21st-Century Discoveries in Science

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Science is a constant process of observing, theorizing, experimenting and drawing conclusions. The first decade of the 21st century has produced new information in many scientific fields, from astrophysics to astronomy to medicine and human biology.

Two Solar Systems

  • According to the New York Times, astronomers at the University of California at Berkeley discovered two new solar systems in late 2000 that defy previously held conceptions of planets and of the structure of solar systems. One of these solar systems contains a star much like our sun, orbited by one large planet and another object 17 times the size of Jupiter. The discovery team is unsure whether or not this object is a planet, as it far larger than any planet ever discovered; researchers posit that it may be some kind of failed star or a phenomenon never before seen in the history of astronomy. In the second solar system, two planets orbit a star, but in a different pattern than ever before seen: they orbit together, in periods of 30 and 61 days, respectively. The smaller planet orbits the star twice for every single orbit of the larger planet.

The Human Genome Project

  • The Human Genome Project began attempting to map all 20,000 genes in the human genome in 1990, but the project was completed in 2000. According to ABC News' Top 10 Medical Advances of the Decade, in 2001, the organization released all 20,000 human genes to the Internet for public consumption. In 2003 researchers released a final copy of the genome sequencing, and in 2007 they published further updates. Dr. Francis Collins, then-director of the Human Genome Project, stated that "it's one of the major landmarks that rank up there with going to the moon." Since the completion of the mapping of the human genome, Dr. Collins has been named Director of the National Institutes of Health.

Tau Neutrino

  • According to the U.S. Department of Energy, scientists at Fermilab announced in July 2000 that they had produced evidence of the existence of the tau neutrino. Previous research had speculated that such a third kind of neutrino might exist, but Fermilab's team produced the first direct evidence of this subatomic particle. To get this result, scientists aimed a Fermilab beam of neutrinos across 3 feet of iron plates. Over three years, scientists observed one out of one trillion neutrinos in this beam interact with an iron nucleus, leaving the tracks of a tau neutrino.

Stem Cell Therapy

  • According to CNN, scientists at Imperial College London in 2009 discovered a way to prompt bone marrow to release stem cells that aid patients in recovering from heart attacks. In succeeding in releasing these stem cells, scientists now have a way to prompt the body's own cells to release into the system and fix damaged tissue. These stem cells are released into the body by injecting patients with a protein called G-CSF that occurs naturally in the human body. With more research, say scientists, these cells could also be used to help repair broken bones and treat autoimmune diseases.

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