The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the 2010s (Part 2)

We are entering a transition time of not only a new year but also a new decade. Let’s review the most important scientific discoveries of the past 10 years .

The 2010 decade is coming to an end to make way for another decade to come. The past 10 years have been filled with groundbreaking new discoveries or new insights that have never been seen in history. These advances are either close to the human body, or as far away as the ends of the universe.

Looking at the findings of the past decade, it is easy to see the trend of research groups large to the size of thousands of people gradually increasing compared to research groups of just a few members in the past. These groups are not only colleagues in one place of work, but also work together around the globe.

Ten years of countless new insights, even if they don’t contribute to the overall progress of science, help us change our minds about an issue. Choosing the most representative findings of the decade is therefore not easy. Here is a list of great discoveries voted by the National Geographic editorial board.

The 2010s saw many important cosmological observations that revolutionized the way we study the universe.

In 2013, the European Space Agency launched the Gaia spacecraft to collect data and measure the distances of more than a billion stars in the Milky Way as well as velocity data of more than 150 million stars. The dataset has helped scientists create a complete 3D map of our galaxy, providing an unprecedented view of how galaxies form and change over time.

The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the 2010s (Part 2)
The Event Horizon Telescope, a ground-based observatory, has captured for the first time a realistic image of a black hole at the center of galaxy M87 – a massive galaxy in the Virgo galaxy cluster. (Photo: EHT).

In 2018, scientists published data measured by the Planck satellite about the dawn of the universe, which contains many important clues about the composition of the universe, its structure and speed. its expansion. The numbers obtained were baffling because the new expansion rate was so different from the previously known data, a “cosmological crisis” had begun and physics continued to have to be explained.

Also in 2018, the Dark Energy Survey Telescope began to release the first observational data, helping people to better understand these mysterious patches of the universe. And in April 2019, scientists using the Event Horizon Telescope revealed the first real image of a supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy M87.

Future historians might look back on the 2010s as a decade in which we hit interstellar space: For the first time, a human spacecraft has pierced the veil between the Sun’s sphere of influence. Heaven and the common space of the stars are outside. Simply put, we’re physically beyond the Solar System.

The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the 2010s (Part 2)
The graphic shows the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft leaving the Sun’s heliosphere and the Solar System’s sphere of influence. (Graphic: NASA).

In August 2012, NASA’s Voyager 1 probe crossed the outermost boundary of the heliosphere – a giant bubble of charged particles emanating from the Sun and enveloping the entire Solar System within. Voyager 2 followed in its twin brother’s footsteps in November 2018 and captured groundbreaking data along the way.

But as it turns out, the road to the interstellar region is a two-way street. In October 2017, astronomers found ‘Oumuamua, the first object to form in another star system and enter our Solar System. In August 2019, amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov found a second such object, a highly active comet that now bears his name.

Over the past 10 years, excavations from around the world have reinforced our knowledge of ancient works of art (or at least the doodles) that have turned out to be so common. around the world and is older than we’ve ever known.

In 2014, researchers discovered that the hard objects used to carve rocks and an animal painting in the Maros cave, Sulawesi island (Indonesia) dated at least 39,000 years, making them age. comparable to the oldest cave paintings in Europe.

Then in 2018, researchers announced the discovery of cave art in Borneo (Indonesia), which formed between 40,000 and 52,000 years ago, further pushing back the time stamp of cliff paintings. Finally, another discovery in 2018 in South Africa revealed an engraved rock face made about 73,000 years ago and is now the oldest painting in the world.

The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the 2010s (Part 2)
A person is taking measurements of the rock ring inside the Bruniquel cave in France, which may have been a Neanderthal dwelling.

These works also raise controversy about the artistic skill of the Neanderthals. In 2018, researchers revealed pigments found in perforated sea shells in Spain dating back 115,000 years, only Neanderthals known to have lived in Europe. That same year, another study suggested that some ancient Spanish cave paintings were 65,000 years old.

Earlier in 2016, paintings dating back 176,000 years were also found in France. Many cave painting experts have dissected and debated these findings, if the search results are accurate and not accidentally drawn by wild animals, it could be the first evidence of paintings. Neanderthal cave.

In July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons probe completed a decades-long mission to reach the icy world of Pluto, sending back to Earth the first images of the surface and many details. of this dwarf planet.

On the first day of 2019, New Horizons flew even further to capture the first pictures of Arrokoth or otherwise known as Ultima Thule, it is one of the most primitive objects still fully preserved. properties from the earliest days of the formation of the Solar System to the present day.

