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30 Biggest Scientific Discoveries in the Last Decade

Four New Elements

Four New Elements

The periodic table was updated with three additions in 2015 when Russia and the United States worked together on research to discover new elements, which are placed at the 115, 117, and 118 spots on the chart.

Shortly after, scientists at in Japan discovered one more, element 113, and were recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry for the breakthrough. The four new elements don’t have official names yet, so they appear on the periodic table was Uut, Uup, Uus, and Uuo for now.  

Science Figures Out Why Cats Love Boxes

Science Figures Out Why Cats Love Boxes

If you have a cat, you’re probably familiar with the maddening habit of your cat to play in a box instead of with their toys. It is awfully cute when they snuggle up in a box, but what makes them act that way? Behavioral biologists and veterinarians had the same question. They discovered that hiding in a box eases a cat’s stress levels.

Cats also will hide in a box to avoid fighting with other animals, or they could be looking for a warm place to snuggle up and take a nap. No matter why cats do it, it’s a cute feature that will influence the way scientists have thought about cat behavior. 

Autonomous AI Movement

Autonomous AI Movement

You might have seen the funny videos of simulations that learn to walk and run around an obstacle course. The figure in the videos starts out extremely clumsy, then slowly learns better ways to get around the track. These videos are examples of scientists giving computers and robots the ability to learn and move on their own. In 2014, more than 1,000 tiny kilobots showed off this new talent.

The small robots arranged themselves into any shape requested, asking each other for help if they needed it. This technology could be used for many things, but let’s just hope it doesn’t lead to a Terminator situation.

(Image via Wikimedia)

Mummified Dinosaur Remains

Mummified Dinosaur Remains

The year 2017 proved to be a big year for dinosaur-related discoveries. Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta, Canada discovered a mummified dinosaur with its guts, armor, and even skin still intact. The dinosaur, called a nodosaur, is an armored, spiky lizard with short legs that put them close to the ground. The process to uncover the fossil without damaging it took more than six years to complete.

This well-preserved specimen will help scientist understand more about how dinosaurs looked and acted. And no, this intact fossil can’t be used to bring back dinosaur species, even though that would be interesting.

(Image via Wikimedia)

Sidewalks with Wi-Fi

Sidewalks with Wi-Fi

With technology becoming more sophisticated every day this was inevitable. The town of Chesham in Buckinghamshire, England received a push into a new level of technological advancement. The streets in Chesham’s town center had smart Wi-Fi pavements installed.

The service is fast enough to download hours of television and movies in seconds, making it better than most public Wi-Fi options. Anyone can use it as they’re walking around the town square, which is surely a big plus for tourism.

Growing New Body Parts with Stem Cells

Growing New Body Parts with Stem Cells

This technology is still in its early stages, but it will soon change the medical field as we know it. Now, if you lose a limb or damage your liver, you don’t have to deal with being an amputee or waiting on the donor list. Regenerative medicine is taking off, with more than 100 scientists and doctors working with the USC Stem Cell initiative.

Clinical trials are currently underway and, if successful, will help treat cancer, spine injuries, vision problems, HIV, Alzheimer’s, ALS, and so much more. 

Zika Virus Linked to Birth Defects

Zika Virus Linked to Birth Defects

In 2016, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a report linking Zika to birth defects in babies. This report is the first instance of anyone reporting a drastic increase in birth defects linked to the Zika virus in the United States. Almost 1 million live births across 15 states and territories in the US were examined, with results showing that three out of every 1,000 babies born had a congenital disability linked to Zika.

This discovery was huge because it helped find a way to identify Zika faster, even if there are no symptoms, and treat it in better ways. It also led to a more organized medical record-keeping system, revolutionizing public health tracking methods. 

Artificial Wombs

Artificial Wombs

Premature births are the leading cause of death in newborns in developed countries. Before now, it was next to impossible to keep premature birth rates down, and caring for preemie infants is incredibly difficult.

