The past year has been a momentous one for science and technology.
In 1933, Fritz Zwicky first predicted the existence of invisible “dark matter” when he noticed galaxies were spinning faster than their masses predicted. Decades later, Vera Rubin found more evidence of dark matter in other galaxies. Physicists now think dark matter makes up 85 percent of the universe’s mass.Still, no one has seen the stuff down on Earth.
The basic outline of this mission was presented in mid-December at American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans. JPL’s Anthony Freeman called the plan “nebulous,” noting that the mission doesn’t even have a name yet. The goal is to launch the as-yet theoretical probe in 2069, the one-hundred year anniversary of the moon landing. The design of the craft, launch vehicle, and propulsion system all remain unknowns.
Our Top 10 stories of 2017 cover the science that was earthshaking, field-advancing or otherwise important. But choosing our favorite stories requires some different metrics. Here are some of our staff’s favorites from 2017, selected for their intrigue, their power, their element of surprise -- or because they were just really, really fun.
Keeping up with new developments in science, tech, and innovation during 2017 was a bit like trying to tread water during a tsunami. From a dramatic solar eclipse and breathtaking advances in gene-editing technology to the detection of ripples in space-time predicted by Einstein more than a century ago, the stories just kept coming.
With the opening of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" on Dec. 15, more than likely you're going to see at least one ship using hyperspace drive to travel faster than the speed of light. It's a staple of the "Star Wars" universe, dating back to the first movie in 1977, when Han Solo and his trusty band of renegades zipped between stars using the Millennium Falcon.
Scientists used to wonder how common planets were throughout the universe, and now we know. They’re extremely common. They’re so common, in fact, it’s possible just to find another one while you’re trying to gather data on the one you already knew about. That’s what happened when astronomers recently turned their attention to the star K2-18. They found a bonus planet.
Futurists and other experts organized by The Millennium Project provide a coherent framework to understand global change and prospects for the future. Possibly the most comprehensive synthesis of future challenges - from AI, synthetic biology, robotics, and nanotech to work, terrorism, climate change, population, gender, global ethics, and the next economics - in clear, precise language.
Before Cassini or Galileo, there were the Voyager probes. Launched in August and September of 1977, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue to communicate with Earth via the Deep Space Network. Voyager 1 is farther from Earth than Voyager 2, due to differences in their missions and trajectories, at an estimated 141 AU from Earth (1 AU is the distance between Earth and the sun). On Friday, NASA engineers were able to successfully fire Voyager 1’s backup thrusters -- for the first time in 37 years.
The idea behind stories in science is relatively simple. We are surrounded by stories in science. Stories of success, failure, fear, discovery, serendipity, collaboration, separation, inspiration, mentorship, and so much more! It is these stories that fill the classrooms. It is these stories that are shared at home, during lunch, in laboratories, offices, and even in Nobel Prize winning speeches. We need to hear these stories. It is these stories that grab our attention. It is these stories that inspire us to keep going against all odds.