The 20 biggest and best science stories of 2019
Blog> The 20 biggest and best science stories of 2019
The first photo of a black hole
The first results from the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of terrestrial telescopes that turned our planet into a giant eye to offer us what has undoubtedly been the scientific image of the year, were finally published on 10 April. The 347 participating researchers, handling immense volumes of data, had to develop new algorithms to obtain the first low resolution photo of the super-massive black hole in the centre of the giant galaxy M87, a colossus of 6.5 billion solar masses located 55 million light years away.
Artificial Life-Scientists Created Bacteria With a Synthetic Genome
Scientists have created a living organism whose DNA is entirely human-made — perhaps a new form of life, experts said, and a milestone in the field of synthetic biology. Researchers at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Britain reported on 15 May that they had rewritten the DNA of the bacteria Escherichia coli, fashioning a synthetic genome four times larger and far more complex than any previously created.
Gene-edited cells used to treat sickle cell disease
Researchers at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, Tennessee, announced in November that they had used genetically edited cells to treat sickle cell disease – a painful and until now incurable condition that impacts millions of people in the United States and around the world. Doctors used cells from a patient’s bone marrow that had been modified using CRISPR cas9 gene-splicing technology and reintroduced the cells back into the patient’s body.
CRISPR gene editing has been used on humans in the US
The first human trials in the US for CRISPR gene editing are officially underway. A University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia spokesman has confirmed to NPR that two cancer patients, one with myeloma and one with sarcoma, have received CRISPR treatments after standard treatment didn’t hold. The trial removes, modifies and reinserts immune cells in hopes they’ll destroy cancerous cells. It’s not certain how effective the treatment has been, and you won’t find out for a while when the trial has been cleared to treat a total of 18 patients.
Google claim Quantum supremacy
Google has officially announced that it’s achieved quantum supremacy in a new article published in the scientific journal Nature. The announcement comes exactly one month after it initially leaked, when Google’s paper was accidentally published early. Now, however, it’s official, meaning the full details of the research are public, and the broader scientific community can fully scrutinize what Google says it’s achieved.
Gene-edited disease monkeys cloned in China
The first cohort of five gene-edited monkey clones made from fibroblasts of a monkey with disease phenotypes were born recently at the Institute of Neuroscience (ION) of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Shanghai. The expression of BMAL1, a core circadian regulatory transcription factor, was knockout in the donor monkey using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing at the embryo stage, and the fibroblasts of the donor monkey were used to clone five monkeys using the method of somatic cell nuclear transfer, the same method that generated Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, the first two cloned monkeys, last year.
RNA May Have Come from Space, Meteor Study Suggests
A new study suggests that when some ancient meteorites crashland on Earth, they bring a dash of extraterrestrial sugar with them. To be clear, this is not table sugar (sadly, scientists still have no insight into whether aliens prefer their coffee black or sweetened). Rather, in the powdered samples of two ancient, carbon-filled meteorites, astronomers have found traces of several sugars that are key to life — including ribose, the sugary base of RNA.
New treatment triggers self-destruction of pancreatic cancer cells
Pancreatic cancer is resistant to all current treatments. Patients have extremely poor chances of surviving for five years after being diagnosed. A new Tel Aviv University study finds that a small molecule has the ability to induce the self-destruction of pancreatic cancer cells. The research was conducted with xenografts — transplantations of human pancreatic cancer into immune compromised mice. The treatment reduced the number of cancer cells by 90% in the developed tumors a month after being administered. The research holds great potential for the development of a new effective therapy to treat this aggressive cancer in humans.
The homeland of modern humans
A study has concluded that the earliest ancestors of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) emerged in a southern African ‘homeland’ and thrived there for 70 thousand years. The breakthrough findings are published in the prestigious journal Nature .The authors propose that changes in Africa’s climate triggered the first human explorations, which initiated the development of humans’ genetic, ethnic and cultural diversity. This study provides a window into the first 100 thousand years of modern humans’ history.
