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Science events that shaped 2015

The year 2015 saw some interesting events in the field of Science

plutoCRISPR-mechanismsolar impulse  2quantum spookinessparis

  1. Flyby of Pluto
    Pluto grabbed the spotlight when the New Horizons spacecraft flew past it on 14 July. The world revealed itself as a geological wonderland of ice mountains, nitrogen glaciers and smooth, frigid plains. The sheer complexity of Pluto’s surface astounded planetary scientists, including prinicipal investigator Alan Stern, and raised major questions about what could be fuelling the geological activity that created it. 

    2. CRISPR Gene-editing
    In April, scientists in China reported use of the technique to edit non-viable human embryos, which spurred researchers and bioethicists to debate in editorials and meetings whether the technology should ever be used in human embryos, even for basic research. The debate culminated in the International Summit on Human Gene Editing in early December in Washington DC, which brought together nearly 500 ethicists, scientists and legal experts from more than 20 countries. The organizers wrapped up the event with a statement: the tools are not yet ready to be used to edit the genomes of human embryos intended for pregnancy. But they did not call for an outright ban of this work for basic research.

  3.  Quantum Spookiness

Physicists celebrated the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in November with special conferences, books and collections of his papers. Einstein also made headlines in August when physicists presented the most convincing proof yet that two objects, such as subatomic particles, could be linked, or ‘entangled’. This would allow one particle to influence the behaviour of another, even if the two are widely separated. Researchers showed that they could produce a robust entanglement between two electrons placed 1.3 kilometres from each other.

Einstein famously despised this phenomenon, which he called ‘spooky action at a distance’, because it seemingly broke the universal rule that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Despite Einstein’s misgivings, the approach could one day be used to build a highly secure quantum Internet that is immune to hackers.

4. Solar Impulse 2

This revolutionary single-seater aircraft made of carbon fiber has a 72 meter wingspan (larger than that of the Boeing 747-8I) for a weight of just 2,300 Kg, equivalent to that of a car. The 17,000 solar cells built into the wing supply four electric motors (17.5 CV each) with renewable energy.

During the day, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries weighing 633 Kg (2077 lbs.) which allow the aircraft to fly at night and therefore to have virtually unlimited autonomy.

Despite the hard work of the Solar Impulse team to repair the batteries which overheated in the record breaking oceanic flight from Nagoya to Hawaii, the solar powered airplane of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will stay in Hawaii until early spring 2016.

The two pilots associated with this project to demonstrate the potential of cleantechs are  Bertrand Piccard, psychiatrist and explorer with his avant-gardist vision, and André Borschberg, engineer and entrepreneur with his managerial experience.

5. Signing of Climate accord – Paris 2015

The world got serious this year about climate change. With the United Nations climate summit in Paris looming in December, both industrialized and developing nations pledged for the first time to control or reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions

The meeting, which took place under heightened security because of the Paris terrorist attacks in November, yielded a landmark agreement on 12 December 2015 that was approved by 195 countries. It commits most countries to reduce emissions and keep warming to ‘well below’ 2 °C. Nations will assess their progress in 2018 and must revisit their climate pledges every five years starting in 2020.

(Stories: Courtesy – Nature)

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