2007 was a big year for Learning Science - it was the year we came into existence! It’s now been a full 10 years of science, technology and education here at LearnSciHQ, the perfect opportunity to both celebrate and reflect.
We’ve planned a series of articles for the coming months on the past, present and future of our favourite topics: science, technology and education. For example - how has e-learning changed in the last ten years? What myths have been debunked? And what could be the future of Higher Education?
But for now, here’s 10 of our favourite science & tech news stories from 2007: the year of our founding.
1) A Shocking (Pink) Discovery
Hundreds of new species were welcomed into the scientific record during 2007, including the “shocking pink dragon millipede” called Desmoxytes purpurosea, the “ornate sleeper-ray”, an electric ray called Electolux addisoni, and around 700 new species from deep ocean off the Coast of Antarctica. (Link here and here)
2) A Mammoth Finding
The original Apple iPhone was announced and released in 2007. Its first slogan “Apple reinvents the phone”, was a testament. It was a fusion of mobile device, iPod and internet communation. The second slogan: “This is only the beginning”, has also proven true so far, with the iPhone 7 selling well and people continuing to wait hours or days in line for the next iteration. (Link here)
4) The Appendix: What it is Good For?
Based on some people’s experience, it’s easy to think that the human appendix just sits there doing nothing until it occasionally bursts. But researchers from Duke University published a paper proposed that it may have a function - a reservoir of “good bacteria” in case the upper gets wiped out. In the decade following, there has been increasing evidence on the importance of a balanced microbiome to our health. (Link here and here)
5) Skin Cells to Stem Cells
Stem cells have the remarkable ability to differentiate into many other cell types. Embryonic stem cells are the most diverse of all, but using them has ethical complications and strict regulations concerning their use. In 2007, researchers found a way of reprogramming ordinary skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells - making them easier to study and work towards clinical therapies. (Link here and here)
6) An Adrenaline Rush of Science
A surge of adrenaline kicks us into action via the fight-or-flight response. But the structure of the proteins it binds to - β2-adrenoceptors - was unknown. That is until 2007 when crystallography cracked the case. Discovering the structure of any protein has value, but this was particularly exciting because it came from a protein family - GPCRs - which are major drug targets but had proved highly resistant to purifying and crystallisation. (Link here and here)
7) Can I Borrow your Genes?
Bacteria can be readily persuaded to take up the odd gene, but what about whole genomes? In 2007, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute performed a whole “genome transplantation”. They extracted the full set of DNA from Mycoplasma mycoides and transferred it into a different but related species, Mycoplasma capricolum. The recipient bacteria survived their dramatic procedure and began creating proteins using their new set of DNA instructions. (Link here)
8) Back from the Deep
A technique called deep-brain stimulation has been used to restore livelihood to a 31-year old man left in a minimally conscious state after a severe beating. The device is an implant that delivers electric currents direct to the brain. Deep-brain stimulation had previously been used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and since has been approved for use in severe OCD cases, and has been researched for use in chronic pain and PTSD. (Link here and here)
9) Shedding Light on Dark Matter
Dark matter is still one of the biggest mysteries in the Universe. It makes up most of the “stuff” in the Universe, based on the way the Universe is expanding. But nobody has ever detected it, so we have no idea what it really is. 2007 shed a little light on the matter; thousands of hours of Hubble telescope time helped compile a new map of dark matter, for one small slice section of the night sky. (Link here and here)
10) The Brightest Boom
From dark to very bright: In May 2007, NASA offered the first detailed analyses of the brightest supernova ever discovered. Bright though it was, at 238 million light years away, it was unfortunately not quite visible to the naked eye. Its spectra resembled well-studied Type II supernovae, but it’s sheer size made researchers speculate that it could be a whole new kind of explosion. (Link here and here)