This evening I have been reading New Scientist and came across an article about major science news from 2011. Here is the link to the New Scientist article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228444.900-review-of-2011-the-years-biggest-news-at-a-glance.html. It was a quite remarkable year in science. Just to give you a taste:
In physics, scientists at CERN managed to bottle atoms of anti-hydrogen for 1000 seconds. This doesn’t sound like a long time but it is about 10,000 times longer than has been managed before and it is ANTI-hydrogen, as in anti-matter that doesn’t get on well with regular matter. It is claimed, and this is still being debated, that neutrinos travel faster than light. Lastly, the universal theory of physics received a boost when two teams of scientists at the Large Hadron Collider both announced evidence for the elusive Higgs boson particle that would be the key particle to the universe. Of course the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron collider was predicted by Eloi Cole who was found rummaging in bins outside the facility back in April 2010. He told authorities that “Countries do not exist where I am from. The discovery of the Higgs boson led to limitless power, the elimination of poverty and Kit-Kats for everyone.”
In aeronautics and space sciences, the space shuttle Atlantis landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for the last time in July. This was the last space shuttle flight after 135 missions. The space shuttle was a dream of moving people and materials into space with a re-usable craft, unlike the previous rockets that had gone into orbit and to the moon. I can remember watching the landing of Columbia in April 1981 after its successful orbital test flight. When Atlantis landed in July it was the end of an era. The world’s first 3-D printed aircraft made its maiden flight in the UK in August. The parts took 2 days to design and 5 days to print which is quite remarkable. In the 1940’s, the United States in conjunction with Henry Ford invested in the Willow Run manufacturing plant to create B-24 bombers. At first the plant was called the Willit Run Plant and it took months for it to actually produce a single airplane. In November, NASA launched a Martian rover named Curiosity as part of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft. It will land on the red planet sometime in August 2012.
In medical science, in July it was announced that not only did antiretroviral drugs help those with HIV to stay alive, the drugs also helped to reduce the transmission of the virus. In November, the cognitive decline of two people with Alzheimer’s disease was reduced by using electrical impulses on brain tissue. Both of these announcements are good news and possible breakthroughs for diseases that are being elusive to find cures for.
In the world of computer science, while people used social media to organize street protests last January in Syria, Tunisia, and elsewhere, the Egyptian government cut its citizenry off from the Internet. This is a far cry from the pamphlets of the Enlightenment Era. In April, a software bot called LIDA showed the first hints of consciousness. Recent research into artificial intelligence has also lead to new understandings in regards to how humans formulate thoughts and express these thoughts through language. The Language of Thought theory that holds that humans have an underlying logical thought process similar to natural languages was bolstered. Sony Playstation’s network was hacked into and the personal details of 77 million users were compromised and this forced Sony to take their Network offline. The total population of the UK is just over 62 million to give this some perspective. Ongoing and recent research also shows that the skills that people learn by gaming transfer to real life.
These stories are just a small smattering of the science that was announced this last year. We live in such a magnificent and wondrous universe with so many things to investigate and learn about. Just looking at the marvelous things in these stories– bottling anti-matter, “printing” aircraft parts in 7 days, slowing the progress and transmission of a cunning virus, having 77 million people’s personal information illegally accessed. All of this a hundred years ago would have seemed like science fiction. What might happen between now and 2111?