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Science in 1999 48

gfoyle writes "If you want a run down of the science highlights of 1999, read the Science News article Science News of the Year. I offer as a teaser an item on the technology list: "Some garments fought germs (Sept. 11, vol. 156: p. 170), others commingled with computers, furthering a trend toward wearable cyberassistants (Nov. 20, vol. 156: p. 330)." Unfortunately, not all articles are posted on their web site, but what you can't find on their site, you can find in your library. "
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Science in 1999

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  • Popular Science also has it's rundown of this years greatest inventions, prety cool. tures/bown/bown99/ [].
  • Scientist/Venture capitolist is in it ;-). After all, he did discover a few GUT.
  • Was it only this year that scientists determined that they have cultural traditions?

    I could've sworn I knew several years ago that chimpanzees had different cultural adaptations for eating and drinking: "Do I go with the long blade of grass, or will some bunched up leaves do the trick for getting at termites? Do I use some chewed up leaves as a sponge to get water, or is there a better way? Do I whack something with a log or do I use a rock?" and that these techniques were communicable from one population to the next via various interactions and learning.

    Or is that all just what they found out this year and I just dreamed the rest?
  • The first item listed under technology leaves me wondering this. If you are going to attempt to grow organs, why whould you start with a bladder? I can think of a lot of organs that would be a bit more usefull to have lying around. If you lose your bladder you don't usually have time to go to the doctor and say, "hey, can I have a new bladder? Mine seems to have burst."

  • Researchers explored ways to enhance computer programs called intelligent agents by making them autonomous, mobile, and capable of learning.

    I thought furbies were introduced in '98 :)

  • by / ( 33804 ) on Tuesday December 28, 1999 @04:32AM (#1440116)
    Two reasons:

    1) It's just a bag (significantly uncomplicated) and that makes it a good organ to start with. The technology is still a ways off before we'll be growing complicated organs like artificial eyes, etc.

    2) You wouldn't believe the number of chronic ailments that exist which would be solved by just replacing the whole thing. Interstitial cystitis comes to mind. If you're living with a disorder like that for twenty years, you'll start to hope that someone will just show up and yank the whole thing out and replace it.
  • I don't get it. You're subject is "(rejected)" and you have nothing in your body... Yet you have a "Score 1: Insightful"... Who's idea was that?


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Is every year as fruitful as this past one? This is a really impressive list - except for the NASA crash on Mars and a couple of other setbacks. A bunch of surprises in there too: we're nearly finished the Human Genome project and somebody thinks we have twice as many genes as previously estimated? And 3 new elements were created for the first time this year? Some of the stuff seems a bit superfluous though. Pi to over 2 billion digits? And the return of cloud seeding... But generally a very very impressive list. Science has been pretty busy at the end of this millenium.
  • Some garments fought germs

    Yeah I know that the linked article was really about wearables, but since germ-fighting clothes were mentioned I think this post is on topic.

    Germ fighting clothes (toys etc) is bad because:
    A) Some bacteria is actually good for you. You dont want them killed.
    B) Give a child a sterile environment and the first flu that gets through will kill it
    C) If you knock out 99.99% of the bacteria with a substance, those that survive and multiply will be those with recistancy to that substance.


    Then again if by jacket could identify and destroy that special kind of germ called Spammer... moahahahaa!

  • by Dilbert_ ( 17488 ) on Tuesday December 28, 1999 @04:45AM (#1440122) Homepage

    Efforts to avert year-2000 computer-chip and software problems held the attention of computer experts, engineers, and public officials throughout 1999

    The Melissa computer virus exposed new software vulnerabilities, while researchers looked for ways to render computers immune to such digital pests

    Advances in computer technology and mathematical techniques threatened the security of the current standard encryption system

  • While I realize that "Top-n"-style lists like this are subjective, I find it amusing that the Earth Science section mentioned the (relatively insignificant) fact that people sweated out tornadoes in concrete rooms, while ignoring the launches of the Landsat 7 [] and TERRA [] spacecraft. The Landsat 7 spacecraft's Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus [] instrument and the TERRA spacecraft's vast array of instruments [] will be invaluable to Earth scientists studying climate change, urban sprawl, deforestation, drought, famine prediction, and dozens of other scientific disciplines.

