Most people reflect on 2016 with disdain, as the year seemed marred by tragedy after tragedy. However, 2016 saw a massive wealth of awesomeness. Leave it to science and engineering to keep pursuing incredible feats.
We compiled our 30 favorite engineering and science moments from 2016. In no particular order, here’s the list:
1. Elon Musk’s SolarCity Panels
[Image Courtesy of Tesla]
Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk announced sleek solar roofing tiles to replace traditional shingles. Like Musk, we hope these tiles become the market standard.
2. New Elements added to Periodic Table
[Image Source: Reuters/Kyodo]
Four new elements joined the periodic table, marking the first additions since 2011. Welcome to the family nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson!
3. Incredible Research Won Nobel Prizes
[Image Source: Wikimedia]
Cellular cannibalism and nanotechnology took home international prestige at this year’s Nobel Prize ceremony. The study of autophagy, or how cells eat themselves, could play a role in understanding how we survive. Nanogears might be the future of surgical devices.
4. Autonomous Trucks Made Deliveries, Traveling Far and Wide
Otto partnered with Budweiser to make the first delivery via autonomous semi: a beer run. However, Otto wasn’t the only one making headlines this year. One company claimed its autonomous vehicle could be built in a matter of hours.
5. NASA Discovers Proxima b
[Image Courtesy of NASA]
Since Proxima b’s discovery, engineers and space officials have been in a race to see who can get to it first. With new discoveries come new mysteries. The biggest one? Whether or not this new planet could sustain life.
6. Hyperloop Gets One Step Closer to Reality in Testing
Agreements have been signed. The designs are in place. When can we start that 12-minute travel between Dubai to Abu Dhabi?
7. Theoretical EM Drive Makes Waves as Energy Source
[Image Courtesy of Wikimedia]
When a paper testing this theoretical drive got leaked online, physicists across the internet lost their minds. The EM Drive would defy Newtonian laws of physics by not having an equal and opposite reaction.
8. Pokemon Go Set a New Standard for Mobile Gaming Expectations
[Image Source: Motohiko/ Flickr]
What happens when you take an established international brand and pair it with an enticing mobile app? You get the biggest gaming smash hit of the year.
9. Mark Zuckerberg Finally Completed His Household AI
[Image Source: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook]
It took the Facebook CEO a year to finish his Jarvis project, but the results are incredible. Who wouldn’t want satin-voiced Morgan Freeman telling them their daily schedule?
10. Researchers trapped carbon emissions in rocks
A team in the US managed to speed up a thousand-year-long process into just two years.
11. Physicists Discovered Gravitational Waves
[Image Source: Wikimedia]
Two black holes merged, gravitational waves formed, and Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity got confirmed. It was epic.
12. Robotics Gots More Agile
[Image Source: UC Berkeley via YouTube]
From springy robots to improvements in soft robotics, this year proved that robots are here to stay.
13. Google Announced its First Smartphone
[Image Source: Google]
Pixel’s timing into the world seemed perfectly poised. It became a bright spot after a month of Samsung smartphones exploding.
14. Nintendo Made the Year’s Hottest Gaming Console
[Image Source: Nintendo]
No, we’re not talking about the Switch. We’re talking about the NES Classic, that treasure trove of nostalgia that sold out of most stores this holiday seaoson.
15. Research Tackles Aging and Taps into the Fountain of Youth
Several studies took on lessening the effects of aging. Some even looked to completely reverse it, resetting cellular timekeepers.
16. China Creates World’s Fastest Supercomputer and Wins 2016 Computing War
China’s beastly TaihuLight trumped all other supercomputers with its impressive speed and 10.7 million cores. However, Japan recently announced plans to take on the TaihuLight. Could 2017 be the year we see Japan beat out China’s top two supercomputers?
17. New State of Matter detected
[Image Source: University of Cambridge]
An entirely new state of matter has been detected in a two-dimensional material. The state is known as quantum spin liquid and it causes electrons to break into pieces. This new state of matter is mysterious because it was previously thought that electrons were indivisible building blocks of nature.
18. Prosthetic limbs got an upgrade.
[Image Source: Exo Prosthetic Leg via Behance]
From the superhero-inspired to the futuristic, prosthetics certainly saw improvements for people that need them. These improvements come largely from the insane potential of 3-D printing.
19. SpaceX Makes History: Lands Rocket On Floating Drone Ship
SpaceX just made history by successfully landing its Falcon 9 rocket onto its unmanned drone ship named, “Of Course I Still Love You.” The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Florida at 4:43 P.M. on April 8, 2016.
[Image Source: Spacex/Twitter]
An engineering group in India made Tony Stark very proud, as they grew pretty close to building their own Iron Man exoskeleton.
20. So did Transformers.
Again, we can only hope to one day look at our cars and say “Autobots, roll out.” But for now, we’ll take whatever we can get.
21. A wound-plugging syringe saved its first life.
The XStat syringe was approved for field use in 2014. It saved the life of a soldier shot in the leg after traditional techniques failed.
22. Star Wars and Star Trek fans proved that anything is possible.
[Image Source: William George]
23. Researchers controlled robots with their minds.
[Image Source: University of Minnesota]
One team managed to maneuver a robotic arm just by thinking of how their own arm would move in certain situations..
24. One team found a great use for carbon dioxide.
[Image Source: ORNL]
A research team out of Tennessee in the US converted carbon dioxide into ethanol. They hope to continue their research and scale up the project to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.
25. Paralysis could be bypassed with bioengineering.
[Image Source: Alain Herzog / EPFL]
A team of researchers successfully restored function to the legs of two monkeys by bypassing the spinal cord injury. They hope to scale the innovation toward human use.
26. The globe collectively decided to stick together and combat climate change.
[Image Source: United Nations COP22]
Despite Donald Trump and his cabinet of climate change skeptics, the rest of the globe made several bold plans to drastically reduce carbon emissions. From the Paris Agreement in the spring to the more recent UN climate change meetings, world leaders have shown they’re willing to put aside politics and plan for the future. We can only hope 2017 and beyond sees them follow through on these plans.
27. Google got in on reducing carbon emissions, too.
[Image Source: Google]
Google recently announced they’d be going for 0 carbon emissions and 100 percent renewable energy as a company. If they used any non-renewable energy, they would counterbalance that amount with renewable clean energies.
28. Bioengineers used 3-D Printing to Make Your Heart a lot Smarter
[Image Courtesy of Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences]
Harvard scholars created a heart on a chip. The technology allows doctors to gather information about a patient without invasive surgery.
29. We made international steps toward nuclear fusion.
[Image Source: Nature Communications]
Several projects caught our attention this year for bringing us leaps closer to sustaining unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion. Most recently, a team at South Korea’s reactor managed to sustain high-performance plasma at high heat for the longest time to date. There’s still much left to be done before any nuclear facility gets close to sustaining the full reaction. However, there’s always next year.
30. Tesla. Self-Driving Cars.
[Image Source: Wikimedia]
What list would be complete without Tesla and its constant quest for the holy grail of automotive innovation? Tesla’s autonomous vehicles seem to set the universal standard for other companies, and Elon Musk is no stranger to pushing limits. We can’t wait to see what next year holds for both Telsa and self-driving vehicles.