Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science News

Top Scientific Breakthroughs of 2009 57

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the still-can't-cure-stupid dept.
Wired has posted their favorite scientific breakthroughs of the past year. The feats include things like the confirmation of element 114, a cancer-detecting breathalyzer, the power of jellyfish and more. What other discoveries should have made the list and what might we look forward to in 2010? "Also this year, researchers at the University of Washington cured two adult monkeys of colorblindness by giving them injections of a gene that produces pigments necessary for color vision. After the treatment, the animals scored higher on a computerized color blindness test. In the coming years, gene therapy will be tested as a remedy for all sorts of inherited diseases, cancer, viral infections and even high cholesterol."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Top Scientific Breakthroughs of 2009

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 01, 2010 @12:18PM (#30614500)
    • by Feminist-Mom (816033) <feminist.mom@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Friday January 01, 2010 @12:21PM (#30614522)
      The non-reversing mirror is cute, but the driver-side mirror with no blindspot actually has applications. I'd buy one now if they were selling them.
      • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Friday January 01, 2010 @01:08PM (#30614786) Journal

        According to the article, he can't sell the wing-mirror in the USA because leglislation bans curved wing-mirrors, so he's going to have to try selling them in the EU instead. Why is there such legislation, anyone?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          The US has had a long history of being overly conservative on automotive equipment. A classic example is the amount of time that passed before aerodynamically shaped headlights were allowed on cars in place of flat faced sealed beams. Ever wonder why the headlights on a car such as this Mustang SVO [wikipedia.org] or this Mercedes S-Class [wikipedia.org] don't blend into the rest of the front end? Silly laws are why.

          The fact that these aerodynamic lights performed their function correctly was irrelevant... they were different in form,

          • I should qualify the catalytic converter rant as being applicable in states without systematic vehicle exhaust inspections.

        • by Bluesman (104513) on Friday January 01, 2010 @01:57PM (#30615048) Homepage

          I don't know the original intention of the legislation, but I use the driver side mirror for its intended purpose -- to remove the blind spot when changing lanes or turning right. I position it so that if a car is passing me on the left, I can see it leave the view of the rear-view mirror and enter the driver side mirror, until I can see it with peripheral vision. I usually have the driver side mirror angled way out.

          There isn't a reason (to me) to see more with that mirror; if I could see cars further to the left of me, it would only be confusing when trying to switch lanes quickly. (Is that car immediately left of me, or is it two lanes over?)

          • ... as a driver who started driving utility vehicles shortly after getting his licence, I can attest to the fact that the side mirrors are invaluable for reversing a loaded ute (or car/truck for that matter) into tight spaces. Perhaps the intention is not to distort the field-of-view when they are used for this purpose?

          • There isn't a reason (to me) to see more with that mirror; if I could see cars further to the left of me, it would only be confusing when trying to switch lanes quickly. (Is that car immediately left of me, or is it two lanes over?)

            With a mirror in TFA, you see more of the road surface as well, which means you see the lanes.

            Also, curved mirrors aren't usually used for driver-side - as you point out, driver-side mirrors are generally good enough as it is. But on the other side, it can be handy to see more, especially to spot those pesky bicyclists who love to charge past cars on the right, and when parking.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Convex mirrors make objects appear further away.

          The passenger side mirror is generally a convex, wide field of view mirror, inscribed with the famous warning "objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

        • by clive_p (547409)
          I didn't know that the USA prohibited curved wing/door mirrors - that explains a lot. Every time I've rented a car in the USA I have found it very hard to set the mirrors so I can see vehicles which are nearly alongside - a few times I've nearly pulled out in front of them. In Europe I don't have the same problem. It seems a very dangerous law.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        That one appears to just be a convex mirror. You can easily get one. In fact, there's probably one on the passenger side of your car right now.

        As the article says, curved drivers side mirrors are illegal in the US though.

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday January 01, 2010 @01:01PM (#30614746)
      Mirrors do not reverse left-right as was explained most clearly by Richard Feynman. If you turn a book round and then look at it in a mirror, the actual text you see in the mirror is the same way round as it currently is in the book (you can prove this very easily - write in felt tip on a plastic bag and try that. You will see that the mirror writing, and the writing seen through the back of the bag are exactly the same way round

      The answer to the question, why do mirrors reverse left/right and not up/down is simple: they do neither. A few seconds of ray tracing show that they reverse front to back.

      • by Katchu (1036242)

        Mirrors do not reverse left-right as was explained most clearly by Richard Feynman. ... A few seconds of ray tracing show that they reverse front to back.

        I use this feature to comb the hair on the back of my head.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Funny. But if mirrors didn't reverse front and back, you WOULD be staring at the back of your head in the mirror.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Well, sure, what ever you want to call it, this mirror in the link makes it so that text appears normal. It doesn't appear "normal" in a regular mirror, to the observer. Do you, or do you not have trouble reading text that appears reflected in a conventional mirror?
        • by argent (18001)

          Do you, or do you not have trouble reading text that appears reflected in a conventional mirror?

          Somewhat, but not the way many people seem to. The first time someone pointed out that "ambulance" was written backwards on the front of an ambulance, so that people could read it in the rear view mirror, I thought they were joshing me... even while I was looking at it.

