The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs 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!
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Scientists In The US Edited A Human Embryo For The First TimePhoto: 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.
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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.
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Gravitational Waves Prove Einstein's Theory Of General RelativityPhoto: 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.
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Scientists Figure Out How To Turn Hydrogen Into MetalPhoto: - 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.
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There's Seven Earth-Sized Planets In Aquarius (No, Seriously)Photo: NASA / Vox
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."
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Astronomers Witness Neutron Stars CollidingPhoto: NASA/CXC/SAO (X-Ray); NASA/JPL-Caltech (Infrared) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
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."