Top 10 Scientific Discoveries of 2020

2020 was indeed one of the worst and most chaotic years so far in the new decade of the 2020s. It may also be one of many challenging years to come in this century, now that we have left the 20th century behind us. In the 20th century, we made many contributions and technological advancements that elevated humanity to the next level. Our devotion and efforts defined what the 20th century was and set the stage for change.

Yet in the 21st century, we continue to evolve and make contributions in technology and other fields. We could not have made this much progress without the foundation laid by the 20th century and the centuries before it. 2021 is expected to recover from the chaos and emerge as one of the brightest stars of this century, standing out as one of its most progressive years. The brightest stars will never extinguish their own light.
The Top Ten
1 Ghost Particles in Antarctica

Neutrinos are referred to as 'ghost particles' due to their elusive characteristics. They can be very difficult to detect and can penetrate through objects without actually making contact. Scientists are on expeditions to search for these mysterious and not well-understood particles.

That's why they have explored all over the South Pole to detect these particles, as they can travel through the Earth. The Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) was the first to detect ghost particles. These high-energy neutrinos seem to have startled scientists because their characteristics do not seem to fit properly in the Standard Model. Nonetheless, it is a discovery that keeps scientists thinking and encourages them to explore deeper into the concept behind the ghost particles.

This discovery led the press to publish, and some to believe (looking at you, New York Post), that it serves as evidence of a parallel universe where time runs backward. This absurd claim has been debunked many times by legitimate scientists.

2 Biggest Cosmic Explosion in Outer Space

The cosmic explosion was erupted by a supermassive black hole located in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, which is 390 million light-years away from where we live. This dynamic power, which is much like a Super Saiyan, is about the size of 15 Milky Ways!

One scientist, Simona Giacintucci, described the colossal cosmic explosion as the "astronomical version of the eruption of Mount St. Helens."

This is one of the most interesting lists made this year. Great work. I really like how high-quality, factual, and detailed it is. I also wonder how massive the explosion is in outer space. It would have been massive and mind-blowing to watch.

3 Brain Cancer Vaccine

Researchers from the University of Missouri have been successful with their new immunotherapy approach to treating bone cancer in dogs. The results were so promising that the FDA decided to try the same method on human patients who have brain cancer. The trials for a brain cancer vaccine have been running for almost a decade.

Scientists have tested the vaccine on at least 14 dogs. They boosted the animals' immune responses by removing the dogs' own white blood cells, growing them in a lab, and then reinjecting them into the dogs to attack the tumors. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer that occurs in dogs. The average dog with osteosarcoma will live four to six months if the tumor is removed surgically, and up to a year if the surgery is followed by chemotherapy.

4 Dr. DeepMind

I'm not going to delve into the entire history behind Google's AI algorithm, DeepMind, but its capabilities appear to be far superior to those of humans. One of the most striking examples of DeepMind's capabilities is its ability to detect breast cancer earlier than conventional doctors. This is based on a comparison of images between medical professionals and the DeepMind algorithm.

Researchers from Imperial College London and Google Health programmed a computer to identify abnormalities in X-ray images of nearly 29,000 women. Separate studies involving both U.S. and U.K. women concluded that the computer reduced instances where cancer was either incorrectly identified or missed. A report indicated a reduction of 5.7% in false positives, where a mammogram is wrongly diagnosed as abnormal. Additionally, there was a 9.4% reduction in false negatives, where cancer is missed.

Unlike in the U.S., the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain typically employs two radiologists to screen images. In cases of disagreement, a third radiologist will make a judgment.

5 First Extragalactic Planet

In 1992, astronomers confirmed the discovery of one of the first exoplanets. Fast-forward 28 years, and a research team from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts has discovered a planet in the M51 Whirlpool Galaxy, 23 million light-years away. This is believed to be the first-ever extragalactic planet. What's even more interesting is that the object is part of a binary star system and either orbits near a neutron star or a black hole.

It emits an X-ray signal, establishing a planetary transit toward Earth. During this event, an unknown small object blocked the pathway of the planetary transit, causing an eclipse. Scientists are uncertain whether it was a planet, but there are possibilities to consider regarding what the object might be. Nonetheless, the event was truly remarkable!

6 First Image of a System with Multiple Exoplanets

The European Southern Observatory is responsible for providing the image of two exoplanets orbiting around a star, much like how our solar system functions when planets orbit around the sun. The two gas giants orbit their host star at distances of 160 and about 320 times the Earth-sun distance. This places these planets much further away from their star than Jupiter or Saturn are from the sun. They lie at only five and ten times the Earth-sun distance, respectively.

The team also discovered that the two exoplanets are much heavier than those in our solar system, with the inner planet having 14 times Jupiter's mass and the outer one six times. The star, TYC 8998-760-1, is just 17 million years old and is located in the southern constellation of Musca (The Fly), making it much younger than the sun.

7 Water on the Moon

A NASA flying observatory, loaded onto an airliner and named SOFIA, has detected water molecules on the Clavius Crater near the edge of the moon. However, the water molecules are not abundant enough to form pools.

