2017 in science

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A number of significant scientific events occurred in 2017. The United Nations declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.[1]

Events[edit]

January[edit]

6 January: A portion of the Larsen C ice shelf reportedly in danger of breaking off
  • 4 January
    • A study published in the journal Science Advances casts further doubt on the existence of a recent "pause" in global warming, with more evidence that ocean temperatures have been underestimated.[2][3]
    • After 60 wins and 0 losses over 7 days, Google reveals that a mysterious player of Go, named "Master", is actually an improved version of its AlphaGo AI.[4]
    • Researchers at Michigan State University demonstrate a chemical compound and potential new drug able to stop the spread of melanoma by 90%.[5]
    • NASA announces its two choices for the next Discovery Program missions – the Lucy mission, to visit several asteroids, including six Jupiter Trojans; and the Psyche mission, to visit the large metallic asteroid 16 Psyche.[6][7]
  • 5 January – A Japanese insurance firm, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, announces that 34 of its office workers will be replaced with IBM’s Watson AI.[8]
  • 6 January
    • A large portion of the Larsen C ice shelf is reported to be on the verge of breaking away from Antarctica. It is expected to become one of the top 10 biggest icebergs ever recorded, leaving the whole shelf vulnerable to future collapse, which would raise global sea levels by 10cm.[9]
    • Researchers at MIT design one of the strongest lightweight materials known, by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene. The new material is highly porous. Computer simulations predict it is possible to make materials with a density of just 5 percent of steel, but 10 times stronger.[10]
    • NASA scientists release an image (also see related comparison image) of the Earth and Moon as viewed 127 million miles away from the planet Mars by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.[11] (related image taken by the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars)
6 January: The Earth and Moon as viewed 127 million miles away from the planet Mars by the MRO.[11]
  • 9 January – Researchers at King's College London report a way of using an Alzheimer's drug to stimulate the renewal of living stem cells in tooth pulp.[12][13]
  • 10 January – Researchers discover that glia, not neurons, are most affected by brain aging.[14]
  • 11 January
  • 12 January – Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute report the discovery of TZAP, a protein that binds the ends of chromosomes and determines how long telomeres can be.[18]
  • 14 January
    • Researchers at the University of Sydney use big data to predict how a quantum system will change and to prevent its breakdown from occurring.[19]
    • SpaceX resumes flights, following a launch pad explosion in September 2016. A reusable Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivers 10 satellites into orbit for a client, Iridium, before returning to a landing pad in the ocean.[20][21]
  • 16 January
    • Astronomers working on the Japanese Akatsuki space probe mission report detecting a possible gravity wave that occurred on the planet Venus in December 2015.[22]
    • Researchers publish evidence that humans first entered North America in around 24,000 BP (Before Present), during the height of the last ice age. This is 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.[23]
18 January: NASA and NOAA confirm 2016 was the hottest year on record globally
  • 17 January – The Chinese government announces plans for the first prototype exascale supercomputer by the end of the year.[24]
  • 18 January
    • Researchers at Harvard develop a customisable "soft robot" that fits around a heart and helps it beat, potentially offering a new treatment option for patients with heart failure.[25]
    • Independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that 2016 was the hottest year on record, at 0.99 °C (1.78 °F) above the mid-20th century global mean average. This follows record warmth in the two preceding years 2015 and 2014.[26]
  • 19 January
    • A study published in Nature warns that some of the most important crops in the U.S. are at risk of "abrupt and substantial yield losses" from rising temperatures later this century, with harvests potentially declining by 20% for wheat, 40% for soybean and almost 50% for maize.[27]
    • Researchers at Northwestern University develop an AI system that performs at human levels on a standard visual intelligence test.[28]
26 January: Scientists at Harvard report the first synthesis of metallic hydrogen, normally found inside gas giants like Jupiter.
  • 23 January
    • Researchers demonstrate a prototype 3D printer that can print fully functional human skin.[29]
    • Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute create the first stable semisynthetic organism. This can hold two synthetic bases, called X and Y, in its genetic code indefinitely. The team says it could lead to entirely new life forms using synthetic DNA, with many potential uses in medicine.[30][31]
  • 26 January
    • Researchers at the Salk Institute create the first human-pig hybrid embryo, containing genetic information from both species.[32][33][34]
    • Scientists at Harvard report creating a small amount of metallic hydrogen for the first time, a century after it was theorised.[35][36] The claim is disputed.[37]
  • 27 January – A report from the EU's Joint Research Centre concludes that if global temperatures rise by 4 °C, the flood risk in countries representing more than 70% of the global population and of the global GDP will increase by more than 500%.[38]
  • 30 January – News reports that a new safe battery has been invented. It is based on solid lithium, and is claimed to have twice the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries. It is featured on a newly released PBS NOVA TV program entitled Search for the Super Battery.[39][40]

