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Year in Review — The Coolest Scientific Advancements and Discoveries of 2023

A Definitive Ranking of the Most Important Research and Science News that Happened this Year

By Olivia L. DobbsPublished 2 months ago 16 min read
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Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI (https://webb.nasa.gov/)

2023 has been a tremendous year for science and technology. The rate at which we’re learning and improving is mind-boggling. It’s been such a prolific year for advancement, in fact, that you likely have missed some of the most incredible ways scientists improved our collective knowledge this year. Interested in reminiscing on the incredible advancements this year has brought? Read on below to discover the Top 40 coolest scientific and technological advancements and discoveries that occurred in 2023, definitively ranked.

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40. Gas Stoves Found to be a Major Asthma Risk

At the beginning of 2023, controversy erupted over the now-infamous gas stove. An article published to MDPI Open Access Journals in late December caused regulatory bodies in the United States to assess the health risk further, leading to a massive amount of political and cultural pushback. Since then, the stories have wildly fallen out of the news, but research has continued plodding along on the health of gas stoves — and it’s still not looking great for health.

39. A New Species of Fish, Pyrolycus jaco, Discovered

I’ll be transparent, I’m a little biased toward this entry. Discovered in January in the hydrothermal deep seas of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, this Ray-finned fish (related to lionfishes and sculpins) is unique to this small area of the world. It thrives at the bottom of the ocean, well-adapted to live amongst methane and high-temperature locations rife with volcanic activity. I just think they’re neat.

38. Covid is No Longer Classified as a Global Health Emergency

After 3 incredibly long and stressful years, the WHO declared in May that Covid was no longer a Global Health Emergency. Though the disease is still a concern, it’s important to pause to celebrate our successes. For now, at least, we’re out of the worst of it.

Learn More About the State of COVID:

37. Euclid Launched to Study Dark Matter

In November, the European Space Agency released its first photos from a new space telescope called the Euclid, and they’re truly stunning. Launched to focus on studying dark energy and dark matter, the fascinating beginning of this journey deserves mention — when it discovers more about dark matter, it’ll certainly make its way higher on the list.

36. Parrots Found to Enjoy Video Calling Each Other

I’m so deeply fond of this cute article, I had to include it in the list. A study published in April reported that teaching domesticated parrots to video call each other improved learning and overall well-being among the feathered subjects. It’s fascinating on its own that the birds could be taught to use technology in such a sophisticated manner, but the added fact that they seemingly attempted to communicate with and learn from the birds on the other side of the screen makes this study worth mentioning.

35. Osiris Rex Returns from Bennu and Delivers Samples to Earth

I’ll be honest here, this entry would have gotten a much better spot on the list if the Bennu sample container had been opened much sooner. As of posting this article, the container is still sealed, and scientists have only begun to analyze samples from the exterior of it. Likely in 2024, however, the discoveries of this initiative will make headlines! It’s still notable that the process has begun, and that we did successfully manage to collect samples from an asteroid and safely bring it back to Earth.

Learn More About the Bennu Asteroid:

34. Solar Powered Desalination Makes Excellent Progress

It’s no well-kept secret that water is predicted to become more scarce over the next few decades. Fortunately for us, the field of desalination is making leaps and bounds towards becoming both cost-effective and sustainable. In 2023, research on solar desalination exploded, with sources indicating the tech is nearly feasible to be a water scarcity solution.

33. Artificial Intelligence is used to Design 2.2 Million Crystal Structures

In late November, Google Deepmind released a new AI tool which researchers used to discover millions of theoretical crystal structures. The tool, named GNoME by Google, helped scientists identify novel materials that can potentially be used to improve material efficiency in a wide variety of fields, including renewable energy and computation!

32. Nematode Revived after 46000 years Frozen in Permafrost

46,000 years ago, a Panagrolaimus kolymaensis nematode was frozen in permafrost in Siberia. In 2018, a scientist in Russia thawed out the specimen. By 2023, she published a paper on their successful regeneration in collaboration with an international team. All the nematodes needed was a bit of water, and they set to wriggling like usual. This finding wildly altered the idea of species survival in extreme environments.

