2011 in science

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26 November 2011: NASA launches its Curiosity rover (pictured), the largest Mars rover yet built.

The year 2011 involved many significant scientific events, including the first artificial organ transplant, the launch of China's first space station and the growth of the world population to seven billion. The year saw a total of 78 successful orbital spaceflights, as well as numerous advances in fields such as electronics, medicine, genetics, climatology and robotics.

2011 was declared the International Year of Forests and Chemistry by the United Nations.[1][2]

Events, discoveries and inventions[edit]

January[edit]

18 January 2011: scientists prove that sharks are functionally colorblind.
20 January 2011: researchers demonstrate a medical technique that renders human T-cells (pictured, right) resistant to HIV.

February[edit]

3 February 2011: the Kepler space telescope discovers a solar system of six planets orbiting the star Kepler-11 (artist's impression pictured).

March[edit]

18 March 2011: the MESSENGER probe (artist's rendering shown) becomes the first spacecraft to orbit the planet Mercury.
27 March 2011: American scientists successfully demonstrate a fire-suppression system which uses electric fields to extinguish open flames.

April[edit]

6 April 2011: scientists in Japan grow working retinas from mouse stem cells.
  • 6 April – Japanese scientists announce that they have created working retinas from mouse stem cells. (BBC) (Nature News)
  • 7 April – Political views are determined to some extent by differences in brain structure, according to a report published in Current Biology. (PhysOrg)
  • 12 April
  • 13 April
    • Cellphones may be contributing to a global decline in honeybee populations, according to researchers. (Toronto Star) (PhysOrg) (Apidologie)
    • American scientists discover that light can demonstrate strong magnetic effects when travelling through certain materials at certain intensities. This finding, which overturns a century-old scientific assumption that light's magnetic effects are too weak to be tangible, may lead to the development of solar panels capable of storing energy magnetically. (Michigan Today)
  • 14 April
  • 15 April
    • The world's first human brain map is unveiled, providing an interactive research tool that will help scientists to understand how the brain works. The map is hoped to aid new discoveries in disease and treatments; one thousand anatomical sites in the brain can be searched, supported by more than 100 million data points that indicate the gene expression and biochemistry of each site. (New Scientist)
    • Scientists have teleported wave packets of light by destroying them in one location and re-creating them in another. (PhysOrg) (Science)
  • 17 April – Researchers have injected biodegradable nanofiber spheres carrying cells into wounds to grow tissue. (PhysOrg) (Nat. Mater.)
  • 18 April
    • Scientists demonstrate mathematically that asymmetrical materials should be possible; such material would allow most light or sound waves through in one direction, while preventing them from doing so in the opposite direction; such materials would allow the construction of true one-way mirrors, soundproof rooms, or even quantum computers that use light to perform calculations. (PhysOrg) (Phys. Rev. Lett.)
    • A new design for thin-film solar cells has been developed that requires significantly less silicon than standard models, and may be more efficient at capturing solar energy. (PhysOrg) (Appl. Phys. Lett.)
  • April 19 – An international research team publishes a new method to produce belts of graphene, called nanoribbons. By using hydrogen, they have managed to transform single-walled carbon nanotubes into ribbons.(Science Daily) (ACS Nano)
  • 20 April – Scientists describe a Chinese spider they say is the biggest fossilised arachnid yet found; Nephila jurassica, as they have called their specimen, would have had a leg span of some 15 cm. (BBC) (Biol. Lett.)
21 April 2011: a modified anti-malaria gene is successfully introduced to a population of mosquitoes.

May[edit]

4 May 2011: NASA's orbiting Gravity Probe B (pictured pre-launch) experimentally confirms two aspects of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.
12 May 2011: astronomers state that the exoplanet Gliese 581d (artist's impression pictured) could potentially support Earth-like life.
26 May 2011: American scientists successfully transmute human skin cells directly into neurons (pictured).

June[edit]

1 June 2011: two new chemical elements, 114 and 116, are officially added to the periodic table.
12 June 2011: the Nabro Volcano erupts in Eritrea (ash plume pictured), despite having been considered extinct.
22 June 2011: Stanford University engineers develop nanowire electronics that can be attached to nearly any surface (gold nanowires pictured).
  • 22 June
  • 23 June – Single-celled yeast has been observed to evolve into a multicellular organism, complete with division of labour between cells. This suggests that the evolutionary leap to multicellularity may be a surprisingly small hurdle.(New Scientist) (PNAS)
  • 24 June
  • 25 June – Stanford researchers have developed a microphone that can be used at any depth in the ocean, even under crushing pressure, and is sensitive to a wide range of sounds, from a whisper in a library to an explosion of TNT. They modeled their device after the extraordinarily acute hearing of orcas. (Science Daily) (J. Acoust. Soc. Am.)
  • 26 June – A new gene-editing technique provides the first published successful healing of a genetic condition in a live animal, by curing mice of haemophilia B. (The Guardian) (Nature News) (Nature)
  • 27 June – A new bacterium is reported to have been produced from an engineered DNA sequence, in which thymine was replaced by the synthetic building block 5-chlorouracil – a substance "toxic to other organisms". (Science Daily) (Angew. Chem.)
  • 28 June – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization holds a ceremony in Rome, declaring the once-widespread cattle disease rinderpest to be globally eradicated.(New York Times) (FAO)
  • 30 June – Computer corporation IBM develops a form of 'instantaneous' memory, 100 times faster than flash memory. (Engadget)

