Dec
08
2006

What are the most important science stories of 2006?

What stood out in the crowd?
What stood out in the crowd?

Well, 2006 is nearing its end and that means it's time for those always fun end of year lists. So what science discoveries, news stories, scandals, or events were the most important of 2006. Post your ideas as a comment and we will turn the list into a poll where people can vote which ones were the most groundbreaking. I 'heart' community created lists.

I'll add my suggestions as a comment, you should to.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Global warming and whether we need to take immediate, drastic action to slow it down. Tied to global warming is the health of our oceans (phytoplanton and their function pertaining to carbon dioxide balance).

posted on Fri, 12/08/2006 - 1:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Global warming does NOT exist.

posted on Fri, 12/08/2006 - 8:28pm
Joe's picture
Joe says:

I would agree that global warming is the biggest story of this year, and will likely be the biggest story for several more years to come. And I would disagree with the above comment. Our current Scientist on the Spot makes a great point about this:

Let’s say that a majority of scientists from around the world agreed that something we were doing as a world, or nation, or state, had the potential to cause unbelievable harm and could potentially displace or kill millions of people. Would you take the chance that they were wrong and do nothing? Or, would you try to get more information and ACT as if the worst was possible?

Well said. The steps we need to take to slow or stop global warming are not difficult in and of themselves - so why not take them? Even if global warming does not exist (and again, I'll stand with scientists who say it does) the steps we'd take to slow or stop it are beneficial in a lot of other ways, so where's the harm?

posted on Sat, 12/09/2006 - 4:16pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

First, global warming is real -- in the sense that the Earth's average temperature rose from about 1980 to about 1996, and has stayed at or near that high level ever since. That is a well-established fact. However, as I have argued elsewhere, the term "global warming" is also used to refer to the theorized cause-and-effect link between human activity (mostly carbon emissions) and rising temperatures. Many scientists accept this link; many others do not.

Which leads me to the Scientist on the Spot's point. It doesn't matter what a majority of scientists say. It matters what the facts say. Science isn't a democracy. Everybody could believe something, and everybody could be wrong. The history of science is full of things that everybody "knew" were true, but weren't. Will the global warming cause-and-effect be one of them? I don't know. I do know that the issue won't be settled by appeals to authority. It can only be settled by appeals to evidence.

And, finally, I have to disagree with Joe's last statement. I have seen studies which argue that implementing the changes necessary to reduce human carbon emissions by any meaningful amount would cost trillions of dollars; would cripple the world economy; and would condemn millions, perhaps billions, of people to lives of poverty and misery. All to solve a "problem" which some evidence says isn't even real. That to me seems to be a greater risk.

posted on Wed, 12/13/2006 - 3:54pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

What a coincidence! For, just today, I got the January issue of Discover magazine in the mail. Their cover story -- the ONE HUNDRED top science stories of the year! Their top ten:

1) alternative energy goes mainstream
2) Tissue engineering triumph: lab-grown bladders
3) Cosmic collision brings dark matter into view
4) gorbal warmering
5) epigenetics (inheritance of traits through means other than DNA)
6) custom-made lifesaving microbe (produces anti-malarial drug)
7) Neanderthal genome
8) proof of the Poincare conjecture
9) Tiktaalik, Canadian fossil linking fish to tetrapods
10) Pluto's demotion

Other items I thought were noteworthy:

11) neural implants
16) quantum teleportation
25) face transplant
27) vaccine for cervical cancer
29) DDT is back
32) invisibility cloak

posted on Fri, 12/08/2006 - 5:55pm
Julia Schopick's picture

I don’t know if you will agree with me that this is an important “science” story, but you did say that it would be appropriate to include “scandals” here.

In 2006, I was both fascinated and troubled by the media attention that resulted from David Armstrong’s shocking disclosure in the “Wall Street Journal” that the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) had published articles about pharmaceutical studies whose physician/authors had serious financial ties to the drug industry – financial ties which they had failed to disclose.

Even more disturbing is the fact that, when confronted, these physician/researchers didn’t seem to understand the reasons WHY they should have disclosed their financial ties. I was so struck by this that I wrote a 3-part article, “The JAMA Controversy” (http://301url.com/jama-all), for my blog/website, honestmedicine.com, in which I expanded on a very important disclosure made by Armstrong: that JAMA actually used Video News Releases (VNRs, or “fake news”) to publicize its now-controversial studies.

If it is possible to nominate a journalist as the top medical/science journalist of 2006, I nominate David Armstrong. His two wonderful articles may be found at http://301url.com/wsj_jama1 and http://301url.com/wsj_jama2.

Thank you very much.
Julia Schopick
http://www.honestmedicine.typepad.com

posted on Sat, 12/09/2006 - 12:28am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

I would expand the global warming concept to it becoming a more main-stream issue for peopel to talk about these days. I think the hardcore scientific community has been very aware of this issue for a long time. More and more common folk are starting to understand the science behind all this, and that there is a lot more to it than what the daily high and low temperatures are during the television weathercasts.

posted on Mon, 12/11/2006 - 11:01am
Vitaliy's picture
Vitaliy says:

I think the most importent science story is that scientists are researching now for a planet that humans have a chance to survive. The reason for this research is very obvious! The Earth is "wear out".

posted on Mon, 12/11/2006 - 10:32pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

As long as we're compiling year-end lists, here's Popular Mechanics' list of 10 technologies you will need to know in 2007.

posted on Fri, 12/15/2006 - 1:56am
bryan kennedy's picture

Science magazine has listed a giant discovery in mathematics as the most important science story of the year.
Grigory Perelman was able to solve the century old math problem called the Poincare Conjecture. I had never even heard of the Poincare Conjecture and after reading about it for a while I can't say I can explain it any better than a half hour ago. But it fascinating to think about a math problem so complex that the smartest people in the world haven't been able to figure it out for more than a 100 years.

Science magazine also listed a series of other breakthroughs as their most important stories.

  1. The Poincare Conjecture. Reclusive Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman apparently solved the venerable mathematical problem.
  2. Digging out fossil DNA. Researchers used new techniques to sequence more than one million bases of nuclear DNA from a Neanderthal.
  3. Shrinking Ice. Glaciologists discovered that the world's two great ice sheets were indeed losing water to the oceans - at an accelerating pace.
  4. From sea to land. Details emerged of a 375-million-year-old fish that fills an evolutionary gap between sea creatures and land animals.
  5. The Ultimate Camouflage. A British-American team built a "metamaterials" cloaking device, that rendered an object invisible to microwaves.
  6. Ray of Hope. Clinical trials show the drug ranizumab improved the vision of about one-third of patients with an age-related condition that causes degeneration in vision.
  7. The road to speciation. Studies on the fruit fly and on butterflies aided our understanding of how species arise.
  8. Beyond the light barrier. New microscopy techniques allowed biologists to get a clearer view of the fine structure of cells and proteins.
  9. The Persistence of Memory. Neuroscientists provided insights into how the brain records new memories.
  10. Small molecules. Researchers reported a new class of small RNA molecules that shut down gene expression.
posted on Thu, 12/28/2006 - 3:14pm
Mary's picture
Mary says:

Although probably not the most important in terms of scientific impact, one of the most interesting stories was Pluto's demotion from planet. As an elementary teacher, I can tell you that many kids were tuned into this story. It showed that science 'facts' can and do change, that scientists are not infallible, and it got many kids more interested in astronomy.

posted on Mon, 01/01/2007 - 12:30pm

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