Sometimes you’ve got to look for the trees in the forest. The good news of 2021 was like a host of saplings — little trees lost in the forest of inflation, the pandemic, and catastrophic weather events. Look closer and you will find numerous reasons to cheer, scientific discoveries and advances that give honest-to-goodness hope for humanity.
Most notably, 2021 saw one of the most-effective vaccines ever created, in record time. But that’s just the beginning. We witnessed other monster breakthroughs in biology, astronomy, medicine, engineering, computing, genomics, and many more scientific fields.
With so many astounding advances in 2021, it was tough to pick the most significant — but we tried anyway. Here are our favorite 15 moments worth telling the kids about. Prepare for your mind to be blown.
The Fastest Vaccine Rollout in History
The development, testing, and rollout of COVID vaccines has been called the moonshot of our generation. That might be an understatement. Thanks to devoted medical researchers and tens of thousands of everyday Americans who participated in clinical trials, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines emergency use authorization for adults last December, followed by Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine this February. Since then, the vaccine has become available for children as young as 5. That’s a vaccine rollout available to 94 percent of the population (under 5 are excepted so far) in little over a year. Previously, the fastest vaccine to go from development to deployment was the mumps vaccine in the 1960s — which took about four years. Although we’re still struggling with COVID variants and breakthrough cases, this feat of inoculation has saved countless lives — and holds promise for a future where we can keep up with viral outbreaks in real time.
Regenerated Limbs? Try, an Entire Body
Lots of animals can regrow a torn-off tail or a leg lost to a predator, but sea slugs have the coolest regeneration trick by a long shot. As a Japanese scientist discovered this year, these slimy creatures can behead themselves on purpose and grow a whole new body within weeks. The severed head survives on its own while it regenerates vital organs and limbs, likely due to slugs’ plant-like ability to photosynthesize because of all the algae they eat. Even more impressive, the discarded body lives for weeks before eventually dying off. Researchers think sea slugs use this cool maneuver to hoodwink predators and escape unharmed, or possibly to survive parasite infestations of their lower body.
Brain-Computer Interface Tech Goes Full Avatar
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) hold major promise for people with paralysis, allowing them to operate robotic limbs, wheelchairs, keypads, and other gadgets just by thinking about moving their bodies. But so far, BCIs have mostly been relegated to research settings, as they’ve required bulky cables to connect a person’s head to a computer to an external device.
Not anymore. The prestigious BrainGate research team has devised the world’s first high-bandwidth, totally wireless BCI that transmits brain signals as quickly and clearly as cabled systems do. In a recent clinical trial, the new device enabled two people with tetraplegia to point, click, and type on a tablet with precision and speed — no wires required. More research is needed, but this is a major step toward taking BCIs out of the lab and into the real world to help people with paralysis regain independence.
The Truth Is Out There (Now Available in the Library of Congress)
Americans’ boundless fascination with unidentified flying objects was finally indulged in 2021. In January, by way of the Freedom of Information Act, The Black Vault website posted the CIA’s recently declassified database of every UFO sighting reported by a military pilot, dating back to the 1980s. Concurrently, the CIA uploaded dozens of records of UFO sightings from the 1940s to the early 1990s.
Then, in June, the Pentagon issued a long-awaited nine-page report summarizing everything it claims to know about unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, its fancy term for UFOs. Shocker: The government doesn’t know much. The report does assert that UAPs are not U.S. military craft, but otherwise, it pretty much plays the “inconclusive” card. But hey, although the dossier may not clear up many mysteries, the massive data dump should keep UFO-obsessed armchair detectives captivated for years to come.
Child Brain Development Gets Its Moonshot Moment
About 90 percent of human brain development happens by age five. And although neuroscientists have recently learned a lot about how and when various developments occur, especially in utero, there’s still a ton they don’t know, particularly about the impacts of nature versus nurture. These answers are now coming, courtesy of the largest, most comprehensive trial on early brain development ever, which kicked off this fall.
