Year in Review: Science and Technology

Posted by on Dec 26, 2017 in Year in Review

Space and Discovery

One of this year’s most exciting events was the “Great American Eclipse,” which took place on Monday, August 21. Eclipse mania gripped the nation as thousands of Americans traveled to visit the path of totality. Meanwhile, after 20 years in space, and 13 years orbiting Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft’s mission ended dramatically by purposefully crash-landing on Saturn in September.

Here on earth, the oldest known human remains were discovered in Morocco. The fossils were thought to be about 300,000 years old and reveal that humans who lived during this time used fire and complex weapons to hunt.

Technology

In February, the Ford Motor Company entered into a one billion dollar agreement with a self-driving car company. At the same time, researchers continued to study how driverless cars will impact traffic patterns, and legislators in Michigan and California began putting forward new laws to allow self-driving cars.

Not all of the year’s technological developments, however, were helpful ones. Cell phone companies began developing technology to robocall their customers in order to advertise to them any time, any place.

Health and Medicine

While the United States managed to avoid any deadly epidemics this year, other nations weren’t as lucky. Hundreds of thousands of people died in Yemen of a devastating cholera outbreak.

Closer to home, scientists looked at the ways design flaws in hospitals might be hurting us more than helping us. A new study also came out with the controversial finding that feeding peanut products to children under the age of one can actually reduce their risk of developing a peanut allergy.

Scientists also examined the relationship between exercise and appetite, with surprising results.

Environment

Climate change and its effects were major issues in the news worldwide this year. Huge portions of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef were declared dead in what scientists called an ecological disaster. In Mexico, increasing temperatures caused the city to dig deeper and deeper for water, which led to sinkholes and cave-ins. China faced its worst drought in history over the summer, and in September, a massive oil spill devastated several of Greece’s most beautiful beaches.

Here in the United States, President Trump drew worldwide criticism for pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, making the U.S. one of only two nations not participating in the agreement. Hundreds of U.S. cities and mayors responded by pledging to continue the fight against climate change, with California leading the way. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continued to loosen environmental restrictions and protections. For example, the Bureau of Land Management made portions of Dinosaur National Park available to private oil companies for drilling.

But the news wasn’t all bad. On a positive note, scientists discovered a possible solution to the problem of plastic bag pollution: wax worms, whose bodies are able to digest and break down plastic. The U.S. government also spent $40 billion to build a facility off the coast of Oregon to study wave energy, or renewable power generated by ocean waves.

Dig Deeper After Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, hundreds of cities nationwide signed their own environmental pledges. Was yours one of them? If you’re not sure, use internet resources to find out.