February[edit]

  • 1 February
    • Researchers led by the University of Sussex publish the first practical blueprint for how to build a quantum computer.[41][42]
    • Researchers develop a new blue-phase liquid crystal that could triple the sharpness of TVs, computer screens, and other displays while also reducing the power needed to run the device.[43]
8 February: Genome of Quinoa food crop is decoded.
  • 6 February – The first stable helium compound is synthesized, Na2He.[44][45] Helium is the most unreactive element.
  • 7 February
    • A mysterious "white dwarf pulsar" is announced, the first known star of its kind, located 380 light years from Earth.[46]
    • Asteroid 2017 BQ6 passed within 6.6 lunar distances of Earth at 6:36 UT.
  • 8 February
  • 9 February – Researchers at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology demonstrate a robotic drone bee able to pollinate flowers.[49][50]
  • 10 February
    • A study in the journal Anthropocene Review concludes that human activity is changing the climate 170 times faster than natural processes.[51]
    • A study by the University of Buffalo, using four decades of evidence, finds no link between immigration and higher rates of crime.[52]
  • 14 February – A committee from the US National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine gives cautious backing to gene editing of human embryos.[53]
22 February: Discovery of seven Earth-sized exoplanets, which may all be in the habitable zone, orbiting TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool dwarf star, announced.
  • 15 February – A study published in Nature finds that oxygen levels in the oceans have declined by 2% globally in the last 50 years, due to warming and stratification.[54][55]
  • 16 February
    • NASA's Dawn mission finds evidence of organic material on Ceres, the first clear detection of organic molecules from orbit on a main belt body. (related image)[56]
    • Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin develop ultra-flexible, nanoelectronic thread (NET) brain probes, designed to achieve more reliable long-term neural recording than existing probes and without causing scar formation when implanted.[57]
  • 21 February – Scientists describe a technique to grow large quantities of inner ear progenitor cells that convert into hair cells, which could potentially treat hearing loss.[58]
  • 22 February – Astronomers announce the discovery of seven Earth-sized exoplanets, which may all be in the habitable zone, orbiting TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool dwarf star, slightly larger than the planet Jupiter, located about 40 light-years from Earth.[59]

March[edit]

1 March: Evidence of possibly the oldest forms of life on Earth found in hydrothermal vent precipitates.[60]
  • 2 March – The University of Alberta announces details of DeepStack, a new artificial intelligence program able to beat professional human players at poker for the first time.[63]
  • 6 March – IBM announces "IBM Q", an initiative to build commercially available universal quantum computing systems.[64]
  • 7 March
  • 8 March – Scientists at the University of Texas report a new phase of matter, dubbed a time crystal, in which atoms move in a pattern that repeats in time rather than in space.[67]
  • 9 March
    • Researchers at the Institute for Basic Science publish details of a single atom memory storage system.[68]
    • The CDH2 gene is found to be implicated in sudden death among young people and athletes.[69]
    • A study by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggests that fast radio bursts in distant galaxies could be evidence of advanced alien technology.[70]
  • 10 March
    • Scientists report that extraterrestrial dust particles have been identified to be all over planet Earth. According to one of the researchers, “Once I knew what to look for, I found them everywhere.”[71][72]
    • A study published in Science Advances concludes that the world's oceans are warming 13% faster than previously thought, and accelerating.[73][74]
  • 16 March – Scientists report that a potential drug candidate, trodusquemine, can restore some heart muscle function after a heart attack. As of 2017, no drug exists that is able to do this.[75]
22 March: New way of classifying the dinosaur family tree reported; original dinosaurs were possibly small 2-footed omnivorous animals with large grasping hands.[76][77]
  • 17 March
  • 22 March
    • Scientists report a new way of classifying the dinosaur family tree, based on newer and more evidence than available earlier. According to the new classification, the original dinosaurs, arising 200 million years ago, were small, two-footed omnivorous animals with large grasping hands. Descendants (for the non-avian dinosaurs) lasted until 66 million years ago.[76][77]
    • NASA reports that sea ice extent has reached record lows at both the Arctic and Antarctic.[81]
  • 23 March – Dutch scientists report a drug that can reverse aspects of ageing in old mice – restoring their stamina, coat of fur and even some organ function – by flushing out "senescent" cells in the body that have stopped dividing. Human trials are planned.[82][83]
  • 24 March – Scientists at the University of New South Wales publish details of experiments on mice that suggest a treatment is possible for DNA damage from aging and radiation, based on the metabolite NAD+.[84]
  • 27 March – Scientists in Australia announce the discovery of the world's largest dinosaur footprint, measuring 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in) long. The previous record-holder was about 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) long.[85][86]
  • 30 March – SpaceX conducts the world's first reflight of an orbital class rocket.[87][88]

