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article imageWhat you should know about the top science stories of 2016 Special

By Tim Sandle     Dec 12, 2016 in Science
This year has seen a variety of interesting news stories relating to science. Digital Journal looks back at the year in science and selects the 12 most interesting stories, one from each month of the year, that have made a major impact.
Selecting the top science stories from 2016 hasn't been an easy task. Using a guideline of picking stories with a wide global impact and which have the potential to shape people's lives, one key science story has been highlighted for each month of the year.
Our annual highlights include articles about stress and health, graphene, solar power, diseases associated with ageing, and the weird effects of being in outer space for too long, among other topics of interest.
Untitled
google
One of the most popular stories in January was news that University of Michigan researchers created a polymer sphere capable of delivering a molecule directly into bone wounds. The molecule instructs cells at the injury site to repair the damage. The novel technology was based on a nanoparticle in the form of a polymer sphere. The sphere introduces a molecule into cells that triggers human body cells, located at the site of the bone injury, to initiate repair.
Obesity
Obesity
File photo
In February we highlighted one of the many stories about the microbiome featured on Digital Journal. Here the collection of microbes in our bodies influences our health and well-being. The news item in the winter was about a connection between bacteria that reside in the human gut (specifically toxic by-products) and obesity. The research, somewhat concerning, found the gut microbiota (a descriptor for the microorganisms found in the intestines) affects human metabolism and the wrong balance can lead to weight gain.
Our pick for March relates to psychology. Here we looked at the damaging effects of stress. This related to a study into the effects of long-term stress, which showed how the condition can affect brain inflammation and that this, in turn, affects short-term memory function.
RQ-7 Shadow 200 drone.
RQ-7 Shadow 200 drone.
WisGuard pics/flickr
April focused on one of the big technological innovations in recent years - drones. Drones extend to military use, dropping packages from e-stores like Amazon, and to the home enthusiast. They also bring a scientific benefit. With this, a study has concluded that drones are much more accurate for monitoring the size of seabird colonies in tropical and polar environments. This could lead to a wider application of drones for ecological research.
A photovoltaic (PV) module is a packaged  connect assembly of typically 6×10 solar cells. Solar Pho...
A photovoltaic (PV) module is a packaged, connect assembly of typically 6×10 solar cells. Solar Photovoltaic panels constitute the solar array of a photovoltaic system that generates and supplies solar electricity in commercial and residential applications.
AleSpa
In May we looked into renewable energy, a subject of interest to many people. For this we wrote about solar power: a step forward in the green energy revolution occurred when scientists successfully connected nine biological-solar (or “bio-solar”) cells together within a solar panel. The level of energy generated from this proof-of-concept experiment was described as the highest level of wattage compared with any previously engineered bio-solar cells, at an impressive 5.59 microwatts.
Screenshot of video demo of new Facebook Reactions buttons  posted by Facebook engineer Chris Cox
Screenshot of video demo of new Facebook Reactions buttons, posted by Facebook engineer Chris Cox
Chris Cox, Facebook
June's pick sees a return to psychology, looking into the teenage brain. Here a research study, looking at the brains of teenagers who use social media regularly, found that the responses in the brain to getting lots of "likes" Instagram and Facebook is similar to eating chocolate or other "pleasure responses." This research suggests social media is a powerful influencing force, for good or for bad.
Horrors of my Alzheimer’s nights
Horrors of my Alzheimer’s nights
Neurodegenerative diseases are covered often on Digital Journal for the subject is a concern for many; either people have relatives with conditions like Alzheimer's or they are worried about the growth in rates of dementia as the population lives longer. For July's pick we brought to your attention that Australian researchers found a connection between early onset Alzheimer’s disease and a type of genetic mutation. This could signal a new direction for research into the disease.
Pouring a glass of water
Pouring a glass of water
The wonder material of our age is graphene and this was the subject of August's hot pick. Graphene is a highly conductive material; and one that is lightweight, transparent and very strong. It seen by many scientists as the basis for a new generation of electronics, not only due to its power but also because it can be crumpled and folded. One of the advantages of the graphene oxide is its easy dispersible in water and other organic solvents. This is the basis of a new water filtration system, based on a sponge-like contraption, designed to help people in less developed areas obtain clean water.
Fish oil softgel
Fish oil softgel
Nutricap Labs
A popular science story in September was looking into how science can influence health. Here we reported how, by working with mice, researchers showed that the effects of stroke triggered brain damage can be reduced following injections of omega-3 fatty acids. The study built upon previous studies that have indicated that certain omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in oils from cold-water fish, can reduce inflammation and lower the rate of cell death following oxygen deprivation.
A girl cools off in a fountain in Cordoba on June 29  2015
A girl cools off in a fountain in Cordoba on June 29, 2015
Cristina Quicler, AFP/File
Materials science is the center of our October selection. We featured a new cooling fabric, designed by physicists to keep people cool during summer weather. The basis of the fabric’s properties is infrared radiation. With this, the use of this low wavelength radiation allows the fabric to block visible light, but it also allow body heat to leave the body.
Lac-Megantic train explosion
Lac-Megantic train explosion
YouTube
Nanotechnology is the topic for November. For this we looked at new sensors designed to detect potential bombs and other chemical terror threats; they also have an environmental application too. These new sensors are based on binary metal oxide nanocomposites. The sensors provide enhanced sensitivity to detect environmental pollutants and chemical weapons, where the potential terror threat is poisonous gas.
During the STS-131 mission s first spacewalk  which lasted about 6.5 hours  NASA astronaut Rick Mast...
During the STS-131 mission's first spacewalk, which lasted about 6.5 hours, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio helped move a new 1,700-pound ammonia tank from space shuttle Discovery's cargo bay to a temporary parking place on the station, retrieved an experiment from the Japanese Kibo Laboratory exposed facility and replaced a Rate Gyro Assembly on one of the truss segments.
NASA
For December we looked up and selected a space-related story. This concerned the physical toils on astronauts and the surprising news that every astronaut, who has spent a prolonged time in space, on his or her return has needed glasses soon after landing back on Earth. The reason for this is micro-gravity and the alterations physical forces play on the eye. This isn't just a subject of concern for the current NASA contingent, it's another limiting factor that needs to be overcome should a mission to Mars using a human crew be attempted.
That brings our review of top science stories to a close. Those wishing to compare the selection from previous years 2015's selection and 2014's picks are available on line.
Digital Journal's science coverage continues to develop and to capture the cutting edge news. We would like to thank our readers for supporting the science and technology pages and we will continue to offer high quality and ground breaking stories throughout 2017.
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