31. An Archaeology Discovery Indicates that the First Images Appeared 37000 Years Ago

Human communication is much more ancient than you might realize. Early this year, archaeologists pushed the date back to when humans began depicting figures by engraving and painting after discoveries in 400 caves throughout Europe. They now estimate that Paleolithic humans began creating “non-figurative signs from at least 42,000 years ago and figurative images — notably animals — from at least 37,000 years ago”. If you’re interested in reading more, I recommend checking out the Guardian Article on the topic.

30. Scientists Managed to Redirect Lighting with Lasers

At the very beginning of the year, scientists in Switzerland steered the course of lightning strikes by firing incredibly powerful lasers at thunderclouds. Besides the objective sci-fi coolness of moving lightning around with beams of light, this advancement has incredible potential to be developed into methods of protection against lighting, especially in thunderstorm-prone areas.

29. New Carbon Dioxide Removal Method Developed

At MIT, engineers made quite an exciting breakthrough in carbon dioxide removal. The team involved designed a large battery-like machine that uses the charging and discharging of electrons to pull in CO2 from air, and purely expel it forward across its electrodes. This advancement is considered more energy efficient than other more traditional methods of carbon capture, making Carbon Dioxide capture more feasible and practical for industries.

28. Synthetic Human Embryos Created from Stem Cells

In September, Israeli scientists managed to create synthetic human embryos using only embryonic stem cells. The scientists are optimistic that these synthetically produced fetuses, made without sperm eggs, or a womb, could be used to help researchers better understand early development and genetics disorders.

27. RSV Vaccine Approved for Pregnant Mothers

In August, the U.S. FDA approved a vaccine for pregnant individuals, preventing RSV in infants. This vaccine, called Abrysvo, was the first of its kind approved to be administered to those who are pregnant, resulting in much better preventative measures than was historically precedent.

26. Contraception For Men

Preclinical and clinical trials for male contraceptive drugs showed much promise in 2023. An oral contraceptive that was tested on laboratory mice early in the year saw minimal side effects and effective short-term loss of fertility. Later in the year, another male contraceptive study that uses a topical product neared phase III of clinical trials, the farthest any male contraceptive drug has ever gotten in being approved by the FDA.

25. 62 New Moons of Saturn Observed and Reported

In May, scientists led by Edward Ashton of Taiwan’s Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics reported finding a whole host of small, irregularly sized moons by employing a new method of viewing observational data. Using images from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea, the team’s revelations have revealed that Saturn is the planet in our solar system with the most moons!

24. Scientists Determined How Ankylosaurs Once Sounded

Early in 2023, paleontologists at the Fukushima Museum in Japan published exciting research on dinosaur acoustics. Using a fossilized larynx of an ankylosaur, the first of its kind ever found, the team compared its structure to living relatives’ larynxes and determined that the creatures likely made bird-like coos and chirps, which could be heard over long distances.

23. RNA Recovered from the Extinct Thylacine

2023 truly has been a lovely year for paleontology! For the first time, scientists managed to recover RNA from an extinct species: the Tasmanian tiger. The team, based in Stockholm, believes that this method can be used on other preserved animals in museums across the world, making this a huge advancement in the realm of de-extinction.

22. Ancient Hominid Found to Have [Maybe] Buried Their Dead 300,000 Years Ago

In a cave in southern Africa in 2013, a group of scientists found a compelling collection of bones of an ancient relative: Homo naledi. Based on the depth of the cave, the complexity of digging, and patterns engraved on the walls, some scientists believe that this burying behavior was deliberate. If they’re right, this fact could wildly alter our perception of the intelligence of our extinct ancestors. But, note here that archaeologists are still hammering out the consensus on this one.

21. An Ethical Palm Oil Substitute is Unveiled

In an attempt to improve the sustainability of the food industry, researchers in Scotland unveiled a palm oil substitute ingredient, named PALM-ALT. The team has stated that not only is their alternative cost-competitive, but it is also capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preventing deforestation in vulnerable areas!

