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Top 10 Scientific Discoveries Of 2010

Top Scientific Discoveries of 2010

Top Ten

Top 10 Scientific Discoveries Of 2010

Now that 2010 has come to a close, we take a look at the top ten scientific discoveries and breakthroughs of this past year.

10. Scientists find life built with Arsenic

An astrobiology research has found the first known organism able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic, which has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.

Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.

This discovery of a life form with a different biochemistry makeup will alter biology textbooks and expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth.

9. Scientists Solve Mystery Of Mass In Variable Stars

Astronomers have found the first double star in which a pulsating variable and another star pass in front of one another, solving a a decades-old mystery in the process.

“By using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, along with other telescopes, we have measured the mass of a Cepheid with an accuracy far greater than any earlier estimates,” said Grzegorz Pietrzyski, of the Universidad de Concepcion in Chile. “This new result allows us to immediately see which of the two competing theories predicting the masses of Cepheids is correct.”

8. A New Element — Maybe

new elementLead, iron and uranium are nothing compared to ununseptium, the temporary name for element 117, an extremely heavy combination of berkelium and calcium isotopes created in a particle accelerator in Dubna, Russia.

The new element existed for only the tiniest fraction of a second before vanishing again, but the fact that it remained stable for even the fleeting instant it did is promising. The heavier artificial elements get, the less stable they become, until they reach a point at which the curve turns back up and they begin to last longer and longer. Ununseptium is on the upward part of that arc suggesting that what physicists call “islands of stability” may exist, at which the heaviest elements of all could last for months or years.

7. – Scientist find an ‘aging’ gene

Telomerase gene

The Aging Gene

In a British study published in the journal Genetics, scientists found that people with one copy of the gene had slightly shorter telomeres similar to those of people three or four years older who didn’t carry the gene; in other words, they were aging three or four years faster.

In another study in Nature, researchers at Harvard Medical School were able to switch on a telomerase gene in prematurely aged mice, and reverse the aging process; the mice’s organs regnerated, their shrunken brains increased in size, and their fertility was restored. Manipulating the gene for telomerase could, in theory, slow aging or at least the development of age-related diseases in humans.

6. Planet population dramatically increases

In the same year the U.S. conducted its census, astronomers continued their ongoing nose count of known planets outside our solar system — and they found a lot of new celestial citizens. There’s HIP 13044b, a world circling a distant star that was once not even part of the Milky Way, but was instead snagged by it gravitationally. There are up to seven new planets orbiting a star called HD 10180, about 127 light years from Earth.

Most exciting was the discovery of Gliese 581g, the first extrasolar planet discovered that orbits its sun in the so-called Goldilocks zone, a distance at which conditions are neither too cold nor too hot for life.

5. – Ice Volcanoes Spotted On Moon Of Saturn

Volcanoes on Titan

Volcanoes on Titan

Scientists have found possible ice volcanoes on Saturn’s moon Titan, similar to those on Earth that spew molten rock. Topography and surface composition data from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft have enabled scientists to make the best case yet for an Earth-like volcanic landform that erupts with ice instead of lava.

Titan is the largest moon of Saturn and the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere. Titan is also the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found.

4. Antimatter made & trapped in lab

Antimatter Trapped In A LabAntimatter is an extremely dangerous substance with immense destructive potential, which is unleashed upon contact with any form of normal matter. This energy has vast potential as an energy source. The problem is, how does one store something that cannot come into contact with a single atom of normal matter? Researchers at CERN’s Geneva labs have recently managed to trap a sizeable amount of antihydrogen using a magnetic trap in a vacuum for a tenth of a second.

If CERN researchers can stabilize their tiny antihydrogen atoms long enough to experiment on them, what they learn could be huge.

3. Water on the Moon

moon water

Water on the Moon

The moon is a lot wetter than we ever thought. NASA’s LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission made that discovery when it crash-landed a spent rocket booster near the moon’s south pole and then directed the LCROSS satellite itself to analyze the plume that was blasted up. It was no news that there was water vapor in the plume — the lunar poles are home to at least traces of permafrost — the surprise was how much: about 50% more than astronomers anticipated, making the moon twice as wet as the Sahara Desert.

2. Big News About a Small Particle

B Mesons

Particle Accelerator

There appears to have been an asymmetry in the behavior of certain particles (B-mesons) during a collision at Fermilab’s particle accelerator. What does this mean to us? Well, if there hadn’t been, we wouldn’t exist.

Particle physics says that equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been created during the Big Bang, but that’s impossible, since matter and antimatter mutually annihilate. The only way anything could be left over to start a universe would be if the scales had been tipped slightly in favor of matter, a sensible theory, but one that had never been seen before — until this year. In particle collisions at Fermilab, scientists discovered that the number of muons (a kind of heavy electron) created exceeded anti-muons by about 1%. That’s not much, but long ago it was apparently just enough to kick start the cosmos.

1. Creation of first self-replicating synthetic life

synthetic life

Synthetic Life

In May, researchers from the J. Craig Venter Institute reported the successful construction of a first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. They copied and modified an entire genome of a small bacterial cell, inserted it into a living cell of another species, and by doing so created a new, synthetic life.

“This is the first self-replicating species that we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer,” U.S. scientist Craig Venter who led the team said. “It also is the first species to have its own website encoded in its genetic code.”

“This is the first self-replicating species that we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer,” U.S. scientist Craig Venter who led the team said. “It also is the first species to have its own website encoded in its genetic code.”

Scientists hope to patent the organism, called Mycoplasma laboratorium and engineer it to manufacture cheap biofuels, medicines and other useful compounds.

Photos are available under a Creative Commons Attribution license by Wikicommons.



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