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.
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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.
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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.
Researchers studying the remains of an enormous dinosaur declared that it was probably the largest land animal that ever lived, weighing 59 tons or more than seven bull elephants.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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."