News / Science & Technology

    Higgs Boson Named Top Science Find of 2012

    Researchers at the CERN physics lab near Geneva, used the $5.5 billion atom smasher, called the Large Hadron Collider, to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson particle.
    Researchers at the CERN physics lab near Geneva, used the $5.5 billion atom smasher, called the Large Hadron Collider, to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson particle.
    Rosanne Skirble
    Each year, editors at Science magazine compile a list of the year’s top achievements in science and technology.

    For 2012, their top pick was the long-anticipated confirmation of the existence of the so-called "God particle," which is believed to be a building block of the universe.

    Science breakthough of 2012

    The confirmation of the existence of a sub-atomic particle known as the Higgs boson was named breakthrough of the year by the prestigious Science magazine.

    The long-sought-after particle - believed to impart mass to all other matter in the universe - was made by researchers at the CERN particle physics lab near Geneva, using the $5.5 billion atom smasher called the Large Hadron Collider.

    • British physicist Peter Higgs, who first theorized the existence of the boson 40 years ago, attends a scientific seminar near Geneva following the discovery of the subatomic particle on July 4, 2012.
    • Researchers working with a $5.5 billion atom smasher at the CERN particle physics lab in Geneva observed the elusive Higgs boson particle, which holds the key to explaining how other elementary particles get their mass. (Maximilien Brice and Claudia Marce
    • A new technique that binds special molecules to single strands of DNA allowed researchers to sequence the complete Neanderthal-related Denisovan genome from a tiny fragment of ancient finger bone. (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
    • Japanese researchers show that embryonic stem cells from mice could be coaxed into becoming viable egg cells. (Katsuhiko Hayashi)
    • Though unable to test their rover’s entire landing system under Martian conditions, mission engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory safely and precisely placed the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
    • A team of physicists and chemists in the Netherlands provided the first solid evidence of the existence of particles that act as antimatter and annihilate themselves. (Mourik, K. Zuo, S. M. Frolov, S. R. Plissard, E. P. A. M. Bakkers, L. P. Kouwenhoven)
    • A new scientific tool gave researchers the ability to activate or alter specific genes in Zebra fish, toads, livestock and other animals, even cells from patients with disease. (Science/AAAS)
    • Researchers used a laser one billion times brighter than conventional X-ray sources to determine the structure of an enzyme required by the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness. (Michael Duszenko, University of Tübingen)
    • A decade-long project found the human genome is more “functional” than believed and may help clarify genetic risk factors for disease in the future. (Sciece/AAAS)
    • The same team that showed how the mind could be used to move a cursor on a computer screen, showed in 2012 that paralyzed human patients could move a mechanical arm and perform complex movements in three dimensions. (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physi
    • Hundreds of researchers in China described how elusive particles called neutrinos, born in the sun’s nuclear furnace, morph as they travel to earth at near-light speed. (NASA/SDO/GSFC)

    In a podcast interview on the magazine’s website, Science deputy news editor Robert Coontz said the discovery fills an important gap in our understanding of the physical structure of the universe.

    “The Higgs boson is a fundamental particle that completes physicists’ standard model, which describes all the fundamental particles and the forces with which they interact.”

    Coontz said the discovery, first hypothesized by physicist Peter Higgs 40 years ago, may spark a new round of discoveries in particle physics.

    Science Breakthroughs of 2012
    Science Breakthroughs of 2012i
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    “That’s what the scientists at CERN are going to be looking for," he said, "that beyond the standard model lies this theory; one of them is called ‘super symmetry’ in which every particle in the standard model has another particle that hasn’t been discovered yet.”  

    Matter and anti-matter

    Another major breakthrough listed by Science was further proving the existence of so-called anti-matter particles which annihilate themselves.

    These elusive, short-lived particles may have practical applications in information technology, and the development of the so-called quantum computer.   

    “Computers that are based on things called qubits instead of bits," Coontz said. "So, it could well be that these will turn out to be the key to these super-duper computers unlike anything else we have, and that will be a breakthrough of the year, if it happens. This year all they’ve got is quasi particles that have these properties.”

    Quantum computers would be vastly more efficient at storing and processing data than today’s silicon-chip computers, according to Coontz.

    Denisovan genome

    An ancient finger bone found in a Siberian cave, believed to be from an extinct early human species known as Denisovan, made the Science list in 2011 and again this year.

    Last year, DNA was extracted from the fossilized bone. This year, researchers managed to sequence the complete genome using a new technique that revealed as much genetic detail as could be obtained from a living person.  

    The genome allowed scientists to construct the profile of a three-year-old girl with brown hair, brown eyes and brown skin who lived about 80,000 years ago, who had a similar genetic makeup to people who today live in parts of Asia and the Pacific.

    “They find out that some of them have Denisovan genes in them and that means that our ancestors interbred with some of them,” Coonz said.

    Brain machine interface

    The research team that previously showed how the mind could be used to move a cursor on a computer screen demonstrated an even greater feat in 2012.  

    They showed that people paralyzed by injuries or disease could use their minds to move an electro-mechanical arm, with their thought-impulses conducted over wires surgically implanted in their brains.

    “The progress that took place in 2012 is very hopeful, and I’m sure that we’ll see a lot more," Coonz said. "Now that they’ve managed to make this technology work, it will just get cheaper and better and more graceful and more useful as time goes by.”

    Other achievements

    Among the year’s other major advances recognized by the Science editors was the ingenious landing system that enabled NASA’s car-sized Curiosity rover to set down, flawlessly, on the surface of Mars.

    Also, there's a new instrument which gives scientists the ability to alter genes in fish, toads and other animals.

    Additionally, the list includes a laser that's one billion times brighter than conventional x-rays. The scanning technology was used to determine the structure of an enzyme required by the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness, raising hope for new treatments.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Antigonus from: Austin, TX
    December 28, 2012 2:39 PM
    There is a lot of pressure to find something after spending 10 billion dollars on equipment. Hence two independent teams were formed on the premise that they would not be able to duplicate the others numbers even if someone succumb to that temptation.

    It is a very simple and effective form of checks and balances.

    The two teams had different numbers. These numbers were not within margins of experimental error.

    We can not yet say the Higg's Boson was found.
    In Response

    by: E Raab from: Los Angeles, CA
    December 30, 2012 7:43 PM
    With the numbers being accurate to 99.99994 %, that appears to put to rest any doubt about the existence of the particle. Einsteins theory also has been put to the test in experiments LONG after it could not be disputed as fact, so there is nothing wrong with continually validating 'theory'. The only "pressure" to produce results comes from those who doubt however incontravertable the evidence is.
    In Response

    by: Cranksy from: USA
    December 30, 2012 12:43 AM
    Antigonus, I have a hunch you are well-qualified to comment on this matter. Your comment seems complete, but if it worthwhile to elaborate please do so to the extent that VOA will let you.
    In Response

    by: Matthew
    December 28, 2012 4:28 PM
    Sounds like someone doesn't like the standard model.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    December 28, 2012 3:32 PM
    WOW!!!!! we need to quit reporting as---- FOUND/DISCOVERED---- things that are still being sought!!!!!!!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.