By Jeva Lange
At long, long, long last, this weird and horrible year is ending. But however much it might feel like it, a pandemic was not the only thing to happen in 2020.
Here are 17 of the biggest, bizarrest, space-aliens-exist-est moments of the year that you’ve already forgotten happened.
1. We almost started World War III
Really, you’d think you would remember this one! On Jan. 2, the Pentagon announced that President Trump had ordered the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed via drone strike. In the hours that followed, Iran threatened “harsh retaliation” and “traffic to the U.S. Selective Service, the agency that would be responsible for any eventual military draft, spiked so high that the website crashed,” CNN reports.
Meanwhile, jokes about the beginning of World War III proliferated on social media. Vox even published a piece about “coping with war and crisis through memes” — ah, how young we were then.
2. Mr. Peanut was killed off, then reincarnated as Baby Nut
On Jan. 22, Planters announced that its mascot — a fictional, anthropomorphized, top-hat-wearing legume given the baffling honorific “Mr. Peanut” — had died. What was already a dumb and thinly-veiled marketing campaign became even dumber when beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant actually died in a helicopter crash four days later, prompting the company to hastily “dial back” plans for Mr. Peanut’s funeral and “evaluate next steps through a lens of sensitivity to those impacted by this tragedy.”
During the Super Bowl, Planters then revealed that Mr. Peanut had been reincarnated as a top-hat-wearing infant called “Baby Nut.” Upsettingly, it quickly came to the fore that Baby Nut suffers from rapid aging, as he celebrated his 21st birthday in August and acquired the new name “Peanut Jr.” As AdAge wrote, “it’s unclear if Baby Nut/Peanut Jr.’s aging has been proportional or exponential,” though either answer does not bode well for the character’s longevity.
3. The weather went wild
In 141 years of climate records, there had never been a hotter January than the one this year. New York City was reclassified as a “humid subtropical climate zone,” a designation shared by … Florida. Nearly 3 billion animals were affected by Australia’s wildfire season, which ended in March with more than 46 million acres burned. There were a record-breaking 30 named storms in the Atlantic Hurricane Season, with meteorologists needing to resort to identifying storms with letters of the Greek alphabet after running out of prepared names. And only three states — Alaska, Hawaii, and North Dakota — weren’t a part of a billion-dollar weather disaster. But I’m sure everything is fine!
4. A man named Deval Patrick ran for president
Huh, who knew?
5. Bob Dylan released a 17-minute song about the JFK assassination
While everyone was busy minding their own business, Bob Dylan went and dropped a 17-minute song about the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy — his first new song in eight years, and one in which the Nobel laureate also happens to use a plural “they” to describe JFK’s killer. Okay, Bob!
6. The Defense Department shared bona fide UFO videos
In April, the Department of Defense released three videos of … well, to be honest, they’re not really sure. The footage captured by Navy pilots shows physics-defying flying objects, which one astrophysicist who briefed the department described as “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.” Alrighty!
While being unidentified aerial phenomena is enough to classify the objects in the videos as, technically, “UFOs,” there’s no reason to jump to the conclusion that they’re the work of extraterrestrials — yet. Just a few months later, the Pentagon quietly formed a task force to investigate UFOs.
7. Murder hornets invaded the U.S.
Did you already forget about the murder hornets?! Well the murder hornets did not forget about you.
8. Grimes and Elon Musk named their baby X Æ A-12
Where does the time go? X Æ A-12 is already over six months old, and watching Apocalypse Now! Born on May 4, X Æ A-12 is the son of Grimes and Elon Musk, although his name, as such, technically didn’t pass California’s birth certificate rules (it’s barely fit for human mouths, either, although you apparently pronounce it “X-Ash-A-12.”)
9. NASA detected a parallel universe in Antarctica where time runs backwards, or something?
In May, tabloid headlines trumpeted that NASA researchers working in Antarctica had detected “evidence” of a parallel universe. The news was based on puzzling cosmic rays that had been discovered by the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) and a subsequent research paper that argued such discoveries were proof that “our universe could be the mirror image of an antimatter universe extending backwards in time before the Big Bang,” as PhysicsWorld reports.
However, many experts immediately threw cold water on that conclusion: “It’s all way overblown and misrepresents what the research in question is about,” Forbes wrote in an attempt to set the record straight. “Scientists actually found evidence (signals) of fundamental particles that may defy our current understanding of physics. It might even just be an issue with how particles interact with ice.”
… So you’re saying there’s a chance?