    I'm not saying that any of the items listed in the review are not noteworthy; I'm just pointing out that the list does not appear to be particularly exhaustive.
  • An empty message body *could* be considered quite insightful in this discussion ;-)
  • I may have missed it at first glance, but I didnt see anything on nano-technology. I would think that 3 atom wide wires and 67 (i think) atom large motors were pretty important discoveries. I know that neither of these technologies are finished (the wires can only be permanently set and the motor cannot make a full revolution) but they are the first steps into a technology that will change every form of science known to man. But then again, I may have just missed it in the article.
  • I thought the Melissa mention was hilarious. Come to think of it the Y2k stuff is funny too. Where would researchers be if Microsoft didn't write bad code? *grin* *smirk* ROFLMAO!

    (I know MS doesn't dominate that much, but you might get that impression from reading this list and just knowing 32bit *nixes are fine until 2038 and non-MS software is safe from Melissa.)

    By Jove! I needed to read that after feeling gloomy about the DVD fiasco.

    I also liked the stuff about Neanderthals. As I understand it most Neanderthal specimens reveal the blood type B- (or is it AB-, whichever is more rare among Homo Sapiens). Apparently the same blood type is common among the Basque. Put that together with the uniqueness of their language and you might suspect that their genetics are the result of a mixing of Neanderthals and Sapiens. My mother has the same blood type, and some of the last names in our family are of Basque origin.

    Therefore, I am a Neanderthal!
  • I think that all of these things are great, but I just hope that next year they can list "Evolution again taught in Kansas." Here is to wishing.
  • I'm not sure, but I think the breakthrough this year may have been demonstrating that different populations have different cultural traditions, thus conclusively demonstrating that certain behaviors were neither the result of "instinct" nor the repeated insights of individual chimpanzees.

    Also, don't forget that some folks (see Kansas school board) need more convincing on these things than others.
  • I found the article on the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider very interesting, but they didn't go into very much detail on exactly how black holes could be formed by these collisions. I know black holes are formed by lots of matter getting packed into a small space (to put it very simply), but I don't see how a few particles could create something like a black hole. Here's the article, in case you're interested: .htm

    My question is, does anyone have any further articles I could read? I've done a few searches on the RHIC, but nothing came up with any fruit. Anyone have any more info on this? I love this kind of stuff.......
  • it's under chemistry- Researchers built single-molecule motors that spin when powered by light or chemical energy (Sept. 11, vol. 156: p.165).
  • They *did* mention the following item:

    Researchers built single-molecule motors that spin when powered by light or chemical energy (Sept. 11, vol. 156: p. 165).

    Is this what you're talking about? It sounds like nano-tech to me, at least. Alas, they didn't link to the article, but I think I remember this being on /. when it came out, anyway (too lazy to go find it, sorry...). Aren't all of the articles that they mention in their own publication? Why wouldn't they have on-line versions of so many of them? Especially if they're among the top science stories of the year, I'd think they'd be important enough to publish on-line.

  • Here I was, expecting to just click in and browse the list, then post the standard "they missed this one" or "yeah, that one was cool", but WHOOOOMPH! here's this monster list, with links to fabulously long articles...

    I'll get back to you in February.

    Meanwhile, I've got a new bookmark to It's like when I first saw slashdot.
  • Just reading the bullets in Earth Sciences makes it hard to deny global warming any longer:

    The carbon dioxide buildup in the air has stunted coral reef growth (April 3, vol. 155: p. 214).

    Research linked ancient climatic chaos to the release of carbon-rich gas (Oct. 23, vol. 156: p. 260).