Learn About Palm Oil Here:

20. Heatwaves Recorded in the Ocean

In Marine Biology news, scientists discovered that oceans are experiencing heat waves, just like the air-bound heat waves we’re subject to. The team has also found that these events are becoming more frequent as climate change progresses. The international team noted that the waves can be deadly to sea creatures and are most intense at depths in the ocean with the most biodiversity, raising much alarm about how drastically this trend may affect marine life shortly.

19. Marine Species Discovered in Droves

2023 was truly a remarkable year for species discovery — especially for marine mammals. In May, scientists discovered 5000 new species in a 1.7m square mile section of the ocean floor between Mexico and Hawaii. According to the published paper, somewhere between 88%-92% of the newly recorded species had never been seen before.

Learn More About Species Discovered in 2023:

18. Biocomposite Printing Ink Developed to Restore Organic Structures like Coral

To combat the loss of coral reefs, researchers in Switzerland developed a 3D-printable ink infused with bacteria, which can be used to jump-start the development of calcium carbonate. The material, named BactoInk, has potential for use in a wide variety of fields, including art and medicine.

17. Human Eye Successfully Transplanted Via Surgery

At NYU Langone Health, a surgical team successfully performed the first full eye transplant in May. Though the patient has yet to regain sight, the team is reporting a remarkable amount of health in the organ including “direct blood flow to the retina”. If you’d like to learn more, NYU Langone has an excellent article on it here.

16. Discovery of a New Brain Structure

Scientists are still actively working on sorting out how the brain functions — it’s one of the grandest mysteries we have yet to solve! Early in the year, researchers made a new step towards understanding with the discovery of a new structure, the subarachnoidal lymphatic-like membrane (SLYM for short). This tiny structure is responsible for keeping the brain lubricated and safe from the skull and also contributes to managing waste and immune cells in the brain. With this discovery, researchers believe that this new knowledge will help inform the development of brain therapies and help science better understand some brain diseases.

15. A Drug Which Can Combat Obesity is Developed

In another entry from October, a published study reported promising results of 24% weight loss and a reduction in Fatty Liver Disease. The phase two trial of retatrutide, which used double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled methods was markedly successful. Soon, there’s a good chance we’ll see success in phase 3 and four trials as well!

14. Breakthrough by University College London on Cervical Cancer Treatment

Throughout 2023, medical researchers made leaps and bounds on treating and even curing cancers. Though it was hard to select just one of these amazing advancements, a Cancer Research UK study most certainly deserves mention here. In October, a chemotherapy trial aimed at cervical cancer saw the ”risk of death or of the disease returning” decrease by 35%. This is the greatest improvement in treating cervical cancer in decades.

Learn More About the State of Modern Cancer Treatment:

13. Cryopreserved Rat Kidney Functional After Being Transplanted

Halfway through 2023, a study reported successful cryopreservation of organs. Researchers at the University of Minnesota discovered a method of freezing and thawing kidneys without causing structural damage. The team managed to keep the kidneys frozen for 100 days before surgically transplanting them into rats. The study was a massive success, with all rats surviving the procedure and all kidneys regaining their functioning within a month of the surgery.

12. Image of Quantum Entanglement Rendered

In July, scientists managed to take the first-ever photo of quantum entanglement occurring. The group of University of Glasgow researchers used a complicated system of crystals and lasers to capture the image. Their resulting photo was the first time in history that anyone has confirmed Quantum Entanglement via a camera.

11. The James Webb Space Telescope

No 2023 science list would be complete without mention of the James Webb Telescope. The photos sent back to Earth are both beautiful and profound, giving many a renewed love for space and giving researchers a clearer image of the worlds and stars beyond our little corner of the universe.

If you haven’t checked in on the images recently, they update pretty often in the Webb Gallery. I recommend checking it out!

