Scientists who ask the right questions at the right time can make history and change the world.
We compiled a list of 50 scientists from across the globe who are doing just that — changing the world for the better.
These scientists’ revolutionary research in human happiness, evolutionary biology, neutrino physics, biotechnology, archeology, and other fields is helping to advance our lives in more ways than we could ever imagine.
For the list, we selected scientists noted in the media for their recent achievements as well as scientists highlighted in the 2014 lists of Forbes Magazine’s
“30 Under 30,” Popular Science’s The Brilliant Ten, and MIT’s “35 Innovators Under 30.“
On July 14, 2015, the NASA spacecraft New Horizons flew by Pluto -- closer than any other human-made instrument has ever been. Alan Stern is spearheading the mission, leading the team of scientists that made sure the spacecraft survived its nine-year journey through space.
Until New Horizons reached its closest approach to Pluto, little was known about this dwarf planet and its system of five moons. Now the NASA spacecraft has collected data that Stern and his team will be analysing over the coming months to understand the geology, composition, and atmospheric content of Pluto in significant detail, something that would never have happened without the New Horizons spacecraft.
Stern is the principal investigator for NASA's New Horizons mission.
In August 2014, the Rosetta spacecraft began orbiting the comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko and transmitting images to Earth of the dusty space snowball that were more detailed than anything we'd ever seen.
Ultimately, Rosetta will give scientists a better idea of what comets are made of and how they work, as well as provide insights into the chemical makeup of the solar system. As the Rosetta flight director, Andrea Accomazzo helped design the mission and led the team that guided it toward 67P. Now he's working with the European Space Agency on their interplanetary missions to Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter.
Accomazzo is an ESA spacecraft-operations manager at Venus Express and the flight director of the Rosetta mission.
We all know that the sun is a gigantic nuclear furnace, but until now we didn't know exactly how it produces energy. To figure it out, scientists have been tracking pp neutrinos -- tiny particles released when two protons fuse together deep inside the sun, as lead author Andrea Pocar presented in a recent paper on the Borexino experiment. Through the experiment, scientists are analysing the elusive particles by blocking out all other noise around a vat of material that emits light when excited by a neutrino.
Because these neutrinos are proof that protons are fusing within the sun, finally observing them helps confirm our theories about how the sun creates energy using fusion -- and what's going on inside while that happens.
Last spring, Andrew Shields and his colleagues successfully transmitted secure quantum key distributions (QKDs) through the fibres used for traditional telecommunications, such as computers and telephones, creating a safer way to send confidential data over long distances.
Traditional data-encryption systems use a standard 'key' of 1s and 0s, leaving their messages vulnerable to hackers. But when QKDs are intercepted, the act of eavesdropping on the key automatically changes it, making it impossible for hackers to use it to gain access to the information and alerting the senders of a security breach. While other teams had successfully transmitted QKDs in protected lab environments, Shields' team is the first to find a way to use the technology in real-world settings.
Shields is a quantum physicist at Toshiba Research Europe in Cambridge, England.
Bertolt Meyer is best known for hosting 'The Incredible Bionic Man,' a documentary about the state of modern bionics, a field in which engineers apply the designs seen in biology to create more responsive prosthetics, artificial organs, and more. A social psychologist, he uses his own condition to relate to others and hopes advances in bionics will help dispel stereotypes and stigmas around physical disabilities.
Meyer wears a bionic hand called an i-limb ultra revolution on his left arm. Though he used a series of different prosthetics growing up (he was born without the lower part of his left arm), he transitioned to the i-limb in 2009 because it was far easier to use, move, and interact with the environment around him.
Meyer is a professor at the University of Leipzig.
Chris Hadfield is increasing public awareness about space exploration and was the first Canadian to walk in space.
As the first Canadian to walk in space, aboard Expedition 34/35 on the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield gained international fame after his cover of David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' -- which he recorded on the ISS -- went viral, garnering over 25 million views.
