Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2008

  1. Dec 23, 2008 #1

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/YearInReview/story?id=6498591&page=1
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 23, 2008 #2
    I suppose what's more realistic and important at the moment is looking at what we do with available energy. Who's to say we don't already have everything we need except self-control?
     
  4. Dec 23, 2008 #3

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    At least two items on that list are, IMHO, just wrong.

    LHC? Please! An embarrassing explosion does not make for a scientific breakthrough. Even if they get it started in 2009, I doubt we will see any breakthroughs from it in 2009. It will take some time to get the experiment up to speed and then reduce the data and then confirm that whatever they found was indeed there.

    YouTube? An even bigger Please! YouTube was undoubtably a great breakthrough for crackpots and charlatans. For the most part, YouTube represents a step backwards, not forwards to me. YouTube does not have so much a signal-to-noise problem as a noise-to-signal problem. Sturgeon's law ("Ninety percent of everything is crud") needs an update with regard to YouTube. Even in the very rare case of useful content, I can generally get a whole lot more information from ten minutes of reading than from watching a ten minute video. While creating a quality video might take less time than creating a quality written work, the time saved on the part of the author is more than compensated by the time wasted on the part of the viewers.
     
  5. Dec 23, 2008 #4

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I see YouTube as microcosm of the internet, which has the same noise-to-signal problem. In fact, this is exactly why I have been a huge PF fan since first landing here - PF is an internet filter. Most websites are barely more than noise, but here we try to counter this trend with many brains working in unison for the common good.

    In regards to YT specifically, it does allow people from around the globe to connect in a very personal way - we see tubers in their homes, cars, or at their jobs, acting silly, having fun, and reaching out to others. And while most of what we see is nonsense, I think it will also help to make the world a community. For example, instead of the evil "Russians" who were once represented by nothing more than a flag on the evening news, we now see Yuri playing his guitar at home. This personalized perception of the world helps us to see the people, and not the flags. It slowly undermines the notion that "they" are not like "us". The lasting impact of this is hard to imagine. While YT is just one piece of the puzzle, I believe it helps to change the world profoundly by bringing us all a little closer. It helps to drive home the point that we are all in this together.

    But I do agree that we have a serious noise problem. Then again, free speech has always been noisy.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2008
  6. Dec 23, 2008 #5
    There were no scientific breakthroughs since 1945 (first nuclear bomb). None.
     
  7. Dec 23, 2008 #6

    chemisttree

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    This year Barry Trost's lab reported the total synthesis of (-)-oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in only 9 steps and in 30% overall yield. His simple, direct synthesis from a commercially available lactone bypasses the shikimic acid pathway used by LaRoche. There were fears of the shikimic acid precursor being in short supply a few years back when the bird flu pandemic was in the news. Trost's method is really elegant and simple (for him, that is...). You will have to find it in Angewante Chem. yourself since I don't feel comfortable copying journal information online.
     
  8. Dec 23, 2008 #7

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    By my count, there are only four scientific breakthroughs on the list. The others:

    Cheap Genome: Not new, just cheaper.
    (1) Life on Mars: Finding water counts, the title is bad.
    (2) Invisibility cloak: Skeptical, but I'll give them "metamaterials"
    New planets discovered: This is so common it is mundane. Amateurs are doing it now.
    Chinese spacewalk: Replicating 40 year old technology is a breakthrough? Seriously? Either way, technology isn't science.
    (3) Dead Mice Resurrected: Legit.
    Social networking: Congratulations, ABC, you've discovered the internet! Welcome to 1996!
    LHC: Technology again. An engineering feat, no doubt, but not a scientific breakthrough.
    (4) Programmable cells: Legit.
    Energy and climate change: Not specific and no breakthroughs.

    Terrible, terrible article. This is why I hate science in popular media. They are impressed by the sexy mundane and don't know the first thing about what they are looking at.
     
  9. Dec 23, 2008 #8

    George Jones

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I suspect that you're just trying to live up to your name.
     
  10. Dec 23, 2008 #9
    I beg to differ. I'm subbed to multiple educational channels that I find very useful. You can get a lot more out of a 10 minute educational video than a book sometimes.
     
  11. Dec 24, 2008 #10
    The transistor? Advances in superconductivity? What's all that?
     
  12. Dec 24, 2008 #11

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The general public is only interested in sexy.

