Nuclear fusion, a map of the brain and the “dragon man”: the main discoveries of 2021

In 2021, the fight against COVID-19 was an important part of scientific discoveries, but it's not the only thing worth paying attention to.

Attention. There are other achievements as well.NASA and private companies have been actively exploring space, scientists have learned more about the existence of the first people, and humanity has come close to recreating thermonuclear fusion on Earth.

Successes of the Perseverance rover

NASA has taken a huge step in the study of Redplanets after the Perseverance rover landed safely on Mars in February. The scientists equipped the rover with an ultralight helicopter that successfully took off in the thin Martian atmosphere and several instruments to search for traces of microbial life. All the achievements will help you better understand Mars and how best to explore and colonize it in the future.

NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Beyond the triumphs of the rover, the space agenciesother countries have also made great strides. The UAE's Hope probe has successfully entered orbit around Mars and is studying the planet's atmosphere and weather. The Chinese rover Zhurong landed on Mars in May, exploring its geology and looking for signs of water.

New species of Homo discovered

In the summer of 2021, scientists have found a new kind of personfrom the Late Pleistocene. Named Homo longi, or "dragon man," this extinct species could replace Neanderthals as Homo sapiens' closest relatives. Homo longi is anatomically similar to other Middle Pleistocene specimens. He could also potentially turn out to be a representative of the Denisovans, but so far this has not been confirmed.

An artist's representation of Homo longi.

It turned out that the new kind of people had a low andlong skull, protruding forehead and large nose, large square eye sockets and thick brow ridges, flat cheekbones, wide palate and skull base. Like H. sapiens, H. longi hunted mammals and birds, gathered fruit and vegetables, and may even have fished.

Development of space tourism

This year, famous billionaires whose companiesoffer space tourism services, have successfully completed several missions. They sent a lot of civilians into space. In early July, billionaire Richard Branson and his staff made a suborbital flight just above the edge of space as part of Virgin Galactic's first crewed flight. A few days later, the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, and the founder of Blue Origin, made the first manned suborbital flight on the New Shepard rocket. He was accompanied by the youngest and oldest tourists in history.

The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, and founder of Blue Origin, made the first manned suborbital flight on a New Shepard rocket.

In October, his company Blue Origin made anotherone flight, carrying Star Trek actor William Shatner. A month earlier, the crew of four became the first all-civilian crew to circle the Earth from space in SpaceX's Crew Dragon Resilience capsule. Also, a Russian film crew went to the ISS, which filmed the film in zero gravity. It was attended by actress Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko. Before that, not a single actor was in low Earth orbit.

WHO approves first malaria vaccine

In October, the World Health Organizationapproved the first malaria vaccine. This is the first vaccine not only against malaria, but also against any parasitic disease. It has been developed for more than 30 years, since 1987 research has cost more than $ 750 million. Malaria kills almost 500 thousand people a year, including 260 thousand children under the age of five. Most of the victims of the disease live in sub-Saharan Africa.

In October, the World Health Organization approved the first malaria vaccine.

New vaccine fights deadliest of allfive malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in the southern continent. It is administered to children under the age of five in a series of four injections. However, the vaccine only prevents about 30% of severe cases of malaria. But one modeling study found that 5.4 million cases and 23,000 deaths in children under five could be prevented each year. Experts say a vaccine is a valuable tool that should be used in conjunction with existing prevention methods.

And briefly about several scientific achievements in 2021

  • The Chinese fusion reactor Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) heated nuclear plasma to an unprecedented 120 million ° C and kept it there for 101 seconds.
  • Scientists from the University of New South Walesdeveloped a heat-resistant material of scandium, aluminium, tungsten and oxygen that does not change volume at temperatures from 4 to 1400 Kelvin ( -269 to 1126 °C). It will be useful in the development of medical devices and even hypersonic vehicles.
  • Florida State University researchersfound that microplastics can change the metabolism of lung cells, slow down their growth, and also cause cell clustering, leaving gaps in the development of lung tissue. Also, microplastics can collect a huge amount of bacteria. And they increase resistance to antibiotics over time. In addition, microplastics have been found in a record number of animal species and even at an altitude of 2,877 meters.
  • Scientists have discovered a species of Galapagos tortoisesthought to be extinct, it has not been seen for 115 years. DNA tests have confirmed that a specimen found in 2019 does indeed belong to the long-lost Giant Fernandina tortoise.
  • Google and Harvard engineers used 225 million images and 1.4 petabytes of data to create a three-dimensional map of just one millionth of the cerebral cortex.
  • At the LHCb detector at the Large Hadroncolliders have discovered a new form of matter - the double charmed tetraquark Tcc+. This is the only particle known to science that consists of four quarks. The peculiarity of this particle is that two quarks are charmed or c-quarks. At the same time, charmed antiquarks are absent in it.

Next year we are waiting for even more discoveries andachievements. Several new missions will be launched, the Webb telescope will begin to observe the early Universe, and there may be a vaccine for COVID-19 that gives lifelong immunity.

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