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article imageEssential Science: The top science stories of 2019

By Tim Sandle     Dec 30, 2019 in Science
Digital Journal provides cutting-edge science and technology features throughout the year. We present the pick of 2019, showcasing the latest innovative research, from stormquakes to bioprinting human hearts.
Every year Digital Journal takes a look back at the most interesting science and science related technology news that we’ve reported on (2018’s selections can be viewed here). This year Digital Journal’s science editor has selected one article of interest from each month of 2019.
Soundwaves used to levitate objects to improve surgery
Surgery
File photo: A surgical team from Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, performs ear surgery.
Photo by John Asselin, U.S. Air Force
Our first selection comes from January, where we reported how medical technologists successfully used soundwaves in order to levitate multiple objects. This opens to door for the technology to be used for techniques like surgery, enabling medics to undertake procedures without having to touch parts of the patient directly.
Artificial skin promises enhanced perception
To build better robots artificial skin needs to develop to become more sensitive. In February we discussed a new development where a more sensitive 'skin' has been fashioned. The enhanced sensitivity comes via sensor which has been built to copy the sensing properties of skin to touch and to temperature. The sensor is described as ‘super-sensitive’ because it comes with several additional features, such as the ability to assess for hazards in ‘real-time’.
Yeast can make marijuana compounds
This cannabis plant is being grown in a coco coir medium. It is only making stems and leaves at this...
This cannabis plant is being grown in a coco coir medium. It is only making stems and leaves at this point because it is in the vegetative stage, Image dated January 4, 2016.
Plantlady223 (CC BY-SA 4.0)
From March's stories we noted how biochemists have demonstrated that a type of yeast can be turned into a cannabinoid-producing factory, offering a low-cost and environmentally-friendly means to make cannabis products. This has the potential to produce compounds with a low environmental impact.
Applying AI to predict material properties
Uranium-238 -- the most common isotope of natural uranium -- can be used for the production of pluto...
Uranium-238 -- the most common isotope of natural uranium -- can be used for the production of plutonium-239
, Fars News/AFP/File
The use of artificial intelligence continues to advance and this extends into materials science. In April we learned how AI is being used to predict and engineer material properties. This could lead to creating new materials with special properties. This includes transforming diamonds into more effective semiconductors.
New treatment fully suppresses HIV infection
Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding (in green)
Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding (in green)
C. Goldsmith / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In May we reported on a major study into HIV has found that men with the infection had the virus completely suppressed by antiretroviral drugs. The importance of the study means that if each person with HIV was to be treated, then there would be no further infections and HIV infection could be virtually eliminated from the human population.
Video gamers help to design new proteins
Video gamers are assisting with the design brand new proteins by playing an interactive on-line application called Foldit. We reported in June how citizen scientists are aiding protein researchers to create novel vaccines and cancer therapies.
Would a master algorithm solve all our problems?
Artist s impression of a silicon CMOS architecture for a spin-based quantum computer.
Artist's impression of a silicon CMOS architecture for a spin-based quantum computer.
© Illustration by Tony Melov / UNSW Newsroom
In July we noted that algorithms are with us, from predicting the music we may like to helping with medical diagnosis. This led to a review of some research that ponders that while this technology improves how far can it progress and is there a master algorithm that can unlock all mysteries? This is a a code that could be able to unlock the secrets to a more powerful form of artificial intelligence.
Advance with bioprinting brings 3D-printed hearts closer
File photo: Britain s Prince William (R)  president of the Royal Marsden NHS (National Health Servic...
File photo: Britain's Prince William (R), president of the Royal Marsden NHS (National Health Service) Foundation Trust, watches as head surgeon Pardeep Kumar (L) performs surgery for the removal of a bladder tumour on a male patient during a visit to the Royal Marsden hospital in London November 7, 2013
With permission by Reuters / Lefteris Pitarakis
A new 3D bioprinting method, developed by scientists, is our August pick. The technique pushes the field of tissue engineering closer to being able to 3D print a full-sized, functioning adult human heart.
New ocean-centric approach for detecting climate change
As you can see here melting ice in the Arctic Ocean has contributed to changes in ocean patterns.
As you can see here melting ice in the Arctic Ocean has contributed to changes in ocean patterns.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Climate change is our selection from September. A new study finds that various physical and chemical changes impacting upon the ocean linked with increases to atmospheric carbon dioxide as the result of human activities. The research indicates that over the past thirty years a number of changes have already taken place.
Aspirin combats air pollution on lungs
Beijing issued its first air pollution red alert for 2016 on December 15  with choking smog expected...
Beijing issued its first air pollution red alert for 2016 on December 15, with choking smog expected to cover the city and surrounding areas in north China until December 21
WANG ZHAO, AFP
For October we found out how new research shows that the humble aspirin could help to reduce the adverse impact of air pollution upon the lungs. The effects were assessed against different forms of air pollution, across a 28-day period.
Cartilage re-growth technique to improve osteoarthritis
In humans it's been discovered that cartilage can be re-grown through a process that closely follows the self-repair abilities of salamanders and zebrafish. This could, as our November story revealed, provide the foundation for new approaches to repair joint tissues.
Stormquakes found in powerful oceanic storms
Hurricane Bonnie made landfall in North Carolina  United States  inflicting severe crop damage. The ...
Hurricane Bonnie made landfall in North Carolina, United States, inflicting severe crop damage. The second named storm, first hurricane of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season
NOAA
For December we discussed stormquakes - newly discovered powerful oceanic events which have been categorized as a new meteorological phenomenon. This was based on research centered on the U.S. coastline. These are waves which have an acoustic signal, producing high-frequency signals.
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