    Today, I was watching a news report about the busted water main on the East Coast. According to the reporter, it was gushing "hundreds of millions of gallons of water every minute". :rofl:
     
  13. Dec 24, 2008 #12

    Redbelly98

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    At least it wasn't "gpm's per minute"!
     
  14. Dec 24, 2008 #13

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    That is a pretty impressive water flow. At peak flows, the Arkansas River sends about 1.3 million gallons of water per minute (3000 cfs) through the Royal Gorge (a very narrow Class V rapids). Normal river flow on the Mississippi is about 96 million gallons a minute.

    Standard lane width is about 9 to 10 feet and standard car width is about 6 feet wide (obviously some variation). Can't find a really wide photo, but I'd say the road, with shoulders, is about 30 feet wide. Looking at video, the water might be two feet deep at the most.

    To get 1.3 million gallons per minute through a 30 foot wide, 2 feet deep river, the water would be moving at about 35 mph. To get 96 million gallons a minute down that road at that depth, the water will be travelling 2430 mph, or Mach 3.

    Obviously, the water would run much deeper instead of faster, but, yes, "hundreds of millions of gallons per minute" might be a tad bit high.
     
  15. Dec 24, 2008 #14
    When it comes to science, the general population is pretty dumb. The people that write these articles just care about how many hits they get so they can write more and not about the factual data presented.

    I think the more efficient electrolysis thing is pretty important and should be on the list. Although, my opinion is bias as Im a PEMFC guy.

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-07/miot-df073008.php
     
  16. Dec 24, 2008 #15
    We must have a different definition of "breakthrough"
     
  17. Dec 24, 2008 #16
    Nanotech? Not well developed but well on its way.
     
  18. Dec 24, 2008 #17

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Evidently. Your comment that no major scientific breakthroughs have been made since the atom bomb certainly makes a person curious as to what definition you're using.

    But the definition is important. Are they talking about opening an entirely new scientific field or about the impact a development will have on people's lives?

    You could come up with two very different lists depending on the definition you use. Even a minor evolutionary development of a technology could wind up on the second list.
     
  19. Dec 24, 2008 #18

    Ygggdrasil

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2015 Award

    For comparison, here is the journal Science's list to the top breakthroughs of 2008:

    1) Reprogramming cells (figuring out how to reprogram adult cells to become stem cells)
    2) Seeing exoplannets (direct detection of planets in other solar systems)
    3) Cancer genes (efforts to perform large scale "cancer genome" sequencing)
    4) New High-Temperature Superconductors (novel iron-based superconductors)
    5) Watching proteins at work (investigations of protein and proteome dynamics using NMR spectroscopy, single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry)
    6) Water to burn (cobalt-based electrolysis catalysts)
    7) The video embryo (watching embryo development in real time)
    8) Fat of a different color (fundamental discoveries about how different types of fat tissue develop from progenitor tissues)
    9) Proton's mass predicted (lattice quantum chromodynamics)
    10) Sequencing bonanza (using next-generation sequencing technologies to more quickly and cheaply obtain genome sequences)

    I'm actually surprised that metamaterials did not make Science's list, although I don't know enough about that field to know whether that's actually such a big discovery after all. I'm particularly happy about number five as this is the type of research that I do :)

    Science tends to focus on reporting the development of new technologies that enable researchers to investigate new phenomena (at least compared to some other high profile journals). In the field of biological sciences (with which I am most familiar), numbers 3, 5, 7, and 10 certainly fit this description. Interestingly, I don't think 3 and 7 (possibly 10 too) have yet lead to significantly better understanding of biology, although they certainly develop nice tools for scientists to make such discoveries in the future. The other breakthrough in biology, #1, represents both a technological and fundamental advance in biology. It both gives researchers and doctors the ability to possibly generate stem cells more easily and thus better tools to study human development, but it also has given us fundamental insight into what genes give stem cells their unique properties. Thus, the discovery that we can reprogram cells has really opened up new fields of research in biology. The only weird thing about this choice is that most of the really important discoveries in this area were not made this year, but last year (including the first reports of scientists reprogramming mice and human cells).
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2008
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: The Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2008
  1. The biggest question (Replies: 2)

Loading...