Science That Changed The World In 2014

21/12/2014 12:25 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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On Saturday, November 26, NASA is scheduled to launch the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission featuring Curiosity, the largest and most advanced rover ever sent to the Red Planet. The Curiosity rover bristles with multiple cameras and instruments, including Goddard's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. By looking for evidence of water, carbon, and other important building blocks of life in the Martian soil and atmosphere, SAM will help discover whether Mars ever had the potential to support life. Curiosity will be delivered to Gale crater, a 96-mile-wide crater that contains a record of environmental changes in its sedimentary rock, in August 2012. ------ This artist's concept depicts the rover Curiosity, of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, as it uses its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to investigate the composition of a rock surface. ChemCam fires laser pulses at a target and views the resulting spark with a telescope and spectrometers to identify chemical elements. The laser is actually in an invisible infrared wavelength, but is shown here as visible red light for purposes of illustration. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and designed and built Curiosity. More information about Curiosity is at mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech NASA image use policy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission. Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Find us on Instagram

2014 was the year that humanity landed a probe on a comet, India successfully sent an interplanetary probe to Mars, while Curiosity found hints of life on it. Here's a quick recap of some of the most notable science stories of the year.

  • Humanity Lands On A Comet
    Handout via Getty Images
    The European Space Agency's Philae space craft launched from its Rosetta mothership in November and made the first successful soft landing on the surface of a comet (after a couple of bumps). This is the first photo of the landing spot. While it died shortly after due to a lack of light in its post-bounce landing spot) hopes are high that it will come back from the dead in 2015 and do more incredible science.
  • BICEP2 Hints At The 'Cosmic Holy Grail'
    Earlier this year the world's press marvelled at the discovery of the "holy grail" of cosmology that appeared to prove inflation - the rapid expansion of the universe after the big bang - really occurred. The evidence is based on patterns in background cosmic gravitation. Since then though the discovery has been mired in controversy, and scientists are now waiting for more data to try and confirm the results.
  • Physicists Find Hints Of The Multiverse
    The Washington Post via Getty Images
    In a paper published in Physical Review X, physicists Michael Hall, Dirk-André Deckert, and Howard M. Wiseman argued for a new vision of quantum mechanics that could lead to a 'proof of the multiverse'. The idea is to find evidence of the effects of parallel universes, and how they interact. "The beauty of our approach is that if there is just one world our theory reduces to Newtonian mechanics, while if there is a gigantic number of worlds it reproduces quantum mechanics" said Hall.
  • 'Dreadnoughtus' Dinosaur Is The Largest Ever Found
  • We Found Hints Of Life On Mars
    Ablestock.com via Getty Images
    NASA announced that it had found signs of methane spikes on the surface of Mars - evidence, perhaps, of life. The findings are still preliminary and far short of a 'smoking gun', but are intriguing enough to hint that we might not always have been alone in our solar system.
  • We Discovered Why Bananas Are Slippery
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This year's winner for "pointless" research discovered the reason that banana skins are slippery. The group from Kitasato University, Japan measured the friction of banana peel compared to other fruits in order to better understand why we always slip on them.
  • We Found Some New Particles
    Harold Cunningham via Getty Images
    Scientists found more evidence for the so-called Tetraquark in 2014 - a particle 4.7-times more massive than a proton. Dubbed Z(4430) by unimaginative researchers, the particle has irritated physicists all across the world since they (a) disagree about what it is and (b) they "hate each other". Physicists also discovered Ds3*(2860) and DS1*(2860), two other "strange and charming" new particles found at CERN.
  • The £200 Microscope Worth £100,000
    British student Adam Lynch made an enterprising breakthrough this year when he made his own specialist cell motility microscope (usual cost £100,000) for just £200. The Brunel PhD student told us the full story here.
  • Schrodinger's Picture
    Nicknamed "Schrodinger's Picture", this is an image generated with a cat stencil and entangled photons. The point is that scientists were able to take a picture of the stencil, without actually observing the photons used to make the image - and without those same photons interacting with the stencil. This is critical, since it helps to show one of the strange offshoots of quantum theory - that photos 'entangled' with each other 'share' a state of position and movement, even while appearing independent.
  • NASA Launches Orion
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In December NASA successfully tested its new Orion space capsule, sending it through the 'Van Allen' belt of radiation high above the Earth in what could prove to be a crucial experiment ahead of mankind's return to the Moon and eventually Mars.
  • We Discovered Space Zombies
    This was the year that the scientist Stephen Kane examined the maths behind the possibility that space is inhabited by ravenous zombies -- and discovered that there could be 2,500 zombie-infested planets within 326 light years of Earth. If that's not important information we don't know what is. "This premise of the paradox is that the timescale for extraterrestrial civilisations to spread throughout the galaxy is small compared with stellar lifetimes and so we should have encountered our neighbours by now. Our work here shows the resolution of the paradox to be quite simple. The desolation of a civilization requires only that they encounter a case of SNAP during their exploration phase and their entire civilization will collapse. Let us not repeat history by rushing in to where our predecessors ought to have feared to tread."

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