Through the HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study, researchers nationwide will track a diverse group of 7,500 pregnant people and their children throughout the next decade. Using neuroimaging and psychological assessments, they aim to map out the “normal” arc of brain development and discover how pre- and postnatal environments and exposures (stress, socioeconomic status, parents’ drug use, COVID, etc.) affect it — as well as how kids’ brains adapt. This historic study has the potential to unlock prevailing mysteries about autism, dyslexia, and other childhood neurodevelopment, emotional, and behavioral concerns.
WHO Approves First Malaria Vaccine for Kids
Long before COVID, malaria was — and as of time of publication, still is — one of the most lethal infectious diseases on the planet. This mosquito-borne pathogen kills half a million people annually, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa. Over half of those malaria kills are children under age 5, Now, after a century of effort, scientists have finally developed a safe, effective malaria vaccine (the first vaccine for any parasitic disease, by the way), which the World Health Organization (WHO) greenlighted for all at-risk kids in October. Assuming nations prioritize vaccine distribution, experts estimate this breakthrough could prevent 5.3 million malaria cases and 24,000 deaths among children under 5 every year.
Researchers Cure (One Person’s) Type 1 Diabetes
An estimated 1.6 million Americans live with type 1 diabetes (aka juvenile diabetes), including 200,000 kids and adults under age 20. With no known cure, this life-threatening autoimmune disease, in which the pancreas stops producing insulin to control blood sugar, almost always requires intense 24/7 management.
That may be about to change. To the shock and elation of diabetes experts, an experimental treatment delivered in an ongoing clinical trial appeared to cure a 64-year-old man of type 1 diabetes, which would be a world first. After receiving infusions of insulin-producing cells grown from stem cells, the man’s body now makes insulin on its own, giving him “a whole new life,” as he told the New York Times.
Because this discovery is part of a five-year study involving 16 other participants, it’s still too soon to say with certainty whether the treatment is effective and safe long-term. But it’s the most promising development the world has seen in regard to a type 1 diabetes cure — and likely enough to make a parent or child living with type 1 do cartwheels.
On Mars, NASA Collects Rocks — and Then Flies a Freaking Helicopter
In February, almost seven months after launching from Earth, NASA’s highly sophisticated Perseverance rover touched down on Mars. The vehicle will spend nearly two years on the red planet, surveying the landscape, searching for evidence of past Martian life, and collecting geological samples to bring back to Earth. Then, in April, NASA’s solar-powered Ingenuity Mars Helicopter became the first-ever aircraft to make a controlled flight on another planet. By December 8, Ingenuity had logged 17 successful flights.
Scientists Spot 301 New Planets
Mars wasn’t the only celestial body to make news in 2021. In November, NASA scientists validated the existence of 301 new exoplanets — planets that orbit stars other than the Sun — bringing the total exoplanet tally to 4,870. The validation frenzy comes courtesy of NASA’s new ExoMiner deep-learning technology, which evaluates data collected by the Kepler spacecraft to distinguish legit exoplanets from convincing fakes.
Solar Panels Get Cheaper, Better, Faster, Stronger
With the average cost of a solar panel plummeting 90 percent between 2010 and 2020, it keeps getting cheaper and cheaper to generate power directly from the sun. That’s great news, as it helps shift our reliance away from fossil fuels, a key contributor to climate change. Frustratingly, however, solar panels haven’t gotten much more efficient in recent years, which has hindered widespread adoption of this form of clean energy.
To solve this issue, engineers have been looking for alternative materials that can outperform the standard silicon used in solar panels and still be inexpensive. They’ve had high hopes for perovskites, atomically thin, latticed materials that convert sunlight into energy highly efficiently. The only problem? Ultraviolet rays and moisture destroy perovskites in no time, tanking their usefulness.
But this year, Rice University engineers developed and road-tested solar cells made of two-dimensional perovskites. Their invention works much better than earlier models and withstands the elements. The trick with 2D perovskites, the researchers discovered, is that sunlight contracts the spaces between the atomic layers to boost efficiency by up to 18 percent — a huge leap forward in this field. With solar companies worldwide working to commercialize perovskite solar cells, this breakthrough should ultimately accelerate society’s conversion to solar energy.
