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What’s new in science 2019

Nature
Canada should start to see the first results from a flurry of studies into the cultivation and basic biology of cannabis. Image: Nature
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What will be the scientific advances in which we will have to pay more attention this 2019? For the magazine Nature there are 10 that stand out, here the listing:

Polar projects

In Antarctica, two projects will be carried out.

The first, of the five-year project, is to understand whether the remote and seemingly unstable Thwaites Glacier  will start to collapse in the next few decades. The project will be in charge of EU and UK researchers, using autonomous underwater vehicles and sensors affixed to seals.

The second, British scientists plan to start drilling into the ice sheet on Antarctica’s Little Dome C in a quest to recover a 1.5-million-year-old ice core will yield the oldest pristine record of climate and atmospheric conditions.

Resources for science

The budget for research and development will increase this year in several regions of the world, China, Europa (through the European Union’s next research-funding programme, Horizon Europe) and United Kingdom.

Human origins

More fossils illuminating the origins of ancient hominin species could emerge from islands in southeast Asia — a region of intense interest since archaeologists discovered a human-like ‘hobbit‘ species on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003.

Collider crunch

This year will be a decisive year for plans to build a successor to the International Linear Collider (ILC). Japan is the only country that has shown interest in hosting the ILC, and the government is expected to issue a statement on whether it will do so by 7 March.

Gene-editing

After the highly controversial success of Chinese geneticist He Jiankui in producing the world’s first babies with genetic issues. Scientists will attempt to uncover any potential side effects of the process, and create a framework to ensure that any future efforts to edit heritable human DNA happen in a responsible and regulated way.

Open science

Academic subscription journals could change their business models to fit Plan S, the effort to convert publications into a fully open access model.

Bio-Safety in laboratories

The World Health Organization expects to finish a major revision of its Laboratory Biosafety Manual in mid-2019. This is the manual’s first overhaul since 2004.

Cooling the planet

As carbon emissions continue to rise, 2019 could see the first experiments that are explicitly aimed at understanding how to artificially cool the planet using a practice called solar geoengineering, with a project called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx).

High benefits

In Canada, October of 2018, cannabis became legal for all uses (the second nation in the world, after Uruguay). By the end of 2019, researchers in Canada at the University of Guelph hope to launch the first academic centre dedicated for cannabis research, which will study everything from the plant’s genetics to its health benefits.

The world’s largest radio telescope

Since the start of its commissioning phase in 2016, the 1.2-billion-yuan (US$170-million) mega-telescope has spotted more than 50 new pulsars and faint signals. On the other hand, an international consortium will decide if it goes ahead with the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope in the Hawaiian mountain Mauna Kea.

 

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