfway to destroying?

I also had no idea I wasn’t alone in my 3am awakenings where I dwell on my shortcomings (and gratefully, these awakenings have stopped once I read the article and discovered why!) And I didn’t realise that so many people were – like me – in need of an explainer on why the confederate flag is so offensive.

This list of our most read articles of the year also contains much about COVID and vaccines, the issue that has dominated the world and our lives for nearly two years now. (Here’s hoping this time next year this list will include a lot less COVID and a lot more live art reviews.)

A big thank you to the experts who have given up their time this year to give our readers the best quality information to keep them safe during the pandemic. And an equally big thanks to those who wrote about everything else when we needed a break from COVID news.

Our most read articles of the year 1

Alexandra Hansen

Deputy Editor and Chief of Staff

Our most read articles of the year 2
Our most read articles of the year 3

The symptoms of the Delta variant appear to differ from traditional COVID symptoms. Here’s what to look out for

Lara Herrero, Griffith University

Data from the UK, where the Delta variant is dominant, suggest many people with COVID-19 are experiencing cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose and a sore throat.

Our most read articles of the year 4

The Moon’s top layer alone has enough oxygen to sustain 8 billion people for 100,000 years

John Grant, Southern Cross University

The next big frontier in space exploration is finding ways to effectively harness oxygen contained within Moon dust. What will it take?

Our most read articles of the year 5

New COVID variants have changed the game, and vaccines will not be enough. We need global ‘maximum suppression’

Susan Michie, UCL; Chris Bullen, University of Auckland; Jeffrey V Lazarus, Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal); John N. Lavis, McMaster University; John Thwaites, Monash University; Liam Smith, Monash University; Salim Abdool Karim, Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA); Yanis Ben Amor, Columbia University

COVID-19 variants of concern have changed the game. We need to recognise and act on this to avoid future waves of infections, yet more lockdowns and restrictions, and avoidable illness and death.

Our most read articles of the year 6

I was the Australian doctor on the WHO’s COVID-19 mission to China. Here’s what we found about the origins of the coronavirus

Dominic Dwyer, University of Sydney

Much has been said of the politics surrounding the mission to investigate the viral origins of COVID-19. So it’s easy to forget that behind these investigations are real people.

Our most read articles of the year 7

A giant piece of space junk is hurtling towards Earth. Here’s how worried you should be

Steven Freeland, Western Sydney University

China’s Long March 5B rocket, after a successful blast-off in April to deliver a space station module, is now on track to crash-land somewhere with a latitude between New York and New Zealand.

Our most read articles of the year 8

COVID is surging in the world’s most vaccinated country. Why?

C Raina MacIntyre, UNSW

What does the Seychelles experience tell us about variants, vaccine efficacy and herd immunity?

Our most read articles of the year 9

How long does sex normally last?

Brendan Zietsch, The University of Queensland

If you’re a non-scientist, you might have once asked yourself, propped against the bedhead after disappointingly quick intercourse, how long does sex “normally” last?

Our most read articles of the year 10

How do we know the COVID vaccine won’t have long-term side-effects?

Samantha Carlson, Telethon Kids Institute; Christopher Blyth, The University of Western Australia; Lucy Deng, University of Sydney; Margie Danchin, Murdoch Children's Research Institute; Nicholas Wood, University of Sydney

Years of vaccine research tells us that, if side effects are going to occur, they normally occur within the first months after getting a vaccine.

Our most read articles of the year 11

Why do we wake around 3am and dwell on our fears and shortcomings?

Greg Murray, Swinburne University of Technology

The thoughts are often distressing and punitive. Strikingly, these concerns vaporise in the daylight, proving that the 3am thinking was completely irrational and unproductive. But why?

Our most read articles of the year 12

What are the side effects of the Pfizer vaccine? An expert explains

Nicholas Wood, University of Sydney

Australia is now rolling out the Pfizer vaccine to people aged under 50, with the 40-49 age group newly eligible. Here’s what you can expect.

Our most read articles of the year 13

The paradox of going contactless is we’re more in love with cash than ever

Peter Martin, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Cash holdings jumped 17% during the crisis, most of them in the form of $50 and $100 notes.

Our most read articles of the year 14

Your unvaccinated friend is roughly 20 times more likely to give you COVID

Christopher Baker, The University of Melbourne; Andrew Robinson, The University of Melbourne

Unvaccinated people are ten times more likely to contract COVID, and more likely to pass it on than vaccinated people.

Our most read articles of the year 15

Phone wet and won’t turn on? Here’s how to deal with water damage (hint: soaking it in rice won’t work)

Ritesh Chugh, CQUniversity Australia

Avoid using a hot blow dryer too, as these can wreck the rubber seals and damage the screen.

Our most read articles of the year 16

Why is the Confederate flag so offensive?

Clare Corbould, Deakin University

Flying the distinctive Confederate flag stokes strong reactions — as Australian soldiers are discovering.

Our most read articles of the year 17

Seriously ugly: here’s how Australia will look if the world heats by 3°C this century

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, The University of Queensland; Lesley Hughes, Macquarie University

This is not an imaginary future dystopia. It’s a scientific projection of Australia under 3℃ of global warming – a future we must both strenuously try to avoid, but also prepare for.


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