Well, it’s the last Tribe issue of the semester! So here’s a quick run-down of just a few of the momentous events we’ve seen this year in science:


Andrea Alu and colleagues at the University of Texas successfully “cloak” a three-dimensional object, making it invisible from all angles, for the first time. The researchers used a shell of plasmonic materials which presented a photo negative of the object effectively cancelling it out.

A report from the UN suggests that the world is running out of time to ensure sufficient food, water and energy is provided for its rapidly increasing population. According to U.N. estimates, as early as 2030 the global population will require at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water.


After almost 20 years of drilling, the surface of the subterranean Lake Vostok which has not been uncovered for over 15 million years is broken through. Russian scientists hope that this undisturbed prehistoric ecosystem buried 2.5 miles (4.0 km) under the Antarctic ice will disclose new information about our natural history.


The ICARUS (Imaging Cosmic And Rare Underground Signals) experiment based in Italy reported neutrino velocities consistent with the speed of light.

The most detailed image of the Milky Way is produced, composed of thousands of individual images taken by two telescopes operating in Hawaii and in Chile. Over a billion stars are visible.


A crystalline quantum computer composed of only 300 atoms is created, and researchers claim that theoretically it is ‘so powerful that it would take a conventional computer the size of the known universe to match it’.


Spain’s first public test of autonomous (driverless) vehicles proves a success when a queue of wirelessly linked autonomous vehicles successfully travels a 200 kilometre stretch of motorway.


The Rio+20 Conference is held in Brazil: world leaders came together in an effort to ensure environmental protection of an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.

A new brain scanning fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) device is revealed by Dutch and German scientists, which allows paralyzed people to type out words using only their thoughts.


A particle consistent with the Higgs Boson of the standard model is announced by physicists at CERN. Its ‘5 sigma’ level of significance indicates that there is only one in 3.4 million chance that this result is incorrect.

Virgin Galactic announces that its spaceplane will shortly begin powered test flights, with the unveiling of its privately developed launch vehicle.


NASA’s Mars Rover mission lands ‘Curiosity’ in Mars’ Gale crater.

A new drug is claimed to cure all strains of malaria according to scientists in South Africa. Human clinical trials of the breakthrough drug are scheduled to begin in 2013.


Toyota begins to redefine ‘man’s best friend’ developing a voice-controlled domestic ‘Human Support Robot’ intended to aid elderly and disabled people by moving and retrieving objects, and opening doors and curtains.


Felix Baumgartner became the first ever man to single-handedly break the sound barrier during the highest skydive ever attempted. He jumped from a capsule thirty nine kilometres above Roswell, New Mexico.

The recorded remnants of people’s voices, laughter and music are recovered from the oldest playable American recording from 1878.


A ‘rogue planet’ drifting starless and alone through space is discovered to be 100 light-years from Earth.

Initial results from a phase I trial seeking to develop the first HIV vaccine has taken a significant first step: the trial was shown to have no adverse effects, while significantly boosting immunity. This could mean a vaccine could become commercially available in as little as five years’ time.

…After this busy year so far, what will December have in store for us?


Hilary Boden


Image by tanakawho