Nature: These are what to expect in 2019

Science changes the world. As 2019 just unveils its calendar, what should we expect in science and what scientific breakthroughs will reshape our life? Nature, one of the most recognizable scientific journals in the world, recently forecast a list of cutting-edge research projects, that will promisingly change the world in the coming year.

Polar Projects

In January, US and UK researchers will descend on Antarctica to begin their largest joint mission to the continent in more than 70 years. The aim 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. Later in 2019, European scientists plan to start drilling into the ice sheet on Antarctica’s glacier in a quest to recover a 1.5-million-year-old ice core. If they’re successful, the core will yield the oldest pristine record of climate and atmospheric conditions.

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 an Indonesian island called Flores in 2003. Ongoing digs could reveal more about the first human inhabitants of the Philippine island of Luzon, including whether their isolation led to a diminutive stature, similar to what seems to have occurred on Flores.

Collider Crunch

It could be a make-or-break year for plans to build a successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Physicists in Japan proposed hosting the roughly US$7 billion International Linear Collider (ILC) in 2012, after scientists at the LHC in Geneva, Switzerland, announced the discovery of the Higgs boson. The ILC would study the Higgs in detail. But a 2018 report commissioned by the Japanese government failed to support the project, citing its cost. 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 Fallouot

Geneticists will continue to deal with the repercussions of 2018’s claim by He Jiankui to have helped produce the world’s first gene-edited babies. Following an international outcry, 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 that happen in a responsible and regulated way.

Climate Tinkering

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. Scientists hope to spray 100-gram plumes of chalk-like particles into the stratosphere to observe how they disperse. Such particles could eventually cool the planet by reflecting some of the Sun’s rays back into space. Geoengineering sceptics worry that the practice could have unintended consequences and distract from efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

pristine: adj. 太古的,原始的
diminutive: adj. 特小的
stratosphere: n. 平流层

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