The leading scientific journal "Science", as every year, this year also made its predictions for the scientific developments that are expected to stand out in 2021.
The scientific staff of the scientific Science magazine predicted which areas of research and policy are expected to make headlines this year. News and achievements for 2021 in an article that looks like futurology, but we will most likely see them ahead of us within the year.
Measurable climate change
It is almost eight years since the fifth assessment report conducted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This team is a body of volunteer scientists looking at the ever-increasing temperature of the planet.
The team has more than 700 scientists and its work has been delayed by the pandemic. The sixth scientific assessment report on Climate Change is expected in 2021, eight years after the fifth such report.
The findings are expected to be more reliable, thanks to a new generation of climate models and simulation scenarios that have been developed in the meantime. In November, the UN Climate Summit will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, where it is expected to increase measures for greenhouse gases and agree on a full set of rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. .
WHO traces the origin of the Qur'an
In 2021 it is expected to be fully clarified exactly how the coronavirus started. Its origins remain a mystery, and an international team of 10 World Health Organization scientists will travel to China several times this year as part of an investigation into the origins of the Koranic pandemic.
The issue also has a political side as the United States and China have blamed each other for who is responsible for the pandemic. The team hopes to find the closest relatives of the virus in bats, where and how it went to humans, if another species acted as an intermediate host and, most importantly, how we can prevent other pandemic viruses from occurring.
New robotic rovers on Mars.
The thin air of Mars has given scientists a headache on how to achieve a smooth deceleration and a successful landing on the planet Earth. Of the 18 robotic detectors sent to the planet's surface in the last 50 years, eight have been destroyed.
This year, two more will try to land. On February 18, the SUV-sized rover of the Perseverance, will be sent by NASA, and will try to touch the surface of the planet slowed by a parachute and suspended by a flying crane. After landing at Jezero Crater, near a fossil river delta, the rover will collect rock samples for their possible return to Earth.
Around the same time, China's Tianwen-1 mission will be in orbit, sending a landing platform, and a golf cart-sized rover, to the planet. Officials have chosen a landing site not far from Jezero, along the southern tip of Utopia Planitia, a wide plain that may have been rebuilt by ancient mud flows. A successful landing would be China's first on Mars.
A clearer view of proteins
Researchers aim to significantly improve cryo-EM microscopy (Cryo-EM) analysis this year, a technique for studying protein structures that can provide new insights into their roles in maintaining human health and causing disease.
Another technique, X-ray crystallography, has long been the gold standard for mapping individuals into a three-dimensional protein structure. But it only works for proteins that can be packaged in a crystalline structure. Cryo-EM does not require such a structure and its analysis has steadily improved over the last decade.
In 2020, it crossed the line of atomic analysis as researchers used cryos-EM microscopes equipped with improved electron detectors and software to map the structure of apoferritin, an iron-binding protein. This protein is unusually rigid, which facilitated cryo-EM mapping.
As a next step, researchers want to visualize less rigid proteins. Success would be a benefit for structural biologists, allowing them to create highly detailed maps of large proteins and multi-protein complexes that cannot be crystallized.
The Webb telescope is getting ready
NASA's flagship observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), will finally reach space on October 31 with a long delay. JWST is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, with a 6,5-meter-wide mirror that has six times more light-gathering power than its predecessor.
The gold-plated mirror will cool to collect the infrared light of distant objects. JWST will be sensitive enough to control the atmosphere of nearby exoplanets for signs of life and collect the light of the first stars and galaxies in the universe.
The $ 8,8 billion space telescope will finally launch in 2021, years later than originally planned. It has recently undergone final tests to launch the simulation. This month, engineers unfold his mirror for the last time, to check that everything is OK. By mid-year, JWST will be packaged and shipped to French Guiana, where it will be loaded on a European Ariane 5 rocket.
Fusion as energy production
The Joint European Torus (JET), the world's largest fusion reactor, will be launched this year to generate significant amounts of power through fusion.
The UK-based JET is a reactor that uses powerful magnets to reduce a hot plasma so that atomic nuclei crash and fuse, releasing energy. Fusion is just the reverse process of fission. That is, instead of splitting the nuclear nuclei, they coalesce into a heavier nuclear material and dissipate heat energy.
In this year's tests, a strong mixture of deuterium and tritium hydrogen isotopes will be fed, a fuel that is rarely used because radioactive tritium needs careful handling and cleaning. In 1997, the last time this fuel mixture was used, the JET produced 16 megawatts of power in a matter of seconds, much lower than the power consumed to make the process happen.
The new test will initially target similar power levels, but will try to maintain them for longer. This will help in the design of the huge ITER reactor, which is under construction in France, which has a similar shape and investment. ITER is set to launch in 2025, but will not start using DT fuel until the mid-2030s.
New indications for ancient societies
Expect to see new studies on ancient humans as researchers combine ancient DNA analyzes with other molecular and microbial elements to examine social links and migrations.
The scientists will compare DNA data and data from proteins and isotopes, as well as micro-fossils and pathogens from bone, dental plaque and fossilized materials. Such studies this year could help identify the first families.
They could help identify the homeland of the biblical Philistines and clarify the identities of the first Anglo-Saxons and Greeks in Europe, as well as the mummies in China and Egypt.
We anticipate great laughter with the ubiquitous conspiracy theorists, with the supporters of the uniqueness of the Greek DNA and all those who believe that we come from the planet Sirius.
New anti-cancer drug
For more than 3 decades, scientists have dreamed of shrinking tumors by blocking a protein called KRAS, which has been shown to lead to many types of cancer.
KRAS protein was considered impermeable to drugs because it could not be blocked by inhibitors. However, many companies have now developed associations that can reduce it.
Drugs have shown promising results in experimental animals and, most recently, in cancer patients. In December 2020, Amgen asked the US Food and Drug Administration to reconsider KRAS anti-drug drug Sotorasib as the first member of this new class of drugs.
The drug could first be approved for use in some patients with lung cancer. Another company is expected to submit a similar drug for approval this year.