Our world changes through science and culture. As time goes on, we learn things about ourselves and our world that can push us to bigger and better places.
The last 100 years have seen this accelerate to unseen paces.
We outline some of the most incredible scientific discoveries that are changing our planet for the better. In a few years from now, Earth might be unrecognizable – but progress always improves our lives for the better.
Let’s take a look at some of these discoveries.
The World’s Oldest Painting
In 2014, explorers came across a piece of artwork in the Sulawesi cave in Indonesia. At first, they believed it was around 35,000 years old. However, after additional testing and examinations, they deduced it was actually closer to 39,900 years old!
That difference was significant. This jump now makes it the second-oldest art structure in the world. The only other piece of art comes to around 41,000 years old in Spain. To date, no one is quite sure who painted the picture or what it means.
We’ve had decades of experience when it comes to transplanting hearts, livers, or kidneys. However, science has taken another leap in recent years and seen us transplant entire faces from one donor to one recipient.
The first successful face transplant took place in 2010 in Spain. In total, 30 doctors spent 24 hours performing the procedure which was ultimately deemed a success. However, there are still ethical questions about using someone else’s face for cosmetic reasons – at least for now.
Until now, we assumed that life only existed on Earth. Well, it seems like that might change in the next few decades as we explore more planets. NASA discovered TRAPPIST-1 – a solar system with seven planets that orbit their own special star.
What’s unique about this is how they seem to be located in what’s called ‘the Goldilocks Zone’. This means that they seem to carry some of the same properties that make Earth habitable. Who knows – maybe one day we will be able to travel there and see it for ourselves…?
Humans and Pigs Can Coexist!
We’ve briefly touched on how science has helped people with their organ transplants. However, there are still more than 114,000 patients in the USA who are on some kind of waiting list when waiting for a new organ.
Well, scientists have discovered how to merge humans and pigs together by using their organs as replacements. It’s not as weird as it sounds: we actually share a lot of our DNA with the animal and so it is fairly compatible with our bodies. Pig heart, anyone?
Manipulating Our Memories
We’ve all heard about the psychological phenomenon where humans can create their own memories through manipulation. But what about implanting false memories? Well, two neuroscientists found a way to insert artificial memories into mice in 2014.
They did this by ‘inserting’ the memory of being zapped when placed in a box. When the mouse was placed inside a box for the first time, it reacted negatively – as if to anticipate a shock. While it might treat Alzheimer’s or PTSD, it could also be used as torture which raises ethical questions.
There’s a form of hereditary blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis. It affects newborns or toddlers and can be destructive – until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) got involved! They found a way to help more than 13 out of 20 blind people – here’s how.
There is a therapy called Luxturna, which involves injecting a virus into the eye of the patient. As the eye fights against the virus, it also restores the blindness through promoting healthy proteins. After only a month, many people noticed improvements in their eyesight.
Computers That Think Like Humans
We’ve been edging toward this for a while now, and it seems like we might be approaching the era where computers and humans will become more similar than ever before. In 2014, scientists found that a computer chip could contain more than 5.4 billion transistors on the size of a postal stamp.
This is significant because it was just enough for the chip to mimic awareness and memory abilities similar to human brains. It could communicate with other people and even understand where it was. Spooky!
Accidentally Creating Doomsday
Not all science is good science! In 2011, researchers from the Netherlands created a virus that they admitted could cause a universal epidemic of bird flu. Initially, they wanted to share the information with the necessary people so that we knew how to best prepare and react to it.
However, the US government put a stop to it and begged the researchers to keep their findings a secret. In their attempt to create a vaccine, they accidentally made something more dangerous. Imagine if bioterrorists got their hands on it?
No more Captain Hook! Pierpaolo Petruzziello once lost his arm in a car crash, but his life would change for the better in 2009. Scientists had found a way to successfully attach a robotic arm that was made with biomechanical technology.
What does that mean? Well, simply put it means that Pierpaolo could now control his arm using his own mind. There are countless benefits to this for those who are living with inanimate prosthetic limbs on their bodies.
We Almost All Died. Seriously.
In July 2019, the science community almost froze in their tracks when they looked through their telescopes. Researchers saw that there was an asteroid coming straight towards Earth! At the time, they thought there were only a few days before having a direct impact with Earth. What would happen?
Well, it turned out that nothing would happen. The asteroid, named Asteroid 2019, missed Earth by around 43,500 miles. That might sound like a lot, but space is pretty large it was a relatively close call.
Robots Inspired By Termites
When it comes to building infrastructure, you probably imagine men at work with hard hats and machines. Well, that might be about to change! Developers at Harvard University have created new autonomous robots that can operate and build on their own.
This will reduce costs and improve safety for all new projects, making them all more effective in the future. The robots work together to navigate the climate and environment to complete the tasks as quickly and carefully as possible.
Of course, any time something is invented for good it can be weaponized for the bad. Well, we can see that here with these special robotic insects. Are you surprised to know that governments around the world are working on tools like this?
The USA, China, and Russia have all invested billions of dollars in research into nano-weapons. Think of the consequences: they could poison towns and villages, drill into heads of citizens, or gas entire communities. Basically, they could destroy humanity as we know it.
Expanding Stem Cell Research
Stem cell research has been around for a few decades but has often hit political and ethical roadblocks. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can turn into anything if placed in the right part of the body at the right time.
This means that they could be used to grow more organs, repair nerve damage, or remove diseases. While the research has occasionally been stifled, it is speeding up again and ready to transform how we cure people young and old.
The Latest Continuent
We all think there are only seven continents. Well, science might have a different answer – depending on what you believe. The story of Atlantis and the hidden underwater city is a myth, but it IS based on real scientific facts and evidence.
About 50-60 million years ago, there was a whole part of Australia that broke away from the mainland and sank to the bottom of the ocean. Today, scientists have called this part of the region Zealandia. It rests entirely underwater beneath New Zealand.
Rockets To Reuse
You’ve probably heard of Elon Musk and his efforts to transform space travel through his company, SpaceX. In 2018, he launched a rocket into the solar system which is still going strong today – but what is it doing?
Well, one of their major projects at the company is the concept of reusable rockets. This means that astronauts can save millions of dollars by safely landing rockets into the sea after take-off to use on more spaceships. He aims for each rocket to be used at least 10 times.
Real World Kryptonite
Who needs to fly to Krypton when we have our own Kryptonite on Earth? Ok, so it isn’t actually the Superman-repellent we read about in the comics, but it’s pretty close! Explorers in Serbia found this bizarre crystal in Serbia and couldn’t work out what it was so they sent it to a mineral specialist.
He deduced that it was sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide. While he couldn’t find anything similar to it in his research, he realized it DID match the same qualities as mentioned in the famous DC comic book.
Supermassive Black Hole
If you thought our sun was big, then you might want to think again! Scientists recently discovered the notable SDSS J0100+2802. This catchy name was given to the biggest and brightest black hole ever discovered. How big is big?
Well, it turns out that the black hole is 12 billion times bigger than our sun. In fact, it’s as bright as 420 trillion of our suns. These are numbers we can’t even fathom in our heads! While scientists are still learning more about the hole, no one knows how it grew as big as it is.
Communicating with Space
Way back in 2007, scientists heard a strange noise coming from space. These radio bursts were coming from an estimated 8 billion lightyears away – quite the distance! Even though 12 years have passed, we still don’t know what happened or where it came from.
Could it have been a collapsing black hole or a message from aliens? Today, no one has managed to repeat the event or even explain it. It’s likely that the event came from a distant galaxy.
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