2018 Nature's top 10 scientific news

2018 is about to end and we are flooded with summaries: 2018 sports summary, 2018 news summary etc. Nature magazine has published an online audio-visual its top 10 scientific news of 2018 with short explanatory videos and podcasts (link to article). This post presents a summary of the Nature’s top 10, and a respective link to the article.

2018 Nature Top 10 science news

  • The maser goes mainstream. Diamond microwave lasers. A MASER (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) are concentrated beams of energy, similar to lasers (Actually maser was invented before laser), with the difference that masers are based on energy rather than light. This difference provides maser with the unique ability to penetrate cloud cover, living tissue, and other solid materials undisturbed.
  • The mysterious death of the Baobab trees. Baobab trees are the iconic millennial trees of Africa. These trees have been around for thousands of years. However, it was discovered that baobab trees are dying.
  • The tale of the Edith's checkerspot: Butterflies caught in an evolutionary trap. The Edith's checkerspot butterflies from Nevada are experiencing a rapid local extinction due to an evolutionary trap very sensitive to human activities. 
  • Rats versus reefs. Rats have decimated bird populations on certain islands in the Chagos Archipelago. This lack of birds means a lack of fertilising guano, which has not only affected plant life, but the health of surrounding coral reefs as well.
  • Blood, rats and anticoagulants. The story of warfarin. All the anticoagulants are based on warfarin. Few people know that warfarin was developed as rat poison. It may be important to review the history of warfarin.
  • Meet the computer chemist. Computer science has developed an AI-based chemistry robot that is able to perform experiments and search for new reactions.
  • The secret physics of dandelion seeds. Scientists have studied the fluid dynamics of air flow around the seed and discovered a completely new type of flight based on a previously unknown kind of vortex.
  • Nobel laureate Donna Strickland talks lasers and gender. A summary of the laser research that led to the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics in 55 years. 
  • Ion drive: The first flight. A plane powered by an ‘ion drive’ flew for the first time. The drive uses high powered electrodes to ionise and accelerate air particles, creating an ‘ionic wind’. This may be the first step for silent drones and silent planes.
  • The American opioid crisis. Mathematical modelling is being applied to the current opiod crisis in America.
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