Every year, the brilliant minds of science are making new discoveries that inspire us to learn more about our natural surroundings from everything microscopic to outer space. Thanks to the world’s best scientists and researchers, these scientific breakthroughs of 2017 push the boundaries of what we thought we already knew about life on Earth. If you’re curious about our progress in science, check out the list of scientific breakthroughs in 2016.
These 2017 scientific discoveries are not only educational and informative, but they are also surprisingly amazing! If you want to catch up with this year’s breakthroughs in science, this list has it all, including photos, videos, and other detailed info.
Ready to fill your brain with the latest science news? Start reading this list of the biggest discoveries in science and tech of 2017!
Scientists In The US Edited A Human Embryo For The First Time
US scientists successfully edited the DNA of a viable human embryo for the first time ever using a powerful gene-editing tool called CRISPR. Scientists used the tool to correct a genetic mutation that causes a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in embryos that were developed but not implanted. Similar research in China was also successful a few years ago.
While this proves scientists can go in and effectively “edit” a human baby for good and bad genes, the new discovery probably won’t be available for every expectant mother. The research is very controversial, and so far the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine said they only want the CRISPR to be used to elimate serious diseases.
New Invention Pulls Water Out Of Thin Air
Researchers at MIT and University of California, Berkeley figured out how to pull water out of thin air. Scientists developed a device that pulls water out of the air in weather conditions where there’s as low as 20% humidity. It’s a solar-powered device that uses a metal-organic framework made of zirconium and fumarate to suck water vapor out of the air.
The prototype was able to pull three quarts of water in 12 hours while sitting in an area that had 20% to 30% humidity.
Scientists believe this could be revolutionary to areas where there’s little access to clean water, including many areas in Africa.
Gravitational Waves Prove Einstein’s Theory Of General Relativity
Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity states that space and time are unified into one continuum: space-time. Objects in the universe, no matter their size, warp space-time as they move, creating ripples known as gravitational waves.
Until recently, however, that theory was just that: a theory. But new technological advancements allow astrophysicists to measure the massive gravitational waves created by huge objects in deep space. Usually these come from black holes and neutron stars millions and millions of light years away, so their waves are incredibly faint by the time they reach Earth.
In September 2017, gravitational waves were detected by three separate observatories at once. With all that data, scientists are better able to pinpoint where the waves are coming from, and learn more about them and the universe at large. Better yet, it proves the existence of gravitational waves – and therefore space-time – once and for all.
Scientists Figure Out How To Turn Hydrogen Into Metal
Harvard University scientists figured out how to turn hydrogen – the lightest of all elements – into a metal, a feat studied by researchers for nearly 100 years.
Experts say this new discovery could revolutionize the modern world. The properties of metallic hydrogen could lead to faster super computers, levitating railways, and advances in energy that could literally power rocket ships deep into our solar system.
“It takes a tremendous amount of energy to make metallic hydrogen,” said Professor Isaac Silvera. “And if you convert it back to molecular hydrogen, all that energy is release, so it would make it the most powerful rocket propellant known to man and could revolutionize rocketry. That would easily allow you to explore the outer planets.”
But don’t get too excited – while scientists say the discovery is a huge step, the sample size they used is extremely small. More tests will determine whether larger quantities of hydrogen can be transformed into a metal.
There’s Seven Earth-Sized Planets In Aquarius (No, Seriously)
While this sounds like a strange astrology reading of sorts, this is in fact very real. Scientists discovered seven earth-sized planets in the constellation of Aquarius surrounding a star. Based on their proximity to the star and their general size, scientists believe these planets could be home to life.
The planets are 39 light-years away and surround a dwarf star. Initial excitement about the possibility of life in the system was muted by the strength of radiation from the star, but a report in late December rekindled hope. Researchers hope that “within a decade” we might be able to determine if life is on the planets.
“I think we’ve made a crucial step in finding out if there’s life out there,” said Amaury Triaud, a researcher at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University. “If life managed to thrive and release gases in a similar way as Earth, we will know.”
Scientists One Step Closer To Growing Human Organs In Pigs
Scientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA, said they’re one step closer to being able to grow human organs inside pigs. In their latest research they were able to grow human cells inside pig embryos, a small but promising step toward organ growth.
