Image by Xinhua/Jin Liwang via Getty Images
2018 was a milestone year for science. We saw advancements from medicine to Mars, and everywhere in between. In case you missed out on any of the incredible breakthroughs over the past year, here are our top 10.
We found the farthest rock in the solar system
Farther than Pluto, Eris, Sedna, and all the others, 2018 revealed the most distant rock from our sun yet: Farout. The creatively-named dwarf planet sits at the far reaches of the Oort Cloud.
A single orbit around the sun takes Farout 1,000 years. It sits 3.5 times farther away from the center of our solar system than Pluto does from the sun.
Scientists got one step closer to reversing Alzheimer’s
Scientists working with lab mice managed to reverse the damage caused by dementia and Alzheimer’s. The study holds promise for potential human trials in the future.
The drug used to reverse the cognitive impairments could theoretically be used to help humans suffering from these mental ailments. It would be a revolutionary advancement in the medical field.
Our oldest relative looked like a pancake
Ancient traces of cholesterol found in a bizarre-looking fossil reveal the animal kingdom’s newest and oldest member. The pancake-like Dickinsonia is our oldest relative.
The remains have been found all over the world, but paleontologists aren’t sure where on the tree of life to classify them. They evolved some 575 to 541 million years ago.
Curiosity may have found evidence of life on Mars
The Mars Curiosity rover logged consistent fluctuations in atmospheric methane as well as other building blocks for life on the Red Planet. The discoveries are small, but they have scientists excited.
Carbon-based life requires some key elements to develop, and the rover’s recordings have been showing all the right readings.
Virgin Galactic’s scraped the boundary of space
Virgin Galactic has been shooting for the stars in a commercial sense. The company that plans to eventually offer trips to space for science and leisure just did it again.
Their spaceplane reached the boundary between Earth’s upper atmosphere and space for the second time in 2018. The possibility of a weekend getaway to the stars is looking closer than ever.
Eight-year-old girl found a sword in a lake
Late in the summer of 2018, an eight-year-old girl in Sweden found a pre-Viking era sword in a lake. According to a local museum, the sword is over 1,000 years old.
The sword’s age places it around the 5th or 6th century CE, which is a few hundred years before the Viking era. Since its discovery, other artifacts of similar age have been found in that lake.
China cloned a monkey
Using the same technology that scientists employed in the 1990s when Dolly the Sheep made her debut, geneticists have managed to do it all again. This time, scientists in Shanghai have successfully cloned monkeys.
They hope that, by creating genetically identical primates, they can better study and understand diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s.
The Pill 2.0
Oral birth control is something that has for decades been limited to individuals with ovaries. Progesterone tabs are used to influence the menstrual cycle, and while they work well when used properly, the side effects can sometimes be unbearable.
The new male birth control pills in trial control testosterone levels, temporarily disrupting the production of viable sperm. The end goal is to create a tablet with few to no side-effects.
Warm-blooded fish exist
For ages, science has defined fish as being cold-blooded animals that rely on their environment to control their body temperature. In 2018, marine biologists changed that definition.
The moonfish or opah is a warm-blooded fish that regulates its body temperature by moving its fins. NOAA scientists hope that further studies of these fish will lead to more exciting discoveries.
Ancient beer found in a cave in Israel
Traces of 13,000-year-old beer has been found in a cave in Israel, making it the oldest beer on Earth. Raqefet Cave in Israel has been providing archaeologists with exciting information about the Natufian people who lived there long ago.
The Natufians are believed to be a critical link between the hunter-gatherer stage of human evolution and the first agrarian societies. The discovery of beer provides insight into their level of technology as well as what sort of crops they grew.