The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs Of 2017 

Ranker Science
Updated January 3, 2019 9.2k votes 2.8k voters 117.9k views 12 items

List Rules Vote up the most significant scientific discoveries of 2017

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 and this list of 2018 scientific breakthroughs, and the scientific breakthroughs of 2019.

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! 

New Invention Pulls Water Out Of Thin Air
New Invention Pulls Wate... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs Of 2017
Photo: University of California, Berkeley

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. 

Truly significant?
Scientists In The US Edited A Human Embryo For The First Time
Scientists In The US Edi... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs Of 2017
Photo: Telemachus/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

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. 

Truly significant?
Scientists Figure Out How To Turn Hydrogen Into Metal
Scientists Figure Out Ho... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs Of 2017
Photo: - François -/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

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. 

Truly significant?
Gravitational Waves Prove Einstein's Theory Of General Relativity
Gravitational Waves Prov... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs Of 2017
Photo: Chaos/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

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.

Truly significant?