2018 in science: from gene-edited babies to cube shaped poo (+ predictions for 2019)

in science •  15 days ago
Have you sobered up yet? How about now? And now? Since I don't have any more time to wait for you to open both of your eyes, I will just go on ahead. Your one eye sober and one eye drunk and closed will just have to do. December is behind us and that means that we have once again made a full circle around the Sun and oh boy what a fun ride that was. For every second of those 365 days, we were moving around 30 kilometers. Yup, 30 kilometers per second, that was and will still be our speed of circling that bright shiny star that makes everything on this gorgeous planet possible. What happened during all of those 31557600 seconds? A lot of interesting things...


CC0 image, Pixabay, author: Pexels, adapted by me

There was a lot that happened in many fields, from astronomy to psychology and according to many scientific platforms, there was a difference between what was considered most valuable and that which has been read the most. It is nice to know what people are interested in. Poo, they are interested in poo but I can not blame them when it comes shaped like cubes. It was a busy year in science and I will try to cover some groundbreaking discoveries, those that still wait some more confirmation and share with you some predictions for the 2019 and what might be waiting for us. Are you ready to take a look in the past and see what amazing things have happened? Let's go!

Many scientific platforms out there list the human-driven climate change as the story of the year. Yeah... I do not want to be the one who always goes against the current but that "fight" between are humans responsible for what is happening with the Earth or not is redundant in my humble opinion, let us first convince people that there is, in fact, something going on. Denying that there is a climate change is bordering with psychosis but hey, some people believe that Earth is donut-shaped so why am I surprised that there are also those who think that nothing is going on with the climate. Sea level is rising and the temperature rise is affecting species being lost due to destroyed habitats not to mention how there are extreme heat waves all over the world. Since I do plan to write a separate post about science confirming that humans did impact things (take that you orange psycho), I will end this rampage-like digression and get back to what I wanted to list as my favorites from 2018. For now, I leave you with an amazing article for all you who are impatient to learn more:
Half a degree stole the climate spotlight in 2018

1.Mars ice-covered lake

You know how in numerous movies aliens came from Mars? Who knew that Hollywood was playing it so close to the truth. All you have to do is consider how aliens can be any life form and not only humanoids and not let your imagination run as wild as you want. There is a strong indication of how there is a possibility of life but nothing has been proven yet. That being said, weeeee, LIFE ON MARS!!!!

Mars' ice-covered lake

Researchers found a wide lake of standing liquid near the Red Planet’s south pole. It is buried beneath 1.5 kilometers of ice and the largest volume of liquid water ever claimed to exist on Mars. Now, the discovery is a bit controversial since the temperature under that ice should be around –68° C and I am not sure how water can remain liquid and there is the thing where the second Mars orbiter did not detect it like the first one did. Roberto Orosei of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Bologna, Italy has an explanation for both "problems". He claims that Mars’ south polar ice cap has a texture like Styrofoam which can insulate the lake and confuse the second orbiter leaving it with no results. Long-wavelength radar technology made this finding possible and if ice really is porous on Mars then there is a strong possibility that there will be more of these lakes discovered and life could be down there, in that hidden water.

2.A distant source of neutrinos

Neutrinos are subatomic particles produced by the decay of radioactive elements that do not have an electric charge. They are produced in high-energy collisions, traveling at the speed of light, and unaffected by magnetic fields which makes them ideal for conveying astronomical information from the edge of the universe because they are affected only by the weakest of nature's forces and unabsorbed while they travel great distances. Most of them were created around 15 billion years ago but they are still being born in the explosions of supernovas, nuclear power stations, particle accelerators, and various atmospheric phenomena.

Blazar birthing neutrinos

Many people have been hoping for this kind of discovery for decades. Brilliant cosmic beacon called a blazar about 4 billion light-years away. Blazars are active places at the centers of galaxies that send jets of high-energy matter and light toward Earth. The IceCube observatory spotted the high-energy neutrino and both the Earth-orbiting Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov, or MAGIC, telescopes in the Canary Islands reported that the blazar was violently flaring up in gamma rays at the same time the neutrino was detected. Why is this one of my favorite science things from last year? Because unraveling the secrets of the cosmos will follow it. Neutrinos can be used to learn more about the objects that created them. Some are even speculating about a new field of astronomy that combines information from neutrinos and light.

3.Gene-edited babies

This was my favorite thing from last year, the work of Chinese scientist Jiankui He, a man whose name will be remembered and written in history books, a genius if you ask me. Sure, there are those who object his work and are highly concerned about the ethical issues but I am not one of them. I see gene manipulation in our future as one of the best ways to improve our health from an early age. What ethics are we even talking about here? If there is a way to eliminate viruses and diseases (especially autoimmune ones), I am all up for it. Science is here to help, why would we continue living with diseases if we can eliminate them? Your argument about playing God is not valid if you ever took a pill against pain or visited any doctor what so ever.

