2014 Highlights: A Year in Science

Science 2015-01-15

Now January is well underway it seems a good time to look back over the last year at some of the many scientific achievements of 2014.


Big Winners

The many awards in the science industry produced some of the biggest news stories of 2014. Whether the awards were in their first year or their 114th there was plenty of award-winning science to choose from.

In December the 114th Nobel Prize Ceremony once again rewarded scientists producing world-class research in Physics, Chemistry and Physiology or Medicine. This year recognised the invention of blue LEDs, the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy and the discovery of the positioning system in the brain.

Also this year was the Fields medal awards ceremony that takes place every 4 years; up to 4 mathematicians under the age of 40 are chosen who have made outstanding discoveries in mathematics. This year Maryam Mirzakhani of Stanford University became the first woman to be awarded the medal in its 79-year history.

Finally the Longitude Prize was opened this year offering £10 million to anyone who can solve the problem of the rise of antibiotic resistance. The challenge was decided by a public vote and issued by NESTA in the spirit of the Longitude Prize of 1714. The British government offered the original prize to anyone who could solve how to measure longitude at sea.



CRISPR monkeys

Image Source – Cell (Niu et.al.)

This year two ground-breaking projects in the field of artificial genetics finally published their results. In March news of the first completely artificial chromosome was presented after 7 years of research. Shortly after in May the Scripps Research Institute reported the expansion of the bacterial genetic alphabet to include two new bases, a project that had been 15 years in the making.

Also in the field of genetics last year started off with two of the cutest breakthroughs of the year (pictured above). Two macaques born in January became the first primates with engineered genomes achieved with controlled gene editing technology. This breakthrough seemed to start off a gene-editing revolution in 2014 with multiple advances being made especially in the techniques and technologies. Most notably the gene editing technology, CRISPR, made it into mainstream media this year when the inventors won the first Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. The Breakthrough Prize Board, including Internet entrepreneurs Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin, awarded the $3 million prize for the first time this year.


Space and Aeronautics

The past year has also been a great year for space exploration with some incredible breakthroughs being made especially towards the end of 2014.

Firstly in November the Philae probe became the first man made object to land on a comet. The Rosetta mission was first launched in 2004 and so after 10 years the ESA found long awaited success on November 12th. No one, however, reacted quite like Professor Monica Grady who shortly became Internet famous for her ecstatic reactionto the successful landing, all she said was “It’s landed – I’ve waited years for this!”

Also towards the end of the year NASA had success with its first unmanned test launch of the Orion spacecraft that is intended to eventually facilitate human exploration of asteroids and Mars. The first manned mission is not expected until 2021 at the earliest but this test flight is an important step towards human exploration further into our Solar System.


Massive Discoveries 


Image Source: Illustration Jennifer Hall via NBC news

Finally 2014 brought with it one of the biggest discoveries of recent years. The skeleton of an entirely new species of titanosaur was uncovered in Argentina that was approximately 26 metres long and weighed over 60 tonnes, more massive than a Boeing 747. Dreadnoughtus schrani is the most complete skeleton of a supermassive dinosaur ever found and is likely to give important insights into the rest of its family.


What do you think was the greatest scientific achievement of 2014?

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