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Breakthroughs and bust-ups of 2010

news.2010.130.resonator.jpgThe end of the year is almost here, and that means that it’s time for Science magazine to unveil its breakthrough of the year.

This year, the award goes to a team at the University of Santa Barbara that put a macroscopic chunk of metal into its quantum mechanical ground state. Andrew Cleland and his team cooled a tiny metal paddle and then preformed a number of weird quantum experiments, such as putting it in a supersposition of vibrating and not vibrating states.

The work was published by Nature in March, and my interview with Aaron O’Connell, a grad student who did much of the work, was also one of my favourite podcast interviews this year (you can have a listen on the player below, it starts at about a minute in).

Other science breakthroughs include the J. Craig Venter Institute’s unveiling of the first synthetic genome, and work showing that Neandertals and Humans may have interbred. You can see the full list at Science’s website.

Meanwhile, The Scientist has put out its own list of biology’stop ten retractions of 2010. Once again Nature figured prominently with retractions by stem cell biologist Amy Wagers and Nobel Laureate Linda Buck. The top retraction, however, was the Lancent’s decision to retract a controversial 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield, which claimed a connection between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism in a sample of just 12 children. In May, Wakefield was struck off the United Kingdom’s medical register.

Image: O’Connell, A. D. et al.

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