Top 10 Scientific Advancements & Discoveries of 2021

Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic still running rampant, 2021 still paved the way for some of the most interesting advancements to be made despite quarantines constantly being enforced. This is a list containing some of the most significant scientific advancements that have occurred in 2021.
The Top Ten
1 James Webb Telescope Launched

December 25, 2021 marks a significant milestone in science and astronomy. The James Webb Telescope has launched into space after 7 years of rigorous hard work and testing, and is already shifting how we see the world in science and astronomy. As of 2022, it has already captured evidence of carbon dioxide in an exoplanet, the formation of newborn stars, the detection of faraway galaxies - those dating even around 300 million years after the big bang, and the evidence that there are many disk galaxies than thought. But this is only scratching the surface. The James Webb Telescope will continue its legendary mission to study about the early universe, how galaxies form, the birth of stars and planets, and search for habitable planets.

2 The Partial Cure to Blindness

It's an unfortunate fact that blindness is considered impossible to cure currently, but there is one case of a man diagnosed with a rare genetic disease that marks the partial cure of blindness via gene therapy of the very first time. By administrating intraocular injection, the modification of the cells in the man's retina, and the use of light-stimulating goggles, the man was able to see significant improvements on his eye. This treatment is called optogenetics, which turned out to be effective for treatment combined with vision training. While this may be a partial cure, this marks a significant step towards a long-desired cure for blindness.

3 256-qubit Quantum Computer

2021 has also marked a significant milestone for quantum computers. Harvard scientists have created a 256-qubit quantum computer, thus pushing the boundaries on what a quantum computer is capable doing of. The machine is used to simulate special states of quantum matter never seen before. With more comprehension to quantum physics, this leaves more potential for creating materials with special properties. What's most important about qubits is that the more qubits are added in a computer, the more it is able to perform calculations in an exponential rate.

4 Self-Replicating Living Robots

While the creation of the first living robots was already a major milestone last year in 2020, the same living robots created with frog cells. These xenobots are already known to sustain itself by moving around, working collectively to achieve basic tasks, and even be able to heal itself from any damages. But what's most impressive, is that they are now able to self-replicate. How exactly do they reproduce? Xenobots can search for other cells, then gather them together to create new xenobots, with the cycle repeating again. This kind of reproduction is unusual compared to any organism that can reproduce. While this is considered another major milestone, the idea of self-replication in robots also comes with concern. The good news in this case, is that these xenobots can be controlled by changing its environment.

5 The COVID-19 Vaccine

With the covid pandemic still rampant in 2021, more doses are being created and administered to patients as well as authorizing covid vaccines for children and teenagers. 2021 also marked a major milestone of more vaccinated Americans than infected in 2021 along with a significant drop of cases in early 2021 in America. This wouldn't of course be a complete list without the covid-19 vaccine. Clearly this doesn't need much explanation since it already saved millions of deaths.

6 Probiotics Proven Beneficial on Coral Reefs

Coral bleaching has became a major issue due to climate change. Subsequently this can affect species that feed on these corals. 2021 marked an important discovery regarding probiotics and coral reefs. A study has shown that probiotics are proven to be useful against heat stress among coral reefs to hinder the effects of climate change. When scientists gave beneficial bacteria to coral reefs, they have been shown to survive longer in heat waves rather than corals that are given something else. When given probiotics, corals undergo changes that reduce inflammation and are more capable of repairing cells from damages, thus they can be more adaptable to the effects of climate change. However while beneficial, this doesn't seem to be the answer yet, as administering probiotics to multiple species may backfire. Despite this, this discovery sheds hope to the environment.

