While the year 2016 has been in the news for a number of negative reasons such as the Syrian situation, the ISIS crisis, the acrimonious U.S. presidential elections, and the demise of well-known celebrities; some exceptional advances made in science and technology balances out the negatives to a great extent.
We have compiled below the most groundbreaking scientific achievements of last year that are bound to have a global impact and benefit mankind as a whole. The 5 breakthroughs spoken about below are in the order of our preference and may differ from others’ perception of the order.
1. Advances in genetic engineering has proved to be an elixir of life for cancer patients:
Topping the list of these scientific breakthroughs is the fact that we are much nearer to a cancer cure than ever before.
A genetic engineering implement scientifically named CRISPR-Cas9 has been successfully used by scientists to develop immune cells in the human body that have the capability of attacking malignant cells in a cancer patient.
Using a process a team of Chinese scientists harvested white blood cells from cancer sufferers and genetically manipulated them to attack lung cancer cells without any collateral damage to healthy cells; and they were successful in treating lung cancer, one of the biggest killers in the world, by reintroducing the genetically modified cells back into the patient.
These, however, are early trials with promising results, though. If these tests prove their worthiness in further trials, oncologists the world over may have access to one of the most potent treatments for cancer.
2. Tesla’s advancement in self-driving cars may soon become a common sight on the streets of USA and elsewhere:
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, made an amazing announcement last year that took the technology industry by surprise. Tesla plans to equip all their future cars with the hardware and software needed for total autonomous control – no human intervention whatsoever.
Now, this would be a sight to behold!
With this great scientific and technological leap, people may benefit in terms of lives saved as most car crashes are the result of human error.
Elon Musk has gone to the extent of saying that he envisions a future when human-driven cars would become illegal.
3. Reusable rockets have become a reality:
Rockets in the past were used to launch their payload into orbit and become useless for further launches making it a very expensive proposition indeed.
However, recent tests, not only by Elon Musk’s SpaceX but by Jeff Bezos Blue Origin as well, have proved that rockets or boosters can return back safely to earth, with what aerospace engineers refer to as “soft landings”, after completing their space mission, to be used again and again for multiple launches resulting in drastic cost reduction in space-related expeditions.
These successful “soft landings” will make it cost worthy for ordinary humans to enjoy the experience of space travel for recreational purposes, seemingly, in the not too distant future.
Colonization of other heavenly bodies like Mars and the probability of confirming alien life is also not just science fiction anymore – it is a distinct possibility of the future – well, there will be a lot of skeptics in so far as finding alien life is concerned.
4. Paralyzed man regaining the sense of touch with an artificial hand:
Although this may sound like a sci-fi story from the Marvel Comics franchise, a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, California, has made this into a reality by creating an artificial limb that enables a paralyzed person to get back his sense of touch and feel.
Nathan Copeland paralyzed for the last ten years from an accident, has regained the sense of touch with the robotic arm by just using his brain power.
The best part of this great achievement is the “touch feedback” that the researchers have been able to add to the robotic limb. This feature allows Nathan Copeland to feel the amount of pressure applied to his artificial arm.
“I can feel just about every finger — it’s a really weird sensation,” Copeland declared after the successful surgery. “Sometimes it feels electrical and sometimes its pressure, but for the most part, I can tell most of the fingers with definite precision. It feels like my fingers are getting touched or pushed.”
If this is not a groundbreaking achievement then what else is it?
5. The discovery by astronomers of a habitable planet, potentially speaking, near Proxima Centauri:
Astronomers have been exploring the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial life (intelligent or non-intelligent) ever since man’s interest in the infinite space beyond the earth’s atmosphere started.
The long continuing quest of man to discover life elsewhere in the vast expanse of our universe took a huge step when a possibly habitable planet was discovered in the Alpha Centauri System, the closest solar system to earth.
The planet named ‘Proxima b’ is located around 4.2 light years or 25 trillion miles from Earth.
The existence of the Proxima b was announced in August 2016 by the European Southern Observatory.
Space researchers believe that its nearness to Earth makes it a possibility for a robotic exploration of the planet.
So, if Stephen Hawking’s prediction of the end of our planet in 1000 years is true, this can prove to be our best alternative option.