Science and Technology Advances of 2016, Part 2

This is the second part of my science and tech of 2016 entry.  Remember that these are advances and findings that were announced just this year.  This is only one year. Remains to be seen what 2017 will hold.

35. Scientists formally announce HGP-Write, a plan to synthesize the human genome.

36. A Stanford clinical trial finds that stem cells injected directly into the brain of chronic stroke sufferers revived dead brain circuits and restored patients’ ability to walk.

37. A way of pumping CO2 underground and turning it from a gas into solid carbonate minerals is demonstrated in Iceland, offering a potentially better method of carbon capture and storage.

38. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital announce a new method for long-term culturing of adult stem cells.

39. China introduces the Sunway TaihuLight, the world’s fastest supercomputer, capable of 93 petaflops and a peak performance of 125 petaflops.

40. Dutch scientists announce that crops of four vegetables and cereals grown in soil similar to that on Mars are safe to eat.

41. NASA scientists announce the arrival of the Juno spacecraft at the planet Jupiter.

42. China completes construction on the world’s largest radio telescope.

43. Scientists at Rice University announce a new titanium-gold alloy that is four times harder than most steels.

44.  Solar Impulse 2 becomes the first solar-powered aircraft to circumnavigate the Earth.

45. Neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticide, are found to reduce bee sperm counts by almost 40%, as well as cutting the lifespan of bee drones by a third.

Okay, so it’s not all good news.

46. A new “vortex” laser that travels in a corkscrew pattern is shown to carry 10 times or more the information of conventional lasers, potentially offering a way to extend Moore’s Law.

47. Using the DNA from over 450,000 customers of gene-testing company 23andMe, researchers identify for the first time 15 regions of the genome associated with depression.

48. Researchers pinpoint which of the more than 4,000 exoplanet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission are most likely to be similar to Earth. Their research outlines 216 Kepler planets located within the ‘habitable zone’, of which 20 are the best candidates to be habitable rocky planets like Earth.

49. A team at the University of Oxford achieves a quantum logic gate with record-breaking 99.9% precision, reaching the benchmark required to build a quantum computer.

50. MIT announces a breakthrough which can double lithium-ion battery capacity.

51. HI-SEAS IV, the latest Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, an experiment to simulate a human colony on Mars, concludes after exactly one year.

52. Carbon nanotube transistors are shown to outperform silicon for the first time.

53. The development of 1 terabit-per-second transmission rates over optical fiber is announced by Nokia Bell Labs, Deutsche Telekom T-Labs and the Technical University of Munich.

54. A Japanese team accurately sequences a tardigrade genome, finds minimal foreign DNA, and discovers a protein that confers resistance to radiation when transferred into human cells.

55. SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk reveals his plan to send humans to Mars on a new spacecraft, with unmanned flights beginning as early as 2022.

56. A study led by the University of Cambridge finds that body-worn cameras led to a 93% drop in complaints made against police by the UK and US public.

57. The British Journal of Sports Medicine reports that playing golf can increase life expectancy by five years.

58. President Obama renews a vision for US government involvement in a human mission to the planet Mars by the mid-2030s.

59. Using 3D imaging techniques on 20 years of photographs by the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers estimate there are 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe, about 10 times more than previously thought.

60. A new automated system that can achieve parity with humans in conversational speech recognition is announced by researchers at Microsoft.

61. Researchers at James Cook University in Australia report that adding a type of dried seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis) to the diet of cattle could reduce their emissions of methane by 50-70%.

62. Scanning people’s brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is found to be significantly more effective at spotting lies than a traditional polygraph test.

63. Researchers in the UK announce a genetically modified “superwheat” that increases the efficiency of photosynthesis to boost yields by 20 to 40 percent.

64. Lab-grown mini lungs, developed from stem cells, are successfully transplanted into mice by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System.

65. The University of East Anglia reports that global emissions of CO2 did not grow in 2015 and are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, marking three years of almost no growth.

66. Scientists at Rockefeller University identify which genes in a microbe’s genome ought to produce antibiotic compounds and then synthesize those compounds to discover two promising new antibiotics.

67. The United States Geological Survey estimates there are 20 billion barrels of oil in Texas’ Wolfcamp Shale Formation, the largest estimate of continuous oil that USGS has ever assessed in the United States.

68. Researchers at the Salk Institute use a new gene-editing technology known as HITI, which is based on CRISPR, to partially restore vision in blind animals. Their technique is the first time a new gene has been inserted into a precise DNA location in adult cells that no longer divide, such as those of the eye, brain, pancreas or heart.

69. Researchers from Caltech and UCLA develop a technique to remove mutated DNA from mitochondria, which could help slow or reverse an important cause of aging.

70. Large-scale testing of a potential HIV vaccine known as HVTN 702 begins in South Africa.

71. Researchers at UC Berkeley design a wall-jumping robot known as Salto, which is described as the most vertically agile robot ever built.

72. Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan demonstrate a super flexible liquid crystal (LC) device, which could make electronic displays and devices more flexible, increasing their portability and versatility.

73. Scientists use a new form of gene therapy to partially reverse aging in mice. After six weeks of treatment, the animals looked younger, had straighter spines and better cardiovascular health, healed quicker when injured, and lived 30% longer.

74. Ebola virus disease found to be 70–100% prevented by RVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, making it the first proven vaccine against the disease.