Reduced risk of contracting HIV

First of all, this man did absolutely nothing wrong and did not force parents to participate, on the contrary. Seven couples were recruited from an HIV patient group to take part in the project. The gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 was used to disable the CCR5 gene in the fertilized eggs that produced the twin babies. CCR5 encodes a protein that allows the HIV virus to enter cells and if disabled might help children to avoid HIV infection. China’s Ministry of Science and Technology suspended his work and put him under investigation for violating their laws. Sure, his work could have been better and is far from over but common people, until you make this possible and normal, more will be done in secrecy and why? Because we are still concerned about false ethics? Yes, I said FALSE. Welcome to the future. Medicine and health are more important than your religious views.

Yes, not only has a male birth control pill been created, it has been tested too and passed the test with flying colors. Since men did not have side effects from the prototype contraceptive (like women usually do) and their testosterone and other reproductive hormones got safely reduced to levels that halt sperm development, I get how this is an interesting thing to read about. According to sciencenews.org, it was the number 1 news read about in 2018. You can read the research about it here:

OR15-2 - Pharmacokinetic And Pharmacodynamic Effects of 28 Days of Oral Dimethandrolone Undecanoate in Healthy Men: A Prototype Male Pill by Jonas Ceponis, MD PhD, John Kenneth Amory, MD, Ronald S. Swerdloff, MD, Vijaya Surampudi, MD, Peter Y. Liu, PHD, MBBS, William J. Bremner, MD, PHD, Clint Dart, MS, Diana Lynn Blithe, PHD, Laura Hull, BS, Christina CL Wang, MD, Stephanie T. Page, MD, PhD

Wombat poo...


CC0 image, Pixabay, author: pen_ash

Look at that cute creature, it turns out that his poo is not only cute too but cube-shaped. This is the only animal that poops little cubes. Their elastic intestine shapes the poo in little cubes that can even be rolled like playing dice. In other news, if you are not getting enough sleep, you might be at higher risk of Alzheimer's disease. There’s not enough evidence yet to know the exact degree to which sleep might make a difference in the disease, and study results are not consistent but the theory how sleep deprivation can lead to Alzheimer’s disease got some extra attention since disrupted sleep might encourage Alzheimer’s by allowing buildup of amyloid-beta which is thought to lead to the death of neurons.

People enjoyed reading science news, from wombats to Alzheimer's, they were interested in the oldest plague bacteria ever found, where the proton’s mass comes from and many more. You can read what were the ten most read news in 2018 on the site sciencenews.org here:

These are the most-read Science News stories of 2018

2019 will most definitely be the year of astronomy. The Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory may detect black holes and their merges, China will probably land the return mission on the Moon, and the Parker Solar Probe will fly close enough to the sun to show us never before seen details of it. Gene-editing technology and the climate change will remain popular topics but there will also be some promising work on superconductivity. To me, the most interesting thing is, of course, the human brain, behavioral sciences, and human evolution.

What does it mean to be human?

Our brains are what makes us human and there are extraordinary beyond words. One of the frequently asked questions is where does our consciousness come from. The answer may be the claustrum. It is a paper-thin sheet that covers the insular cortex which is involved in emotional processing. This part of the brain is the most mysterious one and I have great hope that neurobiology will unravel at least some of its secrets. Speaking of neurobiology, 2019 may be the "marriage year" where neurobiology and psychology will work even closer together and more frequently. There is much that we can discover if those two fields continue their lovely relationship. We may even learn what makes us who we are and how can we impact it to become better at everything. By learning about ourselves we are enabling progress in any science field because everything starts with the brain. By being better at using it, we are becoming better in everything.

Time for some special messages...

To all my lovely followers and supporters, to amazing groups and families on this platform, I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST in 2019. You are the one who will make it good or bad with your thoughts, decisions, and actions so stay focused on becoming a bit better with each passing day. In these almost two weeks of sick-leave/vacation, I have missed you people and am happy to be back and start this new year. I predict many great texts and interactions from and with all of you because you are simply amazing and we are pushing each other toward great improvement and growth. I raise my glass and share a big smile with you. Keep living each day like you are going to die tomorrow and keep learning with each day like you are going to live forever. I wish you love, health, and happiness, everything else will follow.

If you are (and I hope you are hihi) interested in reading more about the various things mentioned in this post, check out these REFERENCES:

All About Neutrinos from South Pole Neutrino Observatory
Neutrino discovery launched a new type of astronomy from sciencenews.org
A buried lake on Mars excited and baffled scientists from sciencenews.org
News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm from sciencenews.org
The brain may clean out Alzheimer’s plaques during sleep from sciencenews.org
What will be the big science stories of 2019? Here are our predictions from sciencenews.org

Until next time,
KEEP YOUR SMILE ON!

Image sources AND LICENCES in order of appearance:

- all images used in this post are free for commercial use, they are royalty free with the links to original images provided under them
- titles are made with the CC0 image from Pixabay that can be found here
- line divider that I use is from FREE CLIPART LIBRARY, and is here
- my bitmoji avatar was created on https://www.bitmoji.com/, visit the site to create yourown

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Oh Petra. I have missed you like a drunk misses a drink (and I can speak with a certain authority on that similarity :) ).

My list might be slightly different than yours, though not substantively. The Neutrino projects have fascinated me for years, and I'd put that right near the top.

