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The 5 biggest scientific breakthroughs of 2022

  • Published
    17th Dec, 2022
Context

Here are 5 of the biggest scientific breakthroughs that happened in 2022.

Fusion energy breakthrough promises a future of clean energy

  • Details: The researchers at the Lawrence National Laboratory in California conducted a nuclear fission reaction that produced more energy than what was used to ignite it.
  • Concept Involved- ‘Nuclear Fusion’: It happens when two nuclei fuse to form a single heavier nucleus.
    • When this happens, the mass of the new heavier nucleus is less than the sum of the individual nuclei combined, meaning that a little bit of mass is lost.
    • E=mc2, Einstein’s most famous equation, explains how this mass is converted into a large amount of energy.
  • Significance: In comparison to nuclear fission, four times more energy can be produced using nuclear fusion.
    • If commercialized it would offer a clean and renewable source of energy that will help fight climate change.
    • No radioactive waste products

Large hadron collider (LHC) gets back into action, producing almost immediate results

  • Details: Roughly after 3 years of maintenance work, the LHC (located in Geneva, Switzerland) went ahead with its third run.
    • A new kind of “pentaquark” and the first-ever pair of “tetraquarks” have been found by LHC. But these states were not found until now.
  • Concept Involved: It works on the simple principle of first ‘accelerating particles’ in two paths to near the speed of light and later directing them towards each other and analyzing the sequence of events.
  • Significance: In its first run it confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson or the ‘God Particle’.
    • This led to Peter Higgs and his collaborator François Englert being awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2013.
    • Second run: It began in 2015 and lasted till 2018. The second season of data-taking produced five times more data than Run 1.
    • After the discovery of the Higgs boson, scientists have started using the data collected as a tool to look beyond the “Standard Model”.

“Baby wormhole” simulated in a quantum computer

  • Details: Researchers forged two miniscule simulated black holes– in a quantum computer and transmitted a message between them through what amounted to a tunnel in space-time.
  • Concept Involved: The concept of a wormhole was first proposed by Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen in 1935.
    • These are theoretical structures that can be considered a tunnel with two ends at different points in space-time.
  • Significance: A wormhole – a rupture in space and time – is considered a bridge between two remote regions in the universe.
    • It would help simulate more interesting quantum gravity theories in the future.

“Reversing death” by reviving pig cells

  • Details: Sixty minutes after stopping the heart in the dead pigs, Yale researchers were able to restart the circulation using a specialized machine and a synthetic fluid carrying oxygen.
  • Concept involved: The experiment utilized “OrganEx solution”, which contains nutrients, anti-inflammatory medicine, drugs preventing cell death, nerve blockers, and artificial haemoglobin.
  • Significance: This technology could be used to prevent severe damage to organs like the heart after a major heart attack or the brain after a stroke.

Synthetic mouse embryo develops a beating heart

  • Details: Scientists from the University of Cambridge have achieved the rare feat of creating the world’s first synthetic embryo that has a brain and a beating heart.
  • Concept involved: The embryo was created using the stem cells of the mouse instead of the normal process of fusing sperm and egg cells.
    • Stem cell: Stem cells are the body's raw materials — cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated.
    • The stem cells are the body’s master cells and can develop into almost any of the many cell types in the body.
  • Significance: The researchers hope the technology can be used to develop certain human organ types.
  • It will help to understand the crucial organ development processes that could not be done with real human embryos.
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