7 epic science discoveries you probably missed in 2017
1. Two super-quality black hole "dance"
In June, a large team of hard-working astronomers finally observed something that had been in the works for more than two decades - a pair of orbiting supermassive holes roughly 750 million light years from Earth. It's a theoretical event that should happen after the merging of two galaxies, but until this year, nobody had evidence of it actually happening. And now we do.
2. Slow animals is the ultimate winner
We already knew that tardigrades are seemingly indestructible, seeing how they can survive being desiccated, extreme heat, extreme cold, and even the vacuum of space. And a study published this year established that tardigrades could survive nearly any apocalypse hurled at us, whether a gamma ray burst or an asteroid impact.
3. Earth's life may come from meteorites
A study spanning research from astrophysics to chemistry and geology has given more weight to the hypothesis that the very first ingredients for life on our planet travelled here through space. The team says that as space rocks splashed into warm, slushy ponds on the surface of Earth, molecules arranged in just the right way to produce RNA polymers.
4. The Martian will snow
In August, planetary scientists revealed something bizarre about Mars's weather patterns - turns out that during the night, there are severely intense snowstorms happening on the planet, basically pelting it with tiny chunks of ice. Given how little water there is, we sure didn't expect that.
5. A century old drug has worked wonders for autism
For the first time ever, a medication that's normally used for treating sleeping sickness was tried in a pilot study on a group of boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The results were absolutely astonishing - after just a single dose, their ASD symptoms significantly improved.
6. Diabetes has a major breakthrough
In April, researchers announced they'd found a brand new type of insulin-producing cell that's been hiding in plain sight, right within the pancreas. These 'virgin beta cells' have opened up new avenues for scientists who are trying to understand type 1 diabetes, and are working to come up with new, better treatments.
7. The physicist cracked the riddle of "Rupert's tears"
Prince Rupert's Drops are these baffling droplets that can be made by dripping molten glass into water. The resulting tear-shaped baubles are incredibly strong on the thick end - you can smack them with a hammer or shoot with a gun, and they won't break. But all you have to do is snap the tail of the droplet, and suddenly the whole thing bursts apart. For around 400 years, researchers have been trying to figure out why that happens. And now we finally know - what a time to be alive!