December 29, 2013 5:05:07 am
Some time in the recent past,technology became far more marketable than science. However,2013 showed us that theres still a phenomenal level of interest in science. The most popular example of this was the huge public interest in NASAs Mars rover Curiosity. Be it drones delivering packages or debunking of a branch of human evolution theory,2013 was an exciting year in science. Here are some of the discoveries that have the potential to change our lives.
Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones have been used on battlefields for some time. However,this year,commercial usage of drones has been in the spotlight. Late in 2013,online e-commerce giant Amazons CEO Jeff Bezos announced that it plans to begin using drones to deliver packages. In the US,the regulations for private drones are not as strict as in some other nations. This opens up the possibility of using drones for a variety of purposes,such as aerial videos of stadiums during sports events,etc. They may spell the end of helicopter shots in films and television.
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This year,NASA finally confirmed that the Voyager,a spacecraft launched in the 1970s,crossed into interstellar space. Thirty-six years after Voyagers launch,NASA said,New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been travelling for about one year through plasma,or ionised gas,present in the space between stars. It is in a transitional region outside the solar bubble,where some effects from our sun are evident. This makes it the first human-made object in that zone.
The most annoying limitation of todays gadgets is battery life. Although this year batteries got better,they are not as good as what researchers from University of Illinois have developed. The researchers claimed to have developed lithium-ion batteries that are 2,000 times more powerful than those in todays gadgets. They claimed the batteries could be charged much faster too. Gadgets will benefit from smaller batteries that last longer,but only time will tell if the mass production of these batteries is viable.
Could Mars have supported life 3 billion years ago? NASAs Curiosity rover,which landed on Mars last year,stumbled upon a huge crater that was a lake once upon a time in 2013. NASA sent Curiosity to Mars to determine whether the planet was habitable long ago. Scientists said that the planet held water on the surface and streams below the surface during that era. What more will the $2.5 billion project discover on Mars? The year 2014 may hold some more answers on when the planet stopped being habitable and what led to its turning into a lifeless desert with extreme weather.
Evolution in doubt
A lot of our history and how humans became the dominant species on Earth is a grey area. Evidence available till this year suggested there were different species of humans,of whom Homo sapiens was the fittest. However,a set of skulls found in Georgia suggests that our ancestors,who were originally from Africa,were all one species of humans. This discovery is significant as it may render several research works obsolete. The skulls found in Georgia are from an era close to the one in which the first humans migrated from Africa.
A popular theme in various fantasy novels is memories being passed on between generations of a species,such as newborn dragons who know where their great-grandparents lived. Research on mice in 2013 showed that they too can pass on memories genetically. A provocative experiment,conducted in the University of Atlanta in the US,trained mice to associate pain with a particular smell. Researchers did this by giving the mice mild electric shocks while releasing a chemical around the mice. Their findings revealed that mice can inherit painful memories from up to two generations ago. They observed that these memories were transmitted on a genetic level.
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