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Top Five Scientific Discoveries of the Decade

Science Under the Microscope

Top Five Scientific Discoveries of the DecadeSo, here we are at the end of another decade, and you find yourself asking the inevitable question: “What were the most important scientific breakthroughs of the Aughts?”

Well, here is my list:


5. Water on Mars and the Moon (2008, 2009)

Two unmanned research probes, one that landed and drilled on the Martian polar ice cap and the other that made a new crater on the Moon, both revealed traces of water. On Mars, the early signs pointed to liquid water flowing in the distant past and then ice was found in sample collected from the ice cap. The lunar evidence was obtained from orbit after an object intentionally collided with the surface, and amounts to 25 gallons or more.

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4. Pluto is not the ninth planet (2006)

Members of the International Astronomical Union made the tough call and reclassified Pluto as a “dwarf planet” since it has almost nothing in common with the other eight planets, and is much more like the other objects of the Kuiper Belt. These icy rocks that orbit our Sun are smaller than many large asteroids.


3. Stem cells yield concrete results (2005)

Those famous (and controversial) pluripotent cells obtained from embryos (and sometimes umbilical cord blood) were used to create human tissues for the first time. In 2005, scientists revealed a new method for culturing them that may render the arguably objectionable practice of destroying embryos to obtain stem cells unnecessary.


2. Oldest Human Ancestor much older than we thought (2009)

Fossils of a very early hominid reveal that upright-walking primates, representing an earlier branch of our little twig on the Tree of Life, date back more than 4.4 million years. Ardipithecus ramidus (”Ardi” to her friends) lived in Ethiopia more than a million years earlier than “Lucy”, proving that human ancestor lived all over the African continent... and that girls fossilize better.


1. Complete sequencing of the Human Genome (2002)

Nothing else can compare to a complete map of our genes. This monumental task was accomplished in an ridiculously short time thanks to the combined (and sometimes competitive) efforts of government-sponsored research and private enterprise. Now, if we can just figure out what all of these genes do...

What are the biggest developments in your subject this decade? Share in the comments section!

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