10 of the coolest scientific discoveries of 2016

10 of the coolest scientific discoveries of 2016

Some of these may be a bit too X-files or a Frankenstein re-run for comfort. Still, pretty impressive stuff.

It wasn’t all Brexit, Trump-et and terrorist attacks: 2016 also saw some of the coolest scientific discoveries ever!

1. Mathematicians discovered a new prime number
And this one is more than 22 million digits long. Prime numbers (numbers divisible by only one and themselves for those of us who are clueless about such things) are extremely rare and this one is the biggest prime to have ever be discovered.

This particular prime is known as a Mersene prime which is a prime number that can also be written as one less than a power of two. Imagine trying to read that one out loud.

2. Scientists discovered an enzyme that prevents sugar from being stored as fat
Will this be the new Banting? Researchers at the University of Montreal discovered an enzyme that prevents sugar from being stored as fat. Though, as yet, only tested on rats – the implications are immense, not the least of which in the treatment of diabetes.

3. Neurosurgeon claims to have performed a successful head transplant
Neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero has claimed to have successfully transplanted the head of a monkey onto another monkey’s body. Apparently this is not the first animal head transplant, but Canavero’s Frankenstein-esque plan include using his knowledge to transplant a human head onto another human body in 2017. And there is a volunteer:  a 30-year-old Russian, Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease.

4. Astronomers have evidence of a 9th planet
Pluto may have been downgraded but astronomers have presented compelling evidence for the existence of Planet Nine.

Scientists and astronomers believe that this postulated ninth planet is most likely situated on the outer fringes of our solar system and is so large that it has caused the sun to tilt. A tilt that scientists have been unable to explain.

5. Palaeontologists discovered a pregnant T-Rex
Mama-to-be T-Rex’s discovery has many Palaeontologists’ all broody and gooey-eyed. The pregnant T-Rex fossil sheds new light into how dinosaurs lay their eggs as well as what the basic biological difference between male and female dinosaurs are.

6. Scientists help a quadriplegic man move his fingers
A quadriplegic man has been able to move his fingers and even play Guitar Hero thanks to scientists who planted a device in his brain.

7. Oxygen was detected in the Martian atmosphere
The X-files reality TV show? NASA has detected oxygen in Mars’ atmosphere for the first time in 40 years. Even though the amount of oxygen found is much lower than they expected, it does give insight into how atmospheric gasses escaped from the planet in the distant past. Also puts ideas of ‘Outpost Mars’ into closer reality.

8. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is proven, again
Scientists proved, at long last, the final part of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Gravitational waves which send ripples through space and time were detected finally proving a prediction made by Einstein more than 100 years ago.

9. Dutch scientists announce that vegetables grown in soil similar to that on Mars are safe to eat
Yup, ‘Outpost Mars’ is getting closer…Dutch scientists announced that vegetables grown in soil composed of the same levels of heavy metals as Martian soil, are safe to eat.

While the study has not been replicated in the same gravitational conditions found in Mars it is still an exciting prospect.

10. The world’s first three parent baby was born
The controversial ‘three parent’ baby was born in 2016. The DNA of this baby comprises largely of his mother and father’s genes but a very small part of his genes also come from a donor.

The baby’s mother struggled to conceive and continued passing mutated mitochondrial cells to her foetuses resulting in Leigh’s syndrome.

The women suffered four miscarriages and two of her children died from this disease until the pioneering technique helped her prevent the passing of these mitochondrial cells.

The future is here. What will 2017 bring?

By Amonette van den Heever. Also published here on TheSouthAfrican.com

TOP IMAGE: The dream of living on Mars is two steps closer thanks to scientific discoveries of 2016 (Image Credits: Pixabay/Wikiimages)

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