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Eureka! - 2012's Biggest Moments in Science

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EUREKA! 2012's biggest moments in science

From superstorms to the God particle, 2012 wasn't lacking in news that made our heads spin.

Higgs boson discovered

A 50-year search for an elusive piece in the understanding of mass, particles and force almost certainly ended in July when physicists at the Large Hadron Collider revealed their preliminary discovery of the Higgs boson, often called the "God particle." The discovery of the particle verifies a theory by English physicist Peter Higgs, which says that elementary particles, like the quarks and electrons inside atoms, get mass from an invisible field that stretches through all of space. Without something to give particles mass, there would be no stars or planets.

Curiosity lands on Mars

The nail-biting landing on Mars of NASA's rover, Curiosity, drew the attention of millions around the world. Since it touched down on Mars in August, the rover has beamed back information about the rocks, soil and atmosphere--not to mention scores of pictures--of the Red Planet, one of our closest neighbors. Not only did Curiosity's landing on Mars command attention, but its mission has drawn millions of fans: @MarsCuriosity, a verified Twitter account, has more than 1.2 million followers.

Fetal genome sequencing

Researchers in June announced the successful sequencing of a fetus' genome using snippets of DNA in the mother's blood. They indicated a test might be widely available in about five years, which brings up potentially monumental consequences. If such tests became as routine as sonograms, what would expectant parents do with such information--which diseases their child-to-be would be more prone to or knowledge about personality traits or physical appearance?

Quantum teleportation distance record broken

Two teams of researchers successfully transported quantum particles 50 miles through the open air. While not truly moving the particles (a remote copy was created in the destination location), the teams' world record distance was hailed as a possible advance in quantum Internet technology. It also in theory could be used by military and spy agencies to pass unbreakable codes, by sending them to a quantum satellite and then beaming them back to any spot on Earth.

Earth 2.0?

An Earth-sized exoplanet was seen orbiting Alpha Centauri B, one of the stars in the stellar system nearest to our own. Because the planet orbits much closer to its star than Earth, it likely does not host life, but scientists suspect the system might host more planets that may be more hospitable for life.

Climate change's effects come knocking

The consequences of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions played out on the East Coast--and on live TV for everyone else--as Superstorm Sandy, a confluence of storm fronts, crashed ashore in New York and New Jersey, killing a total of 131 people in the U.S. and causing $50 billion in damage. As climate scientists had long warned, rising carbon dioxide levels will lead to more powerful storms and make most parts of the planet grow warmer.

Sea water desalinization

A practical and cost-effective way to make sea water consumable has long been a focus for scientists. In July, a team from MIT announced a new method of desalinization that promises to be cheaper and much less energy-intensive than existing systems.


Moments in Science 2012