2016 may have been a turbulent time for politics, and lately people online have been excessively anthropomorphising 2016 and shouting abuse at it anytime a celebrity dies. I don’t think this is the correct forum to discuss politics, and as for the latter point I would suggest, if anything, expressing your condolences in a more constructive, more respectful and frankly less disturbing way.
Despite all of this, there have been many great achievements in 2016. Physics has been one of the victors this year, and its triumphs can been seen through the discoveries made by scientists all around the world. Here, in no particular order, are what I consider to be the greatest discoveries in physics of 2016.
- Gravitational Waves – 100 years ago Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted the transport of energy through gravitational waves. These waves are ripples in space-time and were detected by LIGO this February. he blogger for Natural Sciences, wrote about this a few days after the discovery, if you want to read the blog click here.
- Possible Habitable Planet Next Door – Proxima Centauri is our closest neighbouring star at 4.2 light years away. In August ESO announced that they had found a potential Earth-like planet orbiting this star. It is the closest planet ever discovered in the habitable zone. We currently have no knowledge about its atmospheric composition, so we do not know yet whether the planet hosts liquid water (as far as we know this is a requirement for life).
- Dark Matter Galaxy – Dragonfly 44 is a galaxy similar in size to the Milky way, but is 99.99% dark matter. Since we still do not actually understand what dark matter is this is a very strange discovery and I am excited to see how discoveries like these further our knowledge of dark matter.
- Ten Times More Galaxies than previously thought – A deep sky census conducted by NASA using the Hubble telescope revealed that the universe has ten times the amount of galaxies as previously thought. This is an important discovery because it verifies the top-down theory which describes formation of structure in the universe. Read more about this here.
It has been a great year for physics and I have no doubt that this avalanche of discoveries will continue in 2017.
“Science progresses best when observations force us to alter our preconceptions.”