Surgeons Pull Off the First Successful Arm and Shoulder Transplant
In January, Jean-Michel Dubernard, MD, the same surgeon who performed the first-ever hand, double hand, and partial face transplants, accomplished yet another historic feat: the world’s first double arm and shoulder transplant. The operation, performed in France, was a resounding success. The recipient, 49-year-old Felix Gretarsson of Iceland, who’d lost both arms in an electrical accident in 1998, has steadily gained mobility throughout the year, charting his progress on Instagram. He can now flex his biceps, pick up objects, and hug his granddaughter. Experts expect he will make more advancements in the coming years. Sadly, Dubernard died in July, but not before giving Gretarssinan entirely new life.
Paleontologists Count 2.5 Billion T. rexes Roaming the Planet
This year, scientists learned a lot about the massive creatures that inhabited the Earth many millions of years ago. First up, dinosaurs. The fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus rex roamed North America starting nearly 70 million years back, and now biologists have finally estimated how many: 2.5 billion. Terrifying, right? If it’s any comfort, that’s the total T. rex population spread out over 2.4 million years. So, really, there were only about 20,000 adult T. rexes living at one time.
Of course, that last generation of T. rex, along with the entire dinosaur kingdom, got wiped off the planet some 66 million years ago by an asteroid. Or wait, was it a comet? That’s the new theory put forth by Harvard astronomers to explain the so-called Chicxulub Impactor, the astronomical body that created a 93-mile-wide, 12-mile-deep crater off the coast of Mexico and, theoretically, killed the dinosaurs. Countering the prevailing asteroid theory, the Harvard astronomers think a comet from the fringes of our solar system got knocked off-orbit by Jupiter’s gravitational field and broke into chunks. Then an especially large chunk — the eventual Chicxulub Impactor — slammed into the Earth, wreaking major havoc and wiping out the dinos.
A One-Million-Year-Old Mammoth Gets Its DNA Sequenced
More than 60 million years after the dinosaurs, mammoths were living large, which researchers know because of the extensive fossil record. This year, such fossils yielded an unprecedented discovery: the oldest ancient animal genome ever recovered. In sequencing DNA from three mammoth teeth extracted from the Siberian permafrost, scientists determined the fossils were more than one million years old, obliterating the previous record held by a 560,000-to-780,000-year-old horse leg bone. The DNA also suggests a separate lineage, possibly a different species, of mammoth that scientists weren’t aware of before.
NASA Launches the Most Powerful Space Telescope Ever*
An international event that’s been decades in the making is finally (hopefully!) happening on December 24*. After multiple delays, the James Webb Space Telescope — the largest and most advanced scientific telescope in the history of space exploration — is scheduled to blast off from French Guiana aboard the Ariane 5 rocket. It will take 30 days to travel nearly 1 million miles to a stable spot in space and another six months to unfold its instruments, align, and calibrate. As it tracks Earth’s orbit around the sun for the next several decades, the infrared scope will directly observe parts of the universe previously unseeable, thereby demystifying the origin and evolution of our planet, solar system, and galaxies beyond.
We Learn to Track Global Outbreaks in Real Time
One of the biggest differences between the COVID pandemic and that of the 1918 Spanish Flu is the way that we track it. It’s nearly unimaginable that we once had to follow death and infection rates by local tally — and had essentially no way of knowing about new viral variants. Now, led by the WHO, scientists have a colossal global collaboration to monitor the spread and evolution of SARS-CoV-2. Huge amounts of data have been collected and shared across borders, allowing researchers to get quickly gain an idea of how a variant like Omicron spreads and affects case numbers and hospitalizations. We didn’t have this sort of technology available at the beginning of the pandemic. As of April 2021, the online GISAID database contained only one million SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequences. That’s after about 16 months of pandemic. But in the eight months since, another five million sequences have been added. In other words, genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 has gotten ten times faster since the spring. This accomplishment highlights that one of the biggest challenges of science isn’t discovery, but sharing discoveries, and countries across the world are now doing that in a way they’ve never done before.
