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Top Ten Scientific Discoveries of 2007 179

Posted by Zonk
from the flux-capacitor-is-what-makes-time-travel-possible dept.
Josh Fink writes "Time Magazine has a piece about the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2007. '#1. Stem Cell Breakthroughs - In November, Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and molecular biologist James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin reported that they had reprogrammed regular skin cells to behave just like embryonic stem cells. The breakthrough may someday allow scientists to create stem cells without destroying embryos -- sidestepping the sticky ethical issues and opposition from the U.S. government that surround embryonic stem-cell research -- but that day is still a ways off. ' Also included in the top 10 editorial are pieces on the top 10 medical breakthroughs, the top 10 man made disasters and the top 10 green 'ideas'."
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Top Ten Scientific Discoveries of 2007

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  • by Facetious (710885) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:27PM (#21659331) Journal
    Top 10 most duped articles.
  • Strange (Score:3, Funny)

    by JKSN17 (956518) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:27PM (#21659337)
    Strange...Windows Vista didn't make the list...hmm
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Even stranger, Ballmer's doctoral thesis on fluid-chair dynamics didn't make it either. I haven't read it, but I hear that his chair throwing machine almost achieves perpetual motion.
    • by sorak (246725)

      Strange...Windows Vista didn't make the list...hmm

      No, but it did make the top Ten Man-Made Disast...Oh never mind. Too easy

  • htmlslideshow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hyram Graff (962405) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:31PM (#21659405)
    Warning: This article links to four top ten lists that only display one item at a time.

    I hope Time gets paid per impression because that's the only way they'll get ad revenue from me. (And viewing all of those forty pages seems like a good way to punish the advertizers who enable articles like these.)
    • Maybe next year they will discover that you can put more than one paragraph on a web page.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by john83 (923470)

      Warning: This article links to four top ten lists that only display one item at a time.

      I hope Time gets paid per impression because that's the only way they'll get ad revenue from me. (And viewing all of those forty pages seems like a good way to punish the advertizers who enable articles like these.)
      Unless someone else posts these top ten lists, I won't be reading them at all. I refuse to view Time's website at all for exactly this reason.
    • I also middle-click on every ad, and then middle-click to close the tab :-)
  • Dissapointing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by log1385 (1199377) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:32PM (#21659421)
    A couple of the "scientific discoveries" weren't really that important to science. Discovering the brightest supernova or the oldest living animal have their merit, but really they're just interesting things that people found. Something like this deserved to be on the list instead: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2007/01/22/photon-storage.html [www.cbc.ca]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Discovering the brightest supernova or the oldest living animal have their merit, but really they're just interesting things that people found.

      The oldest animal is important. There's a huge debate in medicine about whether ageing is a disease process or a biological inevitability for animals. Finding really old animals supports the 'disease' argument, since the evidence is increasing those clams at least don't seem to age.

      You could argue that this is a real scientific advance, whereas others like the photon storage you cite are just a technological advances of no real scientific merit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by JoeSavage (906113)
        Anyone else find it ironic that they had to frickin' kill the oldest animal in existence just to determine its age?
        • by brunson (91995)
          And if any of us get old enough, be sure that they'll kill you to figure out how you did it.
        • Its kind of a shame, yes, but not that much if you think about it. This is the oldest one they've found, but there are probably plenty of others that are older down there. Leaving it alive wasn't going to teach anybody anything, whether if it lived a few more years or died wouldn't help really. And quite frankly clams don't make particularly good pets.
        • by MrCreosote (34188)
          how else are you going to count the rings?
      • I take issue with your point about photon storage. Technological advances over the past 30 years is what has driven other industries. Could we sequence DNA as fast as we do without processing power, storage capacity, and robotics? Could we model drugs in the lab? Could we design aircraft and space vehicles with the certainty provided to us by digital modeling?
        • I take issue with your point about photon storage.

          Of course you do, I was trolling. But I think the point is valid. Important and awesome as these technological advances are, they don't constitute a contribution to knowledge. If you use the photon thingy to actually discover something, then that's science. Otherwise you've just solved an engineering problem.

          I worked in a computational biology lab once. A big argument at the time concerned whether or not students could be awarded a PhD if all they did was software engineering for scientific applica

    • The most pointless one was "kryptonite." It has no scientific importance, and the rock in question doesn't have any of the properties of kryptonite -- it was just a coincidence in naming.

      Someone involved with the movie "Superman Returns" decided to make up a name for a mineral because the plot had Lex Luthor stealing it from a museum. They used a standard mineral naming scheme. Then someone happened to find a mineral that matched the description.

