#ThatWas2019: 6 mind-boggling moments witnessed in science and tech
2019 was a year of major scientific and technological advancements. We took giant leaps in fields ranging from AI to quantum computing, taking humanity closer to a better future. Throughout the year, we kept witnessing some mind-boggling stuff in science and tech, things which turned heads, but some that drew criticism. Let's take a look at those unbelievable moments.
When we saw first-ever real image of a black hole
Until April 2019, black holes were described as dark mysteries of the universe, something that no human had ever seen (only predicted). But, then, scientists at European Southern Observatory made the impossible possible by producing the first-ever real photo of the event horizon of a supermassive black hole sitting 53 million light-years away from Earth. Their image changed our understanding of black holes, forever.
In September, the official spokesperson for the Deputy Chief of US Naval Operations for Information Warfare confirmed that a series of declassified clips that showed unidentified flying objects, aka UFOs, were real. The representative had said: "The Navy designates the objects contained in these videos as unidentified aerial phenomena," as it couldn't identify the flying phenomena/aircraft/object seen in them.
When Indian techie found Moon Lander on his own
After India's Chandrayaan-2 Lander descended to an unknown fate on the Moon, the world was left wondering where exactly craft went, as it stopped communicating. The search went on for months, but all the efforts were in vain until Shanmuga Subramanian, a Chennai-based techie, discovered the debris of Vikram. He found the Lander on his own by parsing through the data of NASA's orbiter.
When Google took the quantum leap, or did it?
In October 2019, Google claimed that it has achieved quantum supremacy. The company asserted that its 54-qubit computer chip, Sycamore, took just 200 seconds to complete a calculation that would have taken the world's most powerful supercomputer 10,000 years. This would eventually pave the way for more practical quantum computer applications in the future. However, IBM has disputed Google's claim.
When Harvard scientist suggested DNA dating (and eugenics!)
A few weeks back, a scientist proposed an eerie dating app to match people on the basis of their DNA. He claimed that the effort would rule out the possibility of transmitting genetic diseases/problems, but many researchers have criticized the idea. They say that this could lead to eugenics or manual curation of a population by mating people with specific, desirable hereditary traits.
When we saw what a monkey saw
Finally, there is the story of apes. Back in May, a group of scientists hooked up a neural network to a monkey's brain and used it to understand how the animal's neurons responsible for recognizing faces reacted. The results generated by the AI, signifying what the monkeys saw or imagined, revealed insanely creepy (and blurred) images that appeared to show humans wearing masks.