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science news The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018  

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January 4, 2018 42.3k views 34 items

Scientific breakthroughs happen across the globe each year as the world's top researchers make innovative discoveries that alter life on earth and change our perception of reality. The greatest scientific discoveries are an inspiring testament to the profound capabilities of the human mind. Each year, scientists make incredible discoveries.

In 2017, scientists learned how to pull water out of thin air and edit a human embryo. The latest breakthroughs from 2018 are just as impressive. If you haven't already learned about these recent scientific advances, now is the time. 

This list of 2018 scientific discoveries features informative works that span a wide range of disciplines. Some discoveries brought about a more rich understanding of our past. The last wild horses may not truly have wild ancestors and a lost Native American tribe gave us a more complex look at our earliest ancestors. Other discoveries may mean huge leaps for medical science. From blood tests to detect cancer to the potential to grow human organs for donations, these breakthroughs will give you hope for the future even in bleak times.  

The latest in science news is inspirational for a new generation of thinkers who will continue to push the boundaries of human capability. What were the biggest discoveries of 2018? Read on to find out. 

Scientists Pinpointed A Ghost Particle's Origins


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On July 12, 2018, scientists released a study outlining how they were able to pinpoint the exact source of a neutrino, AKA a "ghost particle." Neutrinos are subatomic, nearly massless particles with no charge. These tiny specks are as small as electrons and can travel across the universe on a straight course; they don't bump into or interact with other particles, which is why they have the nickname ghost particles. This is also why they are next to impossible to detect. 

One hundred trillion neutrinos pass through your body every second, but it wasn't until September 2017 that astronomers were able to fully detect and trace the origins of a high-energy neutrino back to a blazar. A blazer is an elliptical galaxy that boasts a swirling supermassive black hole as its center. 

Why are astronomers so excited by this discovery? The scientists at the IceCube observatory in the South Pole believe these particles can help unveil mysteries of the cosmos. The particle's ability to travel through space unscathed makes it easier for scientists to understand phenomena happening billions of light-years from Earth. Ghost particles might also help scientists understand secrets about our universe's past, like why matter won over anti-matter in the Big Bang. Some believe it might even change human's fundamental understanding of physics. 

"That's why this is exciting," astroparticle physicist and IceCube spokesman Darren Grant told The Washington Post. "It's a brand new vision on what's happening in the universe."

 

Astronomers Found The Brightest Object From The Universe's Infancy


Astronomers Found The Brightes... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018
Photo:  NASA/JPL/Public Domain

In July 2018, astronomers discovered the brightest object in our universe. The discovered quasar, named  PSO J352.4034-15.3373 (P352-15 for short), is 13 billion light-years away from Earth and started when the universe was only 7% of its age today.

A quasar is an object in space, such as a galaxy, that is fueled by a supermassive black hole. They can be up to a billion times as big as our Sun. Quasars absorb materials and then spew them back out in the form of blinding plasma, which is why scientists are able to detect them with sophisticated telescopes. Scientists can continue studying this quasar in an attempt to further understand the universe and its beginnings. 

"This quasar’s brightness and its great distance make it a unique tool to study the conditions and processes that prevailed in the first galaxies in the universe. We look forward to unraveling more of its mysteries," said astrophysicist Chris Carilli of NRAO.

The Curiosity Rover Uncovered Ancient Components Necessary For Life On Mars


The Curiosity Rover Uncovered ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018
Photo:  NASA/Handout/Getty Images News

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity discovered an assortment of organic molecules on the red planet's surface. The carbon-based molecules found are the building blocks of life as we know it here on Earth, although their existence does not necessarily confirm life on Mars; these components can exist thanks to geological processes alone.

Samples of the organic matter were taken from a three billion-year-old mudstone in the Gale crater. While scientists are quick to point out this is not concrete evidence of organic life, they aren't eliminating the notion entirely. 

"We cannot rule out the possibility that it was created biologically," study lead author Chris Webster, a senior research fellow at the Jet Propulsion Lab, said. "We can't say that it was, but we're certainly not dropping the idea. So, in a sense, that's positive for the astrobiologists in the world."

The study was published on June 7, 2018, in the online journal Science.

Scientists Discovered 13 Billion Year Old Oxygen, Which May Reveal The Oldest Stars In The Universe


Scientists Discovered 13 Billi... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2018
Photo: ESA/Hubble/WikiMedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

In May 2018, scientists from the University College London published a study that revealed they spotted 12 billion year old oxygen in a distant galaxy. The age of the oxygen indicates this portion of the universe experienced a star-forming period, possibly producing some of the earliest stars in the history of time. After the first wave of stars underwent gas and supernova deaths, this could have potentially caused further star formation. While the precise implications of the research remains unclear, such discoveries are key to eventually understanding how the universe first formed.