      At least the "transparent aluminum" a while back was actual
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by zerkon (838861)

        the rock in question doesn't have any of the properties of kryptonite
        How do we know it doesn't have any of the properties of kryptonite? Do you have any of the properties of superman so you could test it for us?
  • Lost in the "Oh goody, non embrionic stem cells" congradulatory bit on the part of the zealots is they forget that this is also "big step towards human cloning".

    I want my clone damnit!
    • I want my clone damnit!
      But then, wouldn't you get modded redundant?
      • by jcgf (688310)
        Well, technically the clone should be modded redundant but no one here checks the post times so he probably would be.
    • I can't wait for the day when just using the word "embryonic" will get you called a "zealot"
    • by the computer guy nex (916959) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @03:21PM (#21660351)
      Calling someone a "zealot" for not wanting to kill babies for research is a bit much. I'm not religious whatsoever, but I'm still morally against it.
      This is also not a step towards human cloning. We've had access to stem cells before, and some scientists have been progressing towards this goal for awhile. This will not progress them much.
      This is a step towards mass producing these cells for the purpose of cloning individual organs for patients requiring transplants.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tddoog (900095)
        They are not babies [wikipedia.org], they are embryos [wikipedia.org].
        • And that tends to change on how you define an embryo. According to some an embryo is a fertilized ovum, according to others it is a partically developed organism that stands a fair chance of being carried to term. The line is blurry and as with all of natures works it defies definition and can not be caught in a simple binary category. It's a continuum, just like 'tall' and 'hot'. Some collections of cells are more of an embryo than others, with a 'peak' of 'embryoness' somewhere in those magical 9 months. A born baby is not an embryo, a fertilized ovum probably also isn't one.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NMerriam (15122)
        Calling someone a "zealot" for not wanting to kill babies for research is a bit much.

        Completely avoiding the issue of whether an embryo is a "baby" or not, we do lots of medical research on cadavers. We don't go around killing people in order to obtain cadavers for that research, any more than people go around creating and destroying embryos solely to perform research on. I find it strange that learning about human biology is perfectly okay with the remains of a 90 year old man, but not with the remains of
  • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:33PM (#21659435) Journal

    they had reprogrammed regular skin cells to behave just like embryonic stem cells. The breakthrough may someday allow scientists to create stem cells without destroying embryos -- sidestepping the sticky ethical issues and opposition from the U.S. government that surround embryonic stem-cell research -- but that day is still a ways off.


    And more importantly, since these stem cells will have the exact genetic material (slightly shorter telomeres, but theres so much junk at the end it would take a total of about 500 no-telomerase activity years of life before that cause any genetic difference that would impact organsim traits) of an organizm that can be examined and studied, a lot more use experimentation can be performed with them, with a lot less effort.
  • by Seakip18 (1106315) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:33PM (#21659443) Journal
    1. Changing to D2
    2. Coming up with a good critique of why there isn't really a top "10"
    3. extend that with how it belittles the rest of the work that has been done
    4. complain about not gettin /. anniversary t-shirt.
    5. Change sig
    6.
    • 10. Garnered excellent slashdot karma, and what's more did it accidentally
      9. Showed up at work enough times to not get fired
      8. Showed up at work on time enough times to not get fired
      7. Avoided house fires
      6. Drank like a fish
      5. Avoided hospititalization after falling on my head
      4. Got my nerd license suspended by getting a really good looking female roomate
      3. Avoided DUI by walking home from the bars
      2. Didn't get murdered [slashdot.org] despite the fact that a lot of guys think i'm fucking their wives and girlfriends
      1. Got
  • by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:34PM (#21659459)
    Soon to come... the Top Ten Green Ideas Turned Man-Made Disasters, and the Top Ten Man-Made Disasters Turned Medical Breakthroughs.
  • by noidentity (188756) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:34PM (#21659479)
    ... 2007 hasn't ended yet!

    (I hate these "top X of this year" before the year has even ended, though at least this one is less than a month early)
  • by coinreturn (617535) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:35PM (#21659499)
    In October, researchers from Bangor University in Wales were trawling an ocean shelf off the coast of north Iceland when they stumbled on what is believed to be the world's oldest living animal: a 405 year-old clam. Or it was living, until researchers had to kill it to determine the clam's age by studying rings on its shell.

    Aren't we just a great at discovering?
    • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:44PM (#21659681)
      The real question is -- how did it taste?
    • by Kabuthunk (972557)
      That's what I was thinking. Like... what was going through their mind?!?

