As we are approaching the end of this unprecedented year, which was full of challenges, it can be difficult to remember some of the positive things that happened. So, here are some awesome scientific advancements and events that you might have missed from 2020 to look back on!
We kicked off the year with a billion year old discovery. In January, scientists identified an asteroid crater in Australia, named Yarrabubba, to be 2.2 billion years old. The dating of this crater could help identify some key reasons as to why the ice age ended. In February, billion year old seaweed fossils were discovered and are thought to be linked to the development of land plants!
While the spring time was dominated by the pandemic, the summer was filled with new space endeavors. In May, 2 astronauts were launched into space from the United States, which hasn’t happened in about a decade! In July, as part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the Perseverance rover was launched from Earth in July and is on track to land in February of 2021 on Mars. This rover will examine Mars with the objective to see if there was ever a presence of life on the planet. It will also observe the environment and climate for a year, while exploring the planet to find evidence of the building blocks of life. The data gathered on this mission will be used to help on the endeavor to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
As the leaves started to change colors and the temperatures got cooler, fall brought some great science discoveries. Artificial Intelligence is starting to become a reality, and is going to be integral to scientific advancement in the 2020s. DeepMind is an AI that has been designed to advance scientific discovery, and is currently developing a software program that is designed to predict protein folding. Scientists have strived for years to solve the challenges in predicting protein folding, as it is a vital part of many disease models. So, this advancement will help immensely in the upcoming years. For example, predicting the complex folding and structure of proteins will be a key player in quickening and improving upon the development of medicines.
We can’t forget some of the developments and discoveries that earned Nobel Prizes this year! In Physiology or Medicine: Michael Houghton, Charles M. Rice, and Harvey J. Alter earned the prize for their discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. In Physics: Andrea M. Ghez and Reinhard Genzel earned the prize for their improved understanding of the centre of our galaxy, and Roger Penrose earned the prize for his work with black holes. In Chemistry: Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier earnedthe prize for their development of CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors for genome editing.
Lastly, we are heading into winter with some positivity as people are beginning to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine! Can’t wait to see what scientific advancements we will see next in 2021!