Scientists and doctors from a variety of institutions, including the Center for Fetal Research, have been working on a system that addresses this concern, using oxygen, a man-made umbilical cord, and artificial amniotic fluid to replicate the womb. Fetal lambs have been successfully delivered with healthy vital signs using this system. 

Turning Carbon Emissions to Stone

Turning Carbon Emissions to Stone

The fight to reduce carbon emissions has taken off but still needs a lot of improvement. Finding ways to reduce emissions or filter them to decrease the harmful impact on the environment is more important than ever. Scientists say we are currently going through Earth’s sixth mass extinction, which means we are saying goodbye to so many species of animals that it could be humanity’s downfall. To save ourselves, we have to save the Earth.

Luckily, in a truly human style, scientists have discovered something to do with carbon that can also make money and keep you stylish. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found a new phase of carbon that allows them to create a diamond out of carbon. This process could be revolutionary for both electronics and reducing emissions. 

Cell Therapy for Cancer

Cell Therapy for Cancer

T-Cells are white blood cells that fight infection and are necessary for a healthy immune system and long life. These cells are incredibly hard to replicate in a lab setting because of how quickly they die outside of the body.

Bioengineers at UCLA have used a microfluidic system to create synthetic T-Cells, which mimic the shape, size, and function of T-Cells. The lab-created T-Cells successfully attacked infections and killed cancer cells, indicating that this technology will save millions of lives when it becomes available. 

Skinny Jeans Lead to Nerve Damage

Skinny Jeans Lead to Nerve Damage

You might be familiar with the phrase “beauty is pain,” but sometimes it really can be a health threat. If you’ve never thought about if the clothes you’re wearing cut off circulation, it could be surprising to learn that your outfit could permanently injure you.

Skinny jeans, in particular, press on many important nerves and blood vessels. Jeans that are too tight can lead to nerve damage from the excess pressure. This could cause permanent muscle damage, nerve issues, and even amputation. Now you have a scientific excuse to wear comfy, loose jeans!

Reusing Rockets and Rocket Parts

Reusing Rockets and Rocket Parts

In 2017, the SpaceX Falcon 9 unmanned rocket blasted off, heading to the International Space Station. That might not seem too amazing, at least until you learn that the Falcon is a recycled rocket. Reusability is the future of space travel, according to NASA.

With less money being spent on rocket launches, more can be used for developing new technology for space travel. In an industry ruled by money, NASA considers this advancement a huge milestone.

Bacon-Flavored Seaweed

Bacon-Flavored Seaweed

You might think genetically altered foods would be taboo with all the controversy surrounding GMOs, but here we are. Scientists have worked long and hard so that we can have bacon-flavored seaweed. The food is healthier for you than kale, looks like red lettuce, and tastes just like your favorite breakfast food.

This superfood is expected to be a huge hit in the mainstream market, so keep your eyes out for this in the produce section. Researchers at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center are to thank for this interesting discovery.

Confirmed Existence of Gravitational Waves

Confirmed Existence of Gravitational Waves

A little more than 100 years ago, in 1915, Albert Einstein made a major prediction that gravitational waves exist. These waves are ripples in the fabric, or plane, of space-time as the result of an extremely violent natural event across the universe. Physicists confirmed the existence of these waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory in Louisiana and Washington.

The waves were detected by measuring the tiny disturbances made in space and time as they pass through Earth. This discovery changed the way scientists thought about the Earth, the universe, and the laws of physics. Fittingly, this discovery was made on the 100th anniversary of Einstein releasing his general theory of relativity on September 14, 2015. 

Greenland Sharks Can Live for Hundreds of Years

Greenland Sharks Can Live for Hundreds of Years

Greenland sharks have been a hard species to learn about because of their preference for deep, dark water. It’s rare to see one alive, much less capture one, so the most common way scientists can get a specimen to study is when fishermen accidentally catch them in nets. By measuring the amounts and different types of carbon in a Greenland shark’s eye, scientists can measure their age.

After looking at many different sharks, the oldest one found was about 392 years old. Before now, the species thought to live the longest was the bowhead whale. By looking at the genetic makeup of these animals, this discovery could lead to medical treatments that allow humans to live longer.