      Scientist 1: Look at this... the oldest known living creature on earth.
      Scientist 2: Let's kill it.
      Scientist 1: Agreed.

      I mean seriously... they couldn't wait until it died naturally? Or failing that... with all of the scanning technologies available nowadays, they weren't able to look at it's shell without killing it? Or take a tiny sliver of said shell?

      I'm probably just not understanding the methods required to find it's age... but s
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Otter (3800)
        Scientist 1: Look at this... the oldest known living creature on earth.

        Scientist 2: Let's kill it.

        I don't think that's quite the sequence of events -- the clam didn't come up with an "Oldest Known Living Creature On Earth!" sign on its back! They dredged up some samples, examined them and found this one to be remarkably old.

        • by Kabuthunk (972557)
          I had thought of that, but only after I had posted. A creature that's living a full 1/3rd of it's lifespan in addition to it's regular lifespan has GOT to be at least a bit visibly different than say... the usual 200-year old type.

          I may be mistaken, and it may well be nigh-identical to every other one out there... but if the shell alone can tell you how old it is, surely they must have a 'quick-test' to at least give you a ballpark age that leaves it alive, before you go and smash it with a hammer. It's l
          • by Tarlus (1000874)
            This is way off topic.
            But here out of the blue, I come across Kabutroid on Slashdot.
            Small world! :)
            (-Jesse D)
    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      Aren't we just a great at discovering?
      You're aware that had any other sea creature discovered the clam, it would have been eaten. That's life.
       
      • You're aware that had any other sea creature discovered the clam, it would have been eaten. That's life.

        Not necessarily. Only humans kill for the hell of it. It had been alive for over 400 fucking years!
      • You're aware that had any other sea creature discovered the clam, it would have been eaten. That's life.
        You mean that no other sea creature had discovered the clam in 405 years? Or that it was already dead?
      • by Bryansix (761547)
        Or the clam would have eaten it. This thing must have been huge. Seriously, these guys who killed the oldest living creature should have rocks tied around their feet and be dropped off a ship to drown right where this clam used to live.
    • "He who breaks a thing to understand it, has left the path of wisdom."
      -- Gandalf the scienti-- no wait, he was a wizard! Aha, now I finally understand the difference between magic and science!
    • That ensures we don't re-discover the same clam next year...again, as the world's oldest animal, a 406 year-old clam.
  • by techpawn (969834) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:35PM (#21659507) Journal
    Inventing Toilet paper HAS to be high on the discoveries list... Unless you still get the Sears catalog. I've yet to meet a scientist who hasn't used it.
  • discovery #9 (Score:2, Informative)

    by seededfury (699094)
    This has to be the best....
    They discover a 405 year-old clam... until researchers had to kill it to determine the clam's age by studying rings on its shell.

    Then they killed it.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:40PM (#21659607)
    biggest, oldest, features of people/animals long dead, planets very far away, new species.

    All very nice in a "boys book of wonders" way, but very little in the way of actionable information. Maybe that's the way of pure science, but I was rather hoping that at least one of these discoveries would have a material effect on my life. (

    (and no, I don't think mapping Craig Venter's gemone counts).

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:41PM (#21659635)
    Without this press release, I would not have realized that Time Magazine was still publishing. Who knew?
  • by Bazar (778572) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:45PM (#21659701)
    Going through the list of disasters, I'm left wondering where the Indonesian mud volcano is.

    Considering its permanently displaced 11,000 people, over 10KM squared. I'd say thats a far larger disaster then for example, a bridge collapsing in the states, or a plane killing 300.

    It's killed 200 people, and was probably caused by the gas drilling company cutting corners on its drilling.

    http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn11025-indonesian-mud-volcano-caused-by-gas-drilling.html [newscientist.com]

    I'd personally have that at #1 or #2, i also question having global warming as the #1 man made disaster, since i don't consider it being a disaster yet. The worst that comes to my mind is hurricane Katrina, and even then, there is no decisive link to the two.
    • i also question having global warming as the #1 man made disaster, since i don't consider it being a disaster yet. The worst that comes to my mind is hurricane Katrina, and even then, there is no decisive link to the two.

