2018 has been a crazy year for pretty obvious reasons. But amidst all the madness, there have been some really incredible things that have happened.
New discoveries have occurred that humanity has never known about previously, things that you didn’t know about either. So what better way to finish off the year than to make you aware of them? And by the way, feel free to tell your friends and family about these and make yourself look extra smart. Here are the 10 craziest discoveries of 2018.
1. Cancer-fighting nanobots.
In a medical procedure that seems to come straight out of an episode of Star Trek, scientists have managed to treat cancerous tumors with, believe it or not, tiny robots.
In February of 2018 researchers from Arizona State University and the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences managed to inject nanometer-sized machines into mice.
The robotic treatment attacks cancer cells, halting the flow of blood to tumors by clotting the blood inside the vessels that tumors feed off of in order to grow. These things literally track down cancer, cut off its food supply, and shrink them down until tumors’ tissues die of what has been compared to a tumor heart attack.
And in other good news, the scientists believe that the procedure can be adapted for multiple cancers. That does sound exciting, but let’s make sure that these little nanobots don’t fall into the wrong hands of an evil genius, because the last thing we need is little robot creatures running around causing mini-heart attacks in people. That’s bad news.
2. A cure for blindness
An amazing breakthrough that was revealed in March of 2018 has the potential to change how many people will one day see the world.
Literally. People suffering from age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, a condition in which the central vision is badly damaged, may not be suffering much longer, as experts in the United Kingdom working at the London Project to Cure Blindness have actually discovered a treatment for it.
The cure is a revolutionary new form of stem cell therapy, which has successfully reversed much of the damage in at least two patients. AMD is currently the most common cause of people becoming blind, but doctors claim this brand new treatment could be restoring those same people’s sight on a wide scale within just five years. That is huge! But I’m still waiting for a pill or some sort of ability to be able to eat whatever I want and not gain a pound, ’cause your boy has an inner fat kid and he breaks loose.
3. Anti-aging in mice
Since the first human beings reached old age and felt its effects, we as a species have been searching for that fabled Fountain of Youth. But instead of energy drinks or anti-wrinkle creams, science may be close to a way to actually reverse aging.
In March of 2018 a study was published by researchers from Harvard Medical School, which revealed that they had reversed a sign of aging in mice. Through their work of manipulating a gene associated with the growth of new blood vessels, the team discovered a chemical compound that can directly stimulate it.
The drug improved endurance in the older mice by more than 56% and increased their muscle blood vessel growth to one that mimicked younger mice. Anti-aging drugs could literally be right around the corner. Oh, that’s good, longer-living people. That won’t hurt the overpopulation problem on Earth.
4. The holy grail of paleontology
In September of 2018 a group of Australian scientists managed to finally identify a fossil that’s been stumping experts since its discovery in 1947. Found near the White Sea in Russia, this 5.1 centimeter-long oval-shaped fossil with symmetrical ribs was given the name Dickinsonia.
The creature died in a place that, back then, was a great ocean, meaning it was more than likely an aquatic creature, or at least able to survive in ancient waters. “Dick”insonia went unclassified for over seven decades but has finally been proven to be an animal. It’s considered to be the holy grail of paleontology, as Dickinsonia is actually an animal that lived 558 million years ago. This makes it the oldest animal ever discovered and likely one of the first complex living things to exist on Earth.
5. The origin of sickle cell anemia
Nearly 250 million people carry the gene responsible for sickle cell anemia, a potentially deadly disorder that affects hemoglobin, a molecule found in red blood cells that transports oxygen all over the body.
It gets its name from the shape that red blood cells form into, specifically sickles of crescents, and symptoms that include serious infections and blood loss.
However, hope may be just around the corner, because in March of 2018 scientists at the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health announced that they had traced the origin of the disease to a single mutation that developed in West Africa 7,300 years, or 259 generations, ago. 300,000 babies are born every day with sickle cell anemia, but now it may be possible to predict how severe their symptoms will be. And from there, perhaps a cure. Who knows? Science is awesome.
