2017 was a year rich in incredible scientific breakthroughs. Before it ends, let us recall some major advances, which should undoubtedly reshape the future of humanity.
1 – An artificial uterus
It is only appropriate to open this list with a breakthrough that could potentially save lives in the future. In April 2017, a team of doctors from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia published a study in the journal Nature Communications, detailing the successful use of an artificial uterus. The device, a transparent biobag filled with a liquid that mimics the inner environment of the uterus, successfully housed a 23-week-old lamb. This artificial uterus could save the lives of thousands of premature babies in the future.
2 – First genetically modified embryo
Are we headed to the birth of the first genetically modified humans? Not yet, but a new step has just been taken. In July 2017, the MIT Technology Review reported on efforts by researchers in Portland, Oregon, to genetically engineer human embryos using the CRISPR gene editing tool. The researchers have published the DNA of unicellular embryos – demonstrating that it is now possible to effectively and safely correct defective genes carrying hereditary diseases.
3 – Modification of genes inside the human body
4 – Five new particles discovered at the LHC
Quantum physics is not this year left out. The infinitely small has not finished surprising us, thanks to the work done by the researchers of the Large Collider Hadron (LHC). On March 16, 2017, the instrument revealed five new particles, all in one analysis.
4 – Five new particles discovered at the LHC
Quantum physics was not left out this year. The infinitely small has not finished to surprise us, thanks to the work done by the researchers of the Large Collider Hadron (LHC). On March 16, 2017, the instrument revealed five new particles, all in one analysis.
5 – The TRAPPIST-1 system
The Trappist-1 system is one of the greatest discoveries that could affect the future of life beyond the Earth. In February 2017, scientists working at the European Southern Observatory and NASA announced the discovery of seven exoplanets located in the habitable zone of a star system called TRAPPIST-1, located about 39.5 light years away from the Sun.
Astronomers continue today to debate the potential of these seven exoplanets, highlighting such a collection of potentially livable worlds in one system is a promising discovery in the quest for life elsewhere in the Universe.
6 – AI at the service of astrophysics
A study reported last September that neural networks (a form of artificial intelligence) could now accurately analyze the complex distortions of space-time, known as gravitational lenses, ten million times faster than with traditional methods. In October, a trained AI helped in the discovery of 56 new lenses on a small portion of the sky.
NASA also announced a few days ago the discovery through an artificial neural network of an eighth planet surrounding Kepler-90, a star similar to the Sun located at find at 2,545 light-years from Earth. Artificial neural networks are thus today a promising tool to detect some of the weakest signals of distant worlds.
7 – The first detection of a fusion of two neutron stars
The first detection of the fusion of two distant neutron stars was declared the “scientific discovery of 2017” by the journal Science. The observation of this phenomenon enabled the simultaneous capture of gravitational and electromagnetic waves. It will also confirm several key astrophysical theories and models, revealing the birthplace of many heavy elements and testing the general theory of relativity as never before.
8 – SpaceX’s reusable rocket
The inability to reuse rockets has always been one the reasons why space launches have been so expensive. In December, SpaceX managed to land its Falcon 9 rocket. With this world premiere, SpaceX hopes to lower the cost of space travel. So far, most of the material used during launches was lost.
9 – Blood created from stem cells
Could we soon be able to make blood? Maybe, according to a British study published in Nature in March. The researchers say they have managed to create, from stem cells, a kind of red cell plant, natural blood made in vitro.
10 – New species of dinosaurs discovered
In 2017, two new dinosaur species were discovered. The Corythoraptor jacobsi is a feathered creature discovered in China and close to the helmeted cassowary, this formidable Australian bird. Chilesaurus, a carnivorous herbivore found in Chile, may be the “missing link” between two large families of dinosaurs, theropods and ornithischians.