Time’s Top 10 Scientific Discoveries

Time’s Top 10 Scientific DiscoveriesTime’s Top 10 Scientific Discoveries 

1. Large Hadron Collider

Good news! The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the massive particle accelerator straddling the Swiss-French border – didn’t destroy the world! The bad news: The contraption didn’t really work either. In September, the 17-mile collider was switched on for the first time, putting to rest the febrile webchatter that the machine would create an artificial black hole capable of swallowing the planet or at least a sizeable piece of Europe – a bad day no matter what. No lucid observer ever thought that would really happen, but what they did expect was that the LHC would operate as advertised, recreating conditions not seen since instants after the Big Bang and giving physicists a peek into those long-vanished moments. Things looked good at first, until a helium leak caused the collider to shut down after less than two weeks. Repairs are underway and the particles should begin spinning again sometime in June.

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Saturn’s Aura

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Saturn Spinning A Colorful Light Show

 

That’s an infrared image of an aurora on Saturn’s polar cap, taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft:

Energetic particles, crashing into the upper atmosphere cause the aurora, shown in blue, to glow brightly at 4 microns (six times the wavelength visible to the human eye). The image shows both a bright ring, as seen from Earth, as well as an example of bright auroral emission within the polar cap that had been undetected until the advent of Cassini.

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Scientists Directly Observe Three Distant Planets

Scientists Directly Observe Three Distant Planets 

 The Hubble Space Telescope captured a fuzzy image of the planet, known as Fomalhaut b, which is no more than a white speck in the dust ring that surrounds the star.

A little more of the universe has been pried out of the shadows. Two groups of astronomers have taken the first pictures of what they say – and other astronomers agree – are most likely planets going around other stars.

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Steve Fossett’s Flying Submersible

Steve Fossett’s Flying Submersible 

 Deep Flight Challenger

Unbeknownst to most of the world, the late super rich adventurer Steve Fossett had started work on an amazing flying submersible that would one day theoretically touch the stars. More importantly, however, was that the design would have allowed adventurers and scientists alike (and most importantly Fossett himself, of course) to venture into the deadly depths of the Mariana Trench, some 36,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. Sadly, the design was put on hold immediately after Fossett went missing about one year ago, but that hasn’t stopped San Anselmo inventor Graham Hawkes from detailing the project that Fossett tapped him to create two years before his death.

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Virgin Galactic Will Fly You To Space And Monitor The Climate

Virgin Galactic Will Fly You To Space And Monitor The Climate 

 Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnight

Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo aircraft will be doing the world a favor when they start flying paying passengers into space: they’ll be carrying sensors aboard to monitor greenhouse gases at a little-monitored altitude. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has just signed a deal with Virgin to let it install sensors on the two vehicles, since it turns out that they will be one of the few aircraft that fly at around 50,000 feet. Most aircraft, with the exception of the sadly gone Concorde, fly below this altitude, and scientists would like to get their hands on air data from this height to help with environmental monitoring.

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Martian Soil May Contain Substance Less Friendly To Life

Martian Soil May Contain Substance Less Friendly To Life 
 Phoenix spacecraft’s inverted scoop preparing to take soil samples on Mars.

NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft has detected the presence of a chemically reactive salt in the Martian soil, a finding that if confirmed could make it less friendly to potential life than once believed.

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