    Global temperatures in 1998 proved the highest in 140 years (Jan. 2, vol. 155: p. 6).

    Signs of climatic warming appeared in the Arctic Ocean (Feb. 13, vol. 155: p. 104).

    Meteorologists predicted that La Niña will skew U.S. winter weather (Oct. 30, vol. 156: p. 278) and started factoring global warming into extended forecasts (March 20, vol. 155: p. 188).

    Scientists studied ways to adapt to climate change (Aug. 28, vol. 156: p. 136).

    But don't, like, panic or anything.
  • The IBM design cuts the number of instructions per processor down to a considerably more manageable 57.

    This is from the piece about developing the supercomputer that will do a quadrillion instructions per second. Heinz always insisted his company have only 57 varieties because he was convinced 57 was a magical number. I guess he was right.
  • Their WEEKLY tree killing version (as opposed to the coal burning/nuclear fire/hydro steaming/etc. electron pushing version) is overwhelming, too. Every time I've subscribed, I've felt bad because of the issues I never finished (and the thing is only 10 pages long). The on-line version is much more manageable. I wish they had an affordable on-line subscription, with HTML and Palm formats.
  • or if you do buy many diffrent types
    Gentleman, you can't fight in here, this is the war room..
  • While I was driving to work this morning, I heard a NPR commentary on how there weren't many scientific breakthroughs this year unless you were a mouse.

    Mice have been cured of several diseases, have been genetically altered to be smarter, healthier, and more romantic. They have had their lifespans lengthened by diet.

    They even had an interview with the scientist who owned the mouse who set the longevity record for mice. They gave him 2/3 of the normal food to slow his growth, and then when he got older, they put him in a cage with a female to keep him warm.

    Oh, to be a mouse.
  • slightly off-topic, but...

    I read somewhere that there's evidence the "next" ice age should have started sometime in the mid-1800's, but the industrial revolution happened just in time to flood the atmosphere with greenhouse gases and keep the glaciers at bay. If so, obviously we went a little beyond status quo, but it's an interesting idea. Unfortunately, I don't remember where I read this or even if it were a reputable source. Could someone confirm or refute my partial memory of this?

  • I'm studying Theoretical Physics and I'd recommend this book:

    Hyperspace: by Michio Kaku

    It covers a vast range of topics in great detail whilst still remaining entertaining and interesting. Here you will find lots of information on black holes, the creation of, possible exploitation of along with a huge amount of very thought provoking ideas and concepts.

  • That's when the only two big surprising eye openers of the 20th century occurred. The events which made America realize there's more to the universe than we'd ever previously dreamt possible.

    In 1945 we split the atom and saw an explosion of unimaginable magnitude. Many people believed it was magic, including my much older relatives who said (right up until the Bikini Atoll event) that it had to be some kinda dark sorcery unleashed. In any case nuclear weapons and technology put humanity on a vastly new level, both good and bad.

    In 1969 we left the Earth completely, and put a man way out on the moon. Even if it was just the tiny body in orbit around us, we put a man on another world!.

    Compare that to what's going on in 1999, or any of the 30 years since 1969. Except for the fall of the USSR, it's been comparatively an uneventful time for us Gen-X'ers.

    Maybe the Human Genome Project will do it for us in our lifetime. Or maybe we'll land a man or woman on mars.

    Or maybe Microsoft will go bust?

  • We already know how to create a black hole.

    It's really simple, actually.

    In fact, America is known to orbit a black hole of our own invention, once every 365 days.

    Here's how it was made. We packed 1 President, 100 US Senators and 418 Representatives, one welfare mom and one subsidy-begging corporate lobbyist dude, into Congress, and that's what caused the gravitational disturbance that we have all come to celebrate every April 15. :)
  • >I'm not saying that any of the items listed in
    >the review are not noteworthy; I'm just pointing
    >out that the list does not appear to be particularly exhaustive.

