In every sphere of life, there is constant change, and despite staying the same, our understanding of it changes as we discover new information. It seems like just as soon as we have added a new fact to our worldview, something else comes along to shake everything to its core. Every day, Science continues to make discoveries, uncover new knowledge, and break new ground as we go about our daily lives. Keeping up with the latest universal software updates can be challenging, but we are here to help.
To be effective, science must be understood or at least appreciated. We have had a buffet of discoveries laid out for us over the last few months of this year, each of which has changed the world and our place in it in some small (or maybe not so small) way. This list cannot encompass all of the latest research from all these months, which tells us how incredible scientists’ work is around the world, but we can give you a taste. These stories will give you some new fun facts to discuss.
Let us get into some of the amazing scientific discoveries of 2022:
The Surface of Mercury is Covered with Diamond Dust
During the 53rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Kevin Cannon explained that recent simulations of Mercury’s surface and impact interactions have revealed that the planet’s surface might be coated in microscopic diamonds.
Mercury was initially surrounded by a magma ocean in its early formation. The magma formed graphite, which eventually rose to the surface and formed a thick floating graphite crust. After the formation of the solar system, the first billion years were punctuated by asteroid impacts, which could have instantly converted graphite to diamonds.
Unlike diamonds on Earth, these would be smaller, clearer gems than what we’re used to seeing in jewellery. There would have been microscopic diamond dust strewn all over the surface rather than diamonds. Mercury’s surface composition could be better understood with future missions, but if these estimates are accurate, Mercury may hold diamond hoards sixteen times larger than those on Earth.
The Merging of Two Black Holes
Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) was built to confirm gravitational waves exist. Space-time waves are essentially ripples caused by huge mass shifts that occur when two black holes collide.
A new observation was published in the journal Physical Review Letters on April 11, 2022, showing a sudden velocity shift after two black holes merge. Because of the merger, the more massive black hole shot off at approximately 5 million miles per hour, according to the news.
Scientists are looking at this merger to better understand how massive objects interact gravitationally. For the newly merged black hole, there are two possible resting places, each with different probabilities. To create better gravitational models, we need to understand how and why it ultimately settles in. Additionally, it can explain how black holes form, such as the one at the centre of our galaxy.
Human Tendons Growing on Robot Skeletons
Nowadays, most transplanted organs or tissues come from living or deceased donors, sometimes even from other parts of the patient’s body. However, in the future, all transplant tissues may be grown from scratch.
Scientists have been trying to grow tendons suitable for transplantation into human patients in laboratory bioreactors for years. Although they have grown tissues successfully, they have not had the same robustness as human cells. That is because naturally grown tissues undergo constant stress. When a person moves around, the tissues are compressed, stretched, and twisted, improving their flexibility and function.
To create more successful tissues, scientists developed a platform that mimicked the motion of the body in the journal Communications Engineering. An artificial supraspinatus tendon was formed by placing a bioreactor atop an artificial shoulder skeleton, which replicated the placement of the Supraspinatus tendon. After 14 days of growth, the shoulder moved around to simulate its natural movement.
An analysis of the transcriptome of the cells after 14 days in the reactor revealed increased flexibility and function. It will take a while for us to be able to grow complete transplantable tendons, but building them on artificial bodies could be a step in the right direction.
Neptune and Uranus have Different Colours
Gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn receive the most attention. There is some logic to this, since Jupiter has a massive storm system and a beautiful ring system, whereas Saturn has a mind-numbingly beautiful ring system. Jupiter is so privileged among the giant planets that they are sometimes called Jovian planets.
Uranus and Neptune, the smallest and most distant of the celestial giants, have some pretty interesting stuff going on in the far reaches of our solar system, despite the preference for the two nearest celestial giants.
The atmospheres of both planets are primarily composed of hydrogen and helium, followed by methane. Methane gives Uranus and Neptune their signature blue colour, even though their atmospheres only contain 2.3% and 1.5% of it, respectively (source: National Weather Service).
Despite being so similar, the two planets have different shades of blue due to haze particles in the middle of their atmospheres. In the atmosphere, methane condenses into snow or ice crystals, which refract light. The exact shade of blue on each planet depends on the amount of atmospheric activity. Due to Uranus’ less atmospheric activity, its methane layer builds up faster, while Neptune’s is clearer. Things might look the same if they were different.
Boosting the Immune System to Fight Cancer
The majority of diseases you will likely encounter will either subside on their own or disappear after a week or two of antibiotics. In the case of Cancer, however, we usually have to bring out the big guns. Typical treatments for cancerous tumours include chemotherapy, radiation, and the removal of parts of the body.
New England Journal of Medicine researchers conducted a study on a specific kind of rectal cancer called MMRd at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Cancers like these spread by tricking the immune system into ignoring them as they grow. Mutations normally trigger an immune response that would wipe out the cells, but MMRd cancers send out a signal that shields them from the body’s defences.
The scientists wondered if it is possible to use the body’s immune system to fight off cancer. As part of the study, 14 patients with MMRd rectal cancer were given Jemperli, an immune checkpoint inhibitor. The study had a small sample size, but the results were remarkable.
It took only a few treatments for the majority of patients to feel better, and by the end of the study, they were all cancer-free and in remission. Furthermore, none of them required radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery. A study is currently being conducted to see if other cancers can benefit from the same or similar treatment.
Also published on Medium.