April[edit]

10 April: The Great Barrier Reef is hit by a second consecutive mass coral bleaching event.
22 April: March for Science occurred in more than 600 cities around the world on Earth Day.[103][104]

May[edit]

4 May: First synthetic retina reported to have been created.[115]
9 May: Evidence of the earliest known life on land may have been found in 3.48-billion-year-old geyserite.[122][123]
  • 10 May
    • Researchers at the University of Minnesota demonstrate a 3D-printed ‘bionic skin’ that could give robots a sense of touch, or lead to electronics printed on real human skin.[124]
    • A study of nearly 6,000 adults finds that high levels of physical activity equate to a nine-year biological aging advantage. Those who engaged in a minimum of 30 to 40 minutes of running, five days a week, were found to have longer telomere lengths.[125]
  • 15 May – Researchers report that glints of light observed from Earth, seen as twinkling from an orbiting satellite a million miles away, have been found to be reflected light from ice crystals in the atmosphere.[126][127] The technology used to determine this may be useful in studying the atmospheres of distant worlds, including those of exoplanets.
  • 16 May
    • SESAME, a synchrotron light source in Jordan built by a collaboration including Israel, the Palestinian National Authority and Iran, is inaugurated.[128]
    • ARM and the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) announce plans to develop a ‘brain-implantable’ system-on-a-chip (SoC) for bi-directional brain-computer interfaces (BBCI). The 10-year project is aimed at solving neurodegenerative disorders.[129][130]
  • 17 May – Human blood stem cells are grown in the laboratory for the first time by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital.[131][132]
18 May: Rapid greening of the Antarctica region reported, based on a significant increase in the growth rate of moss.[133][134]
  • 18 May
    • Astronomers identify a moon orbiting (225088) 2007 OR10, the third largest dwarf planet in the Solar System.[135]
    • Researchers publish evidence of a rapid greening in the Antarctica region over the last 50 years.[133] Mosses that once grew less than 1mm a year are now found to be growing more than 3mm a year on average.[134]
    • An Australian-Chinese research team creates the world's thinnest hologram, fabricated using a simple and fast direct laser writing system, with potential for use in a range of electronic products.[136]
  • 20 May – Astronomers report that Tabby's Star, about 1,300 light-years from Earth, has again begun dimming unusually; several explanations have been considered, including the possibility that intelligent extraterrestrial life may have been constructing a Dyson swarm.[137][138] More dimming events happened in the following months.[139][140]
    Update (Tabby's Star): as of 5 September 2017, a new dimming event had begun, the largest (of four) of the year,[140] producing as much as a 3% dimming in star brightness.[141]
  • 23 May
    • Researchers in Harvard University report that eating up to six bars of chocolate a week could decrease the risk of a potentially fatal heart condition by approximately one quarter.[142]
    • Scientists propose a new type of astronomical object called a "synestia" – a huge, spinning, donut-shaped mass of hot, vaporised rock, formed as planet-sized objects smash into each other.[143]
27 May: AI beats the human world champion at the game Go.[144][145]
  • 24 May
    • The launch date of NASA's Psyche probe is brought forward, to target a more efficient trajectory, launching in 2022 and arriving in 2026 with a Mars gravity assist in 2023.[146]
    • Researchers in Switzerland create artificial viruses that can be used to target cancer. These designer viruses alert the immune system and cause it to send killer cells to help fight the tumor. The results, published in Nature Communications, provide a basis for innovative cancer treatments.[147]
  • 25 May – An article in Science magazine claims the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission relied on faulty analysis to justify its refusal to adopt a critical measure for protecting Americans from nuclear-waste fires at dozens of reactor sites around the country. Radioactivity from such a fire could force approximately 8 million people to relocate and result in $2 trillion in damages.[148]
  • 26 May – Construction begins on the European Extremely Large Telescope.[149]
  • 27 May – At the Future of Go Summit in China, Google's DeepMind AlphaGo AI program beats the world's number one Go player, Ke Jie, in the third of three matches.[144][145]
  • 30 May
    • Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute announce a way to structurally modify vancomycin to make the antibiotic more powerful.[150][151]
    • A survey of 352 experts in artificial intelligence finds that experts believe there is a 50% chance of AI outperforming humans in all tasks within 45 years and of automating all human jobs in 120 years.[152][153]
  • 31 May – Muon g-2, a precision experiment to measure the g-factor of muons, starts taking data.[154]

