NewsBREAKTHROUGH OF THE YEAR

How'd We Do?

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Science  21 Dec 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5858, pp. 1844-1845
DOI: 10.1126/science.318.5858.1844b

Some of last year's predictions panned out this year, especially the work that led to the Breakthrough of the Year, but other areas are progressing more slowly.

Rating the predictions we made last year in “Areas to Watch”

CREDIT: TERRY SMITH (CRYSTAL BALLS)

World-weary? Hardly. Four spacecraft returned torrents of data from around the solar system. The Venus Express orbiter probed the vicious atmosphere of Earth's near-twin. On its way to Pluto, New Horizons snapped pictures of Jupiter. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed unforeseen hazards for future landers. And Europe's Earth-orbiting COROT discovered its first planet orbiting another star, showing that COROT can detect exoplanets as small as Earth.

See Web links on planets and exoplanets

Skulls and bones. In 2007, paleoanthropologists unveiled the long-awaited post-cranial bones of a 1.7-million-year-old Homo erectus from Dmanisi, Georgia, bits of a putative gorilla ancestor, and new early Homo specimens from Africa. But the world still waits for publication of the skeleton of the enigmatic Ardipithecus ramidus, a 4.4-million-year-old Ethiopian hominid that may shed light on the murky roots of the human family tree.

See Web links on hominid fossils

Loads of new primate genes. The published genome sequence of the rhesus macaque did help clarify genetic changes that led to humans, but the analyses of the genomes of the gorilla, orangutan, marmoset, gibbon, galago, tree shrew, and mouse lemur have yet to appear. Eventually, though, these sequence maps will bring a host of evolutionary insights.

See Web links on primate genomes

A climate of change? High-profile reports, an agenda-setting meeting in Bali, Indonesia, and a Nobel Peace Prize placed global climate squarely in the public eye, but policy-makers in the United States, China, and India haven't passed mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are needed. (See “Global Warming, Hotter Than Ever,” p. 1846.)

See Web links on climate change policy

Whole-genome association studies. In work that made up part of this year's Breakthrough of the Year (see p. 1842), more than a dozen large-scale comparative studies of human DNA showed the technique's enormous promise for tracking down genes linked to disease.

See Web links on whole-genome association studies

Light crystals. Physicists hope to explore high-temperature superconductivity and other bizarre properties of solids by emulating them in optical lattices, artificial “crystals” based on corrugated patterns of laser light. The year's hundreds of papers on optical lattices did not include a superconductor stand-in, but a grand entrance can't be far off.

See Web links on optical lattices

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