As we welcome the start of a new year, it’s time to look back at the year that was. Obviously, a standard review of 2020 would be dominated by one global issue. However, we’ve decided to avoid any mention of the C-word. Instead, we’re taking a look at some of the other things that happened in 2020, month by month, from pop culture phenomena to mystery objects in our deserts and skies. Enjoy – and have a wonderful 2021!
Playlists for Pets
Almost three quarters of pet owners play music to their dogs and cats. That’s what Swedish audio-streaming company Spotify discovered in a survey, leading it to develop special playlists in January 2020 designed for animals who are left home alone while their owners are out. The playlists include feel-good tunes (dogs apparently prefer classical music or soft rock, by the way) and spoken word interludes with messages of praise and affirmation. Spotify also learnt that the most popular music-related pet names include “Bowie”, “Bob Marley” and “Elvis”.
Surfer Versus Shark
Some encouraging news for anyone who’s scared of sharks. If you find yourself in the path of a predator of the seas, just punch it in the head! That’s what a 60-year-old Kiwi surfer did after an encounter with a great white shark off the New Zealand coast. Nick Minogue was paddling into a decent swell at Pauanui Beach at 11.30am when a three-metre-plus great white shark bit the front of his surfboard. A couple of stiff uppercuts later and the creature retreated. And Nick? He walked away with a punctured board and wetsuit, a shallow bite to the arm, and a great story to tell at the pub.
Hail the Tiger King
It seems like an eternity ago, but March 2020 saw the release on Netflix of true crime documentary Tiger King. The show, about the life of eccentric American zookeeper Joe Exotic, quickly became one of Netflix’s most successful releases of all time. Tens of millions of viewers came on board in the first week, thrusting names like Big Cat Rescue and Carole Baskin into the limelight. Nicolas Cage is apparently set to portray Joe Exotic in an upcoming Amazon Prime series.
Are We Alone?
After leaked footage started circulating of UFO videos shot by US Navy pilots in 2004 and 2005, the Pentagon took the extraordinary step in April 2020 of officially releasing the videos to the public. The three videos show rapidly moving “unidentified aerial phenomena” that were recorded by infrared cameras. The black blobs – which are, frankly, a little duller than we were hoping for – have been explained away by many viewers as either drones, regular aircraft or erroneous instrument readings, but embraced by plenty of others as evidence of little green men.
In May, the announcement that “murder hornets” had arrived in the US sent Americans into a bit of a spin. The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest species of its kind; we’re talking a 5cm body and a stinger that’s over half a centimetre long. It terrorises honey bees, and is also capable of killing a human with multiple stings. Unsurprisingly, authorities launched a series of eradication efforts. The latest buzz is that the hornet apocalypse may have been exaggerated.
The Missing Star
You’d think that if you’ve found a star that is so hot it glows an intense blue and shines a couple of million times brighter than the sun, you’d be hard pressed to suddenly lose that same star. But that’s what happened to astronomers, according to reports that came out in June 2020. The massive star in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy has been studied for 20 years. And now it’s … gone. One theory is that it simply collapsed into a black hole, only without the gigantic explosion (supernova) that usually accompanies such events.
Pizzas for Karens
There will be plenty of contenders for “Word of the Year” in 2020; “Karen” will likely be among the finalists. The term, which became a stereotype for a person acting in an entitled, insensitive way in public, was picked up by pizza chain Domino’s and used in a promotion. Domino’s stores in Australia and New Zealand offered free pizzas to anyone named Karen who didn’t act like a “Karen”. The deal was cancelled after online criticism suggested that there were many more deserving groups in society who could use some free food.
A 92-year-old Vietnamese man has revealed an impressive head of hair, in the form of five-metre-long dreadlocks. Nguyen Van Chien hasn’t put scissors to scalp for eight decades, and the result is a hairdo that fans of reggae music will be supremely jealous of. Chien’s decision to let his hair take its natural course is thought to be tied to his belief in the Dua faith, or “coconut religion”, whose founder claimed to have survived only on coconuts.
World’s Longest Song
A big crowd turned up at a German church in September to hear something that hadn’t been heard for seven years. A special automated organ in the church is currently playing a piece of music that will last a total of 639 years. The piece, by American composer John Cage, began in 2001 and is due to finish in 2640. It’s not only long; it’s also slow. September 2020 marked the first chord change in the music since 2013 – hence the crowd.
A Building That Walks
If you love your home, but you’re not so keen on your neighbourhood, we may have the answer. In China, a company called Shanghai Evolution Shift successfully used a new technology to “walk” a five-storey building more than 200 feet along a city street to a different location. Special mobile supports acting like robotic legs allowed the 7,600-ton building to stand up and saunter down the road.
November 2020 proved to be a month of monoliths, with a series of a strange metal structures turning up in unlikely places. The first to hit the headlines was a three-metre-tall monolith that was found in a remote corner of red-rock desert in the US state of Utah. A couple of days later, it disappeared. Before the end of the month, a similar metallic tower appeared in the Romanian countryside. It also disappeared soon after! More have since been found – including one in California made of gingerbread, just in time for Christmas.
The Boxing Octopus
This is the second news snippet on this page to feature underwater fisticuffs; this time, however, it’s the marine life doing the punching! Researchers have found that octopuses sometimes team up with fish to find food; by hunting together, they can cover more territory and increase their chances of catching prey. However, if one of these fishy collaborators gets in the way of an intended target, the octopus will strike it with a “swift, explosive motion with one arm”. We’re calling it a sucker punch.
What’s a look back at the wacky events of a year without running through some of the wacky new world records? Our favourite record-breaker of 2020 was “Mr Cherry” from Japan. Here are just a few of the magnificent new marks that he set:
- Most wet T-shirts put on in one minute: 13
- Most marshmallows caught with chopsticks in one minute: 90
- Fastest time to remove five Jenga blocks with a party blower (yes, one of those paper coils that unroll and make a noise like a horn when you blow in them): 46 seconds
- Most individual nuts crushed by sitting down in one minute: 122
Like this? Read our review from a year ago of the decade 2010 to 2019.