5 Reasons Why 2016 Was Actually The Best Year Ever

Trump and everything else aside

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If you ignore almost everything that happened, 2016 was a pretty swell year.

After all, light shines brightest in the dark - and the last 12 months have been blacker than a lovesick goth's poetry coursework, so nice moments have been all the more blinding for it.

So please, join us as we countdown the five best moments that we managed to muster after hours of desperate Googling that we all remember so well from 2016...

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Giant Pandas Are Having Sex Again

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It's a widely held belief that Giant Pandas are perilously un-horny creatures, and that their bedroom-based apathy could very well thrust the species into global extinction.

It's an unfair accusation. After all, would you be able to perform with the knowledge that your entire species' future rests on you and your universally panned weenus? While a bunch of conservationists ogled on, scribbling down notes? The very same conservationists who mugged you off to the Internet in the first place? That's a nightmare lovemaking scenario.

Truth is, back in 2015, the New Scientist reported that the problem wasn't with Giant Pandas' sex-drives at all, but with our matchmaking skills. According to Meghan Martin-Wintle of conservation charity PDXWildlife, pandas were twice as likely to get jiggy if offered a choice of mates than when we forced them on awkward blind dates.

It makes sense. You only need to hear about, but definitely not watch, the record-breaking 18-minute sex session between Xi Mei and Lu Lu at the Sichuan Giant Panda Research Center in April to know that attraction is the key. We were being way too pushy and weird.

And clearly the people who have somehow found themselves in charge of the whole Panda sex crusade listened, because in September of this year, after decades on the endangered list, the Giant Panda finally boned its way to safe status.

Leicester Won The Title, Remember?

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In 2005, the first installment of the football movie trilogy Goal! hit cinemas. In it, Mexican gardener Santiago Munez signs for Newcastle United and snatches Champions League qualification with a last minute free kick on the final day of the season. In sequel Goal! 2, he moves to Real Madrid and helps them win the hallowed trophy itself with a late clincher. Goal 3? Didn't watch it, but let's assume that he won the World Cup with a 98th-minute backheel from the stadium shop, or something.

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The point is: they were, and still remain to be, the most fairy tale-esque imaginings of professional football on the big screen, and were seen as wildly unrealistic and schmaltzy by critics and football fans alike.

Fast-forward a decade, and (IRL) Premier League minnows Leicester City are 5 points ahead of second-placed Arsenal at Christmas. A surprisingly good start has snowballed into an assured run of ruthless wins, and people are beginning to furrow their brows, nudge their mates and ask: "Reckon they can actually do it?"

Their squad (the bannered faces of which now hang from lampposts outside Leicester train station, likely to whip and wave until the end of time itself. When all the humans are dead and nothing but nuclear cockroaches roam the scorched Earth, Robert Huth will be their new iron-jawed God) consisted of seasoned grafters and a couple of unlikely stars: Jamie Vardy, a Space Raider-looking non-league upstart with the pinpoint finish of Jacamo Ronaldo at his peak; Riyad Mahrez, the fleet-footed bamboozler plucked from French second tier obscurity; and N'Golo Kante, who's ickle wickle legs were always in the right place to break down any opposition counter attack.

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Together, unbelievably, they won Leicester City their first ever league title, forced many British bookies into their largest payouts ever, and taught our nation a priceless lesson: In these trying times, when the Western world seems to be hurtling towards cultural and economic relegation at record speed, we all need to remember just how far hard work, team spirit and stupid, blind ambition can take us.

We Realised That Viral Trends Aren't Always The Worst Thing In The World

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When a clip emerged on Twitter last week of X Factor warcrime Honey G performing the 'Mannequin Challenge' (where participants stand perfectly still to a Rae Sremmurd song), the internet could see it for what it truly was: the real-time, blunt-trauma death of a viral challenge. Good turning bad before our very eyes, like a jug of semi-skimmed milk in a sauna.

