Logic rules the human mind, and as time passes on we make scientific discoveries that bring new perspectives to our world. In 2015, there have been so many huge advancements made in the scientific field. These developments can turn our way of thinking upside-down and inspire us to gain more knowledge of the world around us. Although we still have a long way to go, here are six discoveries in science from this year that are bringing us closer and closer to mastering the composition and physics of the world in which we reside.
Number Six: The Man-Made Leaf. NASA has been working for years on a way to prolong oxygen capacities for long-term space exploration, and the solution may have just presented itself. Julian Melchiorri, RCA graduate, has developed an artificial leaf capable of photosynthesizing as a normal plant would. The first of its kind, this leaf is able to absorb water and carbon dioxide and transform it into oxygen with just a bit of water and light. He did this by taking chloroplasts and suspending them in a matrix made of silk proteins, which have an incredible ability to stabilize molecules. While space exploration may be the first application for this creation, Melchiorri dreams of more. He has made light fixtures from the substance and has dreams for ventilation systems as well as architecture to fit our modern desires.
Number Five: New Species in the Himalayas. The Himalayas have provided us with an estimated 211 never-before-seen species of animals since 2009. It is predicted that about 36 species are discovered here annually. This year has provided us with a handful of highlighted creatures. A certain fish, deemed Channa Andrao, is in the spotlight for its particular abilities. This bright blue fish has gleaned the talent for “walking” on land by using its belly to crawl around, and it can survive for days without having to return to the water.
The bejeweled lance-headed pit viper has also been found. This snake is strikingly beautiful and is unique in that it is the only new species of reptile to be discovered here. Another popular find in the Himalayas is the snub-nosed monkey (or “Snubby”), named for the peculiar design of its upturned nose. Snubby has a tendency of tucking his head between his legs on rainy days to avoid the collection of water in his nose.
Number Four: A Previously Unknown Human Ancestor. Two explorers romping through Africa led to a scientific exploration that provided a breakthrough in the studies of our human lineage. To our list of hominin ancestors, we can now add the Homo Naledi (Naledi translates to “star”). Fossils of this unknown ancestor were found in a narrow crevice of Rising Star Cave in South Africa and provided more researchable bones in the same place than most other locations. The bones uncovered are posing large questions regarding the human lineage, and they may cause a reconstruction of the line entirely. They are unlike any previous human bones found and have caused quite the commotion over what we previously thought to be true.
Number Three: A…Bionic Penis? Scotland citizen Mohammed Abad has been gifted this year with the first ever “bionic penis.” Abad lost his appendage in a tragic car accident when he was six years old, in which he was dragged for 600 yards. Now, he has finally attained a replacement. For three years, surgeons have been crafting this pioneer device using a skin graft from his arm. When he wants to “use it”, he simply uses a pump that fills two tubes with liquid and deflates it when he is finished. Because of this groundbreaking new body part, he hopes to fulfill his dream of having kids.
Number Two: A New State of Matter. In the categories of matter, such as gas, liquid, and solid, scientists have added a substance called Jahn-Teller Metal to this list. This material is said to be not only a metal, but also a magnet, superconductor, and insulator. This development holds promising opportunities for energy revolution, as it has the ability to conduct electricity without any sort of energy release such as heat or sound. This metal receives its name after the Jahn-Teller effect, which describes the distortion of the geometric patterns of molecules and ions at low pressures under an electronic state. This material is revolutionary in that it can turn previously insulating materials into conductors with only a small amount of pressure.
Number One: The Ability to Change the Speed of Light. It is common knowledge in the study of physics that light travels at a constant speed within a vacuum. However, physicists in Glasgow have found a way to slow down the speed of light photons without use of glass or water. In their studies, they manipulated beams of light through a sort of filter, which they call a mask. The effect that this filter has on the light photons causes them to change shape and move at a slight angle.
What’s new about this research is that as light passes through glass or water, it speeds back up after leaving the material. However, by changing the shape of the photons, the nature itself was altered, and the photons retained the altered speed after passing through the mask. Their work has concluded that “even in free space, the invariance of the speed of light only applies to plane waves.”