Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2007

Friday, December 28th, 2007

Aaron Rowe of Wired lists the Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2007:

10. Transistors Get Way Smaller

In the race to make computers faster, chipmakers rely on exotic new materials. In January, Intel announced that the element hafnium and some new metal alloys will allow them to make the millions of switches on their microprocessors far smaller. Gordon Moore, co-founder of the company and father of the law that bears his name, called it the biggest change in transistor technology since the 1960s. The tremendous accomplishment allows Intel to squeeze features on each chip down to 45 nanometers from the current standard of 65 nanometers. But the greatest benefit may be an increase in energy efficiency. That improvement comes along with the hafnium alloys that will prevent electricity from leaking across the tiny switches.

Intel started using the technology, codenamed Penryn, in November in high-end servers. Home users can expect the chips in early 2008.

9. Scientists Clone Rhesus Monkey to Produce Stem Cells

At Oregon Health and Science University, Shoukhrat Mitalipov and his team cloned a Rhesus Monkey and used the resulting embryo to create stem cells. Until then, the impressive feat had been performed only with mice.

In November, the team reported in Nature a surprising key to their success: avoiding ultraviolet light and dyes — tools that are almost always used in cloning experiments — because they can damage delicate cells.

Stem cells could be used to repair nearly any damaged organ, but they are useless if they upset the immune system. By cloning sick patients and using cells derived from their own bodies, doctors could skirt problems similar to those experienced by people with organ transplants. But some say the No. 1 discovery on our list makes cloning unnecessary. Nonetheless, some scientists, including stem-cell researchers at Harvard, say cloning is still necessary.

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