As this year draws to a close, let’s have a look at some of the big stories in science for 2012.
In July, physicists at the Large Hadron Collider announced they may have found evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson. This elusive particle is a crucial part of the Standard Model of particle physics. In the Standard Model, the mass of matter comes from interactions with the Higgs boson. The results of these experiments will hopefully help physicists to understand some of the basic building blocks of the Universe.
It wasn’t just the very small that attracted attention – astrophysics had some big news stories. In May it was announced that the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope, will be located in Australia and southern Africa. A few months later, Curiosity successfully landed on Mars. The rover has already provided new information about the red planet. June saw the transit of Venus – the next one isn’t for more than 100 years, so hopefully you caught it!
In the world of medicine, the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to two scientists who showed that mature cells could be reprogrammed to become ‘pluripotent’ – that is, they could become another type of cell. This has changed our understanding of cells and has important medical applications. In January, India went for more than a year without a new case of polio. As India is one of the few countries where polio has never been eradicated, it is an important step in finally stopping this potentially fatal disease.
Two new superheavy elements were named: flerovium and livermorium, which have the atomic numbers 114 and 116. Researchers in Japan also reported creating element number 113. If their results are confirmed, it will be the first time a new element has been discovered in east Asia.
Finally, 2012 saw the celebration of 100 years of Australian Antarctic expeditions. This tradition of research in one of the world’s harshest environments looks set to continue. Australia’s new Marine National Facility research vessel, Investigator, which will be capable of exploring to Antarctica’s ice edge, is set to be completed in 2013.
These are just a few of the stories covered in Science by Email this year. What was your biggest and best science moment from 2012? Let us know in the comments!
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