Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Science and Society / Direction materials
Ten science stories of 2017, which will seem fantastic
Material posted : Administrator Publication date: 27-12-2017

And now it is time to sit down, look back, take a deep breath and look at the headlines of scientific articles that we might otherwise miss. Scientists are constantly pleasing us with new developments in various fields. Nanotechnology, gene therapy, quantum physics is the sphere, which is impossible to watch without admiration. Gradually, the headlines are becoming more and more like a fantastic. Already can't wait to see what we will introduce in 2018. And yet...

Scientists have created a crystal time

According to the first law of thermodynamics, perpetual motion, working without any data loss or energy, is impossible. But earlier this year, physicists have created a structure — crystals of time — which has challenged this statement.

Crystals of time were the world's first examples of a new state of matter — "non-equilibrium" — in which atoms have variable temperatures and are never in thermal equilibrium with each other. Crystals of time have an atomic structure that repeats itself not only in space but also in time, allowing them to maintain constant fluctuations without energy. This happens even in the lowest energy state when motion is theoretically impossible, because it requires energy expenditure.

Break the crystals of time the laws of physics? Technically no. Conservation of energy can be defined only in systems with a symmetry of time, provided that the laws of physics are the same everywhere and always. And the crystals of time break this symmetry. However, they are not the first. Magnets are also often presented as natural, asymmetrical objects, because they have the North and South ends.

Another reason why crystals of time does not violate the laws of thermodynamics, is that they are not completely isolated. They need a little "push" from time to time — that is, to exert energy outside, so they started to switch their fortunes again and again. Possible future applications of crystals of time include the transfer and storage of information in quantum systems. They can play a crucial role in quantum computing.

The wings of dragonflies — "live"

Dictionary, Merriam-Webster defines "wing" as the movable feathered or membranous appendage used by birds, insects and bats to fly. He should not be alive, but entomologists from the University of Kiel in Germany, made a number of startling discoveries that indicate quite the opposite from dragonflies.

Insects breathe through the trachea. Air enters their body through the external openings called spiracles. Then passes through a complex network of tracheal tubes that deliver it to all body cells. The wings, however, is composed almost entirely of dead tissue, which dries and either becomes semi-transparent or covered with patterns of colour. Region of dead tissue is restricted to the veins, which remain the only components of the wing, which are part of the respiratory system.

However, when the entomologist Rainer Guillermo Ferreyra looked at the wing of the male dragonflies Zenithoptera through an electron microscope, he saw tiny branching tracheal tubes. This is the first such observation in the wing of an insect. You will need a lot of testing to determine a specific whether this physiological trait of this species, or common in dragonflies and other insects. It may even be a mutation that accidentally discovered in one individual, but experts doubt. The presence of an excess supply of oxygen may explain the bright and vibrant blue color, I found these dragonflies that do not contain blue pigment.

Ancient mite, blood-filled dinosaur

We found a lot of interesting things, sealed in amber, but finds this year might surpass them all. Scientists from Myanmar found pieces of amber, dated to 99 million years that contained parasites similar to modern mites. One of them became entangled in the feather of a dinosaur, the other two are found in the nests of the dinosaur, and the fourth was filled with blood.

Of course, it immediately led to thoughts about Jurassic Park, because we could use the blood to revive the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, in the near future this will not happen, because to extract DNA from these fossils in amber is almost impossible. The debate about how long can survive the DNA molecule has not yet reached consensus, but even the most optimistic estimates suggest several million years under ideal conditions.

Even if it won't bring back the dinosaurs, the tick Deinocroton draculi (which translates as "terrible mite Dracula") was an unusual finding, which has provided us with new information. Now we know not only that the ancient mites were biting feathered dinosaurs, but also that they were infected nest of dinosaurs.

A grown man went through the modification of genes

Today's top gene therapy presents CRISPR. This family of DNA sequences, which laid the Foundation for a technology called CRISPR/Cas9, which in theory could forever alter human DNA.

In 2017 this tool to edit the genes have made a step forward after the team from the Research center of Proteome in Beijing have announced that they have successfully used CRISPR/Cas9 to correct disease-causing mutations in viable human embryos. Another team from the London Institute Francis Crick went the opposite way and used technology to create deliberate mutations in the human embryos for the first time. (In particular, they "turned off" the gene, preventing the development of the embryo up to blastocyst).

This study showed that CRISPR/Cas9 works and is relatively simple. However, it has also caused an intense ethical debate about how far can the use of this technology. Theoretically, this could lead to "designer babies", which may be intellectual, athletic, and physical characteristics of their parents.

If we set aside ethics, in November of this year, there was another breakthrough: the CRISPR/Cas9 were first used in adult man. 44-year-old brad Mado from California suffers from hunter syndrome, an incurable disease that can eventually handcuffing him to a wheelchair. He had injected billions of copies of the corrective gene and used genetic tool for cutting DNA to insert genes and linkage. It may take several months before we will be able to determine if the procedure is successful or not.

Which came first: the sponge or ctenophore?

The new work of scientists, published this year, aims to once and for all to resolve long-standing disputes about the origin of animals. According to the study, sponges are "sisters" all the other animals in the world. This stems from the fact that sponges were the first group that stemmed from the evolutionary tree, which at that time contained only primitive common ancestor for all animals. It happened about 750 million years ago.