All viral challenges, however noble their intention, impressive their practice or funny their premise, eventually grow tiresome. Even 2014's 'Ice Bucket Challenge' – a genuinely heartwarming charity endeavor where celebrities and members of the public dumped buckets of icy cold water on themselves in aid of motor neuron disease research – eventually faced angry backlash.

Cynics started to question how the whole phenomenon actually helped to treat the disease. Many considered it a pursuit of vanity, rather than altruism or charity – especially when Victoria's Secret models and buffed up protein-chuggers joined in the fun. The Daily Telegraph's David Williard labeled it "a middle-class wet T-shirt contest for armchair clicktivists", and celebrities were criticised for choosing the showy meme over an understated monetary donation.

Inevitably, we all grew tired of the endless ice cubes cascading down our shrieking timelines, and the phenomenon became but a fun, shallow and ultimately inconsequential memory in our iPhone video folders.

Until, that is, July of this year, when the ALS Association announced that the viral challenge had directly bankrolled a medical breakthrough for the disease. Apparently, the $100 million raised went on to fund a number of research projects – and one of them, Project MinE, managed to identify a new gene associated with the disease which could prove crucial to future treatment

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Harambe aside, memes come and go. They're as exciting and hilarious as they are flawed and disposable. But as the Ice Bucket Challenge proves, they aren't always pointless.

The Ozone Layer Appears To Be Repairing Itself

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You might not have read about it in the news – partly because journalists hoped that Donald Trump wouldn't use it as proof that 'The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese' – but a vast hole in the ozone layer seems to be healing, setting us on course to remedy a huge environmental concern that has plagued experts for decades.

A study released in June, in the aptly named 'Science' magazine, stated that the void above Antarctica had shrunk by an average of 4m sq km since 2000, helped by the Western world's daily environmental efforts.

For decades, climate change scientists had worried about the chance of serious health and environmental harm that could stem from ultraviolet light breaking the ozone barrier and reaching the surface of the Earth. According to The Guardian, the UN estimates that 2 million cases of skin cancer a year have been dodged by the gradual phase out of harmful 'chlorofluorocarbon' from deodorant and refrigerators.

Experts predict that the hole wont be fully healed until 2050 or 2060, and that's without taking Trump and his merry band of progress-crushing policy makers into account. But for the time being, let's have a prideful gaze at our recycle bins and give ourselves a completely undeserved pat on the back. That spare bag-for-life (combined with your worryingly lax attitude towards armpit hygiene) is really making a difference.

Virtual Reality Is Finally Here

Until a few years back, the prospect of virtual reality (that is to say: good, immersive, convincing virtual reality) had been resigned to an unreachable Jetsons-esque futurescape, alongside glass-domed hover cars, sassy robot butlers and other such sci-fi staples.

Nintendo had a real go of it back in 1995 with the much-maligned Virtual Boy – a 32-bit migraine-inducer that bombed as soon as it hit the shelves. The technology simply wasn't there, and nobody else took up the mantle. The tech world retreated from VR, defeated and embarrassed.

And it took over a decade until virtual reality would return to the forefront of the gaming conversation again. By the late 2000s, the Wii had rekindled the world's interest in interactive gaming, and when ambitious VR manufacturers Oculus Rift announced they were crowdfunding to create a wearable system, the money came flying in. Through Kickstarter, they amassed $2.5 million, and two years later they were purchased by Facebook for $2 billion.

Since then, it's been a race between Sony, Oculus, Google and a bunch of other tech giants to manufacture the market-dominating headset, and 2016 has been the year in which they've wielded their weapons.

The Oculus Rift, after much anticipation, was released in March. PlayStation VR hit the shelves, alongside a raft of exclusive titles, to critical acclaim. Google and third parties like Samsung offered more affordable options, and the whole industry (bar Nintendo, still seemingly smarting from their nineties humiliation) turned their gaze directly at a future they had shied away from for so long - and we all know what that means: sassy robot butlers are just around the corner.

And even if it just turns out to be a 3DTV-esque flash in the pan, at least we got this video of Ronnie O'Sullivan out of it...