Top five stories of 2015 – in and out of this world

We continue looking back – and ahead – with the top stories covered by this blog in 2015. In the last post, I considered the top sports stories. Now I explore the top cultural events of a tumultuous year:

Pluto rising
It was the summer (OK, July) of the little planet that could as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft staged an expensive ($700 million) but profitable flyby. “Pluto, still smarting from its demotion to dwarf planet, nonetheless revealed itself to be a complex world, with a polar ice cap, rugged mountains, smooth plains, and reddish patches that recalled the surface of Mars,” Nicola Twilley writes. Pluto even wore its heart on its sleeve. New Horizons’, however, has gone on. “In October and November, the spacecraft set course for its next target, a thirty-mile-wide object named 2014 MU69, which is located in the Kuiper Belt, a disk of icy astronomical bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune,” Twilley concludes. “New Horizons is scheduled to arrive on January 1, 2019, to provide our first detailed look at what scientists expect to be quite a different place than Pluto—a more pristine and ancient remnant of the early solar system.”

Gay marriage becomes the law of the land
In a 5-4 decision, the Supremes upheld gay marriage and struck a blow against inhumanity and impracticality. What’s next: The jury is still out, however, in the court of public opinion.

Fear itself
Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The Russian flight. Beirut. Paris again. San Bernardino. There are few things worse than trying to rob someone of his peace of mind, which, of course, is what the terrorists want and what we must refuse to give them. What’s next: Sadly, no doubt more attacks – and more of our defiance.

Transgender transcends 
Caitlyn Jenner, “Transparent” and “The Danish Girl” shone a light on the struggles and triumphs of the trans community. What’s next: Might we be moving beyond two genders toward a gender spectrum?

Greek to us
The modern Greeks might be challenged by refugees and economic woes, but the ancient Greeks are riding high again with new exhibits – “Power and Pathos” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and “Agamemnon to Alexander the Great” at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago; and books, including Christopher Logue’s “War Music: An Account of Homer’s ‘Iliad.’” What makes the Greeks – the ancient ones, that is – so good? They new how to spin. The importance of the narrative – in word and image – was never lost on them. And those narratives – stories of love, hate, revenge and redemption – are as fresh and resonant today as they were thousands of years ago.