BOSTON (December 16, 2019) – As 2019 comes to a close, the Museum of Science, Boston looks back on the biggest science and technology news stories of the year to create their annual list of the most fascinating examples of scientific discovery and exploration. From student-organized global climate movements to the first images of black holes, this year’s astounding science stories are leaving experts at the Museum of Science excited for the achievements of the past year and eager for what new discoveries will be uncovered in the year to come.
The list has been compiled by educators from the Museum of Science’s Current Science & Technology Center, who contextualize the latest science news to visitors as part of a series of daily live presentations. According to Eric O’Dea, Senior Education Associate, 2019 was a year filled with amazing discoveries and advancements in technology and science, across many fields. “As we reflect on the past year of scientific stories, we can’t help but be excited for what is to come in 2020. This year, the world witnessed stories of dedicated scientists and researchers who continue to push the limits of our understanding of the world. We chose these stories as the most important of 2019 for their ability to show us what is possible and to inspire us all to ask questions and never stop learning.”
Read the Museum of Science’s top ten science stories of 2019 – plus an honorable mention – below:
- #10 First Giant Squid
- In a fantastic video, the first Giant Squid ever seen in North American waters is captured on film by a team using infrared cameras and a custom-made jellyfish lure. Estimated to be 10 to 12 feet long, this Giant Squid was seen at about 100 miles from Louisiana and Alabama. This is only the second time, and the first in U.S. waters, that a giant squid has been filmed in its deepwater habitat. Learn more from Smithsonian.com.
- #9 Citizen Scientists
- Citizen Science lets researchers utilize everyday people in order to collect or analyze data in ways never before possible. An example our team particularly liked this year was about a group of snorkeling grandmothers in New Caledonia who volunteered to photograph venomous sea snakes and uncovered populations in unlikely locations. This group of snorkelers, who regularly swim 3km a day, helped researchers discover that these venomous sea snakes have a more important role in the ecosystem’s functioning than thought before. Learn more from The New York Times.
- #8 Sickle Cell Disease
- A brand new gene therapy, the first of its kind approved in the US, was used in an effort to help a patient with Sickle Cell Disease produce healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Using a new technology from CRISPR and Vertex, the patient’s vast improvement gives doctors hope that this treatment will be replicable for others. Learn more from PBS.
- #7 Artificial Leaf
- Using a similar chemical reaction to photosynthesis, researchers have created an “artificial leaf” that uses only carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water to produce a widely-used gas. This technology could eventually be utilized to develop a sustainable alternative to gasoline. Learn more from Science Daily.
- #6 Neural Networks
- Neural networks are artificial programs that can learn by example to recognize patterns. This year, some amazing applications of this technology allowed doctors to diagnose heart disease and cancer, game wardens to track poachers, and conservationists to identify areas of illegal deforestation. Surely, more applications will be developed to utilize this infinitely useful technology. Learn more from NPR.
- #5 Timeline Developed of 66-Million Year Old Impact
- A massive impact event 66 million years ago caused over 75% of life on earth to go extinct, including the dinosaurs. An expedition of the Chicxulub, Mexico crater left by this catastrophic event gives us a minute-by-minute timeline of a very bad day for the dinosaurs. Scientists, by analyzing the rocks from the crater, were able to reconstruct the impact of this day and determine that the dinosaurs likely went extinct due to temperature changes that occurred as a result of the impact. Learn more from The New York Times.
- #4 Vaping-Related Lung Disease
- A large number of headlines this year concerned the dangers of vaping. With a mysterious lung disease affecting over 2,000 people and new laws being proposed across the country, it is an example of how technology can sometimes outpace regulations. Learn more from CNBC.
- #3 Google’s Quantum Computer
- Google’s quantum computer passed a benchmark test and performed a calculation in just over three minutes. This would take a traditional computer as long as 10,000 years to perform. While the claim of Quantum Supremacy has faced pushback, the controversial news poses immeasurable opportunities and risks for technological advancements. Learn more from Fast Company.
- #2 Climate Action
- The Museum is marking the unprecedented call for climate action by millions of citizens around the world as one of the biggest stories of 2019. September’s Global Climate Strike, inspired by Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg, motivated thousands of students and adults to participate and push legislators for change. As this July became the hottest month ever recorded, our collective actions is needed now more than ever. Learn more from TIME.
- #1 First Photos of a Black Hole
- A worldwide network of telescopes, known as the Event Horizon Telescope, was connected in order to capture the first-ever image of the surroundings of a black hole – mysterious places in space where not even light can escape. This huge effort was an incredible success, a fantastic example of international scientific collaboration, and a huge leap forward in our observation and understanding of the universe, showing what can be done when we join together. Learn more from NASA.
To help round out the list, the Museum team included an honorable mention. Staffers were intrigued by the story of scientists who have trained rats to drive tiny cars. This study has shown that learning a new skill and the satisfaction associated with that learning may lead to lowered levels of stress. Learn more from NewScientist.
About the Museum of Science, Boston
One of the world’s largest science centers and New England’s most attended cultural institution, the Museum of Science introduces approximately 1.5M visitors a year to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), through the world-class hands-on exhibits, programs and curricula of its William and Charlotte Bloomberg Science Education Center. Established in 1830, the Museum is home to such iconic exhibits as the Thompson Theater of Electricity, the Charles Hayden Planetarium, and the Mugar Omni Theater. Beyond its walls, the Museum reaches tens of millions more through award-winning STEM content such as its blockbuster traveling exhibits, The Science Behind Pixar, the world’s leading prek-8 engineering curricula, EiE®, and originally created, globally distributed planetarium shows. The Museum influences formal and informal STEM education through research and national advocacy, as a strong community partner and loyal educator resource, and as a leader in universal design, developing exhibits and programming accessible to all. Learn more at https://www.mos.org.