June[edit]

1 June: Elon Musk publishes a paper on the future human settlement of Mars.[155]
7 June: Evidence suggests that Homo sapiens may have originated 300,000 years ago, much earlier than the 200,000 years ago thought previously.[164][165]
  • 15 June
    • Chinese scientists report the successful transmission of entangled photons between suborbital space and Earth, using the satellite Micius.[170]
    • A study by the universities of Coventry and Radboud finds that meditation, yoga and Tai Chi can 'reverse' the molecular reactions in DNA which cause ill-health and depression.[171]
  • 18 June – The European Society of Cardiology reports a vaccine that lowers cholesterol in mice, which may offer hope of immunising against cardiovascular disease.[172]
  • 19 June – Astronomers report evidence of a possible tenth Mars-sized planet residing at the edge of the Solar System.[173][174]
  • 20 June
  • 22 June – A study of snail neurons, published in Current Biology, suggests memories that trigger anxiety and PTSD could be 'erased' without affecting normal memory of past events.[178]
  • 26 June
    • Research by Cornell University suggests that rising sea levels will displace 1.4 billion people by 2060 and 2 billion by 2100.[179]
    • Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), a satellite record of lower tropospheric temperature, undergoes a major revision, showing nearly 30% faster warming since 1979.[180][181]
  • 29 June – A study published in the journal Science concludes that unmitigated climate change will exacerbate inequality in the USA, with southern states losing up to 20 percent of their income by century's end.[182]
  • 30 June – The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reveals plans to send an astronaut to the Moon by 2030.[183]

July[edit]

6 July: New baryon particle confirmed by scientists at the Large Hadron Collider.
12 July: Iceberg A-68 detaches from Antarctica.
14 July: Tardigrades, one of the most resilient life forms on Earth, may withstand global mass extinctions due to astrophysical events.[204][205]

August[edit]

2 August: CRISPR used to remove faulty DNA from human embryos for the first time.
8 August: Patagotitan mayorum, one of the largest ever dinosaurs, is officially named.[239]
  • 8 August – Patagotitan mayorum, one of the largest ever dinosaurs, is officially named by researchers.[239]
  • 10 August – Researchers at Brown University report the transmission of data through a terahertz multiplexer at 50 gigabits per second, which could lead to a new generation of ultra-fast Wi-Fi.[240][241][242]
  • 11 August – A deep learning algorithm is reported to be capable of visually identifying thousands of plant species.[243]
  • 12 August – Scientists discover 91 volcanoes located two kilometres below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, making it the largest volcanic region on Earth.[244]
  • 14 August – A study by Ben-Gurion University suggests that the use of 'smiley' emoticons in workplace emails may reduce the perception of competence, and could even undermine information sharing.[245]
  • 21 August
    • Researchers at MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) working with colleagues in Belgium and the UK find a new way to generate very high-energetic ions to study nuclear fusion.[246][247]
    • A team of scientists from all over the globe finds that there may indeed be diamond precipitation deep inside icy giant planets like Neptune and Uranus.[248]
  • 22 August
    • Scientists at the American Chemical Society meeting in Washington demonstrate "cyborg bacteria" able to outperform plants at photosynthesis.[249][250]
    • Engineers in the U.S. demonstrate how to make ultra-compact antennas for wireless communication 100 times smaller than their current size.[251]
23 August: Antares, most detailed image of a star other than the Sun.[252]
  • 23 August
    • A peer-reviewed study by Harvard University concludes that petroleum company Exxon misled the public about the dangers of climate change for nearly 40 years.[253][254]
    • Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope produce the most detailed ever image of a star, Antares, and create the first map of surface motion on a star other than our Sun.[252]
  • 24 August – In a study published by Nature, researchers at the University of Manchester show that magnetic hysteresis is possible in individual molecules at −213 °C. This proves that storing data with single-molecule magnets is more feasible than previously thought, and could theoretically give 100 times higher density than current technologies.[255]
  • 26 August – Astronomers detect 15 repeating Fast Radio Bursts coming from FRB 121102 located in a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light-years away from Earth. The researchers note that FRB 121102 is presently in a "heightened activity state, and follow-on observations are encouraged, particularly at higher radio frequencies".[256][257]
  • 28 August – Scientists break the record for coldest temperature of molecules, at 50 millionths of a degree above absolute zero.[258]
  • 31 August – Astronomers at the Hubble Space Telescope report the first hints of possible water content within the TRAPPIST-1 multiplanetary system, which includes seven Earth-sized exoplanets, about 40 light-years away from Earth.[259][260]

