The 7 greatest scientific discoveries of 2016

2016 forever etched in the world of science. Although a vaccine against cancer and not think that science has something to boast about. For example, the groundbreaking detection of gravitational waves and the discovery of extrasolar planets the size of the Earth, remote from us at 5 light years. And not only that.

1. Gravitational waves turned out to be a reality

The discovery of gravitational waves is key to understanding the universe. This was stated by many, and immediately after opening the crowd of excited scientists entrenched in theory. The opening rests on the shoulders of the collaboration BICEP, includes mostly American, canadian and European scientists. For the first time with the vibrations encountered in September 2015, but afraid to register before opening time and waited until February, when the discovery was confirmed. The next wave was only in June. Recorded LIGO gravitational radiation caused by merging binary system of black holes with masses 36 29 solar masses into an object of mass 62, the mass of the Sun.

Gravitational waves in the framework of his General theory of relativity, albert Einstein predicted (which, incidentally, is skeptical of the existence of black holes). He described gravitational waves in his theory of relativity and confirmed again what I knew, saw and felt much more than others.

This discovery paves the path to the creation of theories of quantum gravity and the theory of «Grand unification», explaining all the processes in the Universe, test new theories and, perhaps, to approach the creation of a quantum theory of gravity or Grand unification.

2. Proxima b — exoplanet, which hopes

Over the past few years astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets, including a handful of stones the size of the earth. But all the potentially habitable real estate market interstellar and sloppy b Proxima — the nearest star, 4.3 light years from Earth.

Proxima b — rocky world orbiting Proxima Centauri at a distance of 4.7 million miles (7.5 million kilometers), which is ten times closer than mercury, hanging around the Sun. Because Proxima Centauri — red dwarf, and, strangely enough, is the ideal condition for the formation of seas and oceans. So Proxima b may be suitable for life. While it is known that the planet is hellish landscapes, but about the atmosphere… will have to wait for the space telescope James Webb will start work in 2018. All hope that it will help to find any glimpse of the atmosphere. If it does not also send the nanoprobes.

3. Ka — a terrible thing

Little-known virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. But in the international arena Zeke came out at the end of last year, when the mosquitoes began to quickly spread the disease throughout Latin America. At that time, like most adults did not have symptoms or they just appeared, in children the spread of the virus has seen a resurgence of microcephaly, a rare condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. This discovery caused a flurry of studying possible links between Zeke and development issues.

Zeke was found in the placenta and in the brains of infants who died shortly after birth. However, Zeke not only leads to microcephaly, but in many other serious defects of the fetal brain.

Importantly, scholars did not accept the epidemic in order to study the disease more carefully. It is hoped that more outbreak of this plague will not disturb the peace of the city.

4. Short palindromic repeats, regularly spaced groups

CRISPR (short palindromic repeats, regularly spaced groups) — a revolutionary tool that promises to cure any disease and deal with environmental disasters. This year a team of Chinese scientists have used it for the first time to treat a sick person.

The patient was suffering from an aggressive form of lung cancer. In order to treat it, scientists took the immune cells from the blood and used CRISPR to «knock out» the gene. The results raise a lot of controversy, although the doctors sound very rosy.

Regardless of the outcome in this particular case, the use of such things for the treatment of certain diseases marks a new Chapter in personalized medicine, and it can provoke a race for the right to get the genome editor cells for various applications. There are still a lot of uncertainty, but in the end, CRISPR is a new technology, which is especially important in the midst of a fierce patent battle. And if all goes well, then change their own genetic code will be only a matter of time.

5. The elusive ninth planet

For over ten years astronomers have wondered whether ice outer space of our Solar system another planet. This year astronomers from the California Institute of technology Konstantin Batygin (our people, thank God, everywhere) and Mike brown presented convincing evidence that the so-called ninth planet is a reality. More Neptune is colder than the freezing point of hell. Apparently, this planet revolves around the Sun in elliptical trajectories at a distance from 100 to more than 1,000 astronomical units.

At least, this is the best hypothesis based on a handful faulty orbits of Kuiper belt objects, which was, perhaps, influenced by the severity of this mysterious planet.

Of course, the only real way to confirm the existence of the planet — photos. But all that being said, its time. In spite of that, several astronomers, including brown, are now making a lot of efforts to find the ninth planet, and their forecasts seem optimistic — they claim that they will have that few years. In any case, the existence of this planet does to the Earth does not turn, neither benefit nor harm.

6. Carbon emissions

Carbon emissions are rising, and the specter of catastrophic climate change looming closer and closer. Scientists are beginning to think seriously about how we can remove carbon from the air. This concept, known as «the capture and storage of carbon» has been in development for many years, but in 2016, researchers from the University of Southampton sealed water-dissolved atmospheric carbon in groundwater well in Iceland. Within two years, the carbon reacts with the basaltic minerals and ultimately kristallizuetsya in solid form, which will remain in isolation for centuries, and even millennia.

The news that scientists are «turning CO2 to stone», you need to articulate some important reservations. The method probably works only in regions with similar Geology and Geochemistry in the underground vaults of Iceland. Another disadvantage of transformation of gas into stone is the need for water. For every tonne of CO2 you need to spend 25 tons of water. This makes the best location of installations for gas injection on the coast. Another possible problem is the conversion of carbonate to methane under the influence of underground microbes, however, the Icelandic experience has not yet confirmed this possibility.

7. The oldest vertebrates on Earth

The Greenland shark is a deep — sea swimmer who can live up to 400 years, as it became known from a study published this year. Analysis of radiocarbon Dating showed that these brisk, almost elusive animals are the most long-lived vertebrates on the planet. Moreover, the age of the most age ranges from 272 to 512 years. Imagine these creatures are predatory rocks on a ship of colonists in the 16th century.

What is the secret of prolonged youth of the Greenland shark? In all likelihood, the animal metabolism is extremely cautious due to the slow growth and reproductive maturation. In addition, they are cooled to near cryogenic state is likely to be a key component of the life strategy of this animal. Nobody wants to spend a few years at the bottom of the Arctic ocean and report back?