As 2015 draws to a close, it's time to look back and celebrate the amazing advances that were made in science, technology, medicine, and innovation over the last year.
There are so many incredible achievements that have happened because of the human drive to explore, help, and learn more about our place in the universe.
1. A new early human species was discovered.
Scientists discovered remains in a South African cave that turned out to be a group of 18 members of a never-before-seen early human species now known as Homo naledi. The samples have not yet been dated, but Lee Berger, the lead scientist on the expedition, believes the species is around 2.5 million years old. There is still a lot to learn about this incredible discovery and how it relates to the evolution of our species.
2. Study finds average office temperatures are sexist.
It's become somewhat of a stereotype that women are always cold in the office, but there is actually data to back up these claims. The average office temperature was designed to be on the cooler side, making it more comfortable for men wearing suits and whose resting metabolic rate is more compatible with cooler temperatures. Office temperature standards were set in the 1960s, but it may be time to revisit them now that women make up a larger percentage of the workforce.
3. World Health Organization states 17 countries and territories have eliminated mother-to-child HIV transmission.
The World Health Organization announced that 17 countries and territories in the Americas, including the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and several islands in the Caribbean, have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV. While it used to be a near certainty that the newborn of an HIV-positive mother would also acquire the virus, early intervention and proper precautions during birth have reduced the likelihood to under 2 percent.
4. Genetically modified mosquitos could bring an end to malaria.
Scientists announced the development of genetically modified mosquitoes that could effectively end the transmission of the parasite that causes malaria by making them resistant to it. The incredible gene drive technology that was used will make it so the trait wouldn't die out in the wild. Unfortunately, it might not be used because of science illiteracy among the general public about what the modification actually allows them to do.
5. Australia voted to ban dredge spoil dumping in the Great Barrier Reef.
The government of Western Australia voted to extend the range of the ban on dumping dredge spoil at the Great Barrier Reef. Dredging is the practice of siphoning up the bottom of the sea floor to relocate the sediment. Unfortunately, it also stirs up many toxins and disrupts the habitat of bottom-dwelling creatures. By extending this protection, the politicians decided to stand together for the preservation of this incredible ecosystem.
6. NASA announces salty, liquid water on Mars.
Life, as we know it, requires the presence of liquid water. While Mars likely once was covered in large oceans, the disappearance of the planet's atmosphere drastically was assumed to completely eliminate the liquid water. However, scientists did confirm the presence of incredibly salty water that still exists on Mars today, leaving the possibility open to finding microbial life.
7. Anti-vaxxers fund study that failed to show a relationship between vaccines and autism.
Anti-vaccination groups funded a study with the intention of showing that vaccines cause autism. Of course, there is no scientific evidence to back up that claim, which the results of the study showed. Anti-vaccination attitudes are responsible for the rise of preventable disease and these groups inadvertently showed how baseless their positions really are.
8. Doctors reattach the head of a toddler that was internally decapitated after a car accident.
A mother and her children were in a horrific car crash in Australia when the force of the impact separated the toddler's head and neck, effectively decapitating him. Though this injury easily could have been fatal, neurosurgeons were able to reattach the vertebrae and the boy is expected to make a full recovery.
9. Scientists successfully disrupt a human's blood-brain barrier to treat a brain tumor.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a membrane that is central to keeping the brain away from toxins, but it also makes it difficult for doctors to develop medications to treat brain tumors and other neurological conditions. Using highly targeted ultrasound pulses, doctors were able to shake open the BBB of an actual human patient long enough to get medication through, targeting a tumor.
10. WHO confirms bacon causes cancer, labels it a Class 1 carcinogen.
To the chagrin of people with taste buds everywhere, WHO ruled that cured meats such as bacon and sausages do cause cancer and were classified as a Class 1 Carcinogenic. The good news, however, is that while it does increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer, a serving per day increases it by less than 1 percent.
11. A NASA spacecraft finally reached Pluto after nine years of traveling through the solar system.
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft finally came within 8,000 miles of Pluto, giving the most high-resolution photographs that have ever been collected of everyone's favorite dwarf planet. Scientists are still getting information back from the whirlwind flyby and will spend the next several years learning about Pluto and what it has to tell us about planetary formation.
12. Womb transplants approved in the U.K.
The U.K. approved transplants of wombs for 10 women, allowing women facing infertility due to cancer, injury, or other unknown causes to bear their own children instead of having to turn to adoption or surrogacy. The doctor who will be performing the procedures is choosing candidates who are young and healthy enough to have the best possible outcomes with a potential pregnancy.
13. First Ebola vaccine shown to be 100 percent effective in clinical trials.
In the wake of the most devastating outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever ever, scientists fast-tracking a vaccine for the disease received some incredible results when it was shown to be 100 percent effective in trials. This could drastically reduce the loss of human life during the next outbreak.
14. It's not too late to save the Amazon rain forest.
A report found that more than half of the tree species in the Amazon rain forest — one of the most biodiverse places on the planet — are currently being threatened with extinction due to pollution and illegal logging. Losing these trees would cause irrevocable harm to the planet and the animals that live in those trees. The good news, however, is that it isn't too late to save them. Swift and deliberate action can prevent the loss of these trees.
15. World leaders agreed on a massive climate deal in Paris.
History was made in Paris when leaders from more than 190 countries came together and made the first legally binding pact to curb global emissions and combat climate change. One of the most ambitious goals is to have a net-zero carbon impact by 2050.
Which was your favorite science story of the year? Let us know in the comments!