      I don't link Katrina to global climate change, but it was in part a man made disaster.
      Contrary to what Bush will tell you, people had known for years that the levees would fail under a hurricane of that strength. It was only a matter of when one would come along.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        I love how everybody loves too blame Bush for New Orleans.
        I am lover of GW but please.
        The governor and the Mayor should have been shoot.
        Where didn't they evacuate the city? Why did they leave the school buses that could have been used to evacuate in the flood plain? Why didn't the state have enough shelters for the population of New Orleans?
        Why didn't they have enough food, water, and police in the convention center and the super dome?
        I live in hurricane country. The fact that the idiot mayor got another te
    • by IvyKing (732111)
      I have to wonder about the southern California fires being near the top of the list, while it was pretty bad it wasn't as bad as the mud volcano you cited. FWIW, the Witch Creek fire got within 3 miles of where I live.
    • It's killed 200 people, and was probably caused by the gas drilling company cutting corners on its drilling. I'd personally have that at #1 or #2

      That's small potatoes to the sheer number of species we've been accidentally killing over the years, increasing the rate of extinction by many many fold over what is natural. *That* is a human caused disaster worth noting.

      i also question having global warming as the #1 man made disaster, since i don't consider it being a disaster yet. The worst that comes to my

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:47PM (#21659741) Homepage Journal
    Nobody doubts anymore that climate change is at least in part man-made.

    I love that line. Can be taken as a claim that we cause the majority of it or just .00001% of it.

    But it gets better. Basically Global Warming is at fault for all weather bad, specifically all weather events that costs us money. Regardless if the earth was warmer before, regarldess of the fact we don't know out own planet's ideal temperature, regardless of the fact we can't even forcast a year ahead, and finally - regardless of the fact that the people who win from all the Global Warming scare mongering are politicians and big business.

    Then we have a plane wreck as #2? Followed by a retinue of things that more accidental than "purposely caused" With mining accidents it amazes me we still ignore the thousands who die in China in these accidents. We lose six or seven in America and it makes the top 10???

    IPCC as the #1 green idea? That bunch of bad science and fraud? Using names without permission to bolster their claims and using the power of government to intimidate others? The second entry was not much better. All that GW and the green push accomplish at the government level is to give politicians new ways to spend money, new titles, and even more travel to exotic locations. Carbon Capping? Basically new embedded tax passed onto consumers so big dirty corporations can still pollute. Oh I know there is that part about "refund" to consumers from the government - but we know better don't we. It will come as targetted benefits to buy votes. Most of these green ideas reek of deperateness to find something to make a top ten list. I can think of ten better stories - top ten green developments - like improvements in solar cell manufacturing, CFLs, how many companies recycle their waste for fuel (McDs in England) and such.

    Now the medical section was much better. At least here we had some real good entries. The difference here is that this is real science, where the green section isn't science half the time. The diabetes news from last year was great. We are well on our way to getting people off of needles.

    Sorry but Time's top ten lists are more politically motivated and to curry favor with certain groups than to provide any real knowledge or laud accomplishmen. Notice how their top ten disasters are not in countries that might react badly towards their reporters in the future? Stick to areas like the medical advances, put in another for technological advances, and ditch the political spin crap ideas and we might have lists worth a damn, lists that tell people what really means something.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by coinreturn (617535)
      ...regarldess [sic] of the fact we don't know out own planet's ideal temperature...

      I can't believe you Global-Warming-Deniers even bother with such an assinine arguement. Unless everybody on the entire planet has infinite mobility, it is quite apparent that ANY deviation from the established norm spells disaster. Populations shift with climate change and have established themselves according to the CURRENT climate. When change comes too abruptly (whether or not toward some idiotic "ideal temperature" idea
      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by Arthur B. (806360)
        *Populations shift with climate change and have established themselves according to the CURRENT climate*

        There are two fallacies in your argument.

        First, we have established ourselves according to past climate, the climate was not always what it currently is, we inherit evolution and establishment from previous period, so our current climate may not be optimal.

        Second, even if we adapt to a specific environment, it does not imply we cannot be more fitted to another environment.

        A blind person may adapt his habi
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by coinreturn (617535)
          First, we have established ourselves according to past climate, the climate was not always what it currently is, we inherit evolution and establishment from previous period, so our current climate may not be optimal. Second, even if we adapt to a specific environment, it does not imply we cannot be more fitted to another environment.

