Science: Past, Present and Future

by Leanne Gunn

Let’s take a look back over some of the scientific breakthroughs of 2014 and consider what discoveries and inventions we’ll see over the next 12 months.

2014: An exciting year for science

2014 felt like the year that science started to catch up with science fiction. It saw engineers successfully building tiny robots capable of swarming together to form simple two-dimensional shapes, geneticists adding letters to the genetic code of bacteria and NASA sending a satellite (OCO-2) into low-Earth orbit in order to monitor, in detail, exactly how our planet breathes.

CC-BY-SZASZ-Fabian Jazsef

CC-BY-SZASZ-Fabian Jazsef

 

The ability to live forever, heal quickly and remain young forever is a common theme of science fiction and while we are not there yet, 2014 certainly saw us taking a step closer. It was revealed that an anti ageing effect was seen in old mice when given the blood of a younger mouse.

 

Comet 67P CC-BY-SAIGO 3.0

Rosetta successfully landed on Comet 67P in November 2014
CC-BY-SAIGO 3.0

 

For me, the highlight of 2014 came in the form of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.

The Philae lander was released from Rosetta on the 12th November 2014 and was the climax of a ten year, six-billion kilometre journey through space, chasing the duck-shaped comet 67P. Despite bouncing on impact, Philae landed and was able to carry out its primary mission and send the first photograph of a comet’s surface back to Earth.

It wasn’t just this amazing achievement of landing that made this science story my favourite from 2014, but also the reaction of the scientists involved. Their elation when the news came through that Philae had landed highlighted just how passionate scientists are about their work. In particular this video of Professor Monica Grady from The Open University who was involved with the Rosetta mission hit the headlines for her overwhelming reaction portraying a very human side of science.

 

2015: What can we expect?

CC-BY-M. Tullates

CC-BY-M. Tullates

2015 is the UN International Year of Soils, and as the title suggests much of the science this year will be focused on the organic matter beneath our feet. Healthy soil has the potential to absorb more that 10% of the Earth’s carbon dioxide emissions and could be a vital resource in our mission to reduce our carbon dioxide levels.

2015 is also the year that politicians are set to design and manufacture a new universal treaty on Climate Change.

 

2015 is shaping up to be a good year for research into dwarf planets. In March 2015 NASA’s Dawn space craft will arrive at Ceres; the largest object in the asteroid belt situated between Mars and Jupiter. Then, later in 2015, another NASA mission will arrive at another, more famous, dwarf planet, Pluto. The New Horizon mission is making a close pass by of Pluto (once known as the 9th planet in our solar system) sending detailed photos back to Earth allowing scientists to properly investigate its landscape and geology.

In 2015 we will be able to see how accurate this computer model image of Pluto's surface actually is! CC-BY-European Southern Observatory (ESO)

In 2015 we will be able to see how accurate this computer model image of Pluto’s surface actually is!
CC-BY-European Southern Observatory (ESO)

CC-BY-The BLOODHOUND Project

Will 2015 see the Bloodhound vehicle break the land speed record?CC-BY-The BLOODHOUND Project

 

2015 is set to be an important year for Engineering, as it is time for the British Bloodhound car to break the sound barrier. This vehicle consisting of a Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine bolted to a rocket hopes to become a new land speed record holder by beating the current record of 763mph (1,230km/h) set by Andy Green in Thrust SSC in 1997.

At SMS the Bloodhound car is the most anticipated bit of 2015 as we have been telling students about it for years with our Bloodhound show and avidly following it’s progress.

The infamous Large Hadron Collidor at CERN will be turned back on this year following 2 years of down time. The experiments over the next three years will see particles whizzing around the circular subterranean  tunnel with more energy than previous experiments. This work aims to enable physicists to answer some huge outstanding questions about dark matter, anti-matter and supersymmetry.

CC-BY-Universal Studios or Drew Strutzan

CC-BY-Universal Studios or Drew Strutzan

Science fiction made some predictions about 2015 that are becoming a reality! Marty McFly visited 2015 in Back to the Future Part II where he saw the next generation using amazing inventions such as hover-boards and self-lacing shoes! Nike have created the futuristic trainers and will be releasing them later this year. Hover-boards have also become a reality by using magnetic levitation – creating a magnetic field between a board and a surface so that the board is repelled by the surface, allowing it to hover. Some predictions came true without the pleas of sci-fi fans: today we use video chat, wireless games consoles, touch screen devices without really thinking about it, but they were all referred to in the movie as futuristic technology.

Of course this small list of things barely scratches the surface of what 2015 has to offer the world of science. Other surprising and exciting science developments are bound to take place along the way propelling us further into understanding the world we live in.

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Posted in Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Exploring Science, Physics