The Best Science of 2012

retina implant


Detonate your mind with this inspirational list over at My Science Academy of what the human race achieved this past year through the pursuits of science. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. The first successful eye implants helped two men regain useful vision. The implants consist of tiny microchips placed behind the retina which help jumpstart the damaged cells into performing their routine functions.

“Because the brain has to “relearn” how to see after years of total blindness, it is hoped that the patients’ vision could continue to improve further as they continue to use the chip.”

“The technology can still be refined further and in future could be used to improve the sight of people with less severe retinal conditions such as macular degeneration, which affects half a million people in Britain, researchers said.”


2. A custom-fitted jawbone was created using a 3D printer for an 83 year-old Belgian woman. The design, composed of super-heated titanium powder and weighing just a bit more than a standard jawbone, was assembled by a 3D printer in just a few hours. The transplant was successful.

“Though 3D printers have been around for some time, their use for medical purposes is relatively new. The printers can use a range of materials, including plastics, metals, nylon and recycled paper. Newer models can even print using mixed materials. Scientists hope to one day be able to print human tissue and organs as well as bones, but admit that that day is still some way off.”


3. The first intelligible photograph of DNA was taken using an electron microscope, almost 60 years after its discovery. Until now, we’ve lacked the resolution and techniques necessary to capture the Watson-Crick double helix directly, relying on mathematical images to make sense of the biomolecular patterns written into our genes.

“Using more sensitive detectors that can respond to lower-energy electrons should soon allow the team to see individual double helices, and even unwound single strands of DNA. “With improved sample preparation and better imaging resolution, we could directly observe DNA at the level of single bases,” says di Fabrizio.”


4. Stem cell research in mice multiplied subject lifespan by 3. That’s right, THREE. This was achieved by implanting muscle stem cells from much younger mice and resituating them in older mice. Even the researchers themselves couldn’t believe the result.

“…Huard could imagine a scenario in which some of a person’s stem cells are harvested at about age 20 and then injected back into his or her body at around age 50 or 55.”


5. The Voyager I has now drifted beyond our solar system. Launched into deep space in 1977, the craft was equipped before launch with music, animal sounds and various greetings in 55 different languages in the eventuality it came into contact with ETI. No such contact has been forthcoming, but its on-board instruments are still operational. Voyager I’s extrasolar expedition has now begun.


6. Wales digitally cataloged every known plant species in the country. All 1,143 known native species of flora have been DNA-barcoded in order to track genetic diversity, bee migration patterns and other phenomena. Populations with the lowest DNA diversity are at the highest risk of extinction once their niche environment begins to change.

“Meanwhile the Barcode Wales team is now working with more partners to DNA barcode the rest of the UK native and alien flora.”


7. And of course, the Higgs boson particle was discovered, explaining why matter has mass. It was the last remaining particle in the Standard Model of Physics that had yet to be observed.

“Though all measurements to date point to the particle being a simple and singular Higgs boson, many physicists hope that relatives of the Higgs particle await discovery.”

Those are my favorites. What are yours?



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