          Your lack of intelligence is shining very brightly. Yes, of course climate has changed in the past and people have migrated. The problem is not climate change in itself, i
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ChronoReverse (858838)
            Ever heard of green algae? Those nasty little critters started releasing this toxic waste called Oxygen into the atmosphere poisoning practically the entire biosystem. The effects of their actions persist even to today.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Tyler Durden (136036)
              Oh yes. This is sometimes referred to the "Oxygen Holocaust" because, although it was a boon to life using energy and moving out of the oceans, the oxygen was toxic to many existing lifeforms and wiped them out. If Global Warming ever caused a change anywhere near as severe us humans would be royally and truly fucked. But you can be sure that life on earth would eventually thrive afterwards.
              • by ppanon (16583)
                Hmm. I hadn't thought of it that way until now, but producing molecular oxygen that "poisoned" the environment, killing most other species competing for the same space, would have been a real evolutionary advantage for the organisms that could do it. In an "anaerobic" world, it would have worked even better than producing antibiotics.
          • by Arthur B. (806360)
            The parent is making a claim about the climate level, not the climate rate of change. I am pointing out that his argument is fallacious, period.
      • The point is that since Global Warming is the #1 man-made disaster of 2007, we won't have to worry about it for much longer. After all, it'll be 2008 in a few short weeks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LarsWestergren (9033)
      But it gets better. Basically Global Warming is at fault for all weather bad

      Now where does it say that?

      Regardless if the earth was warmer before,

      Thank you, this is known to everyone and accounted for. It is the rate of change that is scary.

      regarldess of the fact we don't know out own planet's ideal temperature

      There is no such thing as an ideal temperature, and no one has claimed that there is.

      regardless of the fact we can't even forcast a year ahead

      Climate is not the same thing as weather.

      regardless of the
  • Top 20 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tokul (682258) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:49PM (#21659783)
    Make top20. Then you can have 20 pages full of ads instead of just 10.
    • by aztektum (170569)
      That would require extra research time on the part of the author. I think the best approach (from a revenue perspective) would be to insert 10 pages that are nothing BUT ads.
  • by Cleon (471197) <cleon42@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @02:56PM (#21659907) Homepage
    In October, researchers from Bangor University in Wales were trawling an ocean shelf off the coast of north Iceland when they stumbled on what is believed to be the world's oldest living animal: a 405 year-old clam. Or it was living, until researchers had to kill it to determine the clam's age by studying rings on its shell.

    Amazing. Absolutely amazing. :P
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Brobock (226116)
      In October, researchers from Bangor University in Wales were trawling an ocean shelf off the coast of north Iceland when they stumbled on what is believed to be the world's oldest living animal: a 405 year-old clam. Or it was living, until researchers had to kill it to determine the clam's age by studying rings on its shell.

      The shell in question "ming" was brought up during dredging for Global warming research. By the time they got to the specimen, it had died. Researchers didn't physically kill it to fin
  • There, fixed it for you.

    Why not wait until 2008 starts, then they don't run the risk of "Cancer Cure Found!!!" occurring on the 31st December. I know it's not very likely, since all the scientists will likely not be inventing any more, but getting hammered every day until the holidays are over, but still...
    • I know it's not very likely, since all the scientists will likely not be inventing any more, but getting hammered every day until the holidays are over
      You got it backwards, to come up with a really crazy, and hence genious, idea you NEED to be hammered. I personally think we should be allowed to write it off as a business expense...
  • by C. Alan (623148) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @03:46PM (#21660815)

    IMO, the discover that may end up having the most impact will end up being the guys who discovered what atmospheric conditions are most condusive to the transmission of Influenza. [iht.com]

    Don't want to get sick?, crank up the heat, and plug in that humidifier.

    • by IvyKing (732111)
      Having read Barrie's "The Great Influenza" (a good and scary book), this discovery was quite an eye opener. In addition, this discovery is actionable by just about anybody and could end up saving a lot of lives. It also explains why face masks can cut down the rate of transfer - the air becomes warmer and moister.


      Brings up a question: just how practical would it be to put humidifiers on aircraft?

  • "Life in North Korea is one long, man-made disaster..."

    Take that Kim Jong-il
  • #1. Stem Cell Breakthroughs
    Scientists reprogrammed regular skin cells to behave just like embryonic stem cells.

    #2. Human Mapped
    J. Craig Venter published his entire "diploid" genetic sequence, or all the DNA in both sets of chromosomes inherited from each of his parents -- the first such genome ever published of a single person.

    #3. Brightest Supernova Recorded
    It was the first time scientists saw the death of a star as large as SN 2006gy, which was approximately 100 to 200 times the size of the sun.

    #4. Hundre
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rossdee (243626)
      "#10. Real-Life Kryptonite
      A mineralologist discovered a white, powdery mineral that has the same properties - sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide -- as the fictional kryptonite."

      Who did they test it on? Christopher Reeve is dead alreadymmm

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