Laser tag, for real
The U.S. Navy’s newest weapon is ready for deployment. A laser weapons system dubbed LaWS performed flawlessly in tests aboard a ship in the Arabian Gulf in late 2014. It can shoot down drones and helicopters, performed perfectly even in high winds, and costs less than a dollar a pop.
Apple led the way once again with wait-in-line technology, this time breaking ground in its iPhone6 with Apple Pay—an attempt to use existing technology to change the way we buy things. With fingerprint identification to access a default credit card, customers at select retailers can now pay without their wallets.
Powerful emergency contraceptives became easier for young girls to obtain thanks to a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In a February letter to drug manufacturers, the FDA said it would allow pharmacies to sell generic versions of Plan B One-Step—known as the morning-after pill—over the counter without age restrictions.
At the start of 2014, 18 states had overturned marriage amendments or had legalized same-sex marriage—and by year’s end with more marriage amendments overturned or ruled unconstitutional, 35 states had some form of legalized same-sex marriage. Judges acting at all levels kept the state of marriage in some states in legal limbo. Until 2003, same-sex marriage was illegal in all 50 states.
Cyber attacks were a common trend on various company credit cards. Michaels, P.F. Chang’s, and Home Depot were among the retailers that had millions of customer credit card numbers stolen in data breaches. Security experts expected such attacks to continue in 2015.
Finding limits in space
Commercial spaceflight faced major setbacks, as disastrous accidents dealt a blow to the private industries that make up “New Space.” An unpiloted Antares rocket operated by Orbital Sciences Corp. exploded on launch Oct. 28—part of a $1.9 billion NASA ferry cargo to the International Space Station. Only three days later, Virgin Galactic’s test vehicle crashed in the Mojave Desert, killing the pilot. All the while, India and Russia succeeded in launching their own spacecraft.
Touchdown on a comet
The Philae lander heads to comet 67P. The comet was traveling at 80,000 miles per hour about 300 million miles from Earth—and the European Space Agency managed to land a probe on it. Physics World called the successful landing of the Philae probe the “breakthrough of the year.”
Words of the year
Oxford Dictionary: VAPE (as in vapor, trending in the e-cigarette movement)
Meriam-Webster: CULTURE (based on the biggest spike in look-ups this year, up 15 percent from a year ago)
Dictionary.com: EXPOSURE (as in, to Ebola)
Not everyone went with North, as Kim Kardashian did a year ago, or Kaya Evdokia, as Hayden Panettiere did in welcoming babies in 2014 with one-of-a-kind names. Sophia and Emma continued to be the most popular baby girls names in America, while Jackson and Aiden vied for top names among baby boys.
10 most popular girl names of 2014:
10 most popular boy names of 2014: