New inventions are created every day and scientific discoveries occur much more often than we might think. Still, though, despite how common they actually are, the truly incredible ones are usually few and far between. Sometimes, there is a revolutionary discovery that promises to make a huge difference to the scientific community and the world as a whole. This sample essay from Ultius will highlight the several remarkable advancements so far in 2016 that are sure to leave such an impact on humankind.
Scientists discover a new prime number
In the very first month of 2016, mathematicians discovered a new largest known prime number. The number is nearly five million digits longer than the last known largest prime number. A prime number is a number that is not divisible by any positive number besides 1 and itself and this one was discovered by a computer at the laboratory at the University of Central Missouri (Chang). The number is so many digits long that it can only be practically written in mathematical notation with exponents- 274,207,281-1 (Kantor). Prime numbers are useful in certain fields, like cryptography, especially during both World Wars. As of yet though, the new highest prime number is too large to currently be of any practical use.
The previous largest prime number, 257,885,161-1, was seventeen million digits long (Chang). This has been the fifteenth largest prime number to be found by the volunteer program, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, at the University of Central Missouri. Specifically, Mersenne prime numbers are those that are written in the form of 2n-1 and are named after seventeenth century French mathematician Marin Mersenne.
Example of a Mersenne prime number
“3” is a Mersenne prime number; plugging in “2” for n yields a result of 3. Not all integers plugged into the equation are able to generate a prime number, though, and the bigger the integers get, the rarer the prime numbers become; there are only forty-nine Mersenne prime numbers known (Chang). The program that finds these numbers runs almost constantly, searching in the background of otherwise idle computers.
Scientific breakthroughs of 2016: nearly eternal data storage
Nothing is immune to the effects of time, degrading eventually and unavoidably. However, a recent breakthrough at the University of Southampton has made huge strides in the development of digital data storage that is guaranteed to survive for billions of years. The University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre’s scientists have utilized femtosecond laser writing and nanostructured glass to develop recording procedures of five-dimensional digital information (Eternal 5D data storage). This discovery comes with characteristics we have never seen before, like thermal stability up to one thousand degrees Celsius, 360 terabyte data capacity, and a lifespan of almost fourteen billion years at room temperature. The data storage method is stable and reliable and could revolutionize the way museums and libraries store their gigantic archives of information.
Archiving all of human history
This exciting new technology was first demonstrated in an experiment three years earlier when a digital file was recorded successfully in 5D. Today, documents that are majorly important to the history of humankind, like the bible, the Magna Carta, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, have been recorded in a format that could outlive man. The documents were recorded with the use of an ultrafast laser, which has the ability to produce quick, intense pulses of light, and was written in three layers of nanostructured dots that are separated by one millionth of a meter (Eternal 5D data storage).
The nanostructures modify the way lights travels through the glass, changing the light’s polarization and enabling the information to be read with an optical microscope. This development is particularly exciting because it means that humankind’s knowledge and progress will not be lost when we are gone.
Scientific findings of 2016: a second moon for planet Earth?
In the spring of this year, a small asteroid was discovered in an orbit around our sun that seems to be a constant companion of Earth. While the asteroid orbits the sun, it appears to be circling the Earth, too. Still too distant to be considered a true moon, it has been named 2016 HO3 and is the most stable example to date of a quasi-satellite of the Earth. The manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies for Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Paul Chodas, stated,
“Since 2016 HO3 loops around our planet, but never ventures very far away as we both go around the sun, we refer to it as a quasi-satellite of Earth. One other asteroid- 2003 YN107- followed a similar orbital pattern for a while over ten years ago, but it has since departed our vicinity.”
Chodas goes on to say that this new asteroid is much more locked into the Earth’s orbit. Calculations suggest that it has been orbiting us for nearly one hundred years and is expected to continue on this path for centuries more.
Orbital pattern of the new moon
During its yearly orbit, 2016 HO3 spends almost half of its time closer to the sun than the Earth, even passing ahead of our orbit. It spends the other half of the year further away, making it fall a bit behind again, locked in a game of leapfrog. The asteroid has a tilted orbit that passes up and down once each year through the orbital plane of the Earth. It also experiences a slow-moving twist back-and-forth over several decades due to gravitational waves. It’s orbit drifts ahead and behind over the years but is never able to get too far, sucked back in by the gravity of the Earth. It remains within about one hundred times the distance of the moon of the Earth at all times (Small Asteroid is Earth’s Constant Companion).
A similar effect prevents it from traveling closer than almost forty times the distance of the moon to the Earth. The asteroid was spotted for the first time near the end of April of 2016. The Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii is owned by the Institute for Astronomy of Hawaii’s University. The laboratory is funded by the Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA. The asteroid’s true size has not yet been determined but it is expected to be between one hundred twenty and three hundred feet (Small Asteroid).