Moon-forming disk discovered around distant planet
Using Earth’s most powerful array of radio telescopes, astronomers have made the first observations of a circum planetary disk of gas and dust like the one that is believed to have birthed the moons of Jupiter. This never-before-seen feature was discovered around one of the planets in PDS 70, a young star located approximately 370 light-years from Earth. Recently, astronomers confirmed the presence of two massive, Jupiter-like planets there. This earlier discovery was made with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), which detected the warm glow naturally emitted by hydrogen gas accreting onto the planets.
Antarctica losing six times more ice mass annually now than 40 years ago
Antarctica experienced a six fold increase in yearly ice mass loss between 1979 and 2017, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Glaciologists from the University of California, Irvine, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Netherlands’ Utrecht University additionally found that the accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch during that time
A Black Hole Threw a Star Out of the Milky Way Galaxy
Astronomers discovered a star whizzing out of the center of our galaxy at the seriously blinding speed of four million miles an hour. The star, which goes by the typically inscrutable name S5-HVS1, is currently about 29,000 light-years from Earth, streaking through the Grus, or Crane, constellation in the southern sky. It is headed for the darkest, loneliest depths of intergalactic space.
Scientist closer to bringing mammoths back to life
Woolly mammoths could roam the earth again someday thanks to research reported, where cell nuclei from one of the long-extinct animals showed biological activity when transplanted into mouse cells. Bone marrow and muscle tissue were extracted from the remains of a mammoth named Yuka that had been frozen in Siberian permafrost for 28,000 years in the study, published online in the journal Scientific Reports.
A Japanese spacecraft landed on the surface of an asteroid
The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 made a carefully choreographed second touchdown on an asteroid called Ryugu (July 10) — and the photos are incredible. The images beamed back to Earth show the perspective of two different cameras on board the spacecraft: the main navigation camera and a publicly funded camera pointed past the sampling mechanism.
Million Animal And Plant Species At Risk Of Extinction
Up to 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth are at risk of extinction — many of them within decades — according to scientists and researchers who produced a sweeping U.N. report on how humanity’s burgeoning growth is putting the world’s biodiversity at perilous risk. Some of the report’s findings might not seem new to those who have followed stories of how humans have affected the environment, from shifts in seasons to the prevalence of plastics and other contaminants in water. But its authors say the assessment is the most accurate and comprehensive review yet of the damage people are inflicting on the planet.
Researchers capture on camera the ‘first ever’ image of quantum entanglement
Physicists have for the first time captured an image of quantum entanglement, which a 16 baffled Albert Einstein once called ‘spooky action at a distance’. Researchers say they have captured visual evidence of a strong form of the elusive phenomenon called Bell entanglement. Quantum entanglement is where two particles interact and share their physical states for an instant – no matter how great the distance which separates them.
Water found on most habitable known world beyond solar System
Two research teams just announced the detection of water vapor in the air of K2-18 b, a “super-Earth” that lies about 110 light-years from our planet. This is a landmark discovery, because the alien world is potentially habitable, apparently orbiting its star at the right distance for liquid water to exist on the planetary surface. But this doesn’t mean that K2-18 b is Earth-like; in fact, the two worlds are quite different. K2-18 b is about 2.3 times wider than Earth and eight times more massive, for example, and it orbits a red dwarf, a star much smaller and dimmer than our own sun.
Chinese Scientist Who Genetically Edited Babies Gets 3 Years in Prison
A court in China on Monday sentenced He Jiankui, the researcher who shocked the global scientific community when he claimed that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies, to three years in prison for carrying out “illegal medical practices
Sea levels are projected to rise 3 feet within 80 years
Climate change is already having staggering effects on oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations. Sea level rise is accelerating, and the world could see 3.6 feet in total sea level rise by 2100 in a very high-emissions scenario. In 2013, the IPCC had estimated that value at slightly more than three feet.
1. 315 billion-tonne iceberg breaks off Antarctica
An iceberg three times the size of Malta, or just smaller than the Isle of Skye in Scotland, broke away from East Antarctica’s Amery ice shelf. The iceberg weighs 315 billion-tonnes, spans 1,636 square kilometers, and has been named D28.