Quantum Computing Goes Commercial
What takes today’s best supercomputers several days or weeks to process, quantum computers can knock out within seconds. That’s why quantum computing, which leverages the laws of quantum physics for unprecedented processing capabilities, is already considered among the biggest scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century. Eventually, it’s supposed to revolutionize manufacturing, meteorology, cybersecurity, national defense, and much more.
Well, 2021 made “eventually” closer than ever. In November, IBM unveiled its 127-qubit Eagle, the most powerful quantum processor yet. Then earlier this month, the company Quantinuum debuted the world’s first commercial product built from quantum computing: a cloud-based cybersecurity platform called Quantum Origin. With the world’s top tech companies and research institutions racing to advance this next-gen technology, expect quantum computing to make our list again next year, and the next, and the next…
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- The Covid-19 vaccine.
- Malaria vaccine for kids.
- Launch of the James Webb Telescope.
- New findings on Mars.
- Closer than ever to finding ET.
- CRISPR gene editing injected into blood.
- New species of early humans.
- Most powerful quantum processor yet.
Scientists discovered more about the existence of early humans. And researchers documented how climate change has impacted everything from coral reefs to birds. Covid-19 will continue to garner even more attention next year as scientists work to deal with new variants and develop medical advances to battle the virus.What has science changed to society today? ›
By drastically changing our means of communication, the way we work, our housing, clothes, and food, our methods of transportation, and, indeed, even the length and quality of life itself, science has generated changes in the moral values and basic philosophies of mankind.Who is the best scientist of 2021 in science? ›
Debdeep Mukhopadhyay is among the Indian Scientists who received the highest Science Award, Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award 2021 on Engineering Sciences.What is the latest discovery of science 2022? ›
Astronomers report the discovery of HD1, considered to be the earliest and most distant known galaxy yet identified in the observable universe, located only about 330 million years after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, a light-travel distance of 13.5 billion light-years from Earth, and, due to the expansion of the ...What is science 10 all about? ›
DESCRIPTION: This course enables students to develop a deeper understanding of concepts in biology, chemistry, earth and space science and physics; to develop further their skills in scientific enquiry; and to understand the interrelationships among science, technology and the environment.How important is science today? ›
Science isn't limited to the study of the natural world, disease, or human lifespans. Without science, we wouldn't have technologies like computers, the Internet, cars, and so on. These inventions transformed how humans live in the world, including how we travel, how we communicate, and how we learn.What day is today science? ›
Scientific knowledge can improve the quality of life at many different levels—from the routine workings of our everyday lives to global issues. Science informs public policy and personal decisions on energy, conservation, agriculture, health, transportation, communication, defense, economics, leisure, and exploration.What are 5 reasons science is important? ›
- Science Increases our Fundamental Knowledge.
- New Technology.
- Creates New Applications.
- Science Allows us to Share Ideas.
- Helps us Understand Our World Even Better.
- Importance to School Students.
- Learning Science: The Benefits.
Science has come a long way in the last 150 years! We now have more powerful data analysis techniques, more sophisticated equipment for making observations and running experiments, and a much greater breadth and depth of scientific knowledge.Who is No 1 scientist ever? ›
Albert Einstein is one of the most famous scientists in the world. He used to be an eccentric person who was perhaps the only scientist in the world who has become such a household name. His theories of relativity, gravitation and his understanding of molecules have defined new approaches in science.What has science done for us? ›
Science informs public policy and personal decisions on energy, conservation, agriculture, health, transportation, communication, defense, economics, leisure, and exploration. It's almost impossible to overstate how many aspects of modern life are impacted by scientific knowledge.What's science Ever Done For Us? ›
Sure, since the 16th century, science has given us electricity and anaesthetics, the internet and statins, the jumbo jet, vaccines and good anti-cancer drugs, the washing machine and the automobile.What technology has changed the world the most? ›
- The Wheel. It's pretty hard to argue that the wheel isn't one of the biggest engineering marvels the world has ever seen. ...
