New Scientist magazine published a series of articles about the 10 major events that are likely to happen in the field of science and technology in the coming year.
8 Most Expected Science and Technology Advances in 2014
1. Space is getting closer
In 2014, two spacecraft that will help people finally reach Mars will be tested. In September, NASA will launch spacecraft Orion, designed for deep space missions, in a 4-hour flight around the Earth.
Also next year the first launch of the rocket Falcon Heavy, developed by a private company SpaceX, will take place. It is able to deliver to Mars 13200 kg of cargo and should become the most powerful rocket available today. It lacks the power to take people with all the necessary equipment to Mars at one time, but it can help to start sending loads to the “red planet” before sending expeditions.
In 2013, the world saw Comet ISON flying in the sky. In 2014, humanity will pay a return visit: spacecraft of the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta will orbit the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet and land on its surface.
Currently, the celestial body is moving at a speed of 16 km/s, and the Rosetta is catching it at a speed of 800 m/s. In November 2014, the spacecraft will separate from the landing module Philae, which is destined to become the first spacecraft to land on a comet.
The onboard laboratory will study soil samples and send the results back to Earth to find out whether our oceans and plenty of molecules, which are necessary for life, owe their appearance to these celestial bodies.
2. Life in the depths of Lake Vostok ice
In 2013, Russian scientists managed to penetrate into Lake Vostok, an ice pond that is deeper than 500 m and is buried under a 4-km layer of Arctic ice.
In 2014, scientists have to find out whether there is life in there, which can survive high pressure, without sunlight, at extremely low temperatures, and in complete isolation. The Discovery of living organisms in its waters will be the last proof of the adaptability of all living beings to environmental conditions.
3. Cloning human ancestors
Cloning dinosaurs using DNA samples remains possible only in the movie “Jurassic Park“, but scientists make substantial gains when it comes to reading the genome of ancient creatures – though not so ancient as the dinosaurs. In 2014, the genome of the distant human ancestor Homo Erectus, who lived on Earth for more than one million years ago, may be assembled.
Until recently, reading the genome of hominids was not easy: the DNA is best stored in a cool climate, and human ancestors lived mainly in the tropics. However, as recently shown by the example of the mitochondrial genome of ancient human remains found in Spain, under the right conditions, DNA can be preserved in a warm climate.
4. Playing football in an exoskeleton suit
First to hit the ball at the World Cup in Brazil will not be one of the players. If all goes according to plan, it will be a paralyzed teenager who will do it with the help of a mind-controlled exoskeleton.
It will demonstrate the achievements of the international project Walk Again, which uses modern technology to deal with paralysis. The exoskeleton is controlled by electrical signals of the brain, read by electrodes that are placed on the surface of the head or directly in the brain.
5. A child born from three parents
If the British Parliament will allow this new form of Vitro fertilization, then the next year the first child born from three parents can come to the world. This will allow thousands of women with mitochondrial disease to avoid transmitting it to their children.
Mitochondria have their own DNA, which is passed through the maternal line and is different from the chromosomes in the cell nucleus. There is a way to avoid transmission of mitochondrial abnormalities: it is necessary to take a donor egg with normal mitochondrial DNA and the cell nucleus from an egg of an expectant mother.
Most experts on bioethics argue that by providing only 0.1% of the child’s DNA, the donor will not be considered its parent either from a legal or ethical point of view.
6. The disintegration of the Internet and computers on the head
In 2014, the results of the surveillance on the Internet will be revealed.
Experts estimate that over the next two years, U.S. Internet giants and technology companies can lose up to 35 billion dollars. However, there are positives: people will become more careful about their activity on the web.
Also, the disintegration of the World Wide Web may start, since several countries, including Brazil and Germany, are considering the concept of national internet.
Perhaps a year later all of us will wear computers on our heads: in 2014, the widely advertised Google Glass will go on sale.
During the test of the first modification of the “smart” glasses, a number of revolutionary practical applications were found: surgeons broadcasted the operation to medical students, and patients with diabetes were able to literally see what they eat.
Critics of the device say that it will put an end to private life and will destroy communication, but in any case, the appearance of this device will change the way we see the world.
7. Hydrogen SUV
In 1937, a fire on the airship Hindenburg put an end to the use of hydrogen as a fuel, but the lightest chemical element returns.
The company Hyundai produces an SUV Tuscon Fuel Cell, which uses hydrogen to produce energy. Its fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen from the tank, obtained from the air, whereby an electrochemical reaction occurs, generating a current for the motor.
Unlike electric cars, which require a few hours for charging, the new SUV takes a couple of minutes to refuel, and a full tank should last for 480 km.
8. Global drought is coming
Be prepared for anything: that’s the main idea of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which will be published in March next year.
To date, it is known that the south of Europe, the Middle East, southeastern states of the U.S., and South Australia expect drought. In northern latitudes – in Scandinavia and Canada – there will be more rain and snowfall.
As for other parts of the globe, climate change was more difficult to predict than anticipated. Experts increasingly diverge in predictions, especially in those for Africa and Asia.
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