September[edit]

  • 1 September – The European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) is officially opened in the German city of Hamburg.[261]
  • 4 September – Astronomers report the discovery of an intermediate-mass black hole with 100,000 solar masses hiding in a gas cloud near the heart of the Milky Way, ranking it as the second largest black hole ever seen in the galaxy.[262]
13 September: Third of the mass of Asia's high mountain glaciers may be expected to be lost by 2100 due to global warming.[263][264]
15 September: End of Cassini-Huygens's 20-year mission to explore the planet Saturn.[274][275]

October[edit]

10 October: A tenfold increase in childhood and adolescent obesity since 1975 is reported (leptin molecule pictured).
26 October: Ocean temperatures could be warmer now than those in the last 100 million years.[317][318]
26 October: First known interstellar object to pass through our Solar System
  • 30 October – The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) reports that concentrations of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere reached a record high of 403.3 parts per million in 2016.[331][332]
  • 31 October

November[edit]

2 November: Large "void" discovered inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.
  • 2 November
  • 6 November – A study by the Earth Institute at Columbia University finds that swapping where crops are grown around the world could potentially feed an extra 825 million people.[346]
  • 7 November
    • Fossils of tiny shrew-like creatures are discovered in southern England, dating back 145 million years, making them the oldest-known ancestors of most living mammals.[347]
    • UK scientists report that resveratrol analogues, when applied to senescent cells in the laboratory, made the cells look and behave younger, with longer telomeres and the ability to divide again.[348]
8 November: First known star, IPTF14hls, to have exploded multiple times, over at least 50 years.[349] (example of a supernova remnant shown)
20 November: Studies suggest life on Earth may have originated from biological particles carried by space dust.[371][372]
  • 22 November – In a breakthrough for antibiotic resistance, researchers at the Université de Montréal in Canada report a way of designing better molecules that make it harder for plasmids to move between bacteria.[373]
  • 23 November – A study by the University of Leeds finds that shrinking glacier cover across Iceland could lead to increased volcanism in the region, by reducing pressure on the Earth's surface.[374]
  • 28 November
    • A study by Northwell Health identifies dozens of new genetic variations associated with a person's general cognitive ability, while also noting a genetic overlap with longevity.[375]
    • Facebook begins to use artificial intelligence to help identify users potentially at risk for suicide, and thus possibly better help provide them the proper mental health and support resources.[376][377][378]
    • The Voyager I spacecraft, the most distant man-made object, fires its trajectory thrusters for the first time since 1980, to extend its lifetime by two or three more years.[379][380]
  • 29 November – A study published in Nature finds that inhibiting RNA polymerase III (Pol III), a common enzyme found in all mammals, including humans, can extend the lifespan of flies and worms.[381]
  • 30 November – Researchers from Imperial College London announce a breakthrough in optical computing, with a 10,000-fold reduction in the distance over which light can interact.[382]

December[edit]

6 December: Most distant quasar, ULAS J1342+0928, and supermassive black hole found so far.[385] (artist concept of similar quasar)
11 December: Genetic error corrected for Huntington's disease using IONIS-HTTRx, an experimental drug.[400]
14 December: Studies at Lechaio in Greece reveal evidence of large-scale ancient Roman engineering – an example of such engineering is pictured.[413]

Deaths[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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