This year’s scientific achievements, such as the spectacular debut of the James Webb Space Telescope and the development of perennial rice varieties: Dong-A Science

Science Announces Top 10 Breakthrough

The James Webb Space Telescope imaged galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. Courtesy of NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCI

Science selected a space image sent by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in July as an innovative achievement in the scientific world this year. This is the first achievement of JWST, which was launched in December of last year.

The international journal Science published on the 15th (local time) 10 important achievements (top 10 breakthroughs) in science this year, including the achievements of the JWST.

On July 11, with millions watching live, US President Joe Biden released the first image sent to Earth by the JWST. The whole world cheered at the image of the galaxy 13 billion years ago. It boasted the highest resolution among all space photos taken so far.

JWST’s debut was not an easy journey from the start. 10 billion dollars (13.89 trillion won) was invested to achieve the current success. It is the most ‘expensive’ space mission in history. It took 20 years to build a telescope on Earth. The original launch plan was in 2007, but the schedule was delayed several times due to technical errors and the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19, Corona 19), and was launched on December 25 last year in time for Christmas. The telescope flew 1.5 million km for about a month and began its mission in earnest after arriving at the Lagrangian point, which is not affected by gravity.

The first deliverables the JWST sent to Earth were just the beginning. While looking into the universe with an aperture three times larger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, he succeeded in observing HIB65426b, a planet seven times larger than Jupiter, and photographed Neptune’s rings 33 years after Voyager 2. Thousands of astronomers around the world are struggling right now to analyze the data being sent back to Earth by the James Webb Space Telescope. The performance of the telescope is expected to last until 2040, so it is difficult to even guess how many secrets of the universe can be solved in the meantime.

In addition, Science has selected scientific achievements that will be of great help to mankind. In November of this year, after more than 20 years of efforts, a research team from Yunnan University in China developed a perennial rice variety, ‘PR23’, and published it in the international journal ‘Nature Sustainability’. It is a variety that can be grown without the need to replant for each harvest. It is expected that farmers around the world will be able to save the trouble of growing young rice seedlings every spring and transplanting them to rice fields.

Proving the performance of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine is also an important achievement. RSV usually causes flu-like symptoms, but in infants, the virus is known to be dangerous because the virus can inflame the airways. Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) each showed in large clinical trials that their candidate vaccines could protect infants and the elderly from infection. Candidate vaccines are expected to be approved by regulatory authorities around the world next year.

The results of a study showing that the Epstein-Barr virus (blue) increases the chances of getting multiple sclerosis was published in the international journal Nature in January this year.  STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SCIENCE SOURCE

The results of a study that found that the Epstein-Barr virus (blue) increases the chances of getting multiple sclerosis was published in the international journal Nature in January this year. STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SCIENCE SOURCE

Earlier this year, the fact that the Epstein-Barr virus plays an important role in multiple sclerosis, a disease in which the immune system attacks neurons, was published in the international journals ‘Nature’ and ‘Science’ respectively in January. Science stressed the importance of this achievement, saying, “Developing drugs that target the virus could make multiple sclerosis disappear like polio.”

Interesting biological findings were also noted. Thiomargarita magnifica, which is 5,000 times larger than normal microorganisms, was discovered. These microorganisms are about 1 cm long and can be observed with the naked eye. It is known that the microbe has three times as many genes as a normal microbe and has a much more complex internal structure. It was a discovery that shook the traditional classification system of organisms divided into eukaryotes and prokaryotes.

Tiomargarita magnifica is a gigantic microorganism that is about 1 cm long and can be observed with the naked eye.  Powered by TOMAS TYML

Tiomargarita magnifica is a gigantic microorganism that is about 1 cm long and can be observed with the naked eye. Powered by TOMAS TYML

The fact that the Black Death, which killed half of the European population about 700 years ago, left traces in the Europeans’ genes was also selected as an important achievement. In October of this year, the international academic journal ‘Nature’ published a study that found that Europeans had genetic mutations that enhance the immune response to the plague mediator bacteria as they went through the Black Death epidemic. This is a good example of how natural selection leads to evolution.

The latest environmental DNA analysis results published in Nature last week were also listed. A research team from the University of Cambridge in England analyzed environmental DNA collected from the northern part of Greenland and succeeded in recreating the Greenland ecosystem 2 million years ago. Environmental DNA is the genetic material of organisms collected from various environments such as soil, water, and air, and is a method that allows researchers to analyze genes in an environment where they cannot directly contact organisms.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has succeeded in changing the orbit of the asteroid Dimorphos through the DART project.  Courtesy of NASA/JOHNS HOPKINS APL

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has succeeded in changing the orbit of Dimorphos, a satellite of the asteroid Didymos, through the DART project. Courtesy of NASA/JOHNS HOPKINS APL

The DART project, humanity’s first asteroid impact test conducted in September, was also selected. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted an experiment to see if it could change its orbit by colliding a refrigerator-sized satellite into Dimorphos, the satellite of the asteroid Didymos, at 6 km/sec. It was analyzed that the Dart spacecraft succeeded in shortening the orbit of the satellite by about 32 minutes. It was a great success, achieving 26 times the goal originally set by NASA.

In addition, Science cited the fact that the United States’ climate law, which allows subsidies for renewable energy such as solar power, was passed as an important achievement. The United States accounts for a large share of global greenhouse gas emissions, but this is the first time it has passed a law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, ‘DALL-E 2’, an artificial intelligence (AI) program of Open AI that has a function of converting text into images, was also selected as one of the top 10 achievements.

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