Controversy over whether bacon causes cancer.
Controversy over whether bacon causes cancer.

Scientific discoveries capture imagination

FROM finding water on Mars to discovering a new species of extinct human, it's been a big year in science.

Check out the top 10 science stories of 2015 from the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC).

LIFE ON MARS: NASA revealed it had found evidence of flowing water on Mars.
LIFE ON MARS: NASA revealed it had found evidence of flowing water on Mars. Aussmc

NASA found salt water on the red planet.

Life on Mars? Not quite, but in September NASA revealed it had found evidence on the red planet of one of life's major requirements - flowing water. The US space agency reported tell-tale long, dark stains on Martian cliffs, a sign of salty water flows during the warm summer season.

Scientists genetically modified a human and the technology saved a young life.

In April, Chinese scientists used a technology that allows genes to be "edited" to switch off a gene for a rare blood disease in a human embryo. The method used, which is known as CRISPR/Cas9, acted like a pair of genetic "scissors", chopping up a gene for the disease beta-thalassaemia and disabling it.

In a heart-warming twist, the technology was used to good effect in November when Layla Richards, a British bub with leukaemia, was cured using gene editing techniques after all other treatment options had failed.

Controversy over whether bacon causes cancer.
Controversy over whether bacon causes cancer.

Things got a bit out of ham-d when the WHO said bacon causes cancer.

In November, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer arm of the World Health Organisation, caused a media feeding frenzy when it announced that processed meat, including that old favourite bacon, definitely caused bowel cancer, while red meat "probably" does.

The IARC is tasked with placing substances in categories based on the available evidence about whether or not they can cause cancer and it placed processed meat in the same group as cigarettes, alcohol and plutonium - substances that definitely can cause cancer.

Local experts were left to correct the false impression that chowing down on a bacon sanger is as risky as smoking.

We made a "major leap for mankind" at COP 21 in Paris.

After two weeks of gruelling negotiations in early December, nearly 200 world governments signed an agreement on fighting climate change that's more ambitious than anything we've seen before. The parties agreed to "endeavour to limit" global temperature rises to 1.5°C, for the world to be carbon neutral by some point between 2050 and 2100 and for rich countries to help poorer nation's foot the bill.

The fossil remains of a new species were discovered.
The fossil remains of a new species were discovered.

A new species of extinct human was discovered . . . probably.

In September, scientists announced that a pair of recreational cavers in South Africa had stumbled across an incredible treasure trove of fossil remains - 1550 fossilised bones belonging to 15 members of a previously-unknown ancestor of modern humans. The new species, named Homo naledi by the scientists, had a peculiar mix of primitive and modern features.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back photos of Pluto.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back photos of Pluto.

Pluto, the dwarf planet with a big heart, was finally ready for its close-up.

After nine-and-a-half years hurtling through five billion kilometres of space, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto in July, slowly sending back the highest resolution pictures of the dwarf planet ever seen.

The Aussie High Court ruled that genes can't be patented.

In a David and Goliath battle in October, Brisbane grandmother Yvonne D'arcy unanimously won her case in the High Court against Myriad Genetics, a US biotech firm that was trying to patent a breast cancer gene it had isolated, BRCA-1.

The court's decision, which overturned two earlier victories for Myriad in the Federal Court, should make breast cancer testing cheaper and more accessible, said D'Arcy.

VW cheated diesel emissions tests.

In September, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that German car manufacturer Volkswagen had, over six years, fitted 11 million of its diesel vehicles with a "defeat device" - sneaky software designed to cheat emissions tests.

Spooky! We learned that even Einstein's genius had its limits.

2015 was a bad year for the greatest mind of the 20th Century, Albert Einstein. We learned that even he could make mistakes when several research teams provided the most convincing evidence yet that quantum entanglement, which the famous German physicist called "spooky action at a distance", exists. Einstein had a different view of spooky action and believed it must be impossible.

Parkes Radio Telescope was part of a search for alien life.
Parkes Radio Telescope was part of a search for alien life.

A Russian billionaire blew $135 million looking for little green men.

In July, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced that he would plough $135 million into searching the skies for alien life.

Celebrated cosmologist Stephen Hawking joined Milner to launch the Breakthrough Initiatives project, which will train two of the world's most powerful telescopes on a million stars and 100 galaxies to look for one of the tell-tale signs of advanced alien civilisation - radio signals. One of the telescopes co-opted for the project is CSIRO's Parkes Radio Telescope in NSW.



Whales sighted, should shark nets be removed?

Whales sighted, should shark nets be removed?

"If nets are accessible, they should be coming out immediately"

Gynecologist accused of sex assault to face court

Gynecologist accused of sex assault to face court

The former Lismore doctor is facing 69 charges

200-year-old fig tree will be removed

premium_icon 200-year-old fig tree will be removed

Tree believed to have damaged to a home

Local Partners