We are living in the age of incredible scientific advancements with mind-bending discoveries being made each year. The last decade has been generous and we’ve seen scientists make remarkable progress in exploring the human body, our planet’s deepest secrets, and the limitless mysteries of the outer space. Breakthroughs are coming one after the other in all fields from genetics and DNA-altering to astrophysics and space travel. Here are 9 greatest scientific discoveries of the last decade.
Thousands of exoplanets
We’ve always been fascinated by Earth-like worlds, that’s why humanity has been starting at the night sky since the dawn of times, wondering if we were alone in this vast and dark space. The whole last decade, from 2009 and till 2018 NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has been doing the same, looking for planets similar to Earth. It has found the first ever exoplanet, while its successor TESS has already given us 38 Earth-like worlds to explore. On the ground researchers found TRAPPIST-1, a star system with seven exoplanets similar to Earth that could be harbouring life!
We’ve learned to modify our DNA
It turns out some bacteria use a natural tool called the Crispr-Cas9 system to fight off viruses by storing bits and pieces of their DNA and then shredding them to pieces when they encounter similar ones. In 2012, researchers thought they could use the same system to alter human DNA – and it worked! Now we are able to cut DNA and alter it as we like. While the whole world was toying with the idea and the possibilities it gave us, a Chinese researcher He Jiankui started human trials – he altered the DNA of two girls who were born in 2018 with actually edited DNA. This sparked a number of ethical questions about the use of Crispr, especially on humans.
Exploring the space as never before
Gaia, a spacecraft launched by the European Space Agency, has been collecting distance and velocity info for millions of stars in our galaxy since 2013. The data it received was groundbreaking, which was only reinforced by the Planck satellite’s measurements of the earlier days of Universe – its ingredients, structure, and rate of expansion can’t be explained by modern physics! To make matters even more mysterious, in 2019 the Event Horizon Telescope made the first ever photo of a black hole!
The ‘heart’ of Pluto
Back in 2015, we’ve received the first ever detailed image of Pluto and it’s incredible surface made by NASA’s probe New Horizons and its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). Apart from seeing Pluto so close for the first time and the heart-shaped formations on its surface, New Horizons also made a few shots flying by Arrokoth, a mysterious icy body left from the days of Solar System’s childhood.
Rewriting ancient history
This decade has granted us many finds that changed many of the so-called prehistoric ‘facts’. In 2010, researchers revealed the first ever actual full-body reconstruction of a dinosaur. More discoveries based on fossilized remains were made in the upcoming years – it appears dinosaurs had feathers as a way to camouflage themselves. They ranged from black ones to bright blue and even rainbow-coloured ones!
Water on Mars is no longer a myth
After a 3-year-long research, in 2018, Italian scientists came to the conclusion that it’s likely Mars has a huge body of water hiding at its polar ice cap. Apart from this 20-kilometer-wide lake, researchers explore the seasonal flow patterns in the craters of Mars, believing they can be explained by a massive underground body of water around 1 km below the planet’s surface.
The first ever lab-grown hamburger
Year 2013 was the year when scientists presented the first ever hamburger that was fully grown inside a laboratory. Back then it cost $325,000 and took two years to execute. The burger consisted of 20,000 strips of cow’s muscle that were fully grown in a laboratory in Netherlands. Since then the process has become faster and cheaper – now you can by artificially grown meat around $37 per pound.
We’ve gone all Interstellar
For the first time in human history our space probes – Voyager 1 and later Voyager 2 – crossed the outer boundary of our Solar System’s heliosphere. Apart from the mind-boggling data received from those two, another discovery has been made in 2017 – an object astronomers called Oumuamua that didn’t form in our star system and just happened to fly into ours. Another intruder, a comet from the outer space, was found by astronomer Gendady Borisov.
Mind-boggling space drama
For the first time in space history researchers detected the gravitational waves that were predicted by Einstein back in 1915. He thought they’d be too weak to be detected on Earth, but the new gravitational wave detectors proved otherwise. A catastrophic collision of two black holes created such powerful ripples in the fabric of time and space that it was impossible to ignore them! Another collision was found by astrophysicists in 2017 – two neutron stars merged together, releasing a frightening amount of energy and creating $100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 worth of gold!