Every year, new Scientific Discoveries of the Decade research papers are published. From star evolution to the current implications of climate change and the health benefits of coffee, researchers shed light on everything. There is so much research coming out every year that it can be hard to know what is significant. The science that is interesting but largely insignificant and bad science that is just plain bad.
Over the past decade, we can look back on some of the most amazing and significant research areas. A true proliferation of knowledge is often expressed in multiple findings and research papers. The following are the ten biggest scientific discoveries of the decade.
1. Human Relatives of the Future
Over the past decade, the human family tree has grown significantly. New fossils of hominin species have been discovered in Africa and the Philippines. A century began with the discovery and identification of Australopithecus sediba, an ancient hominin from what is now South Africa. In 2008, at age 9, Matthew Berger, son of paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, found the clavicle of the species, the species’ first fossil. There are some traits from the older primate group in this species, but the species’ walking style is that of modern humans.
Three major discoveries in the past ten years provide evidence that ancient human relatives are hidden in caves and sediment deposits around the world, waiting to be discovered.
2. Taking the Cosmos into Account
Albert Einstein might not have imagined that 100 years after the general theory of relativity was published in 1915, astronomers would test it with some of the most powerful instruments ever built — and it would pass all the tests. According to general relativity, the universe is a “fabric” of space-time that is distorted by large masses. In contrast to Isaac Newton, it is this warping that causes gravity, not mass’s internal properties.
3. Among the hottest years on record
Scientists have also predicted the effects of burning coal and fossil fuels on the temperature of the planet for over 100 years. Popular Mechanics published an article in 1912 entitled, “Remarkable Weather of 1911: The Effect of Coal Combustion on the Climate.” The caption of this article reads, “The furnaces of the world burn about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal per year.”. When burned, this releases 7,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year when it combines with oxygen.
The air becomes a more effective blanket for the earth and raises its temperature as a result. In a few centuries, the effect may be considerable.”
4. Editing Genes
A four-year-old girl underwent gene therapy for the first time in 1990 after white blood cells were extracted. The cells then augmented with genes that produce adenosine deaminase (ADA), an enzyme that hampers immune function. However, new white blood cells with the corrected gene not formed, so the patient needed to continue receiving injections.
In recent years, genetic engineering has become increasingly precise and accessible. All thanks to the introduction of a new tool for editing eukaryotic cells in 2013. Cas9, the gene-editing tool, works by locating a target section of DNA and “cutting out” that segment.
5. Other Worldly Mysteries Unveiled
In the past decade, spacecraft and telescopes have revealed a wealth of information about worlds beyond our own. New Horizons made its first close pass of Pluto in 2015, capturing images of the dwarf planet and its moons. It also revealed a world that is surprisingly dynamic and active, with mountains rising more than 20,000 feet and shifting plains younger than 10 million years old. This means the geology of the world is constantly evolving. Pluto’s geological activity suggests that even cold, distant worlds might have enough energy to heat their interiors, allowing them to harbor liquid water beneath the surface or even life.
6. Dinosaur colors revealed by fossilized pigments
The decade began with a revolution in paleontology when scientists discovered dinosaurs’ true colors for the first time. A study of melanosomes — cells containing pigment — found reddish-brown tones and stripes on Sinosauropteryx feathers, a dinosaur that lived in China 120 – 125 million years ago. Following the discovery, a reconstruction of the full body of an Anchiornis dinosaur, which had a striking plume of red feathers as well as black and white feathers on its body, revealed its colors.
Borealopelta, an armored dinosaur that lived about 110 million years ago, could blend into the environment using reddish-brown tones. Scientists will also continue to study dinosaur evolution using this new ability to study and identify dinosaur colors in paleontological research.
7. Defining the Fundamental Unit of Mass
Measurement scientists around the globe voted in November 2018 to change the definition of a kilogram. The kilogram is no longer based on an object – a platinum-iridium alloy cylinder, about the size of a golf ball – but rather on a constant of nature. As a result of the change, the last physical artifact used to define a unit of measure has replaced.
In this experiment, they also employed a sophisticated weighing machine called a Kibble balance. The electromagnetic force needed to hold a kilogram allowed scientists to precisely measure the weight of a kilogram.
8. Sequence of the oldest ancient human genome
Scientists gained a new tool in 2010 to study the ancient past and the people who lived there. Scientists sequenced the genome of a 4,000-year-old man using hair preserved in permafrost. Now we are learning about the physical characteristics and blood type of someone who came here among the first settlers. A nearly complete genome reconstruction from ancient DNA also started a revolution in anthropology and genetics. Their knowledge of ancient cultures has never been greater.
9. Ebola Vaccine and New Treatments
The worst Ebola outbreak in history occurred this decade. By July 2014, the disease had spread to neighboring countries, also reaching the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Offering unprecedented opportunities for the spread of the disease to a large number of people. As a result of the Ebola virus, the immune system compromised, causing massive hemorrhaging and multiple organ failures.
10. CERN discovers the Higgs boson
CERN’s Large Hadron Collider’s CMS detector recorded this event in 2012. According to these observations, the Higgs boson decayed into a pair of photons.
Physics has also worked tirelessly over the past several decades to model the workings of the universe. Creating what we referred to as a Standard Model. Known as the fundamental forces, this model describes the four basic interactions between matter. We are familiar with two of them in everyday life: the gravitational force and the electromagnetic force.