The world of science and technology is ever-evolving. As we are heading towards the mid of the 21st century, here are the top 10 discoveries of the decade that will help us come up with futuristic technology and solutions to radically expand the modern world.
What would life be without antibiotics, electricity, phones, and modern computers?
It would not be incorrect to say that the prospect of scientific discoveries and inventions is endless. Given that the true nature of the universe is limitless and infinite; the Homo sapiens intellect is yet to unravel innumerable mysteries and acquire quintessential comprehension of the universe.
Scientific revolutions have been an integral part of human evolution. It was in the Bronze Age when the units of measurement came into existence brought about by major civilizations at that point time. To date, millions of scientific research have witnessed the dawn of light. Several science research papers are published every year transforming our perspective and adding more meaning to our very existence.
Here is a compilation of the top 10 discoveries of the decade that have the potential to revolutionize the future.
Game-Changing Discoveries Of The Decade
Though each new discovery has its own significance and not one can be compared to another, here is a curated list of the top 10 discoveries of the decade.
- First synthetic genome created in 2010
Image Credit: Science.Org
At the beginning of the previous decade, scientists achieved a new milestone in the history of scientific discoveries by creating the first life form with a synthetic genome.
Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute in the U.S. synthesized the genome of the Mycoplasma mycoides bacterium. The team of scientists stitched together the synthetic donor genome and cloned it within a yeast cell. Followed by this, they transplanted it into the cell of Mycoplasma capricolum.
The newly formed synthetic cell when underwent cell division showed to contain proteins from M. mycoides alone.
- Preventive Treatment For HIV Discovered In 2011
Image Credit: Verywell Health
The HPTN 052 study is a landmark study proving that early administration of ART could successfully prevent HIV-1 transmission in serodiscordant couples. The Phase III trials were conducted in 2011 among 1,763 serodiscordant couples at 13 sites in nine nations where one person was infected and the other wasn’t.
An interim review of the data obtained from the HPTN 052 study reflected that early antiretroviral therapy to the HIV-1 infected patient could reduce the HIV transmission to the uninfected partner by 96%. Transmission from the HIV-infected participant didn’t occur to their partners when the viral replication in the individual was suppressed by ART.
Based on this breakthrough finding, the WHO approved and recommended ART treatment for all HIV-positive individuals to reduce and prevent transmission to uninfected partners in 2013.
The final results obtained in 2015 showed that HIV transmission was reduced by 93% for couples who had been subjected to early ART treatment instead of delayed administration.
- The Curiosity Rover Lands On Mars In 2012
Image Credit: The Verge
On the evening of August 5, 2012, the Curiosity rover landed on Mar’s Gale Crater. The Mars Science Laboratory Mission’s Curiosity rover was entrusted with the task of determining the presence of microbial life forms on Mars. The rover has 17 cameras, a robotic arm, and several lab tools, and equipment.
So far, it has completed 9 years and 7 months on Mars. Besides finding evidence for the presence of microbial life and Mar’s past environmental conditions, the mobile laboratory is also enabled to study the geology of the crater by analyzing rock samples.
The plutonium-powered rover is also capable of detecting the radiation of Mar’s environment with the aid of the Radiation Assessment Detector. It has also successfully collected data on Mars’ atmospheric events. Besides this, it has captured photos of two solar eclipses caused by Mar’s two moons – Phobos & Deimos.
- Discovery Of The God Particle In 2012
Image Credit: The Verge
The evidence for the existence of the Higgs Boson, often referred to as the “God Particle” was unraveled in 2012 with the help of the ATLAS and CMS experiments conducted at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
The Standard Model of Particle Physics suggests that the Higgs Boson is an elementary particle that is produced when the Higgs Field undergoes quantum excitation. As per the proposed Higgs Mechanism, by Peter Higgs and five other scientists from three distinct teams in 1964, some particles can break away from the weak isospin symmetry of the electroweak interaction. This causes them to gain mass.
Physicists have long searched for this subatomic particle’s existence. Although the Higgs Field exists everywhere, it has taken 40 years for the scientific community to prove it. This is because to produce it, a large amount of energy is needed that was only made possible by the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle collider.
Further, in March 2013, the discovery was peer-reviewed and its existence was ultimately confirmed. In 2018, more evidence suggested that the sub-atomic particle continued exhibiting the same behavior as predicted by the Standard Model. Currently, more data is being evaluated to understand the nature and properties of the Higgs Field.
- Advancement In Cancer Treatment Achieved With Immunotherapy In 2013
Image Credit: ESICM
Use of immunotherapy in cancer treatment is another landmark achievement worth mentioning among the top 10 discoveries of the decade. In 2013, scientists took great strides when they tried the approach of using immunotherapy to treat cancers, thus opening new doors of hope for cancer patients. Immunotherapy is a biological therapy that empowers the immune system to fight cancerous cells and tumors.