    I noticed this as well; under Behavior, they failed to mention the discovery that adult primates demonstrated neurogenesis (new neurons) in the neocortex (top brain layer), refuting the belief that adults brains don't make new neurons (Note: this doesn't mean that killing brain cells with alcohol isn't bad, since they'll "grow back"; each neuron is unique in it's connections to other neurons). Hell, that even showed up on the front page of the NYT.

    I'm guessing that only things they opted to put in their magazine showed up (well, duh, given all the references) and they might've missed out on a few things; science is moving at an ever-increasing pace, no one can be blamed if they miss something.

    Brynn, undergraduate in neuropsychology
  • If you dig a little past the article linked to, you can find the Science News folks giving way to a little bit of levity...

    Check out this interview with the 2-million-year-old man [] from their "Top Stories of the Millennium", for example.

  • That has indeed been suggested by those who see the ice ages as the result of convergence (IIRC) of the precession of the Earth on its axis and the precession about the sun -- something along the lines of when both mean cold, it's double cold or something. However, I don't think the timing of ice ages is as well-agreed-upon as, say, the fact that we're altering the climate.

    Assuming that we're not staving off an ice age, the damage we're doing to the planet is reprehensible.

    Assuming that we are staving off another ice age, I would rather we were taking deliberate action fully knowing the result. As it stands now, it's "Gee, maybe that stranger I gunned down would have killed me!" Hardly defensible, and dangerous as a practical matter, too.
  • The dogs that were given lab-grown bladders interested me. Maybe some day customized body parts will be availible. Perhaps one day I'll be able to go in and get "performance lungs" or a stronger skeleton, or whatever.
    Also maybe this sort of advance could lead to a greatly extended lifetime. If a body part is going bad, you could simply have a new one grown and attached. Lung cancer, just get new lungs. Heart trouble, new heart, and so on.
    Now all that is left to do is find out how to dump a brain image and burn it into a blank brain. Then we will finally be free of decaying flesh.
  • Ivor Catt, 121 Westfleds, St. Albans AL3 4JR, England 9aug97 This is an incomplete synopsis, written up hurriedly for Nigel Cook, who has run away. Catt's electromagnetic theory. Catt's theories should be partitioned into segments. Some are firmly held, others are conjecture. Even among the firmly held, the survival of one segment does not depend on the survival of another. For instance, the contrapuntal model for a charged capacitor can exist within Theory N, Theory H or Theory C. After 35 years of research, far longer than that normally taken for a researcher to arrive at a revolutionary theory, the product is not just one theoretical system which either succeeds or fails. Similarly, the assertion that a capacitor is a transmission line has no linkage with Theory C. In some cases, different segments of Catt theories first appeared at times 20 years apart. For instance, the Catt Anomaly arose nearly a third of a century later than the discovery that a capacitor is a transmission line. The implications of the latter for classical e-m theory took a gestation period of 20 years. The present situation has arisen because every one of Catt's theories, including those discovered 30 years ago and even those published 20 years ago, are unknown to 99% of electronic engineers and University Readers in Electromagnetism. Further, these people do not know that Catt and his co-authors have made any claims. Few university lecturers have heard of Theory C. Less than one electronic engineer in a thousand has heard the claim that a capacitor is a transmission line, so that the concept of self-resonant frequency is nonsense. Theory C. This is Catt's great contribution. It takes its place in a series of theories. Theory N. Electric current/charge causes field. Thhis is the traditional, reigning theory. Theory H. "We reverse this" - Oliver Heaviside, circa 1875. The travelling e-m field causes the electric current. Theory C. There is no electric current. - Catt, circa 1975. When a battery is connected via two wires to a lamp which glows, there is no electric current. Catt's contrapuntal model for the charged capacitor. Energy current travelling at the speed of light is delivered to a capacitor guided by two conductors. It enters the capacitor, and reciprocates (vacillates) in the space between the plates at the speed of light for the dielectric. There