It’s 2017. Two years after Marty McFly was supposed to hoverboard across Hill Valley in his self-tying Nikes, and the environmental protection agency is about to be headed up by a guy who doesn’t believe in climate change.
It would actually be better to have the EPA guy from Ghostbusters in charge
Nonetheless, the future is here, and there is reason to hope this year will bring some big news from the world of science. Here are some things to watch out for in 2017.
Surf’s Up on Gravitational Waves – gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric space-time. Surely, most of you don’t need any further explanation, but I’ll proceed for the very small portion of our readership who aren’t elite astrophysicists. The entire universe is said to sit on the space-time continuum, with large objects such as planets making big dips in the continuum, which in turn is felt as gravity.
“Big dips in the space-time continuum” would serve well as the punchline for a “yo momma” joke
Anyways, when a big event happens in the universe, like stars coalescing or collisions of black holes, it causes “ripples” in the space-time continuum, or gravitational waves, like the waves formed by dropping something into water. The waves extend outward across the universe.
Which would actually make a much better movie than this one
Anyways, all of the above was hypothetical up until last year, when the catchily-named Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves for the first time, from the merging of two black holes into a larger black hole 1.3 billion years ago.
The people at LIGO played a lot of Tetris over the last 1.3 billion years
Now that the existence of gravitational waves have been confirmed, look for a bunch of gravitational wave discoveries in 2017, leading to a slew of new information on the formation of stars, black holes, and other cosmic events, 100 years after Einstein’s theories.
“Just remember, I didn’t say anything about bees”
It’s CRISPR-Cas9 time – Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, or CRISPR, are the bomb, if you’re into genetic engineering. CRISPR-Cas9 systems can be used to add, delete, or edit DNA sequences to alter a genome. Genetic engineering, in other words. What makes CRISPR-Cas9 exciting is that it’s a fast, legal, and cheap way to alter genes, like a genetic engineering drive-thru.
“I’ll take one radically-altered genetic composition and enzyme production. Super-size the fries.”
CRISPR-Cas9 has some promising applications that could come to fruition in 2017. “Gene drives” could save endangered species by creating animals resistant to disease through genetic enhancements, then releasing them into the wild to mate. Gene splicing could increase agricultural productivity by making more weather- and pest-resistant crops. In humans, CRISPR could be used to cure longstanding genetic illnesses like sickle-cell disease and muscular dystrophy, and 2017 will see the start of clinical trials in this area.
Naturally, this is all just baby steps towards the real goal – creating dinosaurs
Planet 9 From Outer Space! – We’ve written before about Planet 9 – the hypothetical planet about 10x the size of Earth in the far reaches of our solar system. It’s hypothesized to be out there because a bunch of objects that orbit Neptune have a strange orbital path, almost like they’re being pulled by a giant planet even further away.
Also, people just really want there to be 9 planets again
Astronomers have been looking for Planet 9 for a long time, but the evidence for its existence has mounted in recent years. Last year, it was announced that Planet 9 may be so big that it tilted everything in our solar system except the sun.
I feel another ‘yo momma’ joke coming on
Enough people are looking for Planet 9 that it may be found in 2017. Eight to ten groups of astronomers are actively searching for Planet 9, and some believe it will be found by next winter. Which means Pluto will have to watch its planet ex-friends accept another to their group.
Happy 2017! Contact us at info [at] scienceeverywhere.ca to see a topic covered here.