Sometimes immune cells called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes or TILs are found in and around tumors, trying to fight and destroy them. Thus, several types of immunotherapy to treat cancers include T cell transfer therapy, immune checkpoint inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, and immune system modulators.
- Genetic Engineering Revolutionized In 2015
Image Credit: Explore Biotech
Gene editing achieved a new milestone when Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats or CRISPR-Cas9 technology was launched in 2015. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, pioneers of the CRISPR gene-editing technology were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.
This system is naturally observed as a defense mechanism in some bacteria. It comprises a series of repetitive gene sequences bound to the Cas9 enzyme which can snip certain gene sequences and replace them with pieces of other DNA.
Thus, with the help of this technology, scientists have been able to genetically engineer crops, insects, and even humans.
Hence it has paved the way for treating genetic diseases. Not only this, but in 2015, scientists at the Sun Yat-sen University of China attempted to make genetic modifications to human embryos with CRISPR. Though the procedure did not succeed completely, three years later, another Chinese scientist, Jiankui He, edited the genomes of two embryos and implanted them in the mother via IVF. The gene-edited by him is CCR5 which was aimed at making the twin girls less susceptible to contracting HIV. Thus, twin girls are the world’s first CRISPR babies.
- The Existence Of Gravitational Waves Confirmed In 2016
Image Credit: NASA Space Place
Albert Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916. As per the general theory of relativity, gravity is the result of distortions caused by a mass in space-time. The first indirect observation of gravitational waves was made in 1974 when the motion of a double neutron star system was studied by Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor. They also bagged the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for this work.
However, its direct observation always remained a challenge until 2015. In 2016, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and the Virgo Interferometer collaborated to detect the gravitational waveform. The first event, GW150914, was detected in Washington and Louisiana, the USA on 14 September 2015.
In 2016 and 2017, two and eight more gravitational waves observations were made respectively. The gravitational waves from some of the most energetic Universal events such as black holes collision, neutron star mergers, and the explosion of stars are detected by the LIGO.
- Unit Of Mass Redefined In 2018
Image Credit: National Research Council Canada
Scientists from all around the world in November 2018 agreed to change the definition of the fundamental unit of mass – kilogram. Earlier, the kilogram was represented in the form of an object and defined as the mass of the platinum-iridium alloy cylinder about the size of a golf ball.
However, now the last physical artifact is replaced by Planck’s constant to define the unit of mass. Scientists used a modern weighing machine, known as the Kibble balance to redefine the kilogram. They did this by measuring the electromagnetic force needed to hold the Kibble balance in place. Further, they expressed the electromagnetic force in terms of Planck’s constant.
Besides this, three more SI base units of the International System of Quantities were redefined by replacing the physical objects used as standards to measure & define them with natural physical constants. These changes became effective on 20th May 2019, on the 144th anniversary of the Metre Convention. Ampere (SI unit of electricity), Kelvin (unit of temperature), and Mole (unit of amount of substance in chemistry) are now expressed in terms of the elementary electric charge (e), the Boltzmann constant (kB), and the Avogadro constant (NA) respectively.
- The EHT Captures The First Image Of A Black Hole In 2019
Image Credit: Science News for Students
When it comes to discussing the top 10 discoveries of the decade, we certainly cannot leave this one out. The Event Horizon Telescope produced the first-ever image of a black hole in 2019. This black hole is located at the center of the M87 galaxy which is 55 million light-years away from Earth.
The Event Horizon Telescope showed the black hole in polarized light and revealed how magnetic fields act around black holes. The black hole’s ring appears magnetized as observed with the help of polarization.
To take the image of the black hole, eight powerful telescopes were used from all over the world. This helped to create a virtual EHT. Another important aspect that scientists could study through this image is the way the object’s accretion disk interacts with it.
- WHO Approved The World’s First Malaria Vaccine By GSK In 2019
Image Credit: Everyday Health
In another groundbreaking research, Dr. Joe Cohen and the team at GSK, discovered the world’s first malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S in 1996. Dealing with malaria had always posed a challenge because of the ability of the plasmodium falciparum parasite to escape the immune responses of the human host. The research conducted in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington DC showed promise and further paved the way for multiple trials over the next two decades in sub-Saharan Africa.
In a pilot project in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, the RTS, S/AS01 malaria vaccine reached almost 900,000 children in 2019. Based on the results of the pilot program, the World Health Organization recommended vaccination with this agent to prevent P. falciparum malaria among children living in malaria-prone regions.
To date, about 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered in 3 African countries.
With this, we come to the end of the blog “top 10 discoveries of the decade” that have opened new doors for human civilization be it in the field of space, medicine, chemistry, or physics. At this point, Edward Teller’s words ring a bell; “The science of today is the technology of tomorrow.” Thus, the more scientific research unravels, the farther it propels us to comprehend our vast universe and achieve newer milestones.