The scientific world has been fascinating us ever since Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein— all the way to the discovery of Higgs Boson to inventions such as rockets, allowing us to travel the outer space. The thirst for knowledge, to find out more about the world we live in, is what leads us to the world we live in today.
Today, we're taking a look at the last 20 years and the most incredible and strangest scientific discoveries that we came across that may already be a normal knowledge in our lives or will certainly become the norm in years to come.
In April, astronomers announced that the atmosphere of Uranus was chock-full of hydrogen sulfide— a stinky gas that comes out of sewers on Earth— according to data from the Gemini North telescope which sits on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
The moral of the story: not only does Uranus smell incredibly bad, study co-author Patrick Irwin, a professor of planetary physics at the University of Oxford, said in a statement that, "suffocation and exposure in the negative 200 degrees Celsius [minus 328 degrees Fahrenheit] atmosphere made of mostly hydrogen, helium and methane would take its toll long before the smell."
If you think you're looking at the dunes of a desert, think again. Back in May of 2018, visitors and residents of the Russian city, Sochi, began posting pictures on Instagram of rather strange and curious orange snow on the mountains. Apparently, the orange snow had also fallen over parts of Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova and Greece.
Meteorologists and scientists have later explained the cause: sand and dust had been kicked up by storms in Africa, turning into a true phenomenon of transferred sand from the Sahara to Eastern Europe.
No, we're not actually talking about "our" Earth. Back in 2018, a group of scientists reported finding a planet about 1.6 times the size of earth, 200 light-years away from Earth and that may also be able to sustain life. Although Super Earth is a very cool name, they decided to name this new-found planet K2-155d, and it is known to revolve around a super hot dwarf star. Scientists also believe it may contain liquid water on its surface. How cool is that?
Neuroscientists have discovered all the way back in 2014 how to implant false memories into the brain. Freaky, right? Although this is not the movie Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, a duo of neuroscientists successfully manipulated mouse’s brain cells, encoding the memory of receiving a shock when placed in a small metal box. Although the mouse never really received the shock, when placed in the box, it would react in fear due to the memory implanted in its brain.
All the way back in 2014, IBM helped us take a step forward into the future with the release of the SyNAPSE computer chip, which simulates the firing of synapses that is done every day by the human brain. Dharmendra Modha, chief scientist of brain-inspired computing at IBM, told The Guardian that there is potential in that chip to "open up a spree of tremendous innovation." He wasn't wrong because as years go by, we are now more used to AI assistance in our every day lives.
This is quite a curious one. Back in 2017, a group of scientists successfully created an artificial womb out of a bag of fluids that was able to grow a sheep. This breakthrough eliminates the health risk of pregnancy and presents a natural environment in which premature infants can develop. It's an incredibly smart solution and one that can save the lives of both women and children alike.
This is definitely one of the most interesting ones. In the UK, caterpillars were found to fall victim to what was known as the "zombie virus", something a researcher was able to find while counting butterflies (curious, right?). Basically, the caterpillars were being infected by the baculovirus, a virus that stops their molting and encourages them to keep eating. Later, the caterpillar's body liquefies and explodes, spreading the virus to other caterpillars. Fortunately, the virus didn't cause too much harm to the caterpillar population.
Quantum computers are basically incredible machines that can exploit the properties of quantum physics, outperforming any supercomputer that exists nowadays. IBM unveiled its commercial quantum computer, Q System One, in January 2019 and it set the tone for quantum computers designed for commercial use. The Q System One is a 20 quantum bits machine, but it is estimated that a quantum computer capable of achieving "quantum supremacy" will require at least 50 qubits.
No, it's not Pluto, the poor thing. Researchers at CalTech found mathematical evidence suggesting there is a "Planet X", a ninth planet on our system, beyond Neptune and unseen to us and our technology. This theory explains a lot, such as a clustering of orbits for a group of cosmic bodies beyond Neptune that current mathematics cannot account for or explain. It's also predicted to be super-sized with a mass five times over that of Earth and an orbit 400 to 800 times farther from the Sun.