More Than 200 New Species Found in the Himalayas

More Than 200 New Species Found in the Himalayas

In between 2009 and 2014, scientists from various organizations discovered 211 new species in the Eastern Himalayas. This is groundbreaking because that region is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth but is also one of the most fragile. Deforestation and pollution threaten the many different plants and animals that are native in the area.

Among the newly-found species were 133 plants, 39 invertebrates, and 26 fish. One of the weirdest things scientists found was the blue dwarf walking snakehead fish, which can breathe air and survive on land for up to four days.

Tattoo Removal Cream

Tattoo Removal Cream

We all know tattoos are permanent, but sometimes we still get ink done that we regret later in life. It happens to a lot of people, but many just deal with a bad tattoo instead of getting it covered up or removed. Covering up a tattoo is difficult and requires skill, so you would have to see a tattoo artist that specializes in cover-ups.

These can also be very painful, especially if there is any scarring from the old tattoo. Removing a tattoo is also quite painful, considering you have to undergo multiple laser treatments to fade the tattoo. A Ph.D. student in Nova Scotia invented a topical cream that kills the cells holding the tattoo color inside. This would make getting a tattoo removed so much cheaper and less painful.

Gene Editing

Gene Editing

Genome editing is used to change the DNA structure of plants, bacteria, and animals. Scientists hope to use this technology to help prevent diseases and disabilities in the womb. The process involves cutting DNA at a specific spot and then removing, adding, or replacing DNA where it was cut.

A form of genetic modification, called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR), could revolutionize the way we deal with and prevent diseases. Possible applications of the CRISPR technology include treatments for cystic fibrosis, HIV, cancer, and even mental illness like schizophrenia or depression. 

Evidence of Water on Mars

Evidence of Water on Mars

Scientists have been looking for evidence of liquid water—or signs that water was at one point—on Mars for many years now. The geography of the planet suggests that it used to have a lot of water, but there was no definitive proof—until July 2018. The Italian Space Agency announced that some of their researchers had located an underground lake on Mars using ground-penetrating radar.

This discovery could lead to evidence of living beings on Mars and also indicates that humans could live on Mars in the future.

3D Printed Body Parts

3D Printed Body Parts

The technology for 3D printing human tissue is still in clinical trials, but there has been some success with growing cells in the lab. Some procedures, such as for growing skin, involves harvesting cells from the patient to grow new ones. Others use microfluidics (controlling fluids that are in a very small space) to create the structure of the cell.

This could potentially treat a wide range of diseases and revolutionize the field for those in need of organs and other tissues, while simultaneously reducing the risk of rejection. 

Fossils of a New Human Ancestor

Fossils of a New Human Ancestor

Whether or not you believe in evolution, the current theory is that humans evolved from a line of ancestors. After splitting from apes and gorillas to walk on two legs, the evolutionary line went from Homo habilis to Homo erectus, in terms of our more human ancestors.

Recently, a group of scientists looking for fossils in a South African cave stumbled upon a new human ancestor, named Homo naledi. The fossils look a lot like modern humans but are different enough from our ancestors and us to be its own species. This discovery will force scientists to reconsider the current theories on evolution.

Growing Produce in Space

Growing Produce in Space

Even before the infamous space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, humans were fascinated by the idea of living on a different planet. Since then, we’ve managed to put men on the moon, establish an international space station (ISS), and even take a picture of a black hole. It was only a matter of time before scientists figured out how to grow food in the starry sky.

In the Road to a Mars Mission, astronauts living on the ISS grew the first crop of vegetable to be harvested in space. The crew ate half of the produce and sent the rest back to Earth to be studied. This discovery could lead to a sustainable way of life for those who wish to leave the planet.

(Image via Wikimedia)

Ocumetics Bionic Lens

Ocumetics Bionic Lens

Fixing vision problems can be expensive, painful, and temporary, which is why doctors and scientists are always working on ways to protect and improve vision. Sometimes glasses don’t cut it, contact lenses can be uncomfortable, and eye surgery is often unaffordable and even ineffective.

