The Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2008

Dead Mice Resurrected

Geneticists in Japan cloned dead mice that had been frozen for 16 years and produced 13 healthy, live mice. The breakthrough suggests that it may be possible to bring back extinct animals, like the wooly mammoth, that have been dead and frozen for some time, a feat that was once thought impossible. This process relied on transferring the nuclei from dead cells drawn from the brains and blood of the dead mice and injecting just that part into unfertilized mouse eggs, creating embryos.

But it will be difficult to resurrect animals that have been dead for a long time, the scientists said in announcing their discovery, because cells from dead animals decay quickly, even if frozen.

It's not quite Jurassic Park but maybe it's a step in that direction.

Spacewalk, Made in China

Low earth orbit isn't exactly crowded but it grew a little tighter this year when a Chinese astronaut took a 15-minute spacewalk outside the Shenzhou VII capsule 213 miles above the Earth. It was China's third manned venture into space, and the country plans to launch its own space station in a little more than a decade.

China is now recruiting more astronauts -- or "taikonauts" in Chinese lingo -- for future missions.

Planets, Anyone?

Discovery of new planets outside our solar system came in rapid fire during 2008 and, for the first time, astronomers were able to image several planets, not just infer their existence from various clues. New telescopes, and new techniques, revealed huge planets orbiting at great distances from their stars, so none of them are likely to harbor life as we know it. But it was a significant milestone in the search for whatever, or whoever, is out there.

Previously, astronomers relied on faint movements of the stars from the gravitation of an orbiting planet, called the wobble effect, as one means of finding planets. They could also measure the slight dimming of a star when a planet passed between the star and the earth. But neither of these techniques allowed them to actually see the planets, which were too dim to be seen near a brilliant star. Now, they can begin analyzing their data to learn more about the planets' atmosphere and, thus, more about whether they could sustain life.

None of the exoplanets imaged so far are likely candidates but maybe someday ...

Can You See Me Now?

Invisibility Cloaks on the Horizon

Have you ever wished you could be invisible, a fly on the wall that no one could see? Well, stay tuned.

Some clever researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, say they are close to inventing a "cloak of invisibility" that can deflect anything that travels as a wave, like light and sound. You can't see it, you can't hear it, how you going to know it's there?

This magic resulted from the creation of new substances, called metamaterials. The surface has incredibly tiny structures that are small enough to interfere with individual waves. If you were cloaked in such material, light waves would bend around you and meet up on the other side. You would have disappeared without a clue.

The technology could have many practical applications, some of which are obvious. Think stealth bomber.

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