is no mechanism for this reciprocating energy current to slow down. A steady charged capacitor contains energy current, all travelling at the speed of light. When energy current travels towards a capacitor guided by two conductors, entry into the capacitor is exactly the same as entry into a transmission line of different characteristic impedance Zo. Classical theory treats the capacitor differently from the transmission line. In the former, displacement current must generate magnetic field. In the transmission line, displacement current (the front face of e TEM wave) must not generate magnetic field. This is the dislocation in classical theory, which destroys it. Modelling a crystal out of TEM waves. This is highly conjectural, and obviously inadequate because two-dimensional, whereas crystals are 3D. The vortex. Catt's earliest attempts to write a text book exploited the vortex. However, Catt's later Wireless World july79 article juxtaposes the vortex against the slab. The vortex is now dead. The ruling model for Catt at all levels is the e-m wave or vacillating e-m wave. One might appear to restore the vortex by constructing a crystal out of interacting TEM waves, or an electron out of 'vortexing' TEM waves, but this is not the revival of the vortex. It is the exploitation of the slab/TEM wave, using what little we know about how TEM waves interact, which is very little indeed. The single velocity universe. The concept of Maxwell, if he says anything at all, which is doubtful, actually asserting c as minimum as well as maximum velocity for anything, is a major contribution. More seriously, Catt has seen energy current travelling at the single velocity, and reasoned that all sorts of problems arise if other (slower) velocities are suggested. i'm looking for the url on this...using the name of Raeto West in a search engine may give you more. How Much of Modern Physics is a Fraud? © Phil Holland and Raeto West 1998, 1999 -------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------ "Casting false pearls before real swine" - anonymous lecturer -------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------ 1. Atomic Bomb: proof of the correctness of modern physics? 2. 'Superfluid Helium': a Lucrative Fraud? [2.1 Outline | 2.2 Open University Dissected] 3. Is the Speed of Light a Limit? 4. Is quantum theory credible? 5. Heisenberg's absurd probability error 6. How much trust can be put in particle detection techniques? 7. Do particle accelerators give useful results? 8. What is wrong with relativity? [8.1 Introduction | 8.2 G B Brown's paper]
  • I have a broad definition of Kiddie Porn, maybe it should be broader and include "Science News". Is this really a list or is it merely a list of the things you better think of for SAT questions and Santa's "Who's been good or bad" list. Guran is right, "Some bacteria is actually good for you". What a radical concept! oh and as long as CorpGovLLC has you focused on your countertop at home, you're not looking at what CorpGovLLC is doing to your air and water. So keep that counter top clean and bacteria free. We'll fix everything with GMO and stuff at the corporate level.
  • Ranton, This isn't a real science list. It's a propaganda list of newspeak. Nano-technology is real science and doesn't qualify for this list. Try to find N. Tesla on any scientist list, it's Westinghouse man.
  • Science News is a publication for those people interested in intellectual pursuits, but who are not technical enough in nature to read a peer-reviewed journal such as Science or Nature. Science News, IMHO, is a very good publication for children, as it will keep them intellectually stimulated every week.

    Now while I agree that it's a good publication for children (bright ones over about 12 or so anyway) I also think that Science News is good reading for adults. And not just those who aren't technical enough to read peer-reviewed journals.

    The wonderful thing about Science News is how it covers events from all areas of science. You can find articles about parallel processing on one page, and something about Neanderthal cave paintings or the sense organs of honey bees on the next. I doubt there are many people who would be willing to struggle through the peer-reviewed journals of computing, paleoanthropology and entomology, but lots of us have at least a passing interest in all of those subjects - and the many others that Science News covers.

    Science and Nature are also fine periodicals, but they're not weekly, and they cost a good deal more than Science News. And the articles in Science News are shorter, so I can read them in the bathroom, or on my break at work.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham