Year in Review: Scientific Breakthroughs of 2014

top science stories of 2014

The Major scientific breakthroughs of 2014 came in with a big bang. Some of the greatest and mind boggling scientific discoveries of all time were made this year. A deadly infection, a comet success, birth of a child to a woman with a transplanted womb, and the discovery of a first earth-sized habitable zone planet– these and other events highlighted the year in science and technology.

In the animal kingdom, it is found that monkeys can do math, and medical scientists have restored the sense of touch for an amputee and new drug to treat the cancer is developed.

There were many developments in the year that will have long-lasting and far-reaching, practical and intellectual implications.  We have shortlisted some of the major scientific accomplishments of 2014.

 Science faces the deadly Ebola epidemic

ebola virus image

Although Ebola has been recognized as a dangerous pathogen, in the past it mainly caused rural outbreak that fizzled out on their own. In 2014, arising at a crossroads of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the deadly outbreak jumped from the remote region to North America and Europe. As of December, the epidemic had claimed 6, 346 lives and at least infected 17,834 people – more than all previous outbreaks over 38 years. 35 percent of the infected people have died roughly.

Ebola is a fearsome hemorrhagic virus, which spreads through the bodily fluids contact. The illness shows up as high fever, headache, weakness and vomiting, which is caused by leakage from blood vessels. Patients may lose more than five liters of fluids a day because of severe internal bleeding.

There are many major developments in the R&D pipeline for Ebola diagnostics, drugs and vaccines. The development of an effective anti-Ebola agent to protect against the potential bio-terror exposures and natural outbreaks is an urgent need of the global health.

 

 The first Habitable Earth-sized planet discovered

earth sized planet

Scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, in April. This is the faraway planet that’s perhaps the most earth-like planet yet discovered. The size of this planet is same as our home world, and at the right distance from its parent star which is suitable to have liquid water. This discovery confirms that Earth-sized planets exist in the habitable zone of other stars and this is a significant step closer to finding a world similar to our earth.

Kepler-186f is known to be less than ten percent larger than earth, but its composition, mass and density are not known. This planet orbits its star once every 130 days and receives one-third the energy what earth is getting from sun. This criteria places the planet near the outer edge of the habitable zone.

Kepler-186f resides in the Kepler-186 system about 500 light-years from earth in the Cygnus constellation.

 

Brain-to-Brain verbal communication in humans achieved for the first time

b2b

A team of researchers have successfully achieved brain-to-brain human communication across a distance of 5,000 miles using non-invasive technologies.

New research from the University of Southampton as demonstrated that communication from person to person through the power of thought is possible- with the help of a computer, electrodes and internet connection.

Brain-Computer Interfacing (BCI) can be used to capture the brain signals and this can be translated into commands that allow humans to control the devices such as robots, computers, virtual reality environments and rehabilitation technology.

The aim of the experiment and research was to expand the current limits of this technology and show that brain-to-brain (B2B) communication is possible.

The World’s First Birth from a donated Womb

baby from a donated womb

For the first time ever, in late September, a baby was born to a woman after she received womb transplant. This new mile stone in the field of medicine offer hope to women all over the world with non-functioning or missing uterus, to have their own children.

The unidentified 36-year old woman who had a congenital disorder which is known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser – or MRKH –syndrome, i.e., born without a womb received womb from a 61-year-old “family friend” who had undergone menopause 7-years prior to this surgery.

The reproductive technique pioneered at the Gothenburg University offer hope to women who lose their womb due to cancer or any other disease, or born without a womb, or have complications from a previous birth.

Scientists discover to turn light into matter after a quest of 80 years

light to matter

Imperial physicists have made a remarkable discovery to create matter from light. This is a feat thought impossible when this idea was theorized first 80 years ago by scientists Breit and Wheeler in 1934.

Breit and Wheeler suggested that it should be possible to smash together only two particles of light(photons) together, to create an electron and a positron – this is the ever predicted simplest method of turning light into matter.

The calculation was found to be theoretically sound but Breit and Wheeler said that they never expected anybody to demonstrate their prediction physically.

The new research, published in Nature Photonics, for the first time shows how Breit and Wheeler’s theory could be proven in practice. The ‘photon-photon collider’, would convert light into matter directly using the technology that is already available. This would be a new type of high-energy physics experiment. This experiment would recreate the process which was important in the first 100 seconds of the universe creation and is also seen in gamma ray bursts. This is considered as the biggest explosions in the universe and also greatest unsolved mysteries of physics.

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