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TRENDING SCIENCE: From climate change to robots, 2021 in CORDIS science

The state of our planet grabbed the most headlines in science in 2021, but space remains a perennial favourite.

Fundamental Research

The numbers don’t lie: 2020 was the hottest year ever and about 97 % of land areas have been destroyed. A dinosaur used the United Nations Headquarters in New York to warn us about the dangers of climate change. Why not? We’ve tried almost everything else, or have we? Toilet-training cows could help fight climate change. Their stomachs can also break down hard-to-recycle plastic. Fighting world hunger is another major challenge. To address this issue, we have the option of adding houseflies and worms to our menu. Let’s leave our planet and its problems for a moment. The European Space Agency sent a Barbie doll into orbit to get girls and young women interested in space as a career. In addition to the iconic doll, French cuisine, fine French wine, and squid and very tiny animals also took rides very high above Earth. The first private, all-civilian team orbited Earth. If you’re looking for a similar space adventure, you’ll need a very fat wallet. But all isn’t lost because there’s a different kind of adventure waiting. You don’t need money to discover your own planet.

Ancient humans and state-of-the-art robots

Are we really that different from Neanderthals? Apparently not. Speaking of Neanderthals, a newly discovered species might replace them as our closest relative. What’s more, Neanderthals had the capacity to produce and hear human-like speech. When you think of robots, the arts don’t come to mind. A humanoid robot named Ai-Da recited poetry in public and created her own poem. Wait, it gets even more fascinating. Robots can now make babies. We’re also using elephant trunks of all things to build the robots of tomorrow.

The pursuit of happiness and rage against the digital machine

Want to be happier? Wake up just an hour earlier in the mornings. A happy life normally leads to a longer life. Sorry, even with all that happiness, you’ll never be able to live more than 150 years anyway. Social media was all the rage, literally. Move over road rage, we now have social media rage. Maybe it’s time for a digital detox. Can you live unplugged in a dark cave for 40 days? On the subject of digital worlds, we first learned about the metaverse. Facebook is looking for European talent to help build this immersive virtual world where we’ll roam, play, learn, work and buy. Have you got what it takes to be one of these 10 000?

Keywords

science, space, robot, Neanderthal, climate change, social media, happiness, metaverse