7 Irisin Proven to Be Beneficial Against Alzheimer's Disease

Scientists from the Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered that irisin - a hormone from the muscles that is responsible for providing the benefits of exercise, can help mitigate the effects of Alzheimer's disease. It's commonly known that exercise is proven to provide health benefits to the body, but it has been recently shown that irisin has proven to contribute against the alzheimer's disease. The study demonstrated in mouses that an increase of irisin is correlated with enhanced cognitive function and reduced neuroinflammation with Alzheimer's disease. While alzheimer's disease is still considered incurable, this is a good step to dealing with the effects of this neurodegenerative disorder.

8 First Genetically Engineered Xenotransplantation

After multiple attempts at xenotransplantation over the previous decades, September 25 2021 marks the very first successful xenotransplantation of a kidney of a genetically engineered pig to a person, although placed in the upper leg just outside the abdomen. A thymus gland of the same animal was also inserted in order for it to recognize as part of the body. As soon as the operation started, urine production levels remained normal within the 54-hour mark without any sign of rejection. While the recipient has been declared brain dead, this breakthrough opens gates to treating critically ill patients with non-human organs.

9 Discovery of Dark Energy Candidates

In the XENON1T experiment received an unexpected event or "excess" a year ago, in which some have related to axions - a hypothetical particle said to be very light and have low energy originated from the sun. But in this case this seemed not to be the exact explanation, as axions could be responsible for the draining of energy within stars. If this was true, the evolution of stars would need to be changed. While their model wasn't quite right, some then related the event to dark matter, but that didn't work either. This "excess" turned out to originate from a much stranger cause - dark energy. To prove this explanation, a method called the "chameleon screening" was used, in which high density in objects would hinder the process of dark energy being created. The method was situated in the tachocline of the sun - an area that plays a large role on the magnetic field. While this discovery is brand new, this would be strengthened with other detectors similar to XENON1T detecting the same ...more

10 First 3D-Printed Beef

Scientists from Osaka University is known to produce the first ever lab-grown beef using bioprinting methods, by taking two different stem cell types (bovine satellite cells, and adipose-derived cells) and engineering them in special conditions to grow more cells for vital parts. These bioprinted beef contains fat, muscle, and blood vessels and was organized in order to make it look and taste like the real beef. Who knows we might eat bioprinted meat in the next decades?

The Contenders
11 Malaria Vaccine

For the first time ever a malaria vaccine is created and stamped for approval by WHO, reaching the efficacy of slightly over 75%. It was developed a group of universities and companies including the University of Oxford, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, Novavax, LSHTM, and SII. In October WHO recommended the large-scale use of the vaccine. Since malaria is a notorious disease existing for thousands of years, this is considered a major breakthrough after struggles to develop previous malaria vaccines.

12 The Discovery of TOI-1431b

Did we really spot Satan's homeland, or is this another false alarm pointing to an even hotter exoplanet to be discovered? All jokes aside, this is an ultra-hot Jupiter that an astronomer from the University of Queensland discovered. Its temperature reaches 3,000 in Kelvins which dates it as the hottest exoplanet found - even hotter than some red dwarf stars (temperature of 2,000 K and no more up to 3,500 K

13 Detection of a Neutron Star Black Hole Collision

This was a rare sighting of a black hole consuming a neutron star reported by scientists. Even more mindblowing, is that the second sight was reported just 10 days after - in a different location.

14 319 Tbps Internet Speed Breakthrough
15 Pure Water as a Metal

Since pure water is known to be a very effective insulator, it would be impossible to turn water into a metallic state, as its molecules are connected together with hydrogen bonds unless it's situated in a specially designed environment. In this case, water would have to endure a lot of pressure for the orbitals of electrons to overlap, since insulators usually have a large band gap. This makes water a conductor. Theoretically, you could make any material conductive if you let it face huge amounts of pressure. Scientists took a different direction from this with alkali metals since their valence electron is weakly bound, and thus they can be released quickly. In order to achieve water being in a metal state, water is placed on alkali metal along with an alloy comprised of sodium and potassium. This is to prevent both alkali metal and water from exploding. Electrically charged particles can move freely are added to the materials, thus making water metallic with a golden gleam. Not as ...more

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