July[edit]

7 July 2011: Swedish surgeons successfully carry out the world's first artificial organ transplant, giving a cancer patient a new, lab-grown trachea.
16 July 2011: NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully enters orbit around the asteroid 4 Vesta (pictured).
21 July 2011: the final mission of the Space Shuttle program, STS-135, ends with the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis (pictured) at Kennedy Space Center.

August[edit]

10 August 2011: a new gene therapy successfully kills off leukemia lymphocytes (pictured) in three advanced patients.
19 August 2011: the American Office of Naval Research successfully tests a new class of conventional explosive, reportedly five times more powerful than existing explosives.
  • 19 August – The US Office of Naval Research says that it has successfully tested a new type of explosive material that can dramatically increase weapons' impacts. Missiles made from the high-density substance can explode with up to five times the energy of existing explosives. (BBC)
  • 22 August – American researchers prototype a basic form of bulletproof skin, based on genetically modified silkworm threads. (Police One)
  • 23 August
    • The natural world contains about 8.7 million species, according to a new estimate described by scientists as the most accurate ever. However, the vast majority of these species have not been identified – cataloguing them all could take more than 1,000 years. (BBC) (PLoS Biol.)
    • Computer simulations suggest that violent asteroid impacts flinging life from Earth to other planets is more likely than previously thought. (BBC) (ArXiv)
    • Researchers at the University of Leeds have discovered a pain-free way of tackling dental decay that reverses the damage of acid attack and re-builds teeth as new. (Science Daily)
  • 24 August – Antibiotics' impact on gut bacteria is permanent — and so serious in its long-term consequences that medicine should consider whether to restrict the prescription of antibiotics to pregnant women and young children, according to a new study. (Wired) (Nature)
  • 25 August – A monkey sporting a ginger beard and matching fiery red tail, discovered in a threatened region of the Brazilian Amazon, is believed to be a species new to science. (The Guardian)
  • 26 August – An atomic clock at the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has the best long-term accuracy of any clock in the world, researchers from NPL and Penn State University have found. (BBC) (Metrologia)
  • 29 August – Japanese scientists announce an innovation in wind turbine technology, the wind lens, which could triple the energy output of wind turbines, making wind energy affectively cheaper than nuclear energy. (Mother Nature Network) (Kyushu University)
  • 31 August

September[edit]

2 September 2011: scientists create a working electric motor made from a single molecule (molecular-scale computer pictured).
14 September 2011: NASA publishes the design of its future heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (concept art shown).

October[edit]

12 October 2011: scientists reconstruct the genome of the Black Death which devastated Europe in the 14th century.
26 October 2011: the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the first major airliner to significantly incorporate composite materials, completes its first commercial flight.
31 October 2011: the world population reaches seven billion, according to a United Nations estimate.

November[edit]

4 November 2011: the MARS-500 isolation experiment (facility diagram shown) ends in Moscow, having simulated a 520-day manned mission to Mars.
  • 1 November
  • 2 November
    • China's unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft robotically docks with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space station module, marking China's first orbital docking, and a major milestone in its efforts to construct a full-scale space station by 2020. (BBC)
    • American researchers delay, and in some cases even eliminate, the onset of age-related symptoms such as wrinkles, muscle wasting and cataracts in mice. The development may have significant implications for the study and treatment of such symptoms in humans. (BBC) (Nature)
    • Morocco is chosen as the first location for Desertec – a German-led, €400bn project to build a vast network of solar and windfarms across North Africa and the Middle East, with the aim of providing 15% of Europe's electricity supply by 2050. (The Guardian)
  • 4 November
    • Six men emerge from the 520-day MARS-500 isolation experiment, which aimed to simulate a manned mission to Mars. The experiment, undertaken at a Moscow scientific institute, was intended to investigate the isolation of long-duration spaceflight and its effects on the human body and mind. (BBC)
    • A 20-year-old alternative solar cell design using dye-sensitized nanocrystal cells (DSC) could lead to cheap, printable cells, revolutionising solar power use worldwide, according to a new study. (KurzweilAI) (J. Am. Chem. Soc.)
  • 5 November
    • An American doctor claims that brown eyes can safely and permanently be turned blue by using short laser pulses to destroy pigment in the iris. (BBC)
    • An official White House report states that "The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race." It furthermore asserts that there is "no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye." Although odds are "pretty high" that there may be life on other planets, "the odds of us making contact with any of them—especially any intelligent ones—are extremely small, given the distances involved." (UniverseToday) (White House)
  • 6 November – Dopamine-producing brain cells that are killed off by Parkinson's disease have been grown from stem cells and grafted into monkeys' brains by American researchers, in a major step towards new treatments for the condition. (The Guardian) (Nature)
8 November 2011: Honda releases an enhanced version of its Asimo humanoid robot (earlier version pictured).
26 November 2011: NASA successfully launches its Mars Science Laboratory mission, which landed the Curiosity Mars rover (artist's impression pictured) on Mars in 2012.[6]

