Science: Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2008

With the year 2008 wrapping up to an end, the Journal of Science has released its annual list of top ten scientific breakthroughs of 2008 in their December 19th issue.  

  1. Cellular Reprogramming:  A method that produces "made-to-order" cell lines by reprogramming cells from ill patients.   As this was number one on their list, there is an article that provides more detail on it: Breakthrough of the Year: Reprogramming Cells 
  2. Exoplanets:  Using a special telescope techniques, for the first time the astronomers were able to directly observe planets orbiting other stars.
  3. Expanding The Catalog Of Cancer Genes:  Researchers have been able to sequence genes from two deadliest cancer cells, pancreatic cancer and glioblastoma.  They turned up dozens of mutations that remove the brakes on cell division and send the cell down the path to cancer.
  4. New Mystery Materials:  An entirely new second family of high-temperature superconductors were discovered. These materials consisted of iron compounds instead of copper-and-oxygen-compounds.
  5. Watching Proteins At work:  It was a pleasant surprise for the biochemists to watch proteins bind to their targets, switch a cell’s metabolic state and contribute to a tissue’s properties.
  6. Toward Renewable Energy On Demand:  In order to store excess energy generated from part-time sources like wind and solar power, researchers have found a new promising tool using a "cobalt-phosphorus catalyst".
  7. The Video Embryo:  In 2008, researchers observed in unprecedented detail the dance of cells in a developing embryo, recording and analyzing movies that trace the movements of the roughly 16,000 cells that make up the zebrafish embryo by the end of its first day of development.
  8. "Good" Fat, Illuminated:  Scientists have been able to morph "good" brown fat, which burns "bad" white fat to generate heat for the body, into muscle and vice versa.  This has led to a new approach to treat obesity…
  9. Calculating The Weight Of The World:  Physicists have been successful in calculating the mass of proton and neutron from the standard model which describes most of the visible universe’s particles and their interactions.
  10. Faster, Cheaper Genome Sequencing: Researchers have been able to report a sequencing technology that is much cheaper and speedier.  The technique can be applied from woolly mammoths to human cancer patients.

For more information, check out the special section that report on the top breakthrough and nine runners-up.   Online extras include an online video presentation and a special Breakthrough edition of the Science Podcast.

We Are Entering A New Era of Space Exploration

The moon is going to get crowded over the next few decades.  According to announced plans the major space players (U.S., Russia, and ESA) are all planning lunar missions.   However, what is really new is the increasing space exploration interests of Asia countries (Japan, China, and India) and the potential of private firms entering the space race to establish lunar bases.

Asia Activity.  At present, there are three spacecraft orbiting the Moon…and all of them are Asian: Japan’s Kaguya, China's Chang’e-1, and India’s Chandrayaan 1

  • Japan's Kaguya (in orbit since October 2007) has since finished much of its main work, which included studying the moon's gravitational field and extensive image mapping..  Presently, Kayuga is on its extended mission. 
  • China’s Chang’e -1, (in orbit since November 2007) seems to have completed mapping the lunar surface.  Chang’e 2 will be launched in 2011.  Eventually, Chang'e-3 is will bring back samples of the Moon to Earth.
  • India’s Chandrayaan-1 (in orbit since November 8, this year) is carrying eleven payloads; five pieces of equipment from ISRO and six from abroad, including that of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).  This is India's first unmanned spacecraft to orbit the moon.  The mission is scheduled to last two years, prepare a three-dimensional atlas of the moon and prospect the lunar surface for natural resources, including uranium, according to the Indian Space Research Organization.  The moon mission, in addition to demonstrating technological capacity, can potentially yield commercial gains for India's space program.  More on the mission here:  http://www.isro.org/Chandrayaan/htmls/home.htm   

Private Activity.   The Google Lunar X PRIZE is a $30 million international competition to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth.  Teams must be at least 90% privately funded and must be registered to compete by December 31, 2010.  The first team to land on the Moon and complete the mission objectives will be awarded $20 million; the full first prize is available until December 31, 2012.

Why all the interest in the moon?   One big reason is that the moon can be a critical resource for the Earth, being composed of some of the most important elements: 42% oxygen, 13% iron, 21% silicon plus others.  Another reason is that the moon can serve as an excellent base to launch future missions to other planets, including Mars.  

Eventually, this will all lead to some emerging business opportunities for private firms, including space travel for consumers.

For more on the moon….

Baseline.com: Top IT Trends for 2009

In light of today's economic environment, many organizations will be looking for ways to cut people, resources and budgets.  At the same time, forward-thinking enterprises will turn to IT to help them maintain and enhance their competitive advantage in the marketplace.  According to an article I found in Baseline.com, "the following technologies are likely to shape IT and business organizations in the coming year".

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS)
  2. Virtualization
  3. Enterprise Mobility
  4. Energy-Efficient Data Centers
  5. Security, Risk and Compliance
  6. Social Networking
  7. Web 2.0
  8. Document Management and E-Discovery
  9. Project Management and Project Portfolio Management
  10. Web and Video Collaboration

If you want to read the full article, I found this list of IT Trends for 2009 in an article at Baseline.com.

You can download a  PDF version of the article here.

IBM’s Next 5 in 5

Last week, IBM published the third annual "IBM Next Five in Five" list.  This is becoming an annual list (check out the 2007 list here) that describes innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years.  The Next Five in Five list is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible.  

Here is IBM's 2008 list

  1. Energy saving solar technology will be built into asphalt, paint and windows.  The enabling technology for this will be “thin-film” solar cells, a new type of cost-efficient solar cell that can be 100 times thinner than silicon-wafer cells and produced at a lower cost. 
  2. You will have a crystal ball for your health.  In the next five years, your doctor will be able to provide you with a genetic map that tells you what health risks you are likely to face in your lifetime and the specific things you can do to prevent them, based on your specific DNA – all for less than $200
  3. You will have your own digital shopping assistants.  In the next five years, shoppers will increasingly rely on themselves – and the opinions of each other – to make purchasing decisions rather than wait for help from in-store sales associates.
  4. Forgetting will become a distant memory.  In the next five years, it will become much easier to remember what to buy at the grocery store, which errands need to be run, who you spoke with at a conference, where and when you agreed to meet a friend, or what product you saw advertised at the airport. That's because such details of everyday life will be recorded, stored, analyzed, and provided at the appropriate time and place by both portable and stationary smart appliances.
  5. You will talk to the Web…and the Web will talk back.  In the future, you will be able to surf the Internet, hands-free, by using your voice – therefore eliminating the need for visuals or keypads. New technology will change how people create, build and interact with information and e-commerce websites – using speech instead of text

As I have been researching and analyzing the cloud computing topic this year, I believe all five of these opportunities above will be enabled by the cloud.  All the data required by these services will be stored in the cloud and the services themselves will be cloud services. 

For more information, check out the IBM press kit Next 5 in 5 online press kit – 2008 where you can also download pdfs on each of the 'Five'.  You can also watch a Next 5 in 5 video on YouTube.