The Ocumetics Bionic Lens was developed by Dr. Garth Webb, an optometrist in British Columbia. The minimally-invasive surgery to put the lens in instantly gives patients perfect vision and only takes eight minutes. This discovery could easily change the lives of millions of people who have vision problems.

(Image via Wikimedia)

Male Birth Control Pill

Male Birth Control Pill

Birth control has a controversial history and remains a hot-button topic in many places. The importance of keeping birth control accessible can’t be stressed enough, but often, the expectation is that women should be responsible for having birth control.

In response to popular demand, scientists have been working on a male birth control pill. So far, the combination of two drugs, cyclosporine A and tacrolimus, work together to make sperm too weak to penetrate an egg. 

Nicotine-Free E-Cigs Still Cause Lung Damage

Nicotine-Free E-Cigs Still Cause Lung Damage

E-Cigarettes and vape pens came onto the market looking like a healthier option to cigarettes, or a helpful aid for quitting smoking. Everyone quickly discovered that these electronic smoking devices are no better than cigarettes; they just have more flavors and color options.

Researchers exposed both mouse and human cells to cigarette smoke and E-Cig vapor, finding that the nicotine-free E-Cig vapor was almost as harmful to lung cells as the cigarette. Even if you don’t have nicotine in your vape pen, those devices can still damage your lungs and lead to cancer.

HIV Vaccine

HIV Vaccine

HIV and AIDS have been at the forefront of media for many years, ever since the classification of the disease as a pandemic in 1981. Although many human rights activists and celebrities, including Princess Diana, worked to reduce the stigma surrounding people with the disease, those with HIV were looked at as social outcasts.

Since then, great strides have been made in the medical field that make it possible to live a good life with the disease. Recently, a team of researchers at Scripps Research Institute developed a new drug candidate that could work as a vaccine against HIV-1 and HIV-2.

NASA Confirms Space-Time Vortex

NASA Confirms Space-Time Vortex

As part of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, he stated that Earth is in a vortex of space-time. This means that time and space are tied together, forming a 4-D plane called “space-time.” Earth sits on this plane, bending and weighing it down. This causes a curve in the plane, which is what Einstein said caused gravity to pull things down.

After a large-scale space-time experiment using a gravity probe, NASA confirmed the existence of a space-time vortex that looks exactly like Einstein’s predictions. This discovery will change the way scientists look at the laws of physics. 

Tesla’s Solar Battery

Tesla’s Solar Battery

The invention of solar energy was revolutionary enough, but recent advancements have made the technology much cheaper and easier to produce. In 2015, the Tesla company announced a new solution for home energy that could revolutionize electricity use for average people.

The Powerwall Home Battery features a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can power an entire household off the grid. Soon, the local electric company is going to have to step up their game if they want to compete with cheap, clean energy.

Audi Creates E-Diesel

Audi Creates E-Diesel

Scientists have been exploring alternative fuel options for many years now but face a variety of problems with putting it on the market. German car maker Audi has made a new combustion engine fuel called “e-diesel,” which is made up of only water and carbon dioxide. In simple terms, the fuel is made by using electricity to cause a chemical reaction that produces a liquid fuel.

This e-diesel could have a huge impact on climate change since emissions from cars are a big contributor to the crisis. When you think about the possibility of cars being electric or running on an environmentally safe fuel, the future looks more hopeful for Mother Earth.

(SOPA Images/ LightRocket/ Getty Images)

Oldest Human Fossils Found in Ethiopia

Oldest Human Fossils Found in Ethiopia

If you liked the discovery about a new ancestor for humans, this one would make you happy, too. Researchers have uncovered fossils of the genus Homo, which includes us humans, that shows the Homo genus is at least 400,000 years older than anyone had originally thought.

The fossils were discovered in Ethiopia and includes a jawbone that’s been dated between 2.5 and 2.8 million years ago. This discovery will force scientists to reconsider the current ideas on how humans evolved from primates.