Amy is an MSc Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate. Active in the bookstagram community, you can find her over on Insta @readingwithamy_. With science being a life passion for her, she is here to talk about how important science is for the future.
The scientific revolution of the 19th century paved the way for modern science, causing many life-changing scientific breakthroughs such as the discovery of DNA structure, and penicillin. But now, we are on the edge of a new age of science; one that incorporates the world of technology to transform our future. The mainstream media tends to gloss over the cutting-edge discoveries that will challenge our next generation of scientists, but I think the innovations that are on the brink of changing our future should not be ignored.
One of the biggest, and definitely my favourite, discoveries of the 21st Century was the discovery of the Higgs Boson on 4th July 2012, using the Large Hadron Collider.
The Large Hadron Collider was built to speed up particles to (very nearly!) light speed, to try to recreate the environment just before the Big Bang. It’s around 17 miles long and runs underneath France and Switzerland. The particles are sped up, and when they collide with each other, a flurry of particles are produced which can be detected.
In 2012, a new particle was produced from these collisions, called the Higgs Boson. But, so what?
Well, the Higgs Boson is an elementary particle that makes up the Higgs field, which interacts with particles that pass through it and gives them mass. This is how things in the Universe came to have mass. It’s the reason the universe exists, and it holds the universe together. The field allows particles to bind together to form stars and planets, and is sometimes referred to as the ‘God particle’ due to its role in the Big Bang and the expansion of our early Universe. Without the Higgs field we would cease to be!
The LHC has been closed for nearly two years whilst it has received an upgrade, however it will soon be returning with a new particle accelerator that will collect ten times more data than the old accelerator! Who knows what will be discovered next?
Elon Musk has been very prevalent in the new recently, partly due to his sons’ crazy name X Æ A-12, and for also being one of the richest people in the world with a current net worth of 78.2 billion USD due to Tesla, his electric car company.
However, his advances in scientific technology have been astonishing. His first, and probably most well-known, planned scientific feat is his intention to colonise Mars. Musk has spent nearly 20 years creating SpaceX and has described it as ‘life insurance for life as a whole’ (Source). The company is currently developing a rocket and spaceship system to travel the mere 34 million miles to Mars.
Unfortunately, Mars has deadly radiation and a toxic atmosphere, making even just breathing on the planet an impossible feat. But fear not, Musk has designed airtight pods to shield humans from this and intends to pump gases into the atmosphere in order to thicken it, making it warmer and more hospitable for human life. This is an activity called terraforming, and it’s even been discussed that nuclear bombs could be used to make the atmosphere more human-friendly!
All of this sounds completely unfeasible, but recently in May 2020, SpaceX completed its first ever human launch. And soon, in 2022, at least two unmanned rockets will land on Mars. Musk wants humans on the planet by 2025 and believes that a self-sustaining city is entirely possible by 2050.
But what is the point of colonising Mars when we have a perfectly good planet already? Actually, it is possible that the fate of humanity depends on it. We are quickly outgrowing Earth and are running out of resources at an alarming rate, so forming a path to a new planet will ensure our future survival as a species.
Elon Musk has also turned his attention to medical technology, with an implantable brain-machine interface called the Neuralink. Essentially, a neural lace is inserted and connected to electrodes in your brain. Musk hopes that it could not only treat neural conditions such as Dementia and Parkinson’s but that it could also be the link between humans and artificial intelligence. The devices would be able to interact with nerves in the brain, reconnecting previously damaged nerves around the body and potentially helping those with epilepsy and paraplegia. Recently, the Neuralink team successfully implanted the device into pigs.
The Neuralink system has received approval from the FDA as an experimental device. But Musk doesn’t just want to treat neural conditions, he also envisions telepathic communication with this device. Perhaps there will soon be a time when we have conversations through thoughts and memories rather than through speech!
One topic in particular that always seems to evade mainstream news is the exploration of space using unmanned space probes. In Late 2018, NASA launched the Parker Solar probe, which soon became the closest ever artificial object to the Sun. It has recently completed a fly-by of Venus, which provided scientists with more information about the planet’s atmosphere.
And just last year, NASA’s ‘New Horizons’ probe finally arrived at the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, a disc of asteroids in the outer Solar System, after launching in 2006. At the time of its launch it was the fastest spacecraft to leave Earth and became the first spacecraft to study Pluto up close. The probe found enormous mountains of ice and a huge ice plain on Pluto, which has come to be the largest known glacier in our Solar System!
New Horizons has also captured images of Arrokoth, a small Solar System object thought to have formed nearly 5 billion years ago. When New Horizons completed a flyby of this object, it became the farthest body in the solar system visited by a spacecraft.
Space probes like New Horizons provide scientists with more information about outer space and have allowed us to map out the life and journey of our solar system since the Universe began to expand. Space probes have also explored the potential for life on other planets, such as Mars. So perhaps in the future, when Elon Musk has achieved colonisation on Mars, we’ll instead thank the probes for going where no one has gone before.
With the latest advances in technology having a positive impact on science and the way it is carried out, the potential for discoveries are endless and hold no bounds. Science drives so much of the world’s curiosity, and modern technology now allows these curiosities to become realistic. The progress we have made in discovering and exploring the unknowns are astonishing. The future is bright, the future is science!
Do you have a topic that you’re passionate about that you would like to share? If so, drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill in the form on the contact page!
(I am just realising the connections between Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and space…)