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Top 10 Scientific Discoveries


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									Top 10 Scientific Discoveries OF 2008

   Li Zhengxin
   School of MSE of HAUT
1. Large Hadron Collider
   Good news! The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — the massive
    particle accelerator straddling the Swiss-French border — didn't
    destroy the world! The bad news: The contraption didn't really
    work either. In September, the 17-mile collider was switched on
    for the first time, putting to rest the febrile webchatter that the
    machine would create an artificial black hole capable of swallowing
    the planet or at least a sizeable piece of Europe — a bad day no
    matter what. No lucid observer ever thought that would really
    happen, but what they did expect was that the LHC would operate
    as advertised, recreating conditions not seen since instants after
    the Big Bang and giving physicists a peek into those long-vanished
    moments. Things looked good at first, until a helium leak caused
    the collider to shut down after less than two weeks. Repairs are
    underway and the particles should begin spinning again sometime
    in June.
    Read more:
2. The North Pole — of Mars
 For all the times robot probes have orbited or landed
  on Mars, none had ever visited its polar region —
  where the greatest concentrations of ice and water
  (and arguably the most evidence of life) are to be
  found. That changed in May when NASA's Phoenix
  lander touched down in Mars's far north and began
  scraping, sampling and sniffing its surroundings.
  Phoenix found nothing that yet changes the picture of
  Mars as a dead world, but it reinforced the planet's
  image as a once-wet place that could have teemed
  with organisms. The ship was not expected to survive
  the punishing climate for long and in November, the
  encroaching darkness and cold of the Martian winter
  silenced it for good.
3. Creating Life
 Living things don't get a whole lot humbler than a
  bacterium, with its few hundred thousand genetic
  base pairs and its stripped-down physical design. Still,
  you try inventing one. That's what geneticist J. Craig
  Venter — one of the two men credited with mapping
  the human genome — managed to do. Venter stitched
  together the 582,000 base pairs necessary to invent
  the genetic information for a whole new bacterium.
  Step two is to boot up that DNA programming in a
  living bacterium to see if it takes charge of the
  organism. That's next on Venter's agenda — and he
  has little doubt it will work. As any software designer
  will tell you, once you know how to write the code,
  you can make it do almost anything.
4. China Soars into Space
 China put astronauts in orbit. So what, right? The U.S.
  has been doing it since 1962. Here's what: The
  Chinese launched their first manned mission in 2003,
  their second in 2005 and their third this year. They
  began with a one-person ship, then a two-seater,
  then a three-man version, and during that last
  mission they completed a successful spacewalk. By all
  spacefaring measures, that's impressive — going from
  a standing start to a sprint in five years. What's more,
  China's unmanned Chang'e spacecraft is currently
  orbiting the moon and Beijing wants to have humans
  on the lunar surface by 2020. Think it can't pull off
  something that big? Then you didn't see the Olympics.
5. More Gorillas in the Mist
 A rare bit of good news for the beloved — and
  beleaguered — western lowland gorilla: New surveys
  this summer by the Wildlife Conservation Society put
  the species' numbers far higher than scientists had
  thought. The forests and swamps of the northern
  Republic of Congo are now thought to be home to
  125,000 gorillas, or up to twice the previous
  estimates. But the Brave New Worlds as so often
                       good news was,
  happens, followed by bad. War in the neighboring
  Democratic Republic of Congo has spilled into the
  Virunga National Park there, threatening the tiny and
  far more fragile population of 350 or so mountain
  gorillas — half of the world's total.
6. Brave New Worlds
   It's getting crowded out there. Scientists have always been certain
    that the universe was aswarm with planets orbiting stars other
    than our own little sun, but it wasn't until 1995 that they started
    to find these so-called exoplanets. Most of them were huge worlds
    lying too close to their parent stars to harbor life. In June, Swiss
    astronomer Michel Mayor found 45 much smaller worlds, one only
    4.2 times as big as Earth. All of them inscribe small, scorchingly
    hot orbits too, but Mayor's instruments — which detect planets by
    the gravitational wobbles they cause their suns — should be
    sensitive enough to find ones with larger orbits that place them
    out in cooler, arguably habitable regions. In November, two teams
    of astronomers from the U.S. and Canada got four exoplanets to
    sit still for their photographs, producing the first ever images of
    alien worlds in visible and ultraviolet light.
    Read more:
7. The Power of Invisibility
 Berkeley, Calif., did nothing to change its rep as one
  of America's flakier places when scientists on the local
  campus of the University of California announced
  they'd invented an invisibility cloak. But it was hard
  physics and complex optics at work, not something
  illegal or brain-altering. Using nanowires grown inside
  a porous aluminum tube to create a sheeting 10 times
  thinner than a pieceCenozoic Park? proved that they
                          of paper, they
  could wrap an object in the material and bend light
  waves around it, making it effectively invisible. All of
  the usual caveats apply: the process is experimental,
  the cloaking is fantastically fragile, the costs would be
  prohibitive for anything remotely approaching
  practical use. Still, we now live in a world in which
  invisibility is a possibility. That's a good thing, right?
8. Cenozoic Park?
 It's not often that a hairball makes headlines. But
  that's what happened this November, when Penn
  State biochemistry professor Stevan Schuster
  announced that he had reconstructed 80% of the
  genome of the long extinct woolly mammoth, using
  clumps of hair from the remains of several of the
  giant critters. The job involved not just piecing
  together more than 3 billion DNA sequences, but
  making sure none of the material that was used came
  from bacteria or other organisms clinging to the fur.
  The work raises the inevitable Jurassic Park question
  and the answer is, no, we won't see wooly mammoth–
  populated theme parks any time soon. But the key
  word is soon. Stephan doesn't rule out the possibility
9. Can You Spell Science?
   Think Americans haven't gotten smarter? Think again.
    Between 1979 and 2006, the percentage of scientifically
    literate adults doubled — to 17%. This year, a survey by a
    professor of political science at the University of Michigan
    found that that dismal showing may have improved, but
    only a little. Currently, 25% of the population of the U.S. —
    the country that invented the airplane and the light bulb
    and landed men on the moon, remember — qualify as "civic
    scientifically literate." In practical terms says the
    investigator, that means that only one in four adults can
    read and understand the stories in the weekly science
    section of The New York Times. And this comes at a time
    when the U.S. electorate is being asked to grapple with —
    and reach informed consensus about — such complex
    questions as global warming and stem cell research.
    Meantime, in November, Beijing announced a new high in
    scientific literacy scores for the Chinese. So let's at least
    raise a glass to China. It's somewhere in Europe, right?
10. First Family
   Americans may boast of family values, but they've got
    nothing on the folks of Saxony-Anhalt in central Germany.
    That's the home region of what might be the most
    traditional — or at least the oldest — nuclear family ever
    uncovered. Researchers there excavated 4,600-year-old
    graves of a group of Stone-Agers who appeared to have
    been killed together in a raid — judging from the defensive
    wounds many of them bore and the projectile point
    embedded in the vertebra of one female. Among the
    remains was a foursome interred together — an adult male
    and female and two boys, one of them 8 to 9 years old, the
    other 4 to 5. Analyzing molecular DNA evidence, the
    investigators confirmed what the tableau suggested: This
    was a family. Certainly this is not the oldest one that ever
    existed, but merely the oldest ever unearthed. Still, for now
    it is, to scientists at least, the true First Family.

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