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2016: a year in review in science

17 Post author: Elo 11 December 2016 05:01AM

As another year comes around, and our solstice plans come to a head I want to review this year's great progress in science to follow on from last year's great review.

The general criteria is: World changing science, not politics.  That means a lot of space discoveries, a lot of technology, some groundbreaking biology, and sometimes new chemical materials.  There really are too many to list briefly.

With that in mind, below is the list:


Things that spring to mind when you ask people:

  • T3d printing organs and skin tissue http://www.bbc.com/news/health-35581454
  • Baby born with 3 parents. link
  • AlphaGo VS Lee Sedol
  • Cryopreservation of a rabbit brain - Link
  • Majorana fermions discovered (possibly quantum computing applications)
  • SpaceX landed Falcon 9 at sea - Link
  • Gravitational waves deteced by LIGO
  • Quantum logic gate with 99% accuracy at Oxford
  • TensorFlow has been out just over a year now.  An open source neural net project.

 


From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_in_science

Note: the whole thing is worth reading - I cherry picked a few really cool ones.

  • Astronomers identify IDCS 1426 as the most distant massive galaxy cluster yet discovered, at 10 billion light years from Earth.[4]
  • Mathematicians, as part of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, report the discovery of a new prime number: "274,207,281 − 1"
  • The world's first 13 TB solid state drive (SSD) is announced, doubling the previous record for a commercially available SSD. link
  • A successful head transplant on a monkey by scientists in China is reported.
  • The University of New South Wales announces that it will begin human trials of the Phoenix99, a fully implantable bionic eye. Link
  • Scientists in the United Kingdom are given the go-ahead by regulators to genetically modify human embryos by using CRISPR-Cas9 and related techniques. Link
  • Scientists announce Breakthrough Starshot, a Breakthrough Initiatives program, to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of small centimeter-sized light sail spacecraft, named StarChip, capable of making the journey to Alpha Centauri, the nearest extrasolar star system, at speeds of 20% and 15% of the speed of light, taking between 20 and 30 years to reach the star system, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival. Link
  • A new paper in Astrobiology suggests there could be a way to simplify the Drake equation, based on observations of exoplanets discovered in the last two decades. link
  • A detailed report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds no risk to human health from genetic modifications of food. Link
  • Researchers from Queensland's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, and the University of Queensland jointly report that the Bramble Cay melomys is likely extinct, adding: "Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change." Link
  • Scientists announce detecting a second gravitational wave event (GW151226) resulting from the collision of black holes.   Link
  • The first known death caused by a self-driving car is disclosed by Tesla Motors. Link
  • A team at the University of Oxford achieves a quantum logic gate with record-breaking 99.9% precision, reaching the benchmark required to build a quantum computer. Link
  • The world's first baby born through a controversial new "three parent" technique is reported. Link
  • A team at Australia's University of New South Wales create a new quantum bit that remains in a stable superposition for 10 times longer than previously achieved. Link
  • Scientists at the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry officially recognizes names for four new chemical elements: Nihonium, Nh, 113; Moscovium, Mc, 115; Tennessine, Ts, 117 and Oganesson, Og, 118. Link

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016:


Notable deaths:


Nobel prizes:

  • The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was awarded jointly to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines"
  • The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 was divided, one half awarded to David J. Thouless, the other half jointly to F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter".
  • The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2016 was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi "for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy".
  • The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016 was awarded to Bob Dylan "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".
  • The Nobel Peace Prize 2016 was awarded to Juan Manuel Santos "for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end".
  • The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2016 was awarded jointly to Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström "for their contributions to contract theory"

100 years ago (1916):

Nobel Prizes in 1916:

  • Physics – not awarded
  • Chemistry – not awarded
  • Medicine – not awarded
  • Literature – Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam
  • Peace – not awarded

Other:

  • Pokemon go
  • Brexit - Britain secedes from the EU
  • Donald trump US president
  • SpaceX making more launches, and had a major explosion setback
  • Internet.org project delayed by SpaceX expolosion.

Meta: this took in the order of 3+ hours to write over several weeks.

Cross posted to Lesswrong here.

Comments (5)

Comment author: kilobug 12 December 2016 04:35:51PM 9 points [-]

Something important IMHO is missing from the list : no new physics were discovered in LHC, even running at 14TeV, no Susy, no new particle, nothing but a confirmation of all predictions of Standard Model.

It's relatively easy to miss because it's a "negative" discovery (nothing new), but since many were expecting some hints towards new physics from the 2016 LHC runs, the confirmation of the Standard Model (and the death sentence it is to many theories, like many forms of SUSY) is news.

Comment author: WhySpace 12 December 2016 12:47:57AM 3 points [-]

Personally, I'm excited about the formation of Solid Metallic Hydrogen in the lab. (Although, it only has 52% odds of being a big deal, as measured by citation count.) SMH may be stable at room temperature, and the SMH to gas phase transition could release more energy than chemical reactions do, making it more energy dense than rocket fuel. Additionally, there's like a ~35% chance of it superconducting at room temperature.

(As a side note, does anyone know whether something like this might make fusion pressures easier to achieve? I realize starting off a little more dense than other forms of solid hydrogen won't help much, but could the compression force and heating from the energy released supply the energy needed, similar to General Fusion's approach but starting with a solid instead of a plasma? Or, if it superconducts and has a high critical current density, could that enable stronger magnetic fields and stronger z pinch, or is that not the limiting factor?)

Comment author: darius 12 December 2016 10:23:49AM 0 points [-]

I'm not a physicist, but if I wanted to fuse metallic hydrogen I'd think about a really direct approach: shooting two deuterium/tritium bullets at each other at 1.5% of c (for a Coulomb barrier of 0.1 MeV according to Wikipedia). The most questionable part I can see is that a nucleus from one bullet could be expected to miss thousands of nuclei from the other, before it hit one, and I would worry about losing too much energy to bremsstrahlung in those encounters.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 December 2016 04:42:00PM 0 points [-]

Great list! Although I would like there to be also a few ones for narrower fields. I mean, there are entire fields of science that different people here are familiar with, we could rec our own favourites (or you could, 'cause I seem to be buried by XIX century stuff.)

I mean something similar to a fact post, but without a single focus.

Comment author: Raemon 11 December 2016 10:58:41PM 0 points [-]

Wow, cool. Will review these in more detail later but there's some stuff here I didn't know about, thanks for collating it!