But why would anyone want this research done in the first place? Scientists say it could help with studying disease and help develop different drugs. It could be a way to help with human organ donation.
Astronomers Witness Neutron Stars Colliding
On August 17, instruments at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, detected relatively major ripples in space-time. It was a kilonova, the collision of two neutron stars, and the first ever seen by mankind. The crashes of these incredibly dense celestial bodies are thought to have produced many of the heavier elements in the universe, including precious metals.
This event was particularly significant because it didn’t require specific instruments to witness. The kilonova produced radio waves, gamma rays, and X-rays in addition to gravitational waves, meaning any astronomer could study it. As astrophysicist Daniel Holz put it, “I can’t think of a similar situation in the field of science in my lifetime, where a single event provides so many staggering insights about our universe.”
A New Pill Might Help People Who Binge Drink
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center say they’ve discovered a new way to help binge drinkers: a pill.
Scientists studied the genomes of light, moderate, and heavy drinkers. They focused their research on a specific gene and found those who had a variation inside the gene drank significantly less than the others.
The gene itself probably evolved from human contact with alcohol for thousands of years, according to the researchers. During testing, mice who were given the variation hormone were more likely to drink water than alcohol. Mice in the control group were more likely to drink alcohol.
Scientists are now taking the variation hormone attached to that gene and creating a drug for human consumption. They’re hopeful their new discovery will help combat alcoholism and binge drinking.
New Male Contraceptive Gel Shows 100 Percent Success Rate In Monkeys
Scientists from France discovered a new contraceptive for males that could possibly be a new birth control method for human men. The gel – called Vasalgel – blocks sperm inside the body from getting into seminal fluid. In the monkeys tested during the medical trial, 100 percent showed signs sperm was blocked.
The gel is injected into the tubes between the testicles and the penis, also known as the vas deferens. Doctors compared it to getting a vasectomy in terms of the actual procedure, but the gel wouldn’t be permanent.
Researchers plan to introduce the drug to human test subjects sometime in 2018 or 2019.
PMS Could Be More Tolerable With New Molecular Discovery
Researchers at the National Institute of Health discovered a new molecular mechanism that might be the cause of severe premenstrual syndrome known as PMDD.
The discovery, reported in January, shows women who suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder have a difference in their molecular biology responsible for controlling sex hormones. Researchers experimented with this theory by turning off estrogen and progesterone in test subjects, which caused the severe symptoms to disappear.
Scientists now believe PMDD has a molecular response to these two hormones. They’re now working on creating a treatment for women with PMDD to manage their symptoms.
The First Ever Fluorescent Frog Is Discovered In Argentina
The polka-dot tree frog was thought to be a pretty run-of-the-mill amphibian – that is, until scientists discovered this tiny little creature actually glows in the dark. This is the first time researchers have found the fluorescent trait in am amphibian. Previously it was found in some fish, turtles, and birds.
Scientists noticed the fluorescence after noticing the frogs had slight red tint in certain lights. But when they shined a UV light on the frog they realized it was much more than just a slight tint of red, it was a completely bright green and blue glow. The frog emits chemicals from inside its body that takes in regular light and emit it at a longer wavelength.
Roadkill May Hold The Key To Better Human Health
Talk about the ultimate irony: the key to better human health might, in fact, lie in the bodies of dead animals strewn along the road. At least, that’s what a team of researchers in Oklahoma believe.
In January, scientists from the University of Oklahoma said they’ve been studying roadkill and the communities of microorganisms that live inside them to unlock possible cures for human diseases. They study the bacteria and other organisms inside the animal and their effects on health and wellbeing. Scientists are hoping to produce a diverse range of microbiomes to study. Microbiomes in humans already are inclined to stave off various types of illness and disease. Researchers believe studying the microbiomes of these dead animals could unlock they survive, and also open a window into where their defenses fill in gaps in the human defenses.
The scientists said using roadkill as test subjects also helps them avoid testing on live animals, and it gives them a variety of animals to choose from – everything from deer, possums, raccoons, and even skunks.