The 2010s: A Scientific Review
Ever since the dawn of the scientific enlightenment in the 15th-century humanity’s understanding of the world around us has just grown exponentially. And this growth has not been faster than it has been in the last ten years. The inventions, discoveries and the developments have been coming at us at breakneck speeds. So as we race ahead into another decade this seems to be the apt moment to take a look back at some of the greatest scientific advancements of the 2010s.
In July of 2012, the world woke up to the “God Particle”. Although this nickname given to the Higgs Boson is highly unpopular among the discoverers of this subatomic particle, this dramatic name caught the average Joe’s attention. The confirmation of the Higgs Boson was a milestone in the field of particle physics. Prior to its discovery, the Standard Model of particle physics had a problem. Predictions of the Standard Model showed that elementary particles called bosons had no mass but practical observations showed that they do. In the 1960s, independent scientists developed multiple theories on how bosons gained mass. But there was no experimental data to back their predictions. All that changed with the observation of the Higgs Boson at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in 2012.
Another revolutionary development this decade was in the field of genetic engineering. CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats is a family of DNA sequences naturally used by bacteria as defence sequences. This could be combined with a guide RNA sequence and an enzyme Cas9 and could be used as a tool for many genetic engineering applications. Researchers believe that CRISPR could be the key to treating cancers and HIV.
In 2015, almost a hundred years after Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, his predictions were confirmed. This happened when Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in Louisiana and Washington picked up their first signal. The gravitational waves which are ripples in the fabric of space-time occur when two massive bodies collide sending shockwaves across the universe. The gravitational waves detected in 2015 were the result of two black holes colliding 1.3 billion light-years away.
The 2010s also marked significant strides in interstellar exploration. With the launch of the Kepler Space Telescope, the number of exoplanets discovered has grown exponentially. The Kepler Space Telescope was launched with the aim to observe up to 150,000 stars. From these observations, we have discovered a variety of exoplanets- some of which may be potentially habitable. And now we are much closer to answering the question of extraterrestrial life than we have ever been.
Humanity has come a long way from our origins as hunters and gatherers. We now live in a world that looks not to our own planet but outwards for the future. We have walked on the moon, eradicated diseases entirely, and even reached beyond our solar system. This past decade has been filled with some truly amazing advances in all the scientific fields. Our curiosity has no end in sight, and as long as that remains so it’s certain that we still have a long way to go.