Here Are The Ten Most Spectacular And Inspiring Scientific Breakthroughs Of 2017

Not all of the best discoveries involved the stars, but hey, it's hard not to be inspired by the dance of the cosmos. MarcelClemens/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 01 Jan 2018, 20:34

For most people, 2017 felt like the longest, most arduous year in recent times. Alternative Facts became popular. Fatbergs terrorized our streets. A sudden surge in Szechuan sauce demands triggered an embarrassing outpouring of confused rage.

Yes, this year, in some respects, was awful; it was like reality had malfunctioned, or that we had found ourselves in the darkest possible timeline.

Science, however, has something to say about that. Researchers across the planet have been working their proverbial butts off this year, as they always have done, to decipher another part of this beautifully bonkers universe we find ourselves in – and although some discoveries were somewhat scary, many have been uplifting, enlightening, or just downright awesome.

Picking a top 10 in this regard isn’t easy, and this is by no means a definitive list. We couldn’t resist giving it a go, though, so here, in no particular order, is a selection of scientific findings in 2017 that will maybe, just a little, give you a tiny bit of hope.

1 – A Neutron Star Merger Was Observed For The Very First Time

Let’s start with a truly colossal bang, shall we? The detection of gravitational waves may have been 2016’s story – one that was given the Nobel Prize in Physics just this year – but hey, science moves fast and even more exciting developments have happened since.

An artist's impression of a neutron star collision. ESO/L. Calcada/M. Kornmesser

It was announced this October that, earlier this summer, the LIGO and VIRGO houses of astrophysical wizardry made the fifth detection of gravitational waves. Not only was the signal the longest and most potent to date, but all evidence pointed towards the ripples being caused by a neutron star collision, an observation that has proved elusive for a considerably long time.

A new era in astronomy has begun – which is the second time in two years that can confidently be stated.

2 – A Dinosaur Was So Well Preserved It Looks Like A Geological Medusa

Finding a well-preserved, fully-articulated dinosaur is about as rare as meeting someone who thinks that jet lag is just splendid, but hey, from time to time, a proverbial miracle occurs.

Last year, it was announced that the first fossilized dinosaur brain was serendipitously discovered by researchers. This year, we got something even better: a 110-million-year-old nodosaur, who was found with half of its skin and armor near-perfectly preserved. Found in 2011, it was publically revealed, named, and exhibited for the first time in 2017.

This ancient herbivore was found in an environment that once used to be far out to sea. It appears that it died and was buried in mud, which prevented normal biodegradation from taking place. This meant its skin became mineralized rather than breaking down, which turned it into a remarkable petrified monster.

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