We are opening the window of our past. Ever so slightly and ever so slowly we are stacking findings one on top of the other to start to provide a future knowing of where we (humans) came from and where we have been, when.

Two that don't much interest me are climate change and genetic editing.

If you are too stupid to realize that change is happening AND is increasing more than any background change would occur in nature then I just have no time for you.

Likewise, if you think that you can keep the genetic editing genie in the bottle you are ignorant of reality. My only reservations can only be answered with time. Is this net good or are there unintended consequences? Taking volunteers from HIV positive people is genius. Who wouldn't want your children immunized?

Which reminds me of a significant tabulation from 2018. The showing of the rise of HIV resistant North Europeans and tying that resistance to Plague resistance from the 14th century. That number is increasing at the statistical rate that it should and could be incredibly significant going forward.

Thank you, my friend. I hope your holidays were filled with hope and that it will continue throughout the year.

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hahaha, I have missed you and your comments darling and glad that I am back. Thanks for sharing your views on this, they are (as always) quite interesting. 💚





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Thank you for your amazing support! 💚💚💚

That got both my eyes and my mind open hahaha
I can always come to you to add on the smarts :)
Gene edited babies.... not just in the movies anymore
Yeah, that's what I always think... we pick and choose when religion comes into play and conveniently leave it out when it serves us.... I'm guilty too hahaha
Let's see what 2019 has in store

Hey, Happy New Year...

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and a happy new year to you too, may it be happy, healthy and filled with smiles! 💚

Happy New Year, my friend! I'm not drunk, but I can't promise I'm sober. ;)

What a great collection of things, many of which I'd missed. (Yes, I live under a rock much of the time.) It's fun to read things from your perspective. I especially liked this line:

Medicine and health are more important than your religious views.

Amen, sister. ;) Would be great to see less secrecy and more transparency across the board, from medicine to government to banking. Power to the people.

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Transparency, YEAH! that is what we need and I hope we will get more of it in all areas. Much love honey! 💚

Cube shape poo reeled me in, giving you a happy new year made me stay! Blessings sista 🎊🙏🏽

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Have a great year darling, fill it with love and smiles!!! 💚💚💚

I love this post so much... full of riches. Fills my head with questions. The most controversial for me is the baby editing...this has nothing to do with religion, but economics. I can just see a Gattaca-style universe in which castes are designed genetically. Those with the means get to use gene editing to insure "superior" offspring (they do it with schools and neighborhoods now, don't they?). The poor have offspring destined to serve because they cannot avail themselves of gene editing.
You can tell, I'm a writer... stories and such, so the imagination is quite lively :)
I love the wedding of neurology and psychology. It's about time psychology became more of a 'hard science'. Diagnosis and treatment will be much more reliable.
Anyway, those are the thoughts on the top of my head after a cursory reading. I will check out the references on all the articles. And I will share this on Twitter.

Definitely an interesting mix from this past year, and should be even more interesting to see what new research comes out in the next! It is quite disheartening sometimes though to see how our "leaders" seem to have no use for actual science if it doesn't fit into their own agenda or fatten their wallets. I suppose that is why it is so important for the rest of us to stay informed and try to continue to think for ourselves. Thank you for continuing to do your part to spread actual fact-based information! Looking forward to see what you share this year. :)

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I agree that it is important to stay informed and nurture our critical thinking and am too very much excited about this year and everything that might happen. Thank you for your lovely comment 💚

I enjoyed reading every bit of this amazing article. You are an interesting person. You have a wonderful way of expressing yourself. It's admirable. Thanks for sharing. I wish you a very happy new year!

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Thank you for that kind and lovely feedback 💚

Have you sobered up yet? How about now? And now?

Believe it or not, I didn't drink that much during the first days of 2019. I guess this is something coming with age ;)

Concerning the neutrino story, it is also amazing in the sense it is the first time we observed a cosmic engine capable to produce ultra-highly energetic cosmic rays. Those cosmic rays are observed on Earth and we had no clue on how the universe was capable of producing them. From now, we have some clues :) [I wrote a full article on this, if you are interested.]

PS: glad to heave read something about the HIV thing. I missed that one! Thanks for that.

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Blazars are fascinating to me and I have found your text, thanks for mentioning it. It was a great first thing to read over coffee this morning 💚
P.S. After the second glass of wine I switched to soda, I do not like my brain when it is "not normal". Controlling my thoughts is something I do not give up that easily. Yeah, yeah, I have issues :D

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I drank many glasses, with the trick of one or two glasses of water between each. this helps ^^

I am happy you liked my text :)

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Thank you for your amazing and lovely support, it is very much appreciated 💚💚💚

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Huh... I never knew that wombats had cube shaped poop! Seems like the sort of thing that an Australian should know!

Anyway, it's been a pretty big year (and past couple of years...) for Science... especially the important one of Physics... the others did okay as well, I guess...

Hopefully, a great year coming up as well!

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Yeah, I would have guessed that you knew that too :D
2019 will be awesome, I have a good feeling about it, lets hope that I am not wrong hihi :)