Sunday, January 11, 2015

Top Science Stories of 2014

In September 2014 scientists captured the first images of the hydrogen bond. One of the most important physical interactions in the world, the hydrogen bond holds DNA together and gives water its unique properties.

These never-before-seen photos are an advancement in atomic force microscopy, a method of scanning that can see details to the fraction of a nanometer level.
The analysis of a 1.8-million-year-old skull found in Georgia suggests that the earliest members of the Homo genus actually belonged to the same species. The skull was discovered alongside the remains of four other early human ancestors, but had different physical features despite being from the same time period and location.

A relative of the raccoon, the olinguito, was discovered in the forests of Ecuador and shows that the world is not yet completely explored. It's the first new species of mammal discovered in the Americas in 35 years.
Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamen was killed by a chariot that smashed his rib cage, shattered his pelvis, and crushed his internal organs, including his heart. After being sealed in his tomb in 1323 B.C. His mummified body caught fire and burned from flammable chemicals that built up in his decomposing body.

Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, and for the past 36 years has been trekking across our solar system. NASA confirmed in September that it had finally passed into interstellar space, the first man-made object to do so.
Lythronax argestes, or, the "king of gore," stalked the Earth about 80 million years ago, and turned up in southern Utah as the oldest member of the tyrannosaur family ever discovered.

Evidence of ancient microbial communities that lived 3.5 billion years ago brought fresh insights into the debate of how life began on Earth.
Researchers discovered that harmful cell waste that accumulates in the brain while the cells are working is removed twice as quickly during sleep. Channels open up between cells and flush waste away. This is the first major reason for why we need to sleep.

NASA's Curiosity rover used its drill to obtain the first powder rock sample ever collected from the surface of another planet. It had traces of sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon — all elements that are considered necessary to support life on Earth.
Anthropologists found 400,000-year-old DNA from hominins. The DNA that the researchers extracted indicated that these ancient hominins, though they looked Neanderthalic, were more genetically related to the Denisovians — a completely different ancient human species on the human evolutionary tree.

More perplexing, this DNA was found thousands of miles and hundreds of thousands of years away from where scientists thought Denisovians evolved, so the discovery of these remains throws everything we thought we knew about ancient humans and how they migrated and evolved into question.