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A Year in Science

This article appeared in the January 3, 2014 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise

 

2013 saw a number of discoveries, innovations and developments from all over the realm of science.  For example, after nearly 35 years of travel, Voyager 1 was confirmed as the first man-made object to leave our solar system and the sun’s magnetic field flipped upside down.

 

Researchers in the United Kingdom discovered the first known naturally occurring gear.  A toothed wheel, one of the simplest machines, can be found in almost any motor or mechanical object, and has now been found in the leg joints of the issus, a European planthopper insect.  Its gears help the issus jump farther and faster to escape predators.

 

The existence of the Higgs boson particle was confirmed and was the subject of 2013’s Nobel Prize in Physics, and horse bones dating back over 700,000 years yielded the oldest preserved DNA sequence yet discovered.  We learned that dolphins call each other by name, and 3D printing has been used for applications from medicine to firearms and space technology.

 

The olinguito, a meat-eating mammal from the Andean cloud forests of South America, was confirmed as a distinct species.  NASA’s Curiosity rover sent back all kinds of circumstantial evidence that Mars could have hosted life.  From the remains of an ancient lake bed to the building blocks of life contained inside mineral clusters, Curiosity’s discoveries have been nothing short of amazing.

 

And scientists may have answered one of the cutest questions.  It has long been known that reindeer’s eyes are yellow in summer and blue in winter, but the reason for the color change has been elusive until now.  But this year British researchers posited that in the dark Arctic winters a reindeer’s pupils will dilate to take in more light and stay dilated for months at a time.

 

This sustained dilation puts pressure on the blood vessels of the eye and squeezes other eye tissues.  As a result, the iris of the eye reflects back more blue light wavelengths than yellow.

 

The question now is what will scientists accomplish in 2014?  A breakthrough in cancer research perhaps, or documentation of a new species?  The development of new fuel sources or a better understanding of the heavenly bodies that share our universe?

 

At Explorit Science Center we will be embarking on anther year of stellar hands-on science fun from school programs and field trips to summer camps, museum exhibitions and beyond.  You can be a part of this exciting year in science by volunteering or donating to Explorit.  Like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb or email explorit@explorit.org to join our email list and stay up to date on all that Explorit has to offer.

 

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Explorit’s coming events:

 

• Check out Explorit’s Beautiful World: Science and Art exhibition every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 1:00-5:00 p.m. and Fridays 3:00-6:00 p.m.

 

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Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org, or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb.

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