Science continues to amaze us all with its unending ability to inspire, awe, and educate. Even an article with a billion words couldn’t provide the justice that science deserves when it comes to the amazing things that it continues to discover. 2017 has passed us like a meteor shower, first a beautiful bright beacon, then quickly fading away never to be seen again. It can be so hard to spot scientific news in the media, quite frankly it’s not given enough time on air. So, I’ll share my 10 most mind-blowing scientific discoveries of 2017. In years to come, I think it may be considered as one of the most pioneering years of all time in the world of science.
1. The Artificial Womb
Dr Alan Flake and his team at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have successfully built an artificial womb that kept lambs alive for over a month. The device looks like a plastic bag, but it’s not filled with your weekly shop, rather synthetic amniotic fluid. Why is this important? If this technology is used with human babies it may allow the little nipper to term outside of the uterus, potentially saving the baby’s life.
2. Floating Wind Turbines
As good as wind turbines are, they take up a huge amount of ground space. However, we need the green emission-free power if we are to save our planets resources and reverse the trend of global warming. Turbines usually require firm ground to operate, but a Norwegian company called Statoil have created floating turbines that twist with the wind and ocean. Why is it important? Although it is currently quite expensive, if costs are brought down it could give us unlimited free power; let’s hope in the future there isn’t a steep price put on it by the energy supply companies.
3. The Lost Land of Zealandia
A lovely exotic name for a continent that was discovered last year, Zealandia. Although it isn’t officially a continent yet and most of it is submerged under the sea, some amazing fossils have already been found. It is situated between New Zealand and New Caledonia. Why is it important? We can only gain more knowledge about the Earth and our history if we adventure into the ocean and the lost land of Zealandia provides us with a fantastic starting point.
4. The Gold-Plated Star
Two Neutron (collapsed core of a large star) stars collided, and guess what materials were produced? An abundance of Silver, Platinum and everybody’s favourite, Gold. The gravitational waves were picked up from earth, some 130 million light-years away. And it’ll probably happen again within the next 100,000 years. Why is it important? It shows us how Gold and Platinum came into the universe, and we continue to learn more about the wonderful universe out there.
5. CAR T-Cell Cancer Therapy
A new cancer treatment called CAR T-cell therapy was approved for a second time by the FDA. It was initially developed at NCI by Steven Rosenberg and then licensed to a private company, Kite Pharma, for further development. Cells from a patient go through 3 stages, look at it as the three R’s: cells are removed, re-engineered, then re-inserted to chase down and destroy those pesky cancer cells. Why is it important? Well, it’s obvious, it may help us treat cancer far more effectively. However, at the moment it costs nearly £400,000 per person. Although, if governments spent less on war and other unnecessary ventures then suddenly it doesn’t seem so expensive, right?!
6. Hereditary Blindness – Gene Therapy
A cure for a hereditary blindness was the first approved gene therapy for an inherited disease. The treatment was developed by Spark Therapeutics. It involves an injection straight into the retina, which allows a corrected gene to take over the flawed one and produce a vision-producing protein. Why is it important? 13 out of 20 trials went positively, and although it is currently very expensive, can you really put a price on allowing someone to see our beautiful world again?
A robot has been created by Boston Dynamics to jump, hop and backflip! It can’t quite yet interact face to face, but I’m sure it won’t be long before robots are advanced to do so. Let’s not tell them about Skynet, maybe keep that one to ourselves for the time being. Why is it important? The number of ways that robots could help human society are endless. They could help with loneliness for example, which affects so many people around the world. Or imagine robots protecting the young, homeless and elderly who have been neglected. The possibilities are literally endless.
8. Water Vapour out of Thin Air
A device that sucks water vapour out of the air, allowing it to be drunk as clean fresh water, has been invented by Professor Omar Yaghi and his team at UC Berkeley. It has been tested in air with a humidity as low as 20%. Why is it important? It can be used in areas with a lack of clean and safe water sources. Some have mentioned parts of Africa but surely if we all pulled together as human beings then no one should go hungry or thirsty, but that’s another discussion.
9. Spider Helping Man
An Australian funnel-web spider’s bite would kill you in under an hour. But Professor Glenn King and his team at The University of Queensland have found a peptide in the venom that may help protect brain cells when being attacked by a stroke. Why is it important? If it is successful on humans, it may become a treatment for stroke-induced brain damage, and it can work even up to 8 hours after the stroke has taken place.
10. The Fourth State of Matter
The three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas have been challenged for the first time. A fourth state of matter known as time crystals has been introduced, where the time crystals are in perpetual motion without requiring energy. Why is it important? This may affect the way computers are used, instead of them relying on 0s and 1s separately, quantum computers support the use of both 0s and 1s together, allowing speeds beyond imagination and making them safer and more secure than ever before. We may not all like computers, and we shouldn’t rely on them for everything but it’s safe to say they are here to stay.
What were your favourite scientific discoveries of 2017? Think we have missed one off our list? Post a comment below or send us a message on social media, we would love to hear from you.