This is the history of heated debate boiled down to two candidates: the aforementioned sponges and marine invertebrates — comb jellies. While sponges are simple animals that sit on the bottom of the sea and filter the water and eat jellyfish is much more complicated. They look like jellyfish, can push themselves in the water to glow, and they have a simple nervous system. Find out who came first, also means to find out as it was our first common ancestor. This is an important step in tracing our evolution.

Although the study boldly States that the issue is resolved, just a few months before this was published another study in which the choice is made in favor of comb jellies. Doubts remain.

The raccoons took the test on ancient intelligence



Around the sixth century BC Greek storyteller Aesop wrote or assembled the collection of fables, known today as "Aesop's Fables". Among them were the fable "the Crow and the pitcher", which tells about the thirsty crow that drank from a jug, throwing stones at him, until the water level has not reached up to the top.

Several thousand years later, scientists realized that this story offers a great way to test animal intelligence. Such an experiment would show that the subject being aware of cause and effect. Crows, rooks and jays were successful in this experiment. The higher primates also passed the test, and this year the list was added another animal — a raccoon.

During the test, eight raccoons are faced with a cylinder in which floated a marshmallow. But he sailed too far to be able to get. Two raccoons decided to throw stones into the cylinder, thereby increasing the water level and having obtained the award.

Other subjects found their own creative solutions, which is not expected of the testers. Using his experience as a Ravager of garbage cans, one raccoon jumped on the cylinder and began to rock it from side to side, until she hit him. In another experiment, in which was floating and sinking balls instead of stones, scientists had hoped that raccoons will remove the floating balls and throw into the water drowning. Instead, some animals are repeatedly dipped the floating ball until the mini marshmallows from sticking to the cylinder wall or to the ball.

Physicists have created the first topological laser

Physics, University of California, San Diego claim to have created a new type of "topological" laser, which can take any form, like a snake coiling around the cavity without scattering the light. In the heart of the device is the concept of topological insulators (materials that conduct only at the surface, but are isolated in volume), which brought the creators a Nobel prize in physics in 2016.

Usually laser cavity, enhanced by light, has the shape of a ring. It is more effective than shapes with sharp angles between the rings are empty space. Scientists overcame this obstacle by creating a topological cavity using a photonic crystal as a mirror. In particular, they used two photonic crystals with different topologies, one of which was a star-shaped cell in a square lattice, and the other a triangular lattice of cylindrical air holes. Boubacar Kante, a member of the team of scientists compared them with a bagel and a pretzel: both bread products with holes, but a different number of holes gives them a characteristic form.

Once the crystals in place, and the interface adopts a desired shape, the system is enabled by activation of a magnetic field. It changes the direction in which light is emitted, that is, allows you to direct the flow of light. The first application was the deployment of a large number of lasers on the chip, whereby the need to increase the speed of optical communications. However, in the overall scheme of things it seems like a step towards optical computing.

Scientists stirred eksitony

Physicists around the world thrilled by discovery of a new form of matter — exitone. It is made of strange particles called "excitons," which are associated as a runaway electron and the hole from which he just escaped, drawn by a Coulomb force. Harvard physicist Bert Halperin suggested the existence of acetone in the 1960-ies, and since then scientists have tried to prove or disprove his assumptions.

As is the case with many great scientific discoveries, open exitone checked with care. Responsible for the discovery team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has actually developed a new method of spectroscopy, M-EELS especially for search excitons. However, their moment of triumph came when scientists conducted the calibration tests of its new method. One team member entered the room, everyone else was looking at the Board and said that only what is measured "soft plasmon", the predecessor of the exciton condensation.

Senior research Professor Peter Abbamonte compared this discovery with the Higgs boson, it will have no application in the real world, but it shows that our current understanding of quantum mechanics is extremely loyal.

Created nano-machines that kill cancer

Scientists from Durham University said that the created nano-machines capable of svalivaetsya in cancer cells and kill them in just 60 seconds. In a successful test conducted by the University, the tiny machine only for 1-3 minutes to penetrate through the outer membrane of cancerous prostate cells and destroy it.

These machines 50 000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. They are activated by light and rotate two to three million times per second, to be able to break through the cell walls. Reaching their goal, they either blow it or deliver precious cargo in the form of medicines.

While these machines were used on one cell type, but the results have encouraged scientists to move to micro-organisms and small fish. Then they move on to rodents and eventually to people.

Interstellar asteroid could be an alien space ship

It's only been a few months since, as astronomers have joyfully announced the opening of our first interstellar visitor, the asteroid called "Moimoi". Since then, they have seen a lot of strange in his behavior, and some even decided that he is not from our Solar system. What's more, it was so strange that it suspected alien spacecraft.

First of all — form. Moimoi has the shape of a cigar with a length-width ratio of 10:1, it's amazing. First, we decided that it was a comet, but when approaching the Sun, her tail began to melt, it became clear that it was not a comet. Some experts argue that the speed with which rotates the object, would have torn an ordinary asteroid. Looks like it was designed specifically for survival in interstellar travel.

If he could be of artificial origin? Some believe that it is a probe of aliens, a spaceship with a broken engine, which is drifting in space. SETI already pointed at the asteroid with their telescopes, so we'll know soon.

Ilya Hel


RELATED MATERIALS:Science and Society
Возрастное ограничение