- Electricity (Battery) ...
- Automobile. ...
- Lightbulb. ...
- Transistors. ...
- The refrigerator. ...
- Television. ...
- The Computer.
The Most Important Discovery Of 2022: The James Webb Space Telescope.Who is the greatest scientist in 2022? ›
- Research Professor Molly Brown: #5821 (World), #2398 (US)
- Associate Research Professor Michelle Hofton: #6600 (World), #2542 (US)
- Research Professor Roberto Cesar Izaurralde: #7165 (World), #2808 (US)
- Earth science.
- Space science.
Students and researchers alike have long understood that physics is challenging. But only now have scientists managed to prove it. It turns out that one of the most common goals in physics—finding an equation that describes how a system changes over time—is defined as "hard" by computer theory.Is Class 10 science hard? ›
|Question Weightage||No. of Questions||Difficulty Level|
|Section A - 2 marks question||7||Easy|
|Section B - 3 marks question||6||Easy|
|Section C - 4 marks question||2||Moderately|
|Total||15||Average to easy|
- 1- Better Communication. ...
- 2- Resources to protect humans from natural disasters or calamities. ...
- 3- Science extends our Lifespan. ...
- 4- Science led to the Creation of Technologies we use every day. ...
- 1- Creation of technologies that replace a man. ...
- 2- Environmental Deterioration.
Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence. Scientific methodology includes the following: Objective observation: Measurement and data (possibly although not necessarily using mathematics as a tool)What is the importance of science in simple words? ›
Science is valued by society because the application of scientific knowledge helps to satisfy many basic human needs and improve living standards. Finding a cure for cancer and a clean form of energy are just two topical examples.Who invented science? ›
The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science. Aristotle is considered by many to be the first scientist, although the term postdates him by more than two millennia. In Greece in the fourth century BC, he pioneered the techniques of logic, observation, inquiry and demonstration.Is Feb 28 a special day? ›
In 1986, the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) asked the Government of India to designate 28 February as National Science Day which the then Govt. of India accepted and declared the day as National Science Day in 1986.Who is father of science? ›
Albert Einstein called Galileo the “father of modern science.” Galileo Galilei was born on February 15, 1564, in Pisa, Italy but lived in Florence, Italy for most of his childhood.How does science impact the world? ›
Scientific processes and discoveries have been used to greatly impact the productivity of economic networks. Through scientific, methodical experiments and research, researchers have found problems in transportation networks, rates of exchange, types of investments, and the efficiency of factories.What are 3 ways you use science in everyday life? ›
Examples of the use of science in everyday life are as follows: We use cars, bikes, or bicycles to go from one place to another; these all are inventions of science. We use soaps; these are also given by science. We use LPG gas and stove etc., for cooking; these are all given by science.How does science help us in everyday life essay? ›
Science very efficiently plays the role of being a faithful servant of man. In every walk of life, science is there to serve us. We require the benefits of science whether in our home, in office, in a factory, or outside. Gone are the days when only wealthy people could afford luxuries.What is science main points? ›
science, any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation. In general, a science involves a pursuit of knowledge covering general truths or the operations of fundamental laws.
