Top 5 science discoveries of 2022: Asteroid defense and sleeping brain mysteries


1- Lab-Grown Brain Cells Learned How To Play Ping-Pong

This project is called DishBrain (Brain in a cup). But in fact, the place where 800,000 human neurons live in warmth and nutrient solution is more like an incubator.

There is a thick cable from the incubator to the laptop, and on the screen of the gadget there is a game of ping-pong.

The invisible player reacts with the racket to the movement of the ball and most often hits it. The most amazing thing is that the same “brain in a cup” controls the racket.

A microchip implanted in a cell culture transmits to neurons information about the direction and speed of the ball in the form of electrical signals.

The response signals of neurons control the movements of the racket – to the right or to the left. If the ball touches the racket, the “brain” is rewarded with a small electrical “gift”.

“Tests show that as a result of training, our little brain plays more and more accurately and faster,” says Brett Kagan, chief scientist at the Cortical Lab, where one of the most amazing scientific experiments is carried out.

Compared to the human brain, which has 86 billion neurons, the laboratory brain is not very powerful. But scientists expect to create a biological computer in the future.

The fact is that artificial intelligence, which works on machine learning algorithms, is not really intelligent.

The voice assistant can read the weather forecast in a well-trained voice, but Alice does not understand what rain is.

It only takes a few lessons for a teenager to learn how to drive, and Google’s self-driving car is still not ready for self-driving after 32 billion kilometers of practice.

Scientists believe that universal artificial intelligence can be created by combining the computing power of electronics with the unique ability of the human brain to learn.

Neurons grown in the laboratory will become the basis of the supercomputers of the future.

2- First successful test of asteroid defense

65 million years ago, the fall of the 10-kilometer asteroid Chicxulub to Earth destroyed the dinosaurs. The repetition of a similar event today will put an end to the existence of human civilization.

How this can happen is shown in the film “Don’t Look Up!” featuring DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep. However, the success of the DART mission leaves humanity a chance to survive.

The target for the experiment on the deviation of the asteroid’s orbit was the double asteroid Didymus (it does not threaten the Earth in any way).

On November 24, 2021, an impact probe flew out to meet him, the size of a snack machine and weighing about 300 kilograms.

About a year later – on September 26, 2022, a space drone crashed into the asteroid Didim B (diameter 160 meters) at a speed of 6 kilometers per second.

The striker probe was instantly destroyed, but the movement of the asteroid was also slowed down.

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The success of the DART mission leaves humanity a chance to survive in the event of an asteroid threat

“Our first test of a planetary defense system was successful,” said Elena Adams, DART Systems Engineer at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory. – I think that earthlings can sleep much more peacefully.

3- Russian scientists cloned a hybrid lamb

Last year, scientists from Moscow State University, Skoltech and the All-Russian Institute of Animal Husbandry (VIZH) cloned an unusual calf for the first time: it will begin the creation of a herd of cows that will produce milk that does not cause allergies in children.

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Russian scientists have cloned a hybrid lamb for the first time

This year, scientists cloned a hybrid lamb for the first time. Its peculiarity is that the lamb was bred as a result of crossing a domestic sheep with a mountain wild sheep – the Pamir argali.

This is the world’s first cloned hybrid lamb obtained using the genetic material of wild fauna, VIZH scientists emphasize.

Russian genetic engineers have made an important step in the development of genomic editing technologies.

This method allows you to create new animals for agriculture, as well as resurrect small populations of wild animals to preserve the genetic resources of the animal world.

4- People in a coma can hear us

Neurologists at Columbia University Hospital made an amazing discovery. They decided to explore what is happening there, in the inner world of people who are in a vegetative state.

Patients who did not show signs of consciousness were asked to move their arms, imagine that they were playing tennis or walking around the rooms of their house.

And in parallel, scientists looked at what was happening in their brains using functional MRI or electroencephalography.

Changes in brain activity showed convincingly that 15-20 percent of patients responded to doctors’ requests. It’s just that their mind was “locked” in a motionless body.

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Recent research suggests that the cause of this condition may be brain injuries that lead to the shutdown of the thalamus. This is the area of ​​the brain that transmits motion signals between the body and the brain.

Lesions in this zone can cause paralysis of motor functions against the background of latent consciousness. Scientists conclude: firstly, it is necessary to talk with patients who are in a coma.

Secondly, it is hoped that they can be contacted using brain-computer interfaces, for example, they will be able to control a computer mouse.

And finally, statistics show that people who were found to have “hidden” consciousness in the early stages were noticeably more likely to return to normal life.

5- And instead of a fiery motor – the heart of a pig…

For the first time in the world, 57-year-old David Bennett, who suffered from severe arrhythmia, was transplanted with the heart of a genetically modified pig by transplantologists at the University of Maryland clinic.

So that the body does not reject the alien organ of an animal of another species, scientists have edited a total of 10 genes in the pig.

The operation was successful, after a while the man returned home. However, after 2 months his condition worsened and the “pioneer” died.

Nevertheless, this is a great achievement, scientists are going to put on stream the cultivation of genetically modified wild boars, whose organs can be transplanted into humans.

Such an approach could prolong the lives of a large number of patients, since it takes months and even years to wait for organs from human donors.


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