In 2016, Italian scientist, Dr. Sergio Canavero, surprised the science and medical world when he claimed to have been able to transplant one monkey’s head onto another monkey’s body. Back then, head transplants were virtually unspoken of. "The blood vessels, spine, and neuro-systems of each monkey were connected using polyethylene glycol (PEG), a chemical that preserves nerve cell membranes." Later, in 2017, he completed yet another successful surgery, now having transplanted a human cadaver’s head onto a different cadaver’s body. The next step for him is to be able to perform this operation on living, brain-dead human beings.
We hear a lot about 3D printing nowadays and it's one of those inventions that has come a long way since 1986. However, when would we ever be able to imagine we could actually 3D print human organs? In May of 2019, for the first time, a 3D printed lung came to life, marking the beginning of an era in organ availability for transplant patients, making it so much easier in the future to cure patients that would otherwise wait years for a matching donor.
As it turns out, hobbits were real, but they are not taken from Lord Of The Rings or some other fantasy story. Homo floresiensis, commonly called the hobbit, was a tiny hominid that stood at three feet tall as adults and was indigenous to Flores island in Indonesia. The first bones were discovered back in 2004 and categorized as a new hominin species, though it’s unclear which species it evolved from.
Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal interwoven pattern, and it's the building block of graphite, which is used in pencil tips. Why is this important? Graphene is the thinnest material known to man at one-atom-thick; and it's 200 times stronger than steel! It's also an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, making this a material that is a wonder to the world and science. Currently, scientists are working on producing it on a mass scale.
It was a little over 10 years ago, back in 2004, that a team of archaeologists dug up the tomb of Lady Xia, grandmother to the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, that lived between 259 B.C. and 210 B.C. In the tomb, they found a number of objects and animal bones (these were thought to belong to the pets of Lady Xia), but the most curious discovery was that one of those skeletons found didn't match any known species. In July of the same year, researchers announced that it was the remains of a previously unidentified gibbon that went extinct since the last ice age, naming it Junzi imperialis.
We all know the genius mind that is Elon Musk, and he was actually the one to put in practice the project of building reusable & recyclable rockets that would safely land on barges in the ocean, saving the billions of dollars that it costs to replace such technology. Even in the event of a failed launch, this would save even more money and frustration for the team, taking us one step closer to affordable space travel.
It's not as weird as you're thinking right now, honestly. The human-pig hybrid has created with one goal in mind: to one day allow us to grow our own organs inside an animal instead of relying on human donors. What happened seems easy, but it was actually quite complex. Human stem cells were implanted into a pig embryo and removed 4 weeks later for analysis. It was successful!
Back in 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced the birth of the world’s first ever gene-edited human babies and it rocked the science world. He used CRISPR to edit the genes of two twin girls still in development to make them immune to the HIV virus. Then he transformed the embryos into the mother's uterus. The twins were born healthy, but keep their identity hidden from the media. This is, without a doubt, a huge step in in the potential of human genome editing.
This is a weird one to think about, but genetic scientists have discovered that all humans across the globe are related, albeit 5,000-10,000 generations removed. Now if that doesn't mess you up, I don't know what will. Approximately 60,000 to 100,000 years ago, genetics took a huge toll in which our species nearly went extinct. It's still unclear what caused this, but according to evidence in our DNA, it is estimated that less than 1,000 Homo Sapiens were alive during this hard time for our species.
With years of development in data storage, you'd think it would be possible to imagine a small disc capable of withstanding 1,000-degree temperatures that can hold 360 terabytes. But it really isn't easy. This is called 5D Data Storage and it's a revolutionary technology it is estimated that these discs can store data for up to 13.8 billion years, written on tiny patterns printed on three layers within the disc.
We all know about Dolly, the first successful genetic clone of an animal. She was cloned around 23 years ago, and since then we have been able to successfully clone mice, goats, pigs, deer, horses, cats, dogs, and even gray wolves. This has helped immensely in increasing the population of endangered animals, and it is even thought that we could use these techniques to bring back now-extinct animals, such as the Wooly Rhino and the Mastodon.