In 2022, several new scientific records were established, including a massive bacterium, a supercomputer with impressive speed, and a nearby black hole. These are among the most noteworthy accomplishments of the year. Check out what makes the list below…
A research team has determined that the earliest recorded surgical operation was an amputation of the leg, based on the examination of a human skeleton found on the Indonesian island of Borneo, estimated to be around 31,000 years old. The presence of healed bone where the lower left leg had previously been indicates that the individual survived for several years after the procedure. This discovery pushes the history of surgery back by approximately 20,000 years.
Biggest Single-Celled Bacterium
Thiomargarita magnifica is a type of bacteria that stands out from the rest due to its size – it can be seen with the naked eye and measures about one centimeter in length. This bacterium, which is found in the mangrove forests of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean, is about 50 times larger than other large bacteria and approximately 5,000 times bigger than typical bacteria. It is currently unknown why this particular species evolved to be so giant.
Frontier, a supercomputer operated by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, set a new record this year with its incredible processing speed of 1.1 quintillion operations per second. This performance makes Frontier the first exascale computer, capable of performing at least 1018 operations per second. The previous fastest computer was only able to reach a speed of 442 quadrillion (1015) operations per second. Exascale computing has the potential to bring about major advances in fields such as climate science, health, and particle physics.
Largest Fish Colony
In a breeding colony located deep in the waters off the coast of Antarctica, a large number of icefish known as Jonah’s icefish (Neopagetopsis ionah) have gathered, with around 60 million nests covering a seafloor area of at least 240 square kilometers – an area comparable to the size of Orlando, Florida. This is a surprising discovery, as previously, fish species that build nests were only known to congregate in small groups of hundreds. It is believed that the abundance of food and access to a region of unusually warm water may be responsible for the unusually large gathering of these fish.
Closest Black Hole
By analyzing data collected by the Gaia spacecraft, astrophysicists have identified a black hole called Gaia BH1 that is located just over 1,560 light-years away from Earth. This black hole is about twice as close as the previously known nearest black hole. However, it is possible that an even closer black hole will be discovered when Gaia, which is currently mapping out the positions of one billion stars, releases its next set of data in the coming years. It is estimated that around 100 million black holes exist within the Milky Way, but most of them are difficult to detect due to their invisible nature.
The “immortal jellyfish,” a deep-sea species, has the ability to reset its age indefinitely. When an adult immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii) is injured or stressed, it absorbs its tentacles into its body and transforms into a free-floating blob that settles on the seafloor. This blob then becomes a branching, plant-like polyp, which releases young jellies into the ocean, effectively turning the adult jellyfish into multiple new babies. These creatures do not die from old age, although they can be killed by predators.
In order to understand how the tiny invertebrate manages to avoid aging, a group of scientists from the University of Oviedo in Spain analyzed its genome and compared it to that of a related jellyfish species. The researchers found that the “immortal jellyfish” has twice as many genes that repair and protect DNA, allowing it to produce more restorative proteins. Additionally, the jellyfish’s genetic mutations slow the shrinking of telomeres, which are bits of DNA that protect chromosomes but typically shorten with age. The multiple genetic mechanisms used by the jellyfish to maintain its longevity could potentially be studied in relation to human aging and may inspire new techniques for replacing damaged cells, organs, or tissues in humans.