2009: Top ten science stories

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A hominid ancestor, Swine Flu, the world's biggest laser system, HIV-Aids vaccine and other highlights defined this year in science.

Here is a list of the top ten science stories of 2009:

1. Ancestor 'Ardi' provides new clues about human origins
The discovery of a 4.4-million-year-old skeleton, human-kind's oldest known ancestor, was the greatest scientific breakthrough of 2009.

The fossil, known as Ardi or Ardipithecus ramidus, was the subject of 15 years of painstaking examination by anthropologists.

Oldest hominid skeleton rewrites human evolutionary history

Ardi is 1.2 million years older than 'Lucy', previously the oldest known human ancestor.

Many of the traits found in Ardi's skull, teeth, pelvis, hands and feet, showed that African apes have evolved extensively since sharing a common ancestor with humans.

2. The H1N1 pandemic
Began in Mar 2009, H1N1 influenza is one of the most deadly disease that affected millions across the globe.

Swine Flu: Complete Coverage

According to World Health Organization report, the Global H1N1 influenza deaths have already exceeded 1 million people.

China set for world's first to have H1N1 vaccine

In order to prevent further spread of the disease, the WHO and the China developed first H1N1 influenza vaccine.

3. Scientists have developed AIDS 'vaccine'
The United States and Thai researchers announced that they develop an HIV-AIDS vaccine trials could be the body reduce the risk of HIV infection 31.2 percent. The experimental vaccine is called ALVAC-AIDSVAX.

New HIV trial vaccine that cuts risk of infection

The study was conducted on 16,000 volunteers in Bangkok, Thailand by the US Military HIV Research Program and the Thailand Ministry of Public Health. Although the results seem modest, it's very exciting news for the scientific community.

4. Large quantity of water found on Moon
The United States NASA launched Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Remote Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), to find whether there is water on the Moon.

NASA's LCROSS confirms presence of water on moon

NASA reported that its LCROSS space probe had detected a significant amount of hydroxyl group in the material thrown up by an impactor; the hydroxyl group may be attributed to water-bearing materials.

5. First electronic quantum processor created
A team led by Yale University created the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor, taking another step toward the ultimate dream of building a quantum computer.

Quantum computers come closer to reality

They also used the two-qubit superconducting chip to successfully run elementary algorithms, such as a simple search, demonstrating quantum information processing with a solid-state device for the first time.

6. Magnetic monopoles spotted in spin ices
For a long time, people think that magnetic particles are usually always Dipole (North and South poles) in the form of pairs.

Magnetic monopoles detected in a real material for the first time

France research team and the German research team working with strange crystalline materials called spin ices created magnetic ripples that predicted behavior of 'magnetic monopoles" or fundamental particles with only one magnetic pole.

7. Earth-like planets discovered around Sun-like stars
Five Earth-like planets orbiting Sun-like stars have been discovered by an international team of astronomers lead by an Australian and American.

New planets orbiting Sun-like stars discovered

They discovered four low-mass planets around two nearby Sun-like stars, out of which two are 'super Earths' and three exoplanets (or extrasolar planets) are found orbiting around star 61 Virginis, which is almost identical to the Sun.

8. Plant survival during droughts
Scientists discovered the structure of a critical molecule that helps plants survive during droughts.

This could help scientists design new ways to protect crops against prolonged dry periods, potentially improving crop yields worldwide.

9. World"s first X-ray laser tool unveiled
The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California unveiled the world's first X-ray laser, a powerful research tool capable of taking snapshots of chemical reactions in progress.

World's most powerful X-ray laser begins first experiments

It is also capable of altering the electronic structures of materials and myriad other experiments spanning a wide range of scientific fields.

10. A comeback for gene therapy
Gene therapists developed new ways to treat brain disease, hereditary blindness and some immune disorders.

Gene therapy helps two kids suffering from fatal brain disease

Therapists working on signal pathways worked on a drug that extended the life-span of mice by around 10 percent.

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