The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the 2010s (Part 2)
The first image of Pluto was taken by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. (Image: NASA).

A little closer, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at Vesta, the second largest object in the asteroid belt, in 2011. After mapping the dwarf planet, Dawn continued to orbit the planet. The dwarf planet Ceres is the largest asteroid belt object and becomes the first mission ever to orbit a dwarf planet and orbit two extraterrestrial bodies.

Near the end of the decade, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx and JAXA’s Hayabusa2 arrived at asteroids Bennu and Ryugu with the goal of collecting and sending the collected rock samples back to Earth.

How does matter have mass? During the 1960s and 1970s, physicists including Peter Higgs and François Englert proposed a method to explain this in terms of the energy field that pervaded the universe, now known as the Higgs field.

The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the 2010s (Part 2)
Illustrated scene of Higgs particles erupting after a collision between protons. (Graphic: Moonrunner Design).

This field, when theorized, was also accompanied by the elementary particles associated with it, now known as the Higgs boson, but these are only theoretical because humans have not yet discovered this particle in practice. July 2012 marked the end of uncertainty when two research groups at CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs boson.

This discovery shocked the world, it filled in the last missing part of the Standard Model, which describes 3 of the 4 fundamental forces of physics and talks about all known elementary particles. . Although the theory is far from complete, the Higgs boson fills in an important piece of evidence that further strengthens them.

Biologists today are identifying new species at a rapid pace, naming 18,000 new species each year on average. In the past decade, scientists have described for the first time a number of charismatic mammals, such as the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, the Vangunu giant rat and the Olinguito, as the first discovered carnivore. first in the Western hemisphere since the late 1970s.

The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the 2010s (Part 2)
Sao la Vietnam. (Photo: William Robichaud).

Groups, genera, and other species of animals have also expanded as scientists describe newly discovered fish the size of a hand, frogs smaller than a dime, a giant salamander in Florida and many other species. In addition, the Vietnamese Sao La and the Chinese Ili Pika are species that have been rediscovered after many years of disappearance.

But along with many of these findings, scientists have calculated the exponential rate of extinction. In 2019, scientists warned that a quarter of plant and animal groups are threatened with extinction, meaning that up to a million known and unknown species are now at risk of disappearing altogether.

The past decade has been an important transition for space exploration. Access to low Earth orbit has become so normal, it has now become a business for space businesses around the globe, and they commercialized the industry to soon turn into tourism. space.

In 2011, China launched its first space laboratory, Tiangong 1, into orbit. In 2014, India’s Mars orbiter mission also reached the red planet, making India the first country ever to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars on its first launch.

The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the 2010s (Part 2)
Astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch of NASA in the capsule of the International Space Station are conducting the first all-female space mission. (Photo: NASA).

In 2019, Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL attempted to land a spacecraft on the Moon, becoming the first privately-run mission to do so. In the same year, China’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft also successfully landed on the Moon.

The global astronaut force is also becoming more diverse: Tim Peake becomes the first British professional astronaut, Aidyn Aimbetov becomes the first post-Soviet Kazakh cosmonaut, and the Emirates The United Arab Emirates and Denmark also sent their first astronauts into space. What’s more, NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch performed the first all-female space mission.

In the US, after the last space shuttle was launched in 2011, private companies sought to fill this void. In 2012, SpaceX launched the first commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). In 2015, Blue Origin and SpaceX became the first companies to successfully launch reusable rockets into space and then safely return them to Earth, marking a milestone in sending ships to space. low Earth orbit economically and inexpensively.

To understand the natural world, scientists must measure it. But how do we define the units of measure? Over the decades, scientists have gradually redefined classical units in terms of universal constants, such as using the speed of light to help determine the length of a meter.

But the scientific unit of mass, the kilogram, is still attached to the Le Grand K mass, which is a metal cylinder located in France. If the mass of the embryo changes for any reason, the scientists will have to recalibrate their weighing instruments.

The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the 2010s (Part 2)
A standard kilogram at the US National Measurement Laboratory in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This is the US-based standard kilogram copied from the original in France. (Photo: Robert Rathe).

But that’s gone in 2019. Scientists around the world have come together to adopt a new definition of the kilogram based on a fundamental factor in physics called Planck’s constant. The new definition is thus improved for the units for measuring current, temperature and the number of particles in a given substance. For the first time in history, all of our scientific units now derive from universal constants to ensure a future era of more precise measurement.