Science and Tech Advances of 2016

Now that we are nearing the end of the calendar year 2016, I thought I’d take a little time to evaluate some of what has happened in the last twelve months.  This post is going to be mainly about science and tech advances.  Celebrity deaths and politics have already been covered at length in other parts of the internet. But I truly don’t think enough attention is paid to science and technology by the public at large.  Politicians tend to think wealth is created through taxes.  Lawyers tend to think wealth is created via law suits and judicial rulings.  Business operators tend to think wealth is generated through sales.  Yet it is the scientists and researchers that develop technologies that can start previously undreamed of industries.  I wish more people were as enthusiastic about science as I am.  I guess I was spoiled by growing up around books, having parents who encouraged me to learn and ask questions, and having teachers who made science, reading, history, and math interesting.

The source for this list is mainly wikipedia. This is not meant to be a definitive or exhaustive list, it’s mainly for illustrative purposes. Sometimes the major breakthroughs and improvements receive little note in the press.

1. Glycerol 3-phosphate phosphatase (G3PP), an enzyme that prevents sugar being stored as fat, is identified by scientists at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre.

2. Light-activated nanoparticles able to kill over 90% of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are demonstrated at the University of Colorado Boulder.

3.  Lockheed Martin announces the “Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-optical Reconnaissance” (SPIDER), a new way of dramatically shrinking the size of telescopes, by using hundreds to thousands of tiny lenses. The diameter does not change, but the SPIDER system is thinner and does not need multiple mirrors.

4. The University of New South Wales announces that it will begin human trials of the Phoenix99, a fully implantable bionic eye.

5.  Google announces a breakthrough in artificial intelligence with a program able to beat the European champion of the board game Go.

6.  Researchers demonstrate that graphene can be successfully interfaced with neurons, while maintaining the integrity of these vital nerve cells. It is believed this could lead to much improved brain implants for restoring sensory functions.

7. Scientists in the United Kingdom are given the go-ahead by regulators to genetically modify human embryos by using CRISPR-Cas9 and related techniques.

8. Scientists at the LIGO, Virgo and GEO600 announce the first direct detection of a gravitational wave predicted by the general relativity theory of Albert Einstein.

9. Scientists report unprecedented success using T-cells to treat cancer. In one trial, 94 percent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia saw their symptoms disappear entirely.

10. The University of Southampton announces a major step forward in creating “5D” data storage that can survive for billions of years.

11.  Boston Dynamics reveals the latest version of its “Atlas” humanoid robot, featuring highly dynamic movements and reactions in both indoor and outdoor environments.

12. Paleontologists report the discovery of a pregnant Tyrannosaurus rex, shedding light on the evolution of egg-laying as well as gender differences in the dinosaur.

13. Researchers at Rutgers and Stanford universities develop a novel way to inject healthy human nerve cells into mouse brains, with potential for treating Parkinson’s disease and other brain-related conditions, though human trials are likely 10–20 years away.

14. Researchers at the University of Toronto use stem cell therapy to reverse age-related osteoporosis in mice.

15.  Case Western Reserve University announces an optical sensor a million times more sensitive than the current best available, with potential for improving early cancer detection.

16. A study by the University of Southern California concludes that drinking even moderate amounts of coffee can significantly reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

17.  SpaceX successfully lands the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket (SpaceX CRS-8) on a floating drone ship for the first time.

18. By adding a one-atom thick layer of graphene to solar panels, Chinese scientists report that electricity can be generated from raindrops.

19. Scientists announce Breakthrough Starshot, a Breakthrough Initiatives program, to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of small centimeter-sized light sail spacecraft, named StarChip, capable of making the journey to Alpha Centauri, the nearest extrasolar star system, at speeds of 20% and 15% of the speed of light, taking between 20 and 30 years to reach the star system, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.

20. A quadriplegic man, Ian Burkhart from Ohio, is able to perform complex functional movements with his fingers after a chip was implanted in his brain.

21. An international team reports synthesising ultra-long carbyne inside double-walled nanotubes. This exotic form of carbon is even stronger than graphene.

22. BioViva USA reports the first successful use of gene therapy to extend the length of telomeres in a human patient.

23. Scientists announce the discovery of an extensive reef system near the Amazon River, covering an estimated 3,600 square miles (9,300 km2).

24. A team at Stanford University reveals “OceanOne”, a humanoid robot capable of moving around the seabed using thrusters.

25. Astronomers discover three potentially Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of an ultracool brown dwarf star (TRAPPIST-1) just 40 light years away from Earth.

26. NASA’s Kepler mission verifies 1,284 new exoplanets – the single largest finding of planets to date.

27. Samsung announces a 256 gigabyte microSD card.

28. Scientists at IBM Research announce a storage memory breakthrough by reliably storing three bits of data per cell using a new memory technology known as phase-change memory (PCM). The results could provide fast and easy storage to capture the exponential growth of data in the future.

29. A detailed report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds no risk to human health from genetic modifications of food.

30. Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System find that the Oct4 gene, once thought to be inactive in adults, actually plays a vital role in preventing heart attacks and strokes. The gene could delay at least some of the effects of aging.

31. India conducts the first successful launch of a new space plane, called the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), which is delivered to a height of 65 kilometres (40 mi).

32. A survey of 216,000 adolescents from all 50 US states finds the number of teens with marijuana-related problems is declining and marijuana use is falling, despite the fact that more US states are legalising or decriminalising the drug.

33. Strimvelis, an ex-vivo stem cell gene therapy for adenosine deaminase deficiency, and the first gene therapy for children, is granted regulatory approval by the European Commission.

34. Worldwide, renewable energy grew at its fastest ever rate in 2015, according to a report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

This list is getting longer than I thought.  I’m breaking this into two blog entries.


2014 in review

I don’t normally post information about my views to  With this being the end of my first full year of posting about mental illness and mental health issues, I felt it appropriate to give appreciation to everyone who visited during the last twelve months.  It was a good year.  I hope we can make 2015 even better.  Thanks.  Zach

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.