Friday, January 11, 2013

Greatest scientific & engineering breakthroughs of 2012

2012 has been an awesome year for science. From Curiosity landing on Mars to advanced prosthetics,  there have been many advances in science and engineering. Here is my list of what I believe to be the top scientific and engineering advances of 2012 (in no particular order).

8) Curiosity rover reaches Mars! 
One of my favorite breakthroughs this year was the landing and success of the Mars Curiosity rover (aka Mars Science Lab). After the scary and dangerous descent to the surface of the red planet, Curiosity started conducting experiments to discover if Mars once or does have the building blocks necessary for life. The video of the Curiosity's descent can be found here; NASA's page for all Curiosity news is here.

7) Quantum teleportation records broken
The distance record for quantum teleportation was broken; particles were teleported 89 miles by two teams of researchers. Quantum entanglement is used to teleport the particles. Quantum internet or new ways of transmitting information to satellites can come from this breakthrough. You can read more about this here.

6) First commercial spacecraft docks with International Space Station
This year was also a big year for commercial space companies; SpaceX's Dragon capsule launched and docked with the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first commercial space company to dock with the ISS. It took 822 pounds of cargo to the ISS, and returned with waste. There were no astronauts on board, but it was a milestone for the commercial space industry.

5) Higgs Boson detected by LHC
Arguably one of the biggest scientific discoveries of all time, the Higgs Boson, the particle that gives all matter mass, has been discovered by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Although more testing is being done to absolutely ensure it is the Higgs, the particle discovered is consistent with the properties of the Higgs. With this discovery, the Standard Model of the universe is much more complete, and we are closer to understanding our universe.

4) Wandering planet found
A new type of planet has been discovered by astronomers. CFBDSIR2149 is a planet near our solar system that does not orbit any star. Roaming planets had been theorized for many years, but had never been proved until CFBDSIR2149's discovery.  

3) Ice found on Mercury
More space news! Incredibly, ice has been found on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun! substantial amounts of ice were discovered by Messenger at Mercury's North Pole, and it is believed that ice can also be found on the South Pole. Mercury can reach temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit, but the poles are shielded from the sun, allowing ice to form.

2) Monkeys born from cells of different embryos 
"Mixed embryo" monkeys have been born. The monkeys are made of cells from different embryos that were then implanted in female monkeys.

1) Advanced brain controlled prosthetics developed 
Prosthetics have made incredible advancements this past year. Prosthetics have become so advanced that people can control them with their mind, such as Jan Scheuermann, a woman paralyzed from the neck down, (article here). She can move a robotic arm to reach for things, such as picking up a chocolate bar and feeding herself. Scientists believe that this research can be advanced in the future to restore activity to paralyzed limbs. 

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