10. Donanemab Found to Slow Alzheimer’s Progression in Patients

In the middle of 2023, researchers saw a moderate slowing in the progression of Alzheimer-led cognitive decline in participants who took donanemab in a randomized clinical trial. More testing is needed to confirm these results, but so far, the use of the medicine is rather promising and may be able to provide those afflicted with Alzheimer’s more time.

Take a Deeper Dive Into Alzheimer Studies:

9. An AI-Powered Better Understanding of the Antarctic Sea Ice

Machine learning proved to have wide applications this year when researchers used the technology to better understand polar ice. By combining satellite radar data with AI algorithms to analyze how they change and move over time, researchers are now approaching a new age of understanding the “complex physics of how the ocean, ice, and atmosphere interact with one another”.

Take a Deeper Dive into Sea Ice Science:

8. Successful Total Brain Mapping of a Fruit Fly Larva

In March of 2023, after 12 years of study, scientists successfully mapped the entire brain of a fruit fly larva. The Johns Hopkins University Study mapped 3,000 neurons and 500,000 connections, making a huge leap toward understanding how minds work and process information.

7. The First CRISPR Drug is Licensed to Cure Sickle cell Disease

Just last week (as of writing this list), the U.S. FDA approved a treatment for sickle cell disease that uses the incredible gene-editing tech of CRISPR. The treatment edits a specific gene that improves the cell shape and function of those afflicted with the disease, and it can last for at least a year! The companies involved with creating the treatment, Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics, report that they are still engaging in studies to confirm the length at which the treatments can last, and how effective they are.

6. Decoding of the Dodo Genome

Perhaps one of the most sci-fi-sounding entries on the list, this year marked an announcement that company Colossal intended to de-extinct the dodo bird, along with several other species that were made extinct by humans. As of late November, the team’s lead dodo paleontologist, Beth Shapiro, reported that she successfully sequenced the dodo’s full genome!

Take a Deeper Dive into De-Extinction:

5. Bringing Back the Wooly Mammoth

Early this year, scientists from Colossal also announced that they would be de-extincting the Wooly Mammoth by 2027. The incredible research team believes that, since their DNA is remarkably similar to extant elephants, they’ll be able to replicate the animal and use its re-release to help restore the Mammoth Steppe. Already, the company has managed to use its research to help conserve populations of African and Asian elephants!

4. We Successfully X-Rayed a Single Atom

This year, we made incredible progress in understanding what atoms are made of. A team of physicists from the United States used X-rays to peer inside different elemental atoms to compare chemical states and managed to record the first-ever X-ray of a single atom! Because of this advancement, we now have a much better understanding of what single atoms actually look like.

3. Reversed Aging in Mice

This little advancement might be my personal favorite. In the world of aging science, researchers managed to both age up mice and then reverse the aging, by altering the software the body used to read information on DNA (See Epigenetics). Though human trials are still likely decades away, there’s real promise that we may one day be able to use science to extend our lifetimes or to be young again.

2. Quantum Entanglement of Molecules Achieved for First Time at Princeton

Last week [as of writing this], a team of physicists at Princeton University just unlocked the ability to quantum mechanically entangle molecules. This advancement is a massive breakthrough in the world of physics and has wide applications for the development of quantum computers.

1. ChatGPT and Other AI Platforms Take Center Stage

AI chat, image, speech, and video generation has taken the world by storm this year, driving news and labor movements, and already radically shifting productivity and workflow across most sectors. For that reason, despite many incredible advancements this year, AI takes the cake. We’re at the precipice of this technology, and it has already radically transformed the human experience.

Learn More About AI Here:

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Did I miss a scientific breakthrough that happened during 2023 that deserves mention on this list? Do you think one of the items on this list deserves a different spot in the ranking? Let me know in the comments! I look forward to hearing your opinion :)

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Cross-posted from Medium. Follow Me on Medium for More!

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About the Creator

Olivia L. Dobbs

Science Enthusiast, Naturalist, Dreamer.

Check out my science! -> bit.ly/DobbsEtAl

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