As 2016 draws to a close, we will review below the most mind-blowing breakthroughs in science
The past year has had a bad reputation as it was filled with many negative and disappointing events. But we can trust science to remind us that a lot of good did in fact take place!
Scientists from an Australian university studied plate tectonics in the Japan Trench and created the “Time Reverse Imaging Method”. By backtracking previously gathered tsunami data, they created an algorithm that can make an accurate prediction of what impact the tsunami waves will have when they hit the shore.
It means that in the minutes after an earthquake strikes, tsunami warning systems can start saving lives.
We usually imagine a robot to be rigid and metallic, but this year scientists made a breakthrough when they created a totally soft and autonomous octopus inspired robot. It is even fuels itself with oxygen, which it creates for itself through an internal chemical reaction.
Scientists hope that this technology, once fully developed, can do things like assist in search and rescue missions, or be used in deep sea exploration.
‘Heart on a Chip’ could end animal testing for good
A scientific breakthrough has finally arrived that can reduce the cruelty that animals experience when they are used for medical tests that are intended to help humans. Bioengineers 3D-printed a “heart on a chip” which collects data about the organ’s functionality, and how strong it beats.
It means treatments to patients can be custom-made, as drug options and therapies could instead first be tested on the chip, before they are risked on the patient.
Discovery of the most remote signs of oxygen in the Universe
Astronomers have used what is called a “Atacama Large Millimeter Array” to detect the most distant source of oxygen in the universe. They received what they describe as a clear signal from 13.1 billion light years away, in a galaxy called SXDF-NB1006-2. This could be the key to unraveling how the first stars formed in our ancient universe.
Cloning deemed healthy and safe
The debates around the ethics of cloning are always heated and riddled with ethical dilemmas. But researchers now seek to quell fears with the results of their study, that all began with Dolly the Sheep.
She did suffer health issues and died earlier than sheep generally do, but the genomic clones that were created from her, Daisy, Dianna, Debby and Denise, have all lived longer and show milder signs of arthritis. It is hoped that cloning will help in the development of stem cells that can be utilized for therapeutic purposes.
Autonomous robot performed soft tissue surgery
The “Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot”, also know as “STAR”, has carried out a successful surgery on a live subject. It outperformed surgeons when it stitched two loops of a pig’s intestine together. Currently it takes 4 times longer for STAR to complete a surgery, but it is more accurate. It is hoped that this technology will be used clinically within the next couple of years.
The reasons naked mole rats evolved to experience no pain
Researchers have uncovered that by the time naked African mole rats reach adulthood, they no longer feel pain. Professor Gary R Lewin examined the rats and uncovered the adaptation secrets of their evolution.
The rats develop an acute memory of the parameters that need to be observed for them to survive, and the need for feeling pain ceases to exist biologically for them.
Most sensitive early cancer detection test developed
Scientist Jimmy Lin has developed an exceptionally sensitive blood test that can pick up the earliest traces of cancer DNA. Just one cancer molecule can be detected amongst 10000 other harmless molecules. This would be truly miraculous and life changing for so many people.
Virtual reality helps paraplegics walk
Scientists have succeeded in retraining the brains of paraplegics to help them regain sensation in their legs and even recoup some voluntary manipulation of their muscles.
Also incorporating the use of virtual reality, it was found that all of the 8 tested paraplegics experienced improvements, and reported that they could sense pressure, warmth, touch and pain when it was applied to their skin.
1284 exoplanets discovered
Astronomers have used the Kepler Space Telescope to obtain data that reveals a further 1284 exoplanets. 550 could be similar to earth as they show indications of having rocky terrain. A further 9 may actually be habitable, as they were orbiting their suns at a distance that would allow liquid water to pool.
In 2016, we now know of 21 planets that could potentially host life. Nevertheless, in 2017 we should still concentrate on keeping our own earth habitable!