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What we learned in 2013

Website glitches can mess up a presidency.

Remember winter storm Nemo? Last February it bore down on Boston trailed by forecasts for more than 2 feet of snow, triggering a level of weather panic (and excitement) that we hadn't seen since the Blizzard of '78. When the governor issued a statewide driving ban, some scoffed, but citizens grudgingly obeyed, leaving the streets to plows and ambulances.

Nemo delivered as promised, and we learned a lot that weekend. We learned who our neighbors were. We learned that you can't just drive through anything. We learned a storm can shut down even a winter-hardened New England metropolis — and that the metropolis can sort of like it.

In 2013, various kinds of storms hit from everywhere — Syria, the Vatican, a troubled Chechen family in Cambridge — and so did surprising lessons. Who knew that beards had so much power, or that the Hilltop Steakhouse wasn't forever? Americans learned that the government really was listening to them, whether they liked it or not. We learned about twerking and cronuts, that you can 3D-print an ear, and that you can release successful music videos from space—just ask Commander Chris Hadfield. Boston learned, to its horror, that there is sometimes no way to guess where and when violence will erupt — but also that in the face of that violence, a city of strangers can quickly and movingly weld itself into one.

It's hard to wrap your head around how much can happen in a year. It's even harder to rewind our brains to a moment when we hadn't even imagined learning any of these things. As a way to bid the year goodbye, Ideas asked its staff and contributors to reflect on all the things that we would never have known if not for 2013.

Mouse over images below (or tap on a mobile device) for each idea, and click on the text to read more.

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