Some remarkable scientific discoveries were made in the last ten years. As I don't have the illusion to be able to get anywhere near a complete list, I like to share with you my personal (biased) list that highlights five top achievements ranging over various scientific disciplines (in no particular order):
---------- The space probe WMAP (launched in 2001) looked deep into the history of the universe and measured differences across the full sky of the Big Bang's remnant radiant heat to unprecedented accuracy. In doing so, WMAP established not only the current Standard Model of Cosmology, but also rendered cosmology a firm status as a quantitative discipline. ----------
---------- One of the seven Millennium Prize Problems, defined at the start of the century as the biggest remaining mathematical challenges, got solved. In November 2002, Georgi Perelman, a reclusive Russian mathematician, caused a sensation when he published the first of a series of papers on the internet proving the century old Poincaré conjecture. ----------
---------- In physics, the July 2000 announcement of the observation of the tau neutrino by Fermilab's DONUT collaboration springs to mind as one of the significant events of the last decade. Tau neutrinos carry no electric charge and hardly interact with other matter. Whilst the experiment was carried out in 1997, it took three years of painstaking work to identify the tracks revealing a tau lepton and its decay, the key to exposing the tau neutrino's secret existence. This discovery reduced the Standard-model-predicted, but yet-to-be-observed, particles to only one: the Higgs boson. Few physicists doubt that the Higgs will give up its resistance and leave its footprints in the LHC detectors early in the next decade. ----------
---------- The discovery of the fossilized remains of Homo Floresiensis, in 2003 on the Indonesian island Flores, forced us to redefine our recent evolutionary history as being much more diverse than we realized. With a length of just above 1 meter, and a weight estimated at 25 kg, the creature was soon referred to as 'the Hobbit'. Despite its brain size not being bigger than that of a chimpanzee, the hobbit is believed to have used stone tools and fire. Amazingly, this 'Hobbit' coexisted with us as recent as 13,000 years ago. ----------
---------- And last but not least, an important milestone was reached with the completion in 2003 of the human genome project. It is anticipated that the acquired detailed knowledge of the human genome made available via the internet, will provide new avenues for advances in medicine and biotechnology. ----------
These scientific successes set aside, future generations will no doubt earmark the starting decade of the millennium as the decade during which the scientific consensus on global warming got globally accepted as a major concern. As the decade started with the millennium bug issue being exposed as thoroughly overhyped, it is no surprise that climate skeptics argue global warming to be similarly overhyped. As always, history will have the last word.
What scientific discovery do you list highest as top science achievements of the past decade? Are you less impressed by the above top-5? Do you feel that water being observed in significant quantities both on the Moon and Mars will have a much more profound impact on the future of humankind? Or are you of the opinion that the discoveries of Eris, Sedna and Quaoar and the resulting demotion of Pluto was a far more shocking scientific result? Or is it rather the birth of ScientificBlogging that will have a lasting impact? ;)
Feel free to enter your personal top-of-science list below.