Friday, December 17, 2004

Top 10 science discoveries of 2004

From Science Magazine

1. The Mars rovers' discovery that the planet was once wet enough to possibly harbour life. Inanimate, wheeled, one-armed boxes roaming another planet have done something no human has ever managed. They have discovered another place in the universe where life could once have existed.

2. "The Littlest Human," the discovery of the Flores man on an Indonesian island. Fossils show the tiny folks once stood less than one metre tall and had brains less than a third the size of ours.

3. "Clone Wars," the cloning of human embryos by South Korean researcher Woo San Hwang and his colleagues. The team aimed to show cloning techniques could work to make human embryonic stem cells for research purpose, not to copy humans.

4. Deja Condensates – U.S. and Austrian scientists created a new form of condensate, an ultracold gas in which a group of atoms can act like a superatom. The discovery may shed light on how electrons act in complex materials.

5. Hidden DNA Treasures – Biologists discover "junk DNA" between known genes play an important role in causing genes to turn at at the right time and right place.

6. Prized Pulsar Pair – Astrophysicsts find spinning neutron stars locked in each other's orbit, spewing radiation. The superstrong gravity of a neutron star or black hole could reveal any potential glitches in Einstein's general theory or relativity.

7. Documenting Diversity Declines – Conservationists report about 30 per cent of the world's amphibians are at risk of extinction. Likewise, many butterflies, plants and birds in the United Kingdom are disappearing.

8. Splish, splash – New discoveries about how water molecules bind together and how electrons and protons dissolve in the liquid.

9. Healthy Partnerships – "Public-private partnerships" are changing the way drugs are developed, tested and distributed to the world's poorest people. The partnerships are tackling diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.

10. Genes, Genes Everywhere – Researchers find a way to identify genes in ocean water or specimens from deep underground.

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