Science Review 2012 – Top 100 science stories: Nos 25-21

14 Dec 2012

Depiction of how the Prieto battery will work. Image via Prieto Battery

We continue our countdown of Ireland’s top science and innovation stories of 2012. It was the year Dublin became the European City of Science and major scientific breakthroughs occurred in every field.

During four days in July, international scientists, policy-makers and business leaders, as well as the general public, converged on the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin, the highlight in a year full of science and innovation events, such as Science Week, Nanoweek, and Engineers Week.

Most notable during 2012, however, is the impact young people in Ireland have been making in innovation. James Whelton’s CoderDojo movement has gone international, student Paddy Mulcahy won the Irish leg of the 2012 James Dyson award, Mark Kelly and Eric Doyle, this year’s overall winners at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, also scooped another top award at the EUCYS, and teenager Joanne O’Riordan, who has no limbs, gave a speech to global leaders at a United Nations conference for Girls in ICT Day on how technology has changed her life.

To celebrate a year that also included great research, discoveries and partnerships, has dedicated this month to the top 100 most popular science and innovation stories of 2012. Our countdown continues below.

Albert Einstein

25 – Today is anniversary of Einstein’s birth and Pi Day

The 14th of March 2012 was the 133rd anniversary of the birth of theoretical physicist and mathematician Albert Einstein. It was also Pi Day, when the mathematical constant pi is celebrated, as 3.14 is the numerical equivalent of pi in month/day date format.

In the US, Pi Day is celebrated in many ways. For example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) releases its regular action admissions decisions on Pi Day. But MIT went further than that this year. For instance, MIT released its decisions at Tau Time, ie, 6.28pm EDT.

The LOFAR radio station in Onsala, Sweden

24 – Dermot Desmond invests in radio telescope for Ireland

One day Ireland could be a hub for scientific research into the early universe after the Big Bang in order to glean more insights about its evolution. Irish businessman and financier Dermot Desmond has now invested into the planned radio telescope project, called i-LOFAR, which is destined for Birr in Co Offaly.

Trinity College Dublin, under the direction of Dr Peter Gallagher, is leading a consortium of 12 universities on the island of Ireland to get a radio telescope in place in the country.

Full moon

23 – Blue moon to grace our skies; next one won’t happen until 2015!

It seemed to be a fitting celestial tribute to the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, whose memorial service took place in Ohio on 31 August, as there was a rare phenomenon in the skies that night – a blue moon. That’s because, for the second time last August, there was a full moon.

And it will be July 2015 before two full moons are set to occur again in one calendar month, with the name blue moon having carried on from folklore to represent a rare event.

This past August, the first full moon occurred on the night of 1/2 August before 31 August’s full moon, right on the cusp of the start of September.

Dyson's patented ball technology

22 – Dyson defies physics with latest engineering challenge

Celebrated UK inventor James Dyson has overcome an engineering challenge he set for himself – cramming more than 100 components into a ball cylinder vacuum cleaner – a feat he achieved with a team of 70 engineers.

You see, we’re so focused on the virtual and social worlds that we sometimes forget the physical challenges of technology. This is something the late Steve Jobs of Apple became virtuoso at, from the engineering challenges of the Macintosh personal computer in the early 1980s to breakthroughs like the iPod, iPhone and iPad in recent years. He cared deeply about what was inside and not just external appearances of hardware. And, as Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt reminded, the digital revolution is still keeping pace with Moore’s Law.

Prieto battery

21 – US start-up aims to revolutionise lithium-ion batteries

Prieto Battery, a spin-out from Colorado State University, is on a mission to create lithium-ion batteries that are up to 1,000 times more powerful, 10 times longer lasting and more energy efficient than batteries that are currently available.

The start-up, which spun out of Colorado State’s clean energy commercialisation facility Cenergy in 2010, has raised US$5.5m of a planned US$6.8m funding round, according to a filing in the US.

The battery technology is the brainchild of Amy Prieto, an assistant chemistry professor in the university’s College of Natural Sciences.