Home How We Think The most mind-blowing, life-altering scientific discoveries of 2018

The most mind-blowing, life-altering scientific discoveries of 2018

Scientists made some awesome breakthroughs and discoveries in 2018, in fields including space travel, medicine, archaeology, nutrition, and earth sciences. These are some impressive and stunning scientific accomplishments of the year.

In 2018, scientists succeeded in some impressive feats: Engineers at SpaceX sent a red sports car flying past Mars, Chinese researchers cloned a pair of monkeys, and people in Egypt found cheese that was manufactured 3,000 years ago. (Don’t eat it.)

Over the past year, scientists also figured out how to “touch” the sunusing a heat-resistant probe, use tiny robots to kill cancer, and stop painful migraines.

These and other accomplishments were an encouraging reminder that scientists across the globe are learning more about how life and the universe work every day .

As the new year approaches, take a look back at some of the most marvelous, life-changing, and astonishing scientific discoveries and feats from 2018.

In February, SpaceX nailed an impressive feat: the company launched its reusable, 27-engine Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time. It’s the company’s most powerful yet.

In February, SpaceX nailed an impressive feat: the company launched its reusable, 27-engine Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time. It's the company's most powerful yet.Thom Baur/Reuters

After Falcon Heavy launched on February 6, 2018, two of the rocket’s three reusable boosters landed safely on the ground in Florida.

The core booster, however, missed its landing pad on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Apparently it hit the water at 300 miles an hour and took out two of the engines on the drone ship,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said. That loss was relatively minor in the context of the launch’s overall success, though.

The payload on that Falcon Heavy rocket was Musk’s red Tesla Roadster, complete with a dummy driver and a note on the dash: “DON’T PANIC!”

The payload on that Falcon Heavy rocket was Musk's red Tesla Roadster, complete with a dummy driver and a note on the dash:

The car is still cruising the solar system today. In November, SpaceX announced it had sailed past Mars.

In March, scientists at NASA revealed new findings about how living in space can mess with your eyes and immune system.

In March, scientists at NASA revealed new findings about how living in space can mess with your eyes and immune system.

When NASA astronaut Scott Kelly left his identical twin brother, Mark, on Earth and spent a year in space, scientists seized on the opportunity to learn more about out how life away from our home planet can change a person.

Researchers found that up to 7% of Scott’s gene expression hasn’t returned to its Earthly “normal” state since he came back. Those changes may be part of the body’s response to the stress of living in space, and they could lead to lasting consequences for Kelly’s immune system and retinas.

Star-gazers spotted a new kind of aurora that travels farther south than most. Its name is STEVE.

Star-gazers spotted a new kind of aurora that travels farther south than most. Its name  is STEVE.

The purplish aurora travels on different magnetic field lines than others, so it can appear much closer to the equator than the Northern Lights.

The strange lights were first reported by citizen scientists in Canada in 2015. The amateurs formed a group and started working with researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The result of that collaboration — the discovery of a new kind of aurora — was published in the journal Science Advances on March 14.

STEVE, or Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, can be tough to see, though, because the display typically lasts for less than an hour.

After three years of studying Mars, Italian scientists determined in July that it’s possible the red planet has a 20-kilometer-wide lake of liquid water at its polar ice cap.

After three years of studying Mars, Italian scientists determined in July that it's possible the red planet has a 20-kilometer-wide lake of liquid water at its polar ice cap.

“If these researchers are right, this is the first time we’ve found evidence of a large water body on Mars,” Cassie Stuurman, a geophysicist at the University of Texas, told the Associated Press.

Other parts of Mars are too cold for water to stay liquid.

Astronomers found a ghost particle in Antarctica, revealing a source of some of the most high-energy radiation in the universe.

Astronomers found a ghost particle in Antarctica, revealing a source of some of the most high-energy radiation in the universe.

Researchers found the particle, a neutrino, in September using IceCube, an array of sensors embedded in Antarctic ice.

“When scientists tracked the particle back to its source they found a galactic monster called a blazar: a rapidly spinning black hole, millions of times the mass of the sun, that’s gobbling up gas and dust,” Business Insider’s Dave Mosher reported.

Humans came closer to touching the sun than ever before, after the Parker Solar Probe launched in November.

Humans came closer to touching the sun than ever before, after the Parker Solar Probe launched in November.

The probe is now the fastest human-made object, capable of flying past the sun at speeds up to 213,200 miles an hour.

Solar experts hope that by traveling through scorching-hot areas of the sun, which can be 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit, the robot will help unlock mysteries about how our star works.

Back on Earth, a bountiful pirate’s booty worth as much as $17 billion was discovered off the coast of Columbia.

Back on Earth, a bountiful pirate's booty worth as much as $17 billion was discovered off the coast of Columbia.

The treasure comes from a 310-year-old Spanish ship, the San José, which sank in the Caribbean Sea during a 1708 battle with British ships during the War of the Spanish Succession.

The wreck was found in 2015, and engineers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts, sent a submarine drone down to explore it in more detail. In May 2018, they finally revealed the details of their discovery.

The sunken bounty may include gold, silver, and emeralds.

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