Researchers experiment with turning carbon dioxide into rock for 2016
An article in Science Daily reports that a team of scientists from a number of countries has recently found a way to remove the carbon dioxide in the air caused by humans and actually turn it into volcanic bedrock rock. Researchers have long been trying to establish a way to deal with the issue of increased amounts of greenhouse gasses as a result of climate change. This new approach, called Carbon Capture and Storage, involves physically removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and trapping it underground (Climate change mitigation).
Before this discovery, geo-engineers were attempting to seal carbon dioxide in underground voids like abandoned gas reservoirs, but this method is extremely susceptible to leakage. It was believed that the process of turning the gas into rock would take hundreds of thousands of years, eliminating it as a practical option. However, the most recent study has shown that the process can take as short as two years (Climate change mitigation). The lead scientist on the study stated that almost one hundred percent of the carbon dioxide injected into the earth was mineralized in two years or less.
Potential to curb carbon output
The experiment was conducted in Iceland, where the ground is mostly made of basalt rock, rich in calcium, iron, and magnesium, all of which are required for the successful mineralization of carbon. The carbon dioxide is dissolved into water and sent down a well. Between four hundred and eight hundred meters underground, the water reacts with the volcanic bedrock on contact, creating carbonate minerals. Unlike its gaseous counterpart, mineralized carbon does not leave out of the ground, making this method environmentally friendly and permanent (Climate change mitigation). Because basalt is one of the most common rocks on Earth, the storage capacity for carbon dioxide is nearly immeasurable. Carbon dioxide production is one of leading causes of global warming, and this is the first realistic step we have in limiting carbon output.
The research team injected tracers in the form of chemical compounds that follow the transport path and the reactivity of the carbon dioxide gas. A total of eight monitoring wells provided locations to test how the chemicals in the water had changed. It was discovered that buy the time the groundwater made its way to the monitoring wells, the tracers’ concentration has diminished (and the carbon dioxide along with it), meaning that the mineralization had occurred (Climate change mitigation). The next step in this process is to attempt the method again on a much larger scale to further test the practicality of this method of carbon dioxide storage.
Scientists uncover ancient genetic mutation led to multicellular life
Scientists have known for some time that single-cell organisms evolved to be multicellular about eight hundred million years ago but have not been exact on how that happened. A new study, though, finally points to a cause. Carl Zimmer of The New York Times writes,
The experiment involved creating ancient molecules that played a part in the survival of single-cell organisms and recreated mutations that helped them to build their multicellular bodies.
Researchers focused mainly on a molecule known as GK-PID that is depended upon by animals for growing various kinds of body tissue. A lack of GK-PID would prevent them from building coherent structures and can potentially cause cancer.
The role of this molecule is to link together proteins in a way that enables the cells to divide properly. A dividing cell must make a second copy of its chromosomes and move the new set to the new cell. During this process, GK-PID attaches to proteins that bring the chromosomes to the new cells and then latch them to the proteins in the cell wall (Zimmer). GK-PID is responsible for making sure the chromosomes get to where they need to go.
Thanks to the scientific contributions of Charles Darwin on evolution, we now know if the chromosomes do not go to the proper position, there can be disastrous effects. For example, if GK-PID does not make sure that the chromosomes move in the same direction as the connecting skin cells, the cell ends up jumbled and messy, like a wall build of haphazardly placed bricks following no direction or pattern (Zimmer). This discovery has led scientists to believe that the single mutation that created GK-PID is solely responsible for the replication of cells and the evolution of single-cell organisms to multicellular ones.
Scientific discoveries of 2016: a conclusion
This sample research summary states that scientific discoveries are not considered to be uncommon, but every once in a while, a discovery is made that promises to bring about significant and positive changes. If you need help with your own research study, consider buying a sample research summary like this one from Ultius. The time you’ll save may let you make your own discoveries! Though the year is not yet over, there have been several notable scientific discoveries to occur to far in 2016. This time last year, we did not have almost eternal data storage, know of a possible second moon orbiting the Earth, or have a practical method for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Such incredible findings in such a short amount of time remind us of how exciting life on Earth can be and how much is left to be discovered.
Chang, Kenneth. “New Biggest Prime Number= 2 to the 74 Mil… Uh, It’s Big”. The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Jan. 2016. Web. Sep. 2016.
“Climate change mitigation: Turning carbon dioxide into rock”. Science Daily. Science Daily, 09 Jun. 2016. Web. Sep. 2016..
“Eternal 5D data storage could record the history of humankind”. University of Southampton. University of Southampton, 18 Feb. 2016. Web. Sep. 2016..
Kantor, Jonathan H. “10 Amazing Scientific Discoveries Of 2016”. ListVerse. ListVerse, 26 Jul. 2016. Web. Sep. 2016. .
“Small Asteroid is Earth’s Constant Companion”. NASA. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 21 Jun. 2016. Web. Sep. 2016.
Zimmer, Carl. “Genetic Flip Helped Organisms Go From One Cell to Many”. The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Jan. 2016. Web. Sep. 2016.
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