Science in 2013 played a more important role than ever. At the same time, many intriguing discoveries were made. Here is a list of five major scientific discoveries according to the magazine National Geographic.
1. Space has become more ‘crowded’
In 2013 researchers from California Institute of Technology suggested that there are no less than 100 billion exoplanets in the orbits the Milky Way’s stars.
Obviously, not all of them are suitable for living. The November report from NASA Keck Observatory suggests that one out of five stars may have Earth-like planets in their habitable zone. More recent climate studies of habitable zones claim that this probability may be too high although there are still a very large number of potentially habitable planets.
2. Cloned human embryonic stem cells
After years of unsuccessful attempts, researchers from the Health and Science University of Oregon announced that they finally managed to clone human embryos and get stem cells from them. They also managed to grow them in specialized skin cells and heart tissue cells, which was the first step toward using them in transplantation medicine.
The key to the research team’s success, as strange as it may sound, was the addition of caffeine to the process of cloning.
3. Spacecraft Voyager reached the border of the solar wind
One of the most notable events of the year happened, in fact, in 2012. Echoes of solar storms last September confirmed that NASA Voyager had really come out into interstellar space.
NASA has long hoped to tell the world that the old probe, launched in 1977, reached the edge of the solar wind. It is expected that its twin brother Voyager-2 will also come out soon in interstellar space.
4. Martian lake may have once contained ancient life
NASA Curiosity rover continued its historic journey in 2013 and found that a long-vanished lake on Mars could have sustained life about three billion years ago.
This discovery mostly justified NASA’s efforts to find suitable conditions for life on Mars. Next rover will go to the Mount Sharp in the center of the Gale Crater, which was its original destination.
5. New version of human evolution
Family Tree of the human race suddenly started changing after a year of studies of ancient DNA and findings of some fossils.
For example, as a result of excavations in the village of Dmanisi in Georgia, scientists announced that many seemingly different early human species seem to belong to the same species – Homo erectus. This announcement was made on the basis of the finding of a skull aged 1.8 million years, which bears the imprint of a mixture of traits as earlier and later species.
At the same time, what seemed a Neanderthal bone found in Spain gave scientists the oldest sequenced DNA, and as it turned out, it belonged to a different species of long-extinct early humans – Denisovans.
All these findings suggest that the ancient humans in prehistoric times interbred with Homo erectus, as well as with early modern humans. And this in turn means that many modern people have in their genome a certain fraction of genes of prehistoric humans.