Scientists are well known for their restless minds and for their eagerness to constantly push the boundaries of human knowledge.Therefore, it need not surprise anybody that these past twelve months were filled with major scientific breakthroughs, some of which can be labeled as “cool,” to say the least.
Without further ado, here are the Top 5 major finds and accomplishments of 2012.
5. James Cameron Went Snorkeling in the Mariana TrenchBack in March, daredevil James Cameron set out to explore the Mariana Trench, and made it all the way to the whopping depth of 10,900 meters (6.772 miles).
A few months later, he agreed to share some of his findings with members of the scientific community and argued that the outcrops and microbial communities he found at the bottom of the ocean have the potential to explain how life came about on Earth.
More precisely, some of the phenomena now taking place in the Mariana Trench shed new light on a very important transition: the one from geochemistry to biochemistry.
4. HIV Was Used to Cure CancerA 7-year-old girl succeeded in overcoming her leukemia with the help of an altered form of HIV, the AIDS-causing virus.
Despite the fact that this medical experiment almost cost Emma Whitehead her life when she and her doctors embarked on this endeavor, things turned out more than OK in the end.
In order to cure this girl's leukemia, scientists used the altered forms of the HIV virus as a genetic material carrier, and “injected” millions of Emma's T-cells (i.e. a type of white blood cells) with new genes.
Later on, these T-cells took care of destroying the cancerous ones.
3. Curiosity Paid Mars a VisitOn August 6, NASA's Curiosity Rover landed on Mars, and soon enough it started taking pictures of this foreign world and sending them back home.
“NASA's Curiosity rover has landed on Mars! Its descent-stage retrorockets fired, guiding it to the surface. Nylon cords lowered the rover to the ground in the ‘sky crane’ maneuver,” read NASA's post concerning this achievement.
The rover was sent on its way on November 26, 2011. At first, NASA stated that Curiosity would spend two years on Mars. Still, they later decided to extend its mission over an indefinite period.
Curiosity's working agenda revolves around investigating the Martian climatology and geology and paving the way for future human explorations.
2. The Previous Record for Quantum Teleportation Was BrokenThis past September, the European Space Agency managed to set a new world record for quantum teleportation.
All the science talk concerning this achievement can be summarized as follows: the hallmarks of a single photon were reproduced at a distance of 143 kilometers (88.85 miles).
In order to do so, researchers had to place two photons located relatively far from each other in a state of quantum entanglement, and then translate physical properties from one of them to the second.
Scientists hope that it will not be long until they succeed in teleporting particles to a satellite in space.
1. The Elusive Higgs Boson Was DiscoveredGranted, scientists are only 99,9999998% sure that what they found is in fact the Higgs Boson, but seeing how this particle stands at the core of modern physics, here's hoping.
The discovery of this particle was announced by researchers working at the Large Hadron Collider back in July, after a search that only lasted for about five decades.
The Higgs boson is argued to give subatomic elements (i.e. protons and neutrons) their mass, which is why scientists believe that it can explain and describe the interactions of all particles and forces known to man thus far.
More information on this scientific breakthrough will be made available to the general public this coming spring.
Hopefully, the year 2013 will prove to be at least as fruitful as 2012 was.