Another NASA study reveals that water ice could possibly exist in pocketed and shadowed regions. One day, astronauts in the distant future may use the moon as a source for its own water supply, potentially making it a more dependable source than the bodies of clean water on Earth.

8 Synthetic Red Blood Cells

Scientists had attempted to create synthetic red blood cells that would mimic actual blood cells in terms of properties such as flexibility, oxygen transport, and long circulation times. They had no luck before, producing only artificial blood cells with a few qualities that could define them as synthetic red blood cells. However, this year, researchers from ACS Nano have officially created the first set of synthetic red blood cells.

They began by coating donated human RBCs with a thin layer of silica. Next, they layered positively and negatively charged polymers over the silica-coated RBCs, and then etched away the silica, producing flexible replicas. Finally, the team coated the surface of the replicas with natural RBC membranes. That completes their entire process of creating the first set of synthetic red blood cells that are similar in size, shape, charge, and surface proteins compared to natural cells.

These cells are so flexible that they can squeeze through model capillaries without losing their shape. The synthetic red blood cells were first tested in mice over the course of the initial 48 hours.

9 Captured Video of Atoms Forming Chemical Bonds

Researchers from the Universities of Nottingham and Ulm have captured the video. The research team used transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to image a pair of rhenium atoms as they "walked" hand in hand along a carbon nanotube.

With a quadruple bond between them, the two atoms form a molecule of Re2. Author Kecheng Cao says, "As Re2 moves down the nanotube, the bond length changes, indicating that the bond becomes stronger or weaker depending on the environment around the atoms."

10 Wonderchicken

This scientific discovery has been nicknamed "Wonderchicken" because it is the oldest bird fossil dating back to the age of dinosaurs, specifically less than one million years before all the dinosaurs were wiped out by a gigantic asteroid. The ancient fossil is at least more than 66 million years old.

Detailed analysis of the skull shows that it combines features common to both modern chicken- and duck-like birds. This suggests the fossil could be the last common ancestor of modern chickens and ducks. Its genetic makeup is mixed: its face resembles a modern-day chicken, while its back resembles a duck.

The Contenders
11 Protein Folding Breakthrough

Scientists have finally come up with a massive breakthrough, taking a different approach to demonstrate how proteins intricately fold into 3D shapes. With the latest technology focused on protein folding, they've addressed one of the most important problems in the field of biology.

According to scientists, this breakthrough will help produce more advanced and versatile medicines, cure more diseases, and also assist in various branches and fields such as life sciences and bioengineering. Since this problem has existed for 50 years, this breakthrough marks a significant historical milestone in the field of biology.

12 COVID-19 Vaccine
13 Bacteria Surviving in Space

Deinococcus radiodurans is one of the first microgravity-resistant and radiation-resistant bacteria to survive in outer space for a year, just outside the ISS space station. Some samples have even survived for more than three years.

This discovery strengthens the concept of panspermia, a hypothetical idea suggesting that organisms may have originated from space and could transfer life via comets and asteroids to other planets. With this in mind, it underscores the importance of understanding the germs that we may spread in outer space.

14 Asphalt Identified as a Major Source of Air Pollution

2020 marked asphalt as a major source of air pollution, despite existing regulations. This is due to "numerous non-combustion-related sources" that contribute to the production of secondary organic aerosols (SOA). SOA is a component of PM2.5, which is notorious for being a harmful air pollutant, especially at high levels.

Asphalt is commonly used in roofing, roads, and driveways. While this may not be considered a groundbreaking scientific discovery, it raises awareness that asphalt is a commonly used yet harmful resource. This paves the way for better solutions to tackle the issue.

15 24 Superhabitable Planet Contenders Identified

Superhabitable planets are planets that are more suitable for life than Earth. In other words, they are planets that have higher biomass and biodiversity. As of September 18, 2020, scientists have identified 24 potential superhabitable planets out of 4,000 exoplanets.

These planets vary in temperature, usually tending toward environments that are warmer and wetter. The planets generally have more mass than Earth. The age of both the sun around which the planet orbits and the planet itself also matters. With this in mind, these findings could lead to strong evidence that life exists outside our solar system.

16 The VIPER Superconductor

The news has long suggested that we are more than a decade away from achieving fusion, but this discovery suggests otherwise. This high-temperature superconducting (HTS) cable, which can reach up to 50 kA and is also resistance-neutral, could potentially be the answer to fusion. It is a potential utility for powerful fusion devices and is an important component for superconducting magnets.

The VIPER superconductor is designed to amplify the strength of magnetic fields in tokamaks to more than twice that of previous-generation technology. This plays a major role in increasing the potency of the plasma. But this isn't the only noteworthy aspect of this breakthrough.

VIPER also addresses a major problem known as quench. A quench allows a magnetic coil to phase out of its superconducting state, rendering it non-resistant to electricity and prone to current flow, which can damage the coil due to resistive heat. The superconductor is designed to endure extreme thermal, electrical, and mechanical conditions, thanks to supercritical helium and other coolants.

With this breakthrough, we might be a step closer to harnessing fusion power, although it's too early to be overly optimistic.

17 First Room-Temperature Superconductor
18 First Detection of Radio Emissions Outside a Solar System

We might not be alone after all, considering this scientific discovery.

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