Every once in a while, a scientific breakthrough takes the world by surprise and impacts the way we understand and interact with it. Inventions usually cause manufactures to jump on the opportunity to bring it to our doorsteps in the form of a glossy new contraption; hoping to capitalize profits before their corporate competitors follow suit. Discoveries are generally received with a change in perception and understandings about how things work.
Some of the latest technological breakthroughs are listed that will more than likely have some impact on us.
7. New element to be added to the Periodic Table
In 2010, a scientific research collaboration between Russia and the US produced an element with an atomic number of 117 making it 40 times heavier than lead. In nature, the heaviest element that can be found is Uranium, with an atomic number of 92; however, synthetic elements are produced in the labs by adding more protons to the nucleus of atoms.
Since its first report in 2010, the experiment has been reproduced several times, therefore, strengthening its position to be included in the periodic table, the first one in over a decade.
- Ununseptium, the temporary name given to this element, will be included in periodic tables in text books.
- Its properties are not well known, and will for now, be used for mainly research purposes.
- The successful synthesis of a super-heavy element like Ununseptium gives physicists valuable insight into new super-heavy metal research methodology.
6. Pluto was a lie
Pluto was discovered in 1930 by astronomers in Arizona, US and was declassified as a planet during the 26th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in 2006. What prompted the astronomers of the world to change the classification of Pluto was the result of advancements in the understanding of our solar-system, the gist of which can be summed up as:
- The discovery of the Kuiper Belt which is a collection of large objects that orbit beyond Neptune.
- The discovery of around 70,000 objects in the Kuiper Belt roughly the size of Pluto.
- The discovery of an object in the Kuiper Belt, Eris, 25% larger
Although significant on its own, the impact of this venture by astronomers has led to significant changes when it comes to studying celestial bodies.
- The creation of a new category; dwarf-planet opened up a whole new chapter for research and understanding of not just the solar-system, but the universe.
- Of course text-books would have to be rectified and children would be learning about how the solar-system has eight planets and a Kuiper Belt instead of the standard nine.
5. The Snowden Effect
The post-Snowden era has realised the paranoia of the paranoid. The extent of snooping by the spooks has taken us all by surprise; it has highlighted the extent of which governments go to keep their citizens under the all-seeing eye of The Man. This has brought about interesting changes in the way we interact with technology.
- Capitalising on the paranoia, various companies have sprung up selling specialised phones that encrypt all messages. One such phone is the Blackphone, developed by SGP Technologies, selling for $629.
- Mainstream tech companies, like Microsoft and
Google, began lobbying for less snooping by the
government. However, most of the public see this as
merely a reputation-saving publicity gimmick.
- The public is now more informed about privacy and have taken steps to increase their security by either using proxies or by using privacy encrypting softwares like HTTPS Everywhere and Silent Circle, to be digitally anonymous.
Media sources were abuzz for a while about this new miracle material that conducts electricity better than copper, is 100 times stronger than steel, is the strongest material ever tested and can be just an atom thick. Since then there have been many new revelations but just as few actual products developed. However, from research comes development, and a number of companies are filing patients and testing prototypes of various products involving Graphene.
- Products are being developed that would allow Graphene to be slapped onto plastic because of its flexible properties. This will allow for truly flexible devices like a TV that can be rolled up like blinds, smart-phones that can be crumpled up and stuffed into the pocket.
- The strength of Graphene has allowed a professional tennis player; Novak Djokovic, to use a racquet that uses the material in the shaft. This would change the centre of gravity of the racquet, allowing for a stronger and faster swish.
- Damaged nerves can be supplemented with Graphene, giving hope to people with nerve damage.
- Mobile phone chargers and batteries that would allow a full charge in seconds are being tested by UCLA.
- A Graphene-based paint is being developed that has the potential of powering an entire house with solar energy.
3. 3D Printing
Every now and then a piece of news emerges that someone has printed something completely mind-blowing with a 3-D printer. For example a transplantable ear made of cartilage gel, printed by Cornell University, the Chinese students at School of Automobile and Mechanical Engineering at Changsha University of Science and Technology who made a race car with 3-D printed parts, the prosthetic limbs printed by Not Impossible Labs for amputees, the list is endless. And as 3-D printing technology advances, it is becoming increasingly affordable to use one. You can now buy a Velleman K8200 3-D printer for around £500.
- Low-cost prosthetics are being made for amputees in surprisingly short time-frames.
- Everyday objects can be readily printed and used in a matter of hours.
- It is being used to print specialised tools for engineering and medical purposes.
- Replacement body parts like hip-joints are now printed in some hospitals.
2. Bug Zapper
Super-bugs are drug-resistant bacteria that can make even the most trivial of illnesses a battle for life. Scientists have warned that bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to even the most potent of antibiotics and new methods are required to counter this trend. As a result, several methods have been brought to light. Among these breakthroughs, one is making faster progress than all the rest; K.T. Tsen of Arizona State developed a method by which lasers of specific frequency, designed to cause vibrations in the capsid protein coat of bacteria, bombard the body and destroy the cells. The laser is designed not to interact with human cells and only harm the outer coating of the bacterial cells.
- This method can be used as a last resort to cure people infected with drug-resistant bacteria.
- This method can also be refined to be used on viruses, leading to a potential cure for diseases like HIV AIDS.
- Bacteria won’t be able to build a defence against this method because it’s not chemical based, but applies mechanical force to destroy the cells.
1. DNA Sequencing Machine Reaches the $1000 Milestone Cost
The cost to first map the entire genome of a person was $13 billion and took 13 years to complete. Ever since, biotechnologists have been hard at work to bring this price down to sub $1000 level. And as of January 2014, a biotech company called Illuminia, has delivered with the HiSeq X machine. The HiSeq X is also capable of sequencing a person’s entire genome in a blistering 24 hours.
- The most important impact this will have will be how you interact with your doctor. After having your blood taken and your genome sequenced, the doctor can pin-point any inherent diseases you might have or might be susceptible to in the future. This can prevent misdiagnosis and help prepare or even prevent the development of diseases like diabetes and cancer you might acquire in the future.
- Another important impact this will have is the way drugs and prescriptions are prepared for patients. For example, the doctor would able to have a look at your gene sequences and tell if you might be resistant to certain medications, be allergic to, or develope adverse side effects to any drug. This will also allow for a patient’s treatment by genetics-based medicine to match the most suitable and effective drugs for a quick and risk-free cure.