6. The Brightest object in the known universe
In July of 2018 it was announced that astronomers in Socorro, New Mexico, had discovered the brightest object in the known universe. Known as P352, the object is a quasar, a massive, extremely bright, active galactic nucleus, or AGN, with a black hole inside of it.
P352 is trillions of times more luminous than our sun. Or at least it was. The quasar is so far away that it would actually be impossible to find out exactly what it looks like at this very moment within our lifetimes. This is due to the fact that although it’s amazingly bright, P352’s light takes 13 billion years just to reach us here on Earth. That means that the quasar is 13 billion light years away.
For that matter, it’s possible another object has stolen the record for brightest object, only it will take billions of years to claim that title.
7. Water On Mars
Humankind has never been closer to proving that there was life on the red planet, as a recent discovery has established that something essential for that life to be possible is very much present.
Namely, water. While the evidence of water having once existed on Mars probably seems like old news, in July of 2018 a group of Italian researchers revealed that they’d found evidence that water exists there right now.
The team was analyzing radar signals from the Mars Express spacecraft’s radar sounder, when they found some bright reflections that they eventually concluded were made by water. The liquid is unfortunately underneath the massive sheet of ice that makes up the planet’s southern pole, and experts say it’s definitely salt water.
This could absolutely mean that there’s really life on Mars. Now, don’t get too excited. It’s probably not little green men in helmets floating around in that water, but it could very well be amoebas, cells, who knows? We gotta work our way up, folks.
8. The earliest drawing by a human ever found
On September 12th, 2018, archeologists announced that the earliest known drawing created by the hands of a homo sapien had been found.
The artwork was discovered inside Blombos Cave, which is around 322 kilometers east of Cape Town, the capital city of South Africa. A seemingly simple place, the drawing consists of nine red lines drawn on a stone flake, and it’s estimated to be around 73,000 years old.
Prior to this, the earliest known drawing by a human being was only around 40,800 years old, a whole 30,000 years younger. According to Christopher Henshilwood, an archeologist from the University of Bergen in Norway, this is the first evidence that humans could draw that far back in history. This could actually shed light on the origin of humanity’s use of symbols to communicate and record information.
Wouldn’t it be funny if there was that one caveman that was like I’m gonna pull a prank and just starts drawing symbols of, like, crazy monsters and aliens to really freak out future humans? Ha ha, oh God that’d be scary.
9. A New Organ in Human Beings
With the number of times that the human body has been examined, it’s hard to believe that there could be an undiscovered organ inside of us. But on March 27th, 2018, an analysis was published in the journal Scientific Reports by doctors from Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, which revealed just that The interstitium is the fluid-filled space that exists between structural barriers, such as cell walls or the skin, and internal structures, such as muscles or parts of the circulatory system.
The fluid inside the interstitium helps nutrients and hi Jill solutes travel around to organs, cells, and capillaries, and scientists believe that they also act as a form of shock absorber, protecting body tissues from becoming damaged.
Though nobody’s identified the interstitium before, it’s actually one of the biggest organs in the body. Side note, and this a bit less scientific, but have you ever thought about how weird your tongue is, like, it’s just like a big muscle hangin’ out your mouth.
10. There are new moons orbiting Jupiter
In July of 2018 it was announced that 12 new moons have been discovered in the planet Jupiter’s orbit. The actual visual confirmation that the masses existed occurred back in March of 2017, when a group of astronomers were attempting to discern the location of Planet Nine, a theoretical planet orbiting our sun on the outskirts of our solar system.
They realized that the technology that they were using, specifically the Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, could give them a better look at the gas giant. So they pointed it at it, only to see a dozen new items out there. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 when the previously documented masses were confirmed to be in fact 12 actual moons.
The discovery brings the total number of moons around Jupiter to 79, far more than any other planet. This could mean a lot of different things. Is there life on there? Are there materials on those moons that we could somehow harvest? Or could we look even further to discover aliens? Mm-hm.