A range of cool discoveries, technological milestones and downright bizarre scientific feats — cows can be potty trained? — gave us a chance to gab about something other than the pandemic.
Fusion of the future
Hopes for making nuclear fusion the clean energy source of the future got a boost in August when a fusion experiment released 1.3 million joules of energy (SN: 9/11/21, p. 11). A big hurdle for fusion energy has been achieving ignition — the point when a fusion reaction produces more energy than required to trigger it. The test released about 70 percent of the energy used to set off the reaction, the closest yet to the break-even milestone.
In a first, a pig kidney was attached to a human, and the organ functioned normally during 54 hours of monitoring (SN: 11/20/21, p. 6). This successful surgical experiment marks a milestone toward true animal-to-human transplants, which would broaden the supply of lifesaving organs for people in need.
Scientists got an entirely new view of the brain when they took a tiny piece of a woman’s brain and mapped the varied shapes of 50,000 cells and their 100 million or so connections (SN: 7/3/21 & 7/17/21, p. 6). The vast dataset may help unravel the complexities of the brain.