December[edit]

1 December 2011: Oxford University scientists successfully induce quantum entanglement in two diamonds, the first time entanglement has been achieved in objects visible to the naked eye.
14 December 2011: scientists develop an imaging system which can capture images at one trillion frames per second, allowing it to image the motion of individual light waves.
21 December 2011: researchers report that non-native snakes have devastated populations of small mammals in the Florida Everglades.

Prizes[edit]

Abel Prize[edit]

Main article: Abel Prize

Nobel Prize[edit]

Deaths[edit]

11 February 2011: Christian J. Lambertsen, the inventor of the SCUBA device, dies aged 93.

January[edit]

February[edit]

March[edit]

1 March 2011: John M. Lounge, a former NASA astronaut, dies aged 64.

April[edit]

5 April 2011: Baruch Samuel Blumberg, a Nobel Prize-winning American physician, dies aged 85.

May[edit]

30 May 2011: Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, a Nobel Prize-winning American physicist, dies aged 89.

June[edit]

July[edit]

23 July 2011: Robert Ettinger, the "father of cryonics", dies aged 92.

August[edit]

September[edit]

14 September 2011: Rudolf Mössbauer, a Nobel Prize-winning German physicist, dies aged 82.

October[edit]

5 October 2011: Steve Jobs, an American technology entrepreneur and co-founder of Apple Inc., dies aged 56.

November[edit]

December[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ International Year of Forests 2011 - Celebrating Forests for People. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
  2. ^ International Year of Chemistry 2011 - About IYC. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
  3. ^ The article was published in the March 3 issue of the journal.
  4. ^ The paper was presented at the CLEO conference on 2 May, and published on 9 May.
  5. ^ "Reconstructed changes in Arctic sea ice over the past 1,450 years". Nature. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Nasa's Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars". BBC. 6 August 2012. 
  7. ^ Budin, Itay; Devaraj, Neal K. (December 29, 2011). "Membrane Assembly Driven by a Biomimetic Coupling Reaction". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 134 (2): 751–753. doi:10.1021/ja2076873. Retrieved February 18, 2012. 
  8. ^ Staff (January 25, 2012). "Chemists Synthesize Artificial Cell Membrane". ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 18, 2012. 
  9. ^ Staff (January 26, 2012). "Chemists create artificial cell membrane". kurzweilai.net. Archived from the original on 2012-02-26. Retrieved February 18, 2012. 
  10. ^ Dr. James J. Rahal, 77, Virus Expert, Dies
  11. ^ Rudiger ‘Roger’ Haugwitz, chemist who used science to create art, dies at 79. Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved on 2011-10-10.
  12. ^ Harold Kosasky, 83, pioneer in treatment of infertility. Boston Globe, 26 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
  13. ^ Dr. Max Harry Weil dies at 84: pioneer in critical care. Articles.latimes.com (2011-08-06). Retrieved on 2011-10-10.
  14. ^ Dr. Charles C. Edwards, Influential F.D.A. Commissioner, Dies at 87
  15. ^ Fritz Bach, Who Aided Transplant Survival, Dies at 77
  16. ^ William Kannel, 87; force behind pioneering Framingham Heart Study. Boston.com (2011-09-18). Retrieved on 2011-10-10.
  17. ^ W. B. Kannel, Who Led Historic Heart Study, Dies at 87. Nytimes.com (2011-08-23). Retrieved on 2011-10-10.
  18. ^ Dr. William Wolff, Colonoscopy Co-Developer, Dies at 94
  19. ^ Bruce Dan, Who Helped Link Toxic Shock and Tampons, Is Dead at 64. New York Times, 10 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  20. ^ Dr. Richard Koch dies at 89; medical pioneer. Los Angeles Times, 8 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  21. ^ Dr. J. Willis Hurst, Cardiologist to Lyndon B. Johnson, Dies at 90
  22. ^ Morris Chafetz, 87, Dies; Altered View of Alcoholism
  23. ^ Dr. John F. Burke, Dies at 89; Created Synthetic Skin
  24. ^ "T. Franklin Williams, Early Geriatric Specialist, Dies at 90". New York Times, 3 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-08.

External links[edit]