The 2010s were a great decade for science. From finding the Higgs boson to sending the Curiosity Rover to Mars, scientific achievements proved that progress has not slowed, and that there is still a lot to discover. Here are 5 of the most ground-breaking scientific discoveries of this decade.
In 2015, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger unveiled a new species, Homo naledi. This fossil is between 236,000 and 335,000 years old and was discovered in the Rising Star Cave system at the Cradle of Human Kind outside of Johannesburg. Due to her young age, Homo naledi is thought to be an offshoot of the genus homo and not a direct ancestor of modern humans.
Gene-editing has been a big, bad villain in sci-fi stories for years. The 2010s saw huge advancements in this controversial field with the Crispr-Cas9 system. The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) is a family of DNA sequences naturally used by bacteria as a self-defense mechanism. Scientists realised they could use this mechanism in genetic engineering, possibly making it possible to cure major diseases. However, ethical concerns came to a head in 2019 when Chinese researchers announced the birth of two girls whose genomes has been edited with Crispr.
Detecting the Higgs boson
After being hypothesises in the 60s by Peter Higgs and François Englert, the Higgs boson particle was detected by the CERN Large Hadron Collider. This detection helped complete the Standard Model which describes three of the four fundamental forces in physics and all known elementary particles.
Mars Curiosity Rover
The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars in August 2012. It was designed with the intention of being sent to Mars to investigate the climate and geology of the planet. Scientists wanted to find out if the Gale area of Mars showed any signs of having been able to support microbial life, the state of water on the planet and habitability. The rover is still in operation and it’s information and design has formed the Mars 2020 rover which will launch in the middle of next year.
The climate crisis
Although scientists have been warning about the climate crisis since the 1980s already, the 2010s saw some incredible research on how much our planet is changing. In 2013, global CO2 levels reached 400 parts per million. This has clearly made a knock-on effect as 2015,2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 were the five hottest years on record. Most of the world’s nations signed the Paris Agreement, which looks to keep global warming below 2 degrees celcius. 2019 was also the year youth climate activists came to the world’s attention with Swedish activists and leader of the Friday protests Greta Thunberg being named Times Person of the Year.