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Exciting Scientific Breakthroughs

13 April 2022

With a global health crisis in full swing, a lot of our attention has been focused on the world of medicine and science. For months, the world waited with bated breath to see if and when a vaccine would be developed, and all of a sudden major biotech companies became household names.

But the world of scientific breakthroughs extends far beyond vaccines and inoculation. With so much focus on the COVID-19 vaccine, many other incredible scientific discoveries have flown under the radar. 2021 was a year of incredible scientific breakthroughs, from the atomic level, to new discoveries about the vast universe we call home.

In case you might have missed them, here are some of the most incredible scientific breakthroughs humanity achieved in 2021 to prove that science isn’t all doom and gloom!

1. James Webb Telescope Launch

December 2021 saw the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope - the largest and most high-powered space telescope ever built. The incredible piece of astronomical equipment will make its way over a million miles away from Earth until it reaches its targeted spot for observation. Once the telescope arrives at its planned destination, it will start to “build” itself and prepare for observation.

This out-of-this-world achievement comes after several delays, although the initiative originally began in the mid-1990s, and is a collaboration between three of the world’s most advanced space agencies - NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency.

Having cost around 500 million US dollars to build, the James Webb Space Telescope is an expensive but worthwhile investment that will reveal new and exciting truths about the universe we live in - from observing Earth’s orbit around the Sun, to searching for new planets and extraterrestrial life.

2. Mars Exploration

Throughout 2021, several missions to Mars reached their destinations on the red planet. The high number of missions to Mars is due to a special alignment with Earth’s orbit that occurs only once every 26 months.

The three missions to Mars that arrived during February 2021 were the work of NASA, the Chinese National Space Agency, and the United Arab Emirates. NASA launched a lander named Perseverance, built similarly to the prior Curiosity mission. Perseverance will spend several years travelling across the Jezero Crater region of Mars collecting rock and mineral samples.

China’s Tianwen-1mission sent 6 separate spacecraft to the red planet, including the Zhurong rover which is being used to test the Chinese National Space Agency’s ability to roam on other planets.

The UAE sent an orbiter, named Hope, which has been designed to study the climate fluctuations of the Red Planet.

3.CRISPR Gene-Editing Breakthroughs

Gene-editing technology has made massive leaps in the past few years, and is an area of science that’s generating a lot of excitement across the fields of medicine and technology. One of the most promising aspects of gene editing is CRISPR, a technology that allows scientists to essentially “cut” and “paste” sequences in and out of genes.

This means that genes carrying harmful traits can be removed from a person’s DNA, creating an unprecedented path for the treatment of countless afflictions. For the first time, in 2021, CRISPR gene editing technology was injected directly into a patient’s bloodstream, producing the successful treatment of a rare inherited disease. This is an incredibly encouraging result and provides a good reason to

4.Discovery Of New Early Human Species

2021 saw the announcement that an international team of researchers, led by University of Winnipeg palaeoanthropologist Dr. Mirjana Roksandic, had named a new species of human ancestor - homo bodoensis.

The species is understood to have lived in Africa during an era known as the Middle Pleistocene, which occurred around half a million years ago. This new species of human is also understood to be a direct ancestor of modern humans - so, you and me!

Our understanding of human evolution at this exact point in history remains unclear, so the naming and classification of homo bodoensis is a big deal and signals major hope for the future of our evolutionary understanding of ourselves as a species.

5.Computing Power 

Computers have come a long, long way over the past several decades, going from massive machines to light-speed pieces of micro-technology. And with every passing year, our capabilities only continue to accelerate.

At the forefront of the world of computer engineering is quantum engineering. These hyper-powered processors can compute in a matter of mere seconds what even the best supercomputers can take days or weeks to finish.

In November of 2021, IBM launched its 127-qubit Eagle, the most powerful quantum processor ever created. This marks a huge leap forward in the world of computing and is set to kickstart even further major advances for quantum computers.

Somewhere in the world each day there is a groundbreaking revelation taking place. While most of these can slip past us, it’s important to take a moment to recognise the achievements of humanity as a whole.