Each year, science advances at an astonishing rate and what was once the realm of science fiction becomes science fact. For most of us, these discoveries and innovations flutter by as little more than curiosities, fascinating headlines in the news, but each of these has significant implications that have the potential to reshape our world over the next decade or so.
Here’s a list of some of the top scientific discoveries and innovations for 2012.
15. Voyager leaves the solar system
In 1977, the original Star Wars was produced using miniature models for special effects. Star Wars contains a few embarrassingly archaic shots of computer graphics from that era; chunky yellow/green lines plastered on a black screen highlight just how far computing has come in the last 35 years.
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The world has changed. Yesterday’s announcement of the discovery of a new boson – in the right place and with the right energy expected for the fabled Higgs boson - is one of the most fundamental experimental results in decades. But, sure as an inflationary expansion follows a Big Bang, most of us won’t give a flying photon after the initial 10-second glance.
But we should. And here is why.
The existence of the Higgs boson was first postulated in the early 1960s as a fundamental element of the Standard Model. And if society has learned anything from that sensationally-stylised series Mad Men, anything with a connection to the 1960s carries an essence of chic lost to all subsequent decades. (And yes, I’m talking to YOU, 1980s. Really, tenor leads in every rock band? Overkill. The Higgs boson is on its way to being proven and has already notched up a place as an essential part of reality. Live and learn, screechy men in tight pants). In more direct terms, the Higgs boson is not only a fundamental particle, it is also fundamentally cool.
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Nerds of the world are nervously fiddling with their universal fundamentals today in anticipation of this evening’s announcement on the God particle.
But any true nerd would shudder at the media-friendly term ‘God particle’, and likely has their own nickname for the Higgs boson (previous suggestions have included the Goddamn particle, the Mysteron, and the Disconcertingly Unfalsifiable Hyperbeing Particle).
At 6pm AEST today, scientists will hold a joint press conference in Geneva and Melbourne, and reveal the latest findings in the search for that elusive elementary particle, the Higgs boson.
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This week, scientists announced that hey, you betcha, they’re darn nearly almost kinda totally sure that they’ve confirmed the existence of a thing no average person can see or hear or feel.
And the world said, okey dokey, we pretty much believe you. Not exactly sure what all this means or how it affects us, but hey, we’ll buy it. You’re the guys in the lab coats, after all, and we’re the ones stupid enough to wear cargo pants. Therefore, or “ergo” as you guys would put it, you must be right. Right?
Hands up who’s guessed where this thing’s heading…
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It’s the silly season; there is no doubt about it. But last night I went to an office party with a difference.
In the middle of the night, armed with diet cola and chocolate biscuits, I caught the lift to the seventh floor of the Physics building at the University of Melbourne, and suddenly found myself surrounded by physicists drinking beer and talking animatedly. Yes, there was a definite buzz about the room, and it was not from the beer.
When the clock struck midnight there was a hush as the data projector fired up and we all began to watch a live webcast from CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research, based on the France–Switzerland border near Geneva). Why?
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