Even though we are only two and a half decades into the 21st century, there have been a lot of remarkable scientific discoveries. Researchers are constantly working around the clock to unearth new inventions to make humankind better (or not). On a positive note, some of these breakthroughs have significantly improved our way of living and answered crucial concepts about the universe. Here are the 12 most extraordinary scientific discoveries of the 21st century.

1. The First Image of the Black Hole

For years, people could only imagine what the black hole looked like. However, in 2019, with the help of the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists captured the first image of the black hole, even though it is located 53 million lightyears away. This was such a massive step, considering even NASA scientists didn’t think capturing a photo of the black hole would be possible.

2. Discovery of Eris (A New Planet)

The size or Eris compared to that of the Earth and Moon.

A year before Pluto was downgraded into a dwarf planet, scientists discovered a 10th planet in our solar system called Eris. It’s a dwarf planet, just like Pluto, because of its size. However, that doesn’t mean it’s less of a planet than the other nine. This discovery was made in 2005 by a team of scientists from California’s Palomar Observatory.

3. Significant Steps in Eradication of Deadly Diseases Like Ebola and HIV

Ebola and HIV are some of the deadliest diseases that ravaged humankind since the 20th century. However, in the 21st century, there have been significant strides in eradicating these conditions. Scientists in Canada got the approval to perform field trials on Ebola vaccines in 2015. The vaccine was fully licensed four years later, and the number of Ebola outbreaks has reduced significantly.

Also, there have been numerous HIV vaccine trials in the 21st century, which seem to have had a high rate of success. Still on HIV in 2012, scientists were able to make a drug called PrEP that prevents its transmission if taken within a certain time limit of exposure.

4. Elon Musk’s Reusable Rockets

Regarding scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century, Elon Musk is a name that will be remembered for decades to come. The high cost of making rockets has significantly constrained space travel for the longest time.

However, Elon Musk made an unforgettable accomplishment by landing a rocket in 2015 in an upright position. Two years later, the billionaire’s company, Space X, was able to reuse the components of an orbital-class rocket. With reusable rockets now available, space travel will be more cost-effective, opening up new opportunities such as commercial space travel.

5. Creation of Bacteria

Bacteria isn’t as bad as soap companies try to make it; there are good and bad bacteria. With that in mind, Craig Venter and his team of geneticists in 2010 created a synthetic bacteria. They wrote the genome from scratch and made the bacteria in a cell. This is somewhat good news because it provides the opportunity to develop synthetic bacteria that can recycle plastic or even generate biofuel.

6. Introducing New Members of the Family Tree

For a long time, schools only taught about the seven stages of human evolution from Dryopithecus to Homo Sapiens. However, in the 21st century, researchers have discovered a new member of our family tree.

In 2003, for instance, scientists introduced the Homo floresiensis. Later on, in 2010, new members, the Denisovans and Australopithecus sediba were added to the family tree. As time goes by, there will likely be more discoveries along the same lines.

7. Discovery of Kepler 452B (Earth’s Twin)

NASA has always been exploring Earth’s alternative. On July 23, 2015, these efforts were successful when Kepler452B was discovered. Even though it is 1,800 light years away, Kepler 452B has properties similar to Earth’s, making it habitable for human beings. The only significant difference is the gravitational force in Kepler452B is stronger, so human beings may need to undergo some physiological changes to successfully colonize it.

8. Discovery of Water on Mars

While the first exploration of Mars started in 1964, it wasn’t until 2015 that NASA was able to discover water on the planet. Scientists discovered craters with dehydrated salts, which indicates the presence of liquid water. They also found ice on Mars’ crust.

9. Self-Driving Cars

The concept of autonomous cars started in the 1980s, with companies like Mercedes-Benz at the forefront. However, it was not until 2014 that Nissan made the Navia Shuttle available for commercial sale, with Honda and Mercedes Benz also following suit. Elon Musk has invested significantly in self-driving cars with his company, Tesla.

10. Robotic Body Parts

In 2016, the University of Twente introduced new prosthetic technology that equips people suffering from Duchenne dystrophy with artificial robotic arms. This can significantly improve the quality of life amongst members of this community. They are also being used by wounded military personnel from across the globe, as well as older adults and stroke survivors. Robotic body parts are as a result of technological advancements in biomechanics.

11. Using Water as Fuel

A German-based company called Sunfire GmbH created a machine that turns water into fuel in 2014. This device converts CO2 and water into hydrocarbons that resemble synthetic petrol or diesel. The main objective of this company was to help society move away from fossil fuels, which are said to have taken a toll on our climate and atmosphere.

12. The New Age of AI

Throughout the 20th century, scientists and tech enthusiasts talked about Artificial Intelligence as if it were a far-reach concept. Fast forward to 2024; we’re living at a time when the new age of AI can be integrated with various ideas.

For instance, in 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that has taken the internet by storm. In 2023, Google released Google BARD and Gemini. Early in 2024, StabilityAI released Stable Diffusion 3, with more discoveries expected.

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Last Update: June 12, 2024