In order to do scientific activity, to know the truth of nature through study or research, scientist must do that based on empiricism, experimentation and methodological. Those three foundations in science are integrated into a so-called scientific method. This is the most important thing in science.Why do we learn science 10 points? ›
Firstly, science helps our understanding of the world around us. Everything we know about the universe, from how trees reproduce to what an atom is made up of, is the result of scientific research and experiment.What is modern science today? ›
Q: What exactly is modern science? Modern science is a way of examining an event or a particular aspect of creation and making a comprehensive study of the item in question so that it can be predictably categorized and, if it is a process, it can be modeled mathematically.What was the new way of thinking about science? ›
The Scientific Revolution was a new way of thinking about the natural world. That way was based upon careful observation and a willingness to question accepted beliefs.What is life in modern science? ›
Life is defined as any system capable of performing functions such as eating, metabolizing, excreting, breathing, moving, growing, reproducing, and responding to external stimuli.Which country has best scientists? ›
Scientists from the United States dominate the list with 490 scholars included in 2022 which represents 49% of the whole earth scientists ranking. Only 3 out of 10 scientists in the top 1% are from the United States.Who is the smartest scientist alive? ›
|Born||March 25, 1952 San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|Education||Reed College (dropped out) Montana State University–Bozeman (dropped out)|
|Known for||High IQ|
Many consider Aristotle to be the first scientist although the term “scientist” came two millennia after Aristotle. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher in the 4th century BC who was a pioneer of many techniques like logic, inquiry, observation, and demonstration.Who is today's best scientist? ›
|Name||Field of Influence|
|1. Alain Aspect||Quantum Theory|
|2. David Baltimore||Virology—HIV & Cancer|
|3. Allen Bard||Electrochemistry|
|4. Timothy Berners- Lee||Computer Science (WWW)|
- Margaret J. Geller. ...
- John Tyler Bonner. He is a distinguished biologist that studied at Harvard University then joined Princeton University as a faculty member. ...
- Alan Guth. ...
- Allen J. ...
- Timothy Berners-Lee. ...
- Stephen Hawking. ...
- Jane Goodall. ...
- Ashoke Sen.
C.V. Raman. Dr. C.V. Raman (Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930 for his revolutionary work on light scattering. Born in Tiruchirapalli on November 7, 1888, he was the first Asian and non-White beneficiary of the Nobel Prize in the Science field.Which country is No 1 in study? ›
Russia has the world's most highly-educated population, with over half of Russian nationals holding a university degree. One major advantage of studying in Russia is the scholarship opportunities available. Each year, the Russian government grants thousands of scholarships to international students.Which country is No 1 in world? ›
United States. The United States of America is a North American nation that is the world's most dominant economic and military power.What have scientists discovered 2021? ›
They include 14 beetles, 12 sea slugs, nine ants, seven fish, six scorpions, five sea stars, five flowering plants, four sharks, three spiders, two sea pens, one moss, one pygmy pipehorse, and one caecilian.What Has NASA discovered in 2021? ›
This year, researchers discovered the first known moon-forming disk around a planet outside the solar system. The primordial ring of material swims in the space around a Jupiter-like exoplanet called PDS 70c. Along with a companion fetal planet, PDS 70c, are still in the early stages of formation.Who is the youngest scientist in the world 2021? ›
Gitanjali Rao (born November 19, 2005) is an American inventor, author, scientist and engineer, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) promoter and social activist.What is the newest species on Earth 2022? ›
It has been named the rose-veiled fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa). The new species is found off the coast of the Maldives, and is one of the first-ever to be formally described by a Maldivian researcher.Who is the No 1 scientists in the world? ›
The best scientist in the world is Walter C. Willett from Harvard University with an h-index of 389.What is the biggest question in science? ›
- What is the universe made of? Astronomers still cannot account for 95% of the universe. ...
- How did life begin? ...
- Are we alone in the universe? ...
- What makes us human? ...
- What is consciousness? ...
- Why do we dream? ...
- Why is there stuff? ...
- Are there other universes?
The present state of climate change
In March 2022, carbon dioxide levels reached 418 parts per million – the highest global concentration on record, the authors point out. This year is on course to be one of the hottest in recorded history, and ocean temperature has reached its highest on record.
Called “Proxima d,” it's the third planet found orbiting Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star just 4.24 light-years from the Sun.How many planets do we have in 2022? ›
Our solar system is made up of a star, eight planets, and countless smaller bodies such as dwarf planets, asteroids, and comets.What will happen in 2025 NASA? ›
In 2025, NASA's Artemis Program is expected to launch the Artemis III mission, which will land astronauts near the south pole of the Moon. It is expected to be the first mission to land humans on the Moon since 1972.What's the new planet called 2021? ›
Astronomers find a new planet that's mostly made of iron
NASA's satellite found planet LP 890-9b, which is about 30% larger than Earth and orbits its sun in just 2.7 days.