December is here; it’s the season of good will and a perfect time to reflect on the year so far. Well, all things considered, 2016 has been an undeniable big ol’ pile of shi… faecal matter. However, do not fear, the Science section of the Gryphon are here to cheer you up with some positives from this year. Here’s our definitive countdown of 2016’s top five scientific breakthroughs!
5 – SpaceX nailed that landing
As this is a countdown, where better to start than a rocket-based breakthrough. Private space company SpaceX have managed to launch and, more importantly, land its Falcon 9 rocket on numerous occasions during 2016. Not only is this the perfect example of engineering excellence, it represents a giant leap for mankind in achieving affordable space travel. To read more, click here.
4 – That computer’s got game
I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords… Ok, that may be jumping the gun a little however 2016 marks the year that a computer first beat an elite professional at the ancient strategic board game, Go. That’s right, the artificial intelligence of AlphaGo out-thought and convincingly beat Fan Hui – the reigning three-time European champion and confirmed human. To read more, click here.
3 – An Ape-titude for mindreading
This may sound like a classic case of ‘monkeying around’, however researchers have managed to display the existence of ‘theory of mind’ in chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans. With the help of a man in an ape suits (seriously), the research published this year shows that humans are not the only species to have the key cognitive skill of attributing “false belief”. To read more, click here.
2 – Scientists crack fertility treatments
As scientific breakthroughs go this is a whopper, matched only by the size of its consequent ethical quandary. Scientists from Tokyo University of Agriculture have managed to birth mice from eggs created in a dish, without using a live mammal. You read that correctly, using just skin cells and in vitro fertilization techniques a total of 26 healthy mice were successfully born. Ethical debates are set to begin on the potential for producing human eggs and, more importantly, what to do with all these bloody mice…To read more, click here.
1 – Einstein’s mind: an ocean of gravitational waves
That Albert was a clever fella. So clever that this year, more than 60 years after his death, he’s managed to steal the scientific breakthrough limelight. Physicists at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory managed to confirm the existence of gravitational waves, caused by black holes colliding with one another. Following Einstein’s initial prediction, it only took one hundred years to make the historic observation. I thought German’s were supposed to be punctual? To read more, click here.
And that’s it for 2016, blast off. Whatever faecal matter is brought with 2017, take comfort that there will also surely be a whole host of scientific ‘good-news’ stories to cheer you up to.
(Image courtesy of R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)