Friday, 2 January 2015

New Year

As we enter another New Year on the Gregorian calendar, I seem to have found myself off to a bit of a false start. Where I intended to hit the ground running, I ended up tripping clumsily over my feet. (Not unlike a clown with over-sized novelty footwear knocking back a bottle of gin, only without the gin and shoes - the clown part is debatable.)

I had planned a lovely feature for today, but it hasn't yet come to fruition. So, rather than half-ass the whole thing today with pithy comments, poorly-researched facts and inarticulate musings, I shall endeavour to produce something worthy of your time next week.

The fact that the Earth has passed an arbitrary point in its orbit around the Sun hasn't escaped me, so please enjoy what I call the "Festival of Links" - a January 2nd tradition (starting now) - sharing the best science bits of 2014!

Hoverboards!

It's not 2015 without a reference to Back To The Future II and the hoverboards we all salivated over. Company Hendo Hover have a genuine prototype of a hoverboard and a hover engine - sadly it's limited to hovering over certain materials.

Treating Paralysis

Darek Fidyka was once paralysed but walks again after nerve cells taken from his nose were injected into his spine. The implanted nerve cells helped reconnect the damaged nerves in his spine and he can now walk with the aid of a frame, and even drive again.

The Electricity-Eating Bacteria

Drawn like moths to a flame, these bacteria come out of the rocks, the soil, and the mud to feed on sources of electricity. Experiments where electrons were dispersed into the ground drew two prominent species, Geobacter and Shewanella, and several more out of hiding in response to the electric signal. These organisms feed off the electrons, shirking the need for sugars and other commonly used energy-providing molecules. More on New Scientist.

First Ever (And Second And Third) Comet Landing

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission to study comet 67P faced a momentous mishap when comet lander Philae attempted to touch down on the surface. The lander's anchoring harpoons failed and Philae bounced, only to come down again, bounce again, and finally rest in a crevice on the surface of the comet. Its new home was unfortunately shaded and with its last gasps of solar battery power, Philae managed to perform some experiments.

Ebola Vaccine

What may be the only positive to come from the devastating Ebola outbreak in west Africa is that several Ebola vaccine programmes were accelerated, resulting in the testing, manufacturing and soon-to-be distribution of the successful vaccine in affected areas in 2015. More on BBC.
There were so many terrific stories and discoveries last year - the human species is wiser for them. On to 2015 now: may we learn from our mistakes and have the foresight to bring peace, knowledge, health and education to all in the future. Happy New Year.

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