Who would have thought that we would be able to find thousands of planets similar to Earth? We were no longer “one-of-a-kind”. Scientific discoveries have helped us understand our world better, and realise there is a chance for another planet to sustain life. While scientists are not finding exoplanets, they are busy decoding the very beginning of life. That is the big bang. If this sounds ambitious to you, then what do you think of editing our DNA? If it is not clear to you by now, these are the glimpse of what the scientists worked in the past decade. Without further ado, here is the list of 10 scientific discoveries of the decade!
1. Gravitational Waves
We mentioned the concept of gravitational waves on the interstellar article, wherein Dr Kip Thorne contributed as a scientific advisor. Gravitational waves are the key to Einstein’s prediction of relativity. Einstein predicted that, if an object with enough mass propagates, it would create waves. Waves, that move through the fabric of space and time. However, due to the lack of solid evidence, Einstein doubted its existence. As an admirer of Einstein, Dr Kip Thorne along with his team found this missing piece of Einstein’s theory. In 2015, gravitational waves were directly detected in LIGO observatory. They were capable of “hearing the cosmos” for the first time after two black holes collided. Two years after that, the team was given the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions.
Just so you know, Exoplanets are not fictional. We have other habitable planets in our galaxy. In addition to that, these exoplanets are not located near a black hole as depicted in the films. Between 2009 and 2018, NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope found a whopping 2,700 exoplanets. If that’s not surprising, then the announcement of Proxima b was celebratory. The reason for this is the proximity of this planet to our Earth. With an estimated mass of at least 1.2 times that of Earth, the planet is just 4.2 light-years away. Above all, scientists are not just finding exoplanets, they are surveying them as well.
3. First Image of Black hole
The black hole was elusive, and that bothered many scientists. In fact, people were also curious to know more about black holes. To study this daunting subject, an international collaboration in 2009, launched the Event Horizon Telescope project. Event horizon telescope is a planet-scale array of ground-based radio telescopes. All of these works looked far out in search of a supermassive black hole. After a decade of collecting data, the telescope released the first batch of images. This included the very first picture of a black hole. This feat was lauded by physicists around the world, as it unravelled the mystery of the black hole’s appearance.
4. “The God Particle”
Being an Engineer, what fascinates me is to create a machine that could simulate a big bang. CERN achieved this by building a large enough particle accelerator that bombards two proton beams. Their purpose – to study the “God particle”. In science, the concept of matter gaining mass was a mystery. In 1970, Physicist Peter Higgs proposed “Higgs Field”, a source field that permeates the universe. After decades of hard word, in 2012, scientists finally found the Higgs boson, the particle associated with the Higgs field. This discovery would fill the voids in the Standard model. CERN is still bombarding the proton beams, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them on another iteration of this list for the next decade!
5. A new unit for mass replacing the fundamental one
Little do we know that the fundamental unit of mass, Kilogram had a flaw. Before we get into that, it is important to note that the fundamental units that we use are predefined. In the sense, the measurement in meters is in a way related to the speed of light. Similarly, Kilogram was defined using “Le Grand K,” a metallic cylinder. This was not feasible, as the ingot mass varied, scientists had to recalibrate the instrument. In 2019, scientist redefined the unit and related it with Planck’s constant. Not only mass, but scientists also converted various units to stem to the universal constants.
6. DNA “Hacking”
DNA “Hacking” sounds sci-fi but believe it or not, scientists might be able to edit your DNA in future. In 2012, biologists found a unique technology that is capable of editing parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering the sections of DNA. They called this technology, “CRISPR-Cas 9”. The applications of this technology are vast. Hence a scientific breakthrough of such magnitude is undoubtedly a cornerstone in the world of science.
7. An in-depth look into Dinosaurs
Our imaginations of Dinosaurs were limited to what was depicted in the “Jurassic Park” franchise. However, for scientists, a sci-fi movie isn’t enough for them to imagine. In 2010, palaeontologists published a first full-body colour reconstruction of a dinosaur. This was based on the fossilized pigments. Moreover, in 2014, palaeontologists revealed new fossils of Spinosaurus, considered as the first semi-aquatic predator. In 2015, China unveiled the fossil of Yi Qi, a feathered dinosaur. To sum up, over the last decade, we have made monumental breakthroughs in understanding prehistoric predators.
8. First Ancient Human Genome
While the prehistoric predators were being traced by the palaeontologists, scientists gained a new tool to study our past. In 2010, scientists used a strand of hair preserved in permafrost to sequence the genome of a person who lived 4000 years ago. The study could reveal the physical trait, blood group and even the culture. This could be a great way for us to learn how our ancestors lived. Above all, a single strand of hair can explain many questions related to civilisation and migration of mankind.
9. Breakthrough in Ebola diagnosis
Before Coronavirus, the Ebola virus outbreak was threatening. Not only is it more deadly, but biologists also had no idea how to deal with this virus. From one single case in Guinea, the virus spread to the neighbouring countries with a total of 29,000 infected people. The mortality rate of this virus is very high, around 11,235 people succumbed to this virus. A vaccine was quintessential to contain the spread. In 2016, the pharmaceutical company, Merck tested the first Ebola vaccine. Ervebo was later approved by European Medicines Agency (EMA), and FDA, in 2019. If it wasn’t for the vaccine, many would have died due to this virus.
10. Interstellar Space and Interlopers
Although we saw a lot of advancements in technology and science in the last decade, the 2010s will be looked upon as the decade for Interstellar firsts. We were able to devise a spacecraft and to puncture the veil between the sun and interstellar space. In 2012, NASA made history by crossing the boundary of the heliosphere. Subsequently, in 2017, scientists found “Oumuamua” a foreign object formed in another star of another system, that is the first to pass through ours. Two years later, Gennady Borisov found another Interstellar interloper in the form of a highly active comet.