The 21st century is now a teenager. We prospered. We suffered. But most of all, we survived. Here’s to 2012 and the year ahead. 2012 was a remarkable year, especially for science. There were world firsts and breakthroughs. The story of the Higgs boson definitely made the top of many lists. The relentless march of scientific progress is always long and 2013 will mark another chapter.
Where will the science firsts and breakthroughs come from? Of course we can never predict where the big science stories will come from. And that is part of the beauty. But at least 2012 has told us where to look.
The NASA Mars rover Curiosity still treks on. NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity during a two-year prime mission to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. So there are still much to discover on the red planet. Curiosity explores the Glenelg region during the early part of the year. Then it will venture on, a 6 to 9 month journey across the martian landscape taking in the sights and seeing what is there to discover.
In 2013 expect the comet Ison to garner some column inches towards the back end of the year. In early 2013 October it will pass very near Mars and possibly be visible to rovers and orbiting spacecraft. The newly discovered comet could develop a spectacular tail, becoming as bright as the full Moon as it passes by our Sun. The comet is currently falling toward the Sun from between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. There is a chance it won’t survive this encounter. Whatever survives will then pass nearest the Earth in late 2013 December.
In 2012, disaster relief made prime time news. In our ever-changing climate, disasters are becoming more of a recurring topic. Hopefully, 2013 will give us a little bit more foresight in this department. We have to mitigate better, and lessen the damage and destruction of human life.
In 2013, we shall eradicate guinea worm. Polio is also on the list, but progress is slow on that one. Smallpox, rinderpest, and guinea worm makes three. More remarkable than the other two because we will do it without any cure or drug treatment. Our science has produced no miracle cure, no vaccine, no treatment, and yet guinea worm will be gone.
We are constantly at the frontiers of science and we don’t know quite what to expect. What we can be sure of is that as the news breaks, the science will be covered by bloggers and journalists, at both ends of this new media scale. The science writing ecosphere has seen very little change in 2012. The furniture was rearranged as some writers found new homes for their blogs. But for the most part, the living room stayed the same. If anything there was a proliferation of new voices to add to the mix. PLoS Blogs added a nice mix of public health bloggers to their roster. Mind the Science Gap continues to prove to be a great experiment in letting new voices into the science writing game. A new batch of bloggers takes to its site in January for another 10 week stint. Certainly here at Australian Science we’ve added a long list of new bloggers. Expect this to continue.
So here’s looking forward to what 2013 has in store.