Flying cars, regular trips to the moon with a resort resting within the Sea of Tranquility – these are just a few of the fanciful ideas futurists of the past have thought up when asked to consider what’s next with regards to science and technology. This list is compiled from a variety of sources and includes non-research based advances, such as the restoration of the ozone layer and saving species from the brink of extinction. This is by far not exhaustive nor is it in any particular order. Here are some of the top advances in science so far for the year 2017:
Teams of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Massachusetts Instittue of Technology worked in collaboration to build a device that pulls moisture from the ambient air in conditions with humidity as low as 20%. The device is powered by solar cells and “uses a metal-organic framework made of zirconium and fumarate.” Cities in more arid parts of the world would benefit greatly from having such technology and would indeed make many of the more inhospitable parts of the world livable.
Researchers at Harvard University have transformed the lightest element, hydrogen, into a metallic form according to this report by The Independent. This could enable all sorts of advanced applications for the light-weight metal, including super-fast computing and high-speed rail.
Seven Earth-sized planets found orbiting around the star Trappist-1 may provide scientists with the most fertile ground ever for discovering alien life. The planets are in the habitable zone orbiting a star in the Aquarius constellation and represents the first time so many Earth-sized planets are confirmed to exist outside of our solar system, suggesting the necessary conditions for life may be more prevalent throughout the Milky Way than once thought. The search for life outside of our solar system often focuses on solar systems that most closely model our own since we know that is a successful formula for life.
Scientists in Argentina gained more insight into the concept of fluorescence when they decided to shine an ultra-violet light on the common polka-dot tree frog. Not only did the frog glow, but the reaction helped the scientists discover the cause why, “a set of chemicals they named hyloin-G1, hyloin-L1 and hyloin-L2 that originated from the frog’s lymph fluids glowed from beneath the little [frog’s] translucent skin.”
Scientists in France helping to develop a male contraceptive gel called vasalgel believe they are one more step closer to producing a marketable product after tests in monkeys revealed the drug does indeed work as a contraceptive. The drug is “a new injectable gel that blocks sperm inside the body, preventing them from leaving while allowing seminal fluid to pass through” and is not yet tested on humans. A male contraceptive gel would definitely change the contraceptive market and would perhaps make it even more palatable in cultures where male contraception (such as condoms) are extremely taboo.
The Dallas Morning News reports that researchers from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center discovered a gene variant that inclines a person to binge drink alcohol. Researchers believe that possible gene therapy and gene-specific medications could be prescribed to binge drinkers in the future to help them curb their appetite for alcohol. The article discusses how the human genome’s development was impacted by alcohol and alcohol’s role in helping humanity survive and preserve food prior to the era of refrigeration.
News.com.au reports that a team of research scientists in La Jolla, California have developed a way to “grow” human organs within pigs. This kind of work is not funded by tax-payer money and instead comes from private funds, which are pursuing research in the United States California location and in Spain in the European Union. According to News.com.au, “Animals with cells from different species are called chimeras. Such mixing has been done before with mice and rats. Larger animals like pigs would be needed to make human-sized organs. That could help ease the shortage of human donors for transplants.”
New research shows that there are more penguins than previously thought in East Antarctica, clearing up fears that the populations was in decline.
Scientists have developed a method for overcoming a genetic defeciency in sperm that prevents it from fertilizing an egg in a breakthrough for male infertility medical treatments. Males with an “ineffective” protein called C zeta struggle to conceive a child no matter how aggressive the treatments. Scientists targeted this protein and were able to cause successful fertilization.
The Telegraph reports that University of Leeds and Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists have confirmed that the ozone layer is increasing and should be fully restored by 2050 according to their projections. The Telegraph cites the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which banned the used of chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, in helping the repair of the ozone layer. After this protocol there was a widespread adoption by industries across the globe to mitigate and eliminate the use of CFCs. The Montreal Protocol is credited as one of the largest and most successful environmental agreements ever concluded.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature reports that the Giant Panda is no longer on the endangered list. Citing, “ significant conservation success following years of enormous efforts on the part of the Chinese Government, communities and non-governmental organisations.” The giant panda, iconic for its cute appearance and calm demeanor, has been the subject of conservation efforts on the part of the People’s Republic of China and other nations for some time now. Its preservation is seen as a testament to bilateral ties and international good will.
A gene-based therapy for treating the common cold may be just around the corner. A British-Finnish team has found how many cold viruses work on a molecular level and how to “stop” that functionality so to speak, opening up the possibility for gene-based drugs that cure most all forms of the virus. Peter Stockley of Leeds said: “We now need a drug that has the same effect as pouring sand into the watch; every part of the viral mechanism could be disabled.” He also said that medicine needed to move away from a vaccine approach and to a gene-therapy orientation in the future. Curing the most widespread and well-known disease on the face of the planet would be an amazing start for gene therapy.
A man paralyzed at the age of 19, Ian Burkhart underwent an experimental procedure at the Ohio State University Hospital that included surgery to place a microchip in his skull that allowed him to move his hand, pick up a spoon, and make a fist in an amazing medical achievement. This technology is called “Neurobridge” technology and it hopes to utilize microchips and augmentations to allow patients to move their limbs with the power of thought.
The world is moving ever closer to autonomus vehicles and one area first up for grabs is heavy trucking. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Review cites trucks outfitted by California tech company Otto and their ability to drive without human direct continuous control. In another example of the relentless pace of automation, these trucks are on the cutting-edge of radar and motion detection technology making a driverless future the true trend of tomorrow.
A Chinese startup called Face++ is developing technology from a cyberpunk dystopia – mass facial recognition software that will allow users to pay for services using their face. It will also allow for tracking and identification – fun future times!
A project funded by IBM, Google, and Microsoft among others seeks to resolve the problem of “noise” with qubits, the smallest particle of information in a quantum computing system.