Scientific discoveries are happening with such regularity that it is difficult to keep track of the most important ones, or even to decide what is really important in view of one's perspective regarding their usefulness, both in knowledge and application. However, there have been a few in the last 10 years (between 1999 and 2009) which have yielded some amazing insights.
The following are ten very important discoveries which are self-evident in their significance.
1. The Universe is Accelerating
Astronomers have discovered that our world isn't being affected by the pull of gravity, which is supposed to slow down it's movement, as we all thought. In fact, it is being accelerated. If the trend continues, we would become more isolated and would not be able to see or observe other galaxies, a shift that scientists are calling the 'big rip'.
2. Mankind Migrated from Africa
An international team of scientists recently announced that, having analysed a skull discovered in Africa in 1952, their findings suggested that human beings left Africa between 65,000 and 25,000 years ago. This was determined by testing the level of radiation within the braincase. They assessed its age at being about 36,000 years old. It also matched similar skulls that were found in Europe, Asia and Australia, giving important evidence to the theory that man originated in sub-Saharan Africa and migrated from there to populate the rest of the world.
3. Diabetes Linked to Antitoxidants
It has been found that the protective proteins in foods that can prevent cell damage, known as antitoxidants, might actually increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Because antioxidants fight cell stress, they have become a popular food supplement, but they have been found to progress several diseases, especially diabetes type 2 in its early stages, instead of preventing them. Research on mice has shown that the antitoxidants actually remove a mechanism that can help the body to use insulin effectively thus making it insulin resistant. This is an important discovery because the number of diabetic cases is increasing prolifically every year all over the world. Anything that can halt or slow its progress is worth knowing.
4. Enzymes Convert Any Blood Type to Type 0
Due to several major blood shortages in America, having versatile blood types has become of crucial importance to doctors in the requirement for blood to help patients. A Danish scientist appears to have come up with the answer to that. Henrik Clausen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen has published a paper on discovering molecular 'machines' which are produced by bacteria that are able to convert any kind of blood (A B or AB) into Type O - the blood that almost anyone can tolerate without it being rejected by the body. This will be of enormous benefit to the diversity of patients who will be needing urgent blood transfusions.
5. Smoking Increases breast Cancer
New research has revealed that having a history of smoking actually increases the risk of breast cancer. A recent study carried out on more than 8,000 women revealed that those who had smoked 100 or more cigarettes at any point in their lives had a significantly increased risk of breast cancer. It also discovered that women who had used oral contraceptives for 11 years or more had a 200% higher risk of getting the disease than other women. Of course, this would be very important information for many women, especially those who have always smoked heavily.
6. Cryoelectronic Tomography
This recent discovery is very useful technology. It can actually take three dimensional images of a frozen cell and enables observation of all life processes within it. Scientists furthering information on cell growth and its processes should find this extremely significant for their work.
7. Gene Therapy for Rare Brain Diseases
French scientists have discovered that if they mix gene therapy with bone marrow transplants, the combination actually appears to halt a brain disease that can kill patients by the time they are teenagers. But a surprising side effect of their action was that they also disabled the HIV virus the patients had so that it couldn't progress to the full blown AIDS form and also used their mixed therapy to carry the healthy new gene. This could have very important implications for many people with HIV. The scientists regard the findings as having "exciting implications for other blood and immune disorders" and shows "the power of combining gene therapy and cell therapy".
8. New Revelations in The Bird World
A five year study of bird DNA has caused some confusion in the bird world. It has revealed dramatic new information about the evolution of birds to the extent that some of them will have to be renamed scientifically because of their relation to each other. For example, as thought before, falcons are not related to eagles or hawks! One scientist says that the findings are so profound, bird guides and biology books will have to be rewritten. Quote: "It is like finding out that your cousin is actually your brother, " she said!
9. Transparent Material as Strong as Steel
Engineering scientists at the University of Michigan have managed to create a material which is similar to 'transparent aluminium' which is known for its tensile strength. The material, which orginates from clay, is made up from 'phenomenally strong nanometer-sized particles' which, when attached to thin layers of weak plastic give the new material 'extraordinary strength' through the tiny bits of dirt laid between them. This very sturdy material is expected to be used mainly for defence purposes in lightweight armour or aircraft.
10. Much Smaller Transistors
It seems that switches in microprocessors are set to become infinitely smaller. Chipmakers, Intel, have noted that by using the element hafnium, combined with some new metal alloys, that has allowed them to reduce each chip even further from 65 nanometers (the old standard) to 45 nanometers. Regarded as the biggest change in transistor technology over the past 50 years, the greatest benefit is perceived to be an increase in energy efficiency and the prevention of electricity from leakages across the tiny switches.