Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Top Ten Science Breakthroughs of 2008

Science Magazine lists its top ten picks for greatest breakthrough of 2008. Here is a condensed list of the runners up and the number one pick. [Free registration required]

In reverse order (David Letterman style) they are:

10. Sequencing Bonanza: New genome-sequencing technologies that are much faster and cheaper than the approach used to decipher the first human genome are driving a boom in sequencing.

9. Proton's Mass 'Predicted': The new results show that physicists can at last make accurate calculations of the ultracomplex strong force that binds quarks.

8. Fat of a Different Color: Researchers finally uncovered the mysterious roots of so-called brown fat. Hardly blubber, the energy-using tissue turns out to be one step away from muscle.

7. The Video Embryo: The dance of cells as a fertilized egg becomes an organism is at the center of developmental biology... This year, scientists observed the ballet in unprecedented detail...

6. Water to Burn: Researchers in the United States reported that they've developed a new catalyst that may serve as a first step in finding cheaper renewable energy.

5. Watching Proteins at Work: After studying proteins for more than a century, biochemists pushed the boundaries of watching the molecules in action--and received surprises at every turn.

4. New High-Temperature Superconductors: Physicists discovered a second family of high-temperature superconductors, materials that carry electricity without resistance at temperatures inexplicably far above absolute zero. [This is relative. High temperatures in this case means 56 Kelvin, which is about -360 F].

3. Cancer Genes: Researchers this year turned a searchlight on the errant DNA that leads tumor cells to grow out of control.

2. Seeing Exoplanets: With more than 5 years of observations using the latest technology, astronomers are suddenly busting down the doors to announce candidates for directly detected planets orbiting other stars.

And, the number one scientific breakthrough of 2008 is...

1. Reprogramming Cells: By inserting genes that turn back a cell's developmental clock, researchers are gaining insights into disease and the biology of how a cell decides its fate. [i.e. turning skin cells into stem cells.]

ICR, the principle advocate of Creation Science in the U.S., notes that none of these breakthroughs required a belief in the outdated 19th century theory of evolution:

Each of the breakthroughs came about through quality empirical science, with researchers employing the scientific method to discover how natural phenomena work. It is significant that none of these breakthroughs required an evolutionary framework for any part of their discoveries—not for the development of their hypotheses, not for the testing of those hypotheses, and not for their results or conclusions. If evolution is truly to be regarded as essential to empirical science and a necessary component of science education, then why were its tenets irrelevant, by virtue of their conspicuous absence, to the top scientific discoveries of 2008?

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