10. SpaceX launched astronauts into space, sadly left all of us behind
For the first time in nearly a decade, NASA sent two American astronauts into space this spring using a launchpad on U.S. soil. The event marked the first crewed mission by Elon Musk’s private space company, SpaceX, and was followed by a second manned launch of four astronauts in November. “[D]espite troubles aplenty here on Earth in 2020, even those of us who aren’t space nuts like Musk should be plenty excited about this new chapter in America’s national mission in space,” wrote James Pethokoukis for The Week.
11. A gigantic star 2 million times brighter than the sun just up and … disappeared
Yeah, so that happened. Scientists were studying a star in a dwarf galaxy some 75 million light-years away from ours when it suddenly just wasn’t there anymore. “It was a pleasant surprise for us,” Andrew Allan, a doctoral student in astrophysics at Trinity College Dublin, told The Atlantic in what has to be the calmest reaction to the news that a massive celestial body simply doesn’t exist anymore and no one knows what happened to it.
“Normally, when a star much larger than our sun reaches the end of its life, it erupts in an enormous supernova explosion,” LiveScience writes to further explain why this is so weird. The possibility in this case is that “the star never recovered from its outburst, but instead collapsed into a black hole without going supernova,” meaning it potentially created “a black hole measuring 85 to 120 times the mass of Earth’s sun.”
12. Kanye West announced he was running for president
Somehow that wasn’t all a mass hallucination!
13. A bunch of people planted mystery seeds from China, despite that obviously being a bad idea
Back in July, a ton of people in all 50 states started receiving mysterious, unsolicited packages from China containing unlabeled seeds. Despite the United States Department of Agriculture essentially begging folks not to put mystery seeds from an unknown sender into the ground, a bunch of people who’ve clearly never seen Little Shop of Horrors promptly started gardening.
“Everything that’s in the garden where I planted them are having a hard time and are starting to die,” one New Mexican woman later said in a voicemail left to her state’s department of agriculture, as reported by Motherboard, because who could’ve seen that coming? “I really don’t know what to do at this point, so could somebody call me back and give me a little bit of direction about this? I know, I’m a dumba–.”
Other people apparently ate their mystery seeds? I mean really, how did we, as a species, make it this far?
14. We may have discovered the first proof of extraterrestrial life
Jokes on us! Turns out Mars isn’t the planet most likely to sustain fellow lifeforms, but Venus. In September, scientists announced the discovery of phosphine on the planet, leading them to reach the conclusion that “something now alive is the only explanation for the chemical’s source,” The New York Timesreported.
But there are bigger implications to the finding than the fact that we may not be alone in our solar system. “If there’s life in the upper atmosphere of Venus,” wrote astronaut Chris Hadfield, “then we’re going to find life on many planets and moons — and around other stars.”
15. Wormholes might not kill you!
Traveling through a wormhole without dying may actually be possible, The New Scientist reported in August in what is sure to be a relief for anyone who was planning to do that.
“Under Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which describes the behavior of gravity and space-time, most wormholes would either close whenever something falls in or be extremely small and disappear immediately,” The New Scientist explains. But physicists at Princeton University found that there are scenarios in which “wormholes are big enough that a person could traverse them and survive.” Phew, now there’s one less thing to worry about accidentally falling into!
16. Kellyanne Conway’s 15-year-old daughter broke a major news story by telling on her mom
Oh, to be a teen with a famous mom. Or maybe worse — to be a famous mom with a teen?
Former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway was outed by her 15-year-old daughter, Claudia, as having COVID-19 in October before she could make the announcement on Twitter herself. “Update my mom has covid,” Claudia Conway wrote in one TikTok video, adding in another, “im furious. Wear your masks. dont listen to our idiot f–king president piece of s–t. protect yourself and those around you.”
The elder Conway slammed the media as “sick” for their breathless coverage of her underage daughter. To which director/producer Judd Apatow tweeted in response: “Claudia is a bright light of truth who has the courage to call out the lies you have sold your soul to sell. I wish her the best life. She is already doing great things.”
17. Please do not feed the monoliths
Well here’s a Wikipedia page no one anticipated on Jan. 1, 2020: “List of 2020 Monoliths.”
But one by one, the shiny pillars began appearing around the world: First, in mid-November, one was discovered in the remote desert of Utah. Subsequently, monoliths began popping up on every continent except Antarctica and Asia — and that’s just so far. This week alone, new monoliths have appeared in Gainesville, Florida; Newnan, Georgia; and Budapest, Hungary.
Though Tucker Carlson is convinced the apparitions are the work of aliens, anti-monolith backlash has been swift and fierce, with skeptics calling them a “lame marketing ploy” and possessing “strong, bad, Burning Man art energy.” “Don’t make me think that something interesting has happened unless it’s real,” Sarah Jones wrote in response for New York. “I want to see an alien, and if you can’t produce one, to hell with you and your installation art.”
But be careful what you wish for: There are still 14 days left in 2020.