      • The direction it reverses is based on how you turn around to see the image. George Gamow explained this. Rotate a book around the vertical axis (yaw) and the text is correct top-to-bottom but reversed right-to-left. Rotate it around the horizontal axis (pitch) and the text is correct left-to-right but reversed bottom-to-top. This applies to how the observer turns around to see his/her image as well -- either by rotating around on your feet or by flipping over and standing on your head.
      • by rkinch (608630)
        Like Polaroid vs 35mm film.
  • by rbcd (1518507) on Friday January 01, 2010 @12:27PM (#30614550)
    Who'd have guessed that element 114 would turn out to be a cancer-detecting breathalyzer?
  • Spam (Score:3, Funny)

    by pipingguy (566974) * on Friday January 01, 2010 @12:28PM (#30614554) Homepage
    I like the way spam was eliminated.
    • The scary thing about Spam is that gmail actually manages to filter it with very few ( any ? ) false positives.

      Seriously if you want to get an idea of just how horrifyingly good google is at data mining and pattern recognition create a gmail account and observe how little spam you get. Then check the spam folder and search it for false positives.

      The only spam I get nowadays is things I have deliberately signed up to but neglected to unsubscribe from because I'm too lazy.

      • The scary thing about Spam is that gmail actually manages to filter it with very few ( any ? ) false positives.

        The scary thing about spam is that gmail insists on bouncing it to whoever is in the From: field, ignoring SPF, and resulting in you getting a few hundred spam emails courtesy of Google whenever a spammer spoofs your address.

  • Depending on your perspective this was a breakthrough, perhaps financially, perhaps scientifically, perhaps ecologically, etc...
  • by drooling-dog (189103) on Friday January 01, 2010 @02:13PM (#30615124)

    With all due respect to the achievements heralded in the Wired article, the scientific paper that most blew me away in 2009 was Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions by Powner et.al. in the 14 May 2009 issue of Nature. The authors demonstrated an efficient synthesis of a phosphorylated ribonucleotide under mild conditions using only a small number of simple molecules likely to have been present in the "pre-biotic soup" of early Earth. The reaction is so facile that it would be surprising if it didn't occur given the presence of these molecules (cyanimide, cyanoacetylene, glycolaldehyde, glyceraldehyde, and inorganic phosphate). Because the products are activated ribonucleotides, they would have readily polymerized into something like RNA and quite probably the first self-replicating molecule.

    To me this was one of the biggest "missing links" in the story of how life might have arisen from simple organic molecules, and that scenario now seems like a slam-dunk. The rest, as they say, is history...

    • The reaction is so facile that it would be surprising if it didn't occur given the present in the presence of the pre-biotic soup of simple molecules likely to have been pre-biotic soup of early Earth. The authors demonstrated an efficient synthesis of a phosphorylated ribonucleotide under mild conditions using if it didn't occur given these molecules. The reactions using only a small number of simple molecules likely to have been present synthesis of simple molecules. [courtesy of the Gibberish Generator:
      • by IrquiM (471313)

        Did somebody say soup?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160)
        MMM, how dare they use long words on YOUR internet! Long live Finland!
      • [courtesy of the Gibberish Generator: I ran your gibberish through their Physics generator which might as well be whatever the fuck you were blathering about.]

        Heh heh... Sorry. I guess I shouldn't have said "ribonucleotide" in a science thread?

        • Heh heh... Sorry. I guess I shouldn't have said "ribonucleotide" in a science thread?

          It's OK, the GP has been flogged by the Slashdot idiot detector.

    • by d34dluk3 (1659991)
      Good to hear from you too, Mr. Powner.
  • by wwphx (225607)
    I'll be really happy if they can find a cure or longer-lasting treatment for immune disorders. I have CVID, which costs approximately $10,000 a month (thank ghod for insurance!) and requires four needles in my abdomen for 90 minutes or so twice a week. I met a fellow geek at a sci fi convention in Dallas last year with a similar condition, he's been getting IV treatments monthly since he was an infant.

    This would be a tremendous return on the dollar, not to mention the possibility of curing AIDS.
    • by Velex (120469)

      I'll be really happy if they can find a cure or longer-lasting treatment for immune disorders. I have CVID, which costs approximately $10,000 a month (thank ghod for insurance!) and requires four needles in my abdomen for 90 minutes or so twice a week. I met a fellow geek at a sci fi convention in Dallas last year with a similar condition, he's been getting IV treatments monthly since he was an infant. This would be a tremendous return on the dollar, not to mention the possibility of curing AIDS.

      (Disclaimer: I try to not be an asshole, but I couldn't resist. Moderators: try to keep your knees from jerking. There's no -1, "tl;dr but that other guy's dying and you're a vain, self-centered, mentally ill, delusional pervert.")

      I'd be really happy if the medical community would follow up on studies that show the biological basis for transsexualism (such as brain imaging, which was mildly successful at predicting whether a person would be a transsexual or not). I have transsexualism, which, if treat

      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by wwphx (225607)
        My wife's college roomie was a complete dual-gender hermaphrodite, and while in college, went through the surgery to go straight female. She has major endocrine problems and is legally blind.

        I agree fully re: your science vs pseudoscience remark. I think one of the biggest failings of the USA has been our being dominated by Puritan thought. It's amazing how backwards we are compared to some countries, yet we try to spread our way of life to others.

        My condition falls in to the category of potentiall
      • The article is asking which other discoveries are worth considering, and you both are turning the discussion into a wish-list of what we would like to be discovered.

        All very worthy, since I agree all medical conditions should be treated, but completely irrelevant to the original article (so the Moderators should let their knees jerk freely).

  • Adding genes to fix color blindness really caught my attention. If that can be done, it should be possible to turn anyone into a tetrachromat or better.
  • I'd put this at top 10 of a decade, much less a year. Someplace or other http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=10/01/01/0945239 [slashdot.org] carried a story about the first real advance in neural/machine interface technology in years.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

Working...