In addition to his accomplishments as an astronaut, Hadfield is the author of two New York Times best-selling books, 'An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth' and 'You Are Here.' Hadfield continues to be an active presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Periscope, and he has recently hosted live chats explaining space exploration.
Hadfield is a former Canadian Space Agency astronaut.
Through her studies on roundworms, Cori Bargmann is uncovering how neurons and genes affect behaviour. Because many of the gene mechanisms in roundworms mimic those of mammals, Bargmann is able to manipulate certain genes and observe how that affects changes in behaviour.
For example, in one study she manipulated a gene that caused the male worms to bumble around while trying to mate, ultimately failing. Bargmann developed the Brain Research Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, which researches the root causes of conditions such as Alzheimer's and autism by looking at connections between brain function and behaviour.
Bargmann is the Torsten N. Wiesel Professor in the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behaviour at Rockefeller University.
Craig Spencer helped draw attention to the dire need for medical care in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak of 2014.
As New York City's first Ebola patient, Craig Spencer became the target of media criticism. However, he wasn't just a patient -- Spencer had spent five weeks in West Africa helping people fight the deadly virus, where it had become the largest epidemic in history, killing more than 6,300 people.
Though Spencer infected no one else and is now Ebola-free, his case brought to light several controversies surrounding Ebola treatment in the US, as well as raised awareness of the epidemic raging in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Spencer is a physician at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center.
Cynthia Kenyon joined Google's Calico venture last year, where she helps a team of scientists develop methods to slow ageing and prevent age-related diseases.
The goal of Calico is to extend human lives by up to 100 years. Kenyon gained prominence in the science community in 1993 for her discovery that altering a single gene in roundworms could double their life span. Since then, Kenyon has pioneered many more breakthroughs in ageing research, including pinpointing which genes help us live longer and determining that a common hormone-signalling pathway controls the rate of ageing in several species, humans included.
Kenyon is the vice president of ageing research at Calico.
Elizabeth Holmes is looking to transform the future of healthcare by changing the way we measure our health.
Holmes dropped out of Stanford during her sophomore year to create Theranos, a blood-testing company that uses a prick of blood to get the same test results as you'd get from an entire vial. The concept is disrupting and revolutionising the industry by making blood tests faster, simpler, and, most important, cheaper. Theranos has raised $US400 million in funding, making Holmes the youngest self-made female billionaire in the US.
Holmes is the founder and CEO of Theranos.
Emily Levesque is discovering the hidden mechanisms driving the formation and collapse of massive stars and galaxies.
As a Hubble Fellow, Emily Levesque works to improve our understanding of massive stars by building models of galaxies and analysing wavelength data. Her breakthroughs in understanding these immense stellar bodies will allow researchers to take advantage of advancements in space technology. In the past few years, Levesque and her team updated models of star-forming galaxies, focusing on how they are affected by rotation.
Levesque is a Hubble Fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Glaciologist Eric Rignot used satellite-radar observations to conclude that the West Antarctic glacier is quickly melting and that there's no way to reverse it. For his remarkable 2014 study, Rignot and a team of researchers looked at the five Amundsen Sea glaciers in West Antarctica, mapping the bedrock under the ice. Because there's no ridge holding the ice in place, nothing exists to help slow the ice sheet's inevitable collapse. 'Ice is going to retreat from this sector for decades and centuries to come, and we can't stop it,' Rignot told Nature.
Rignot is a professor at the University of California at Irvine.
Francis Halzen helped discover what happens inside some of the most powerful cosmic sources like black holes and supernovas.
To study neutrinos -- tiny, subatomic particles that fly through all matter -- Francis Halzen helped build the largest particle physics detector ever, known as the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
In 2013, the Antarctica-based observatory finally discovered cosmic neutrinos, the highest-energy neutrinos ever observed. The discovery gives astronomers a unique look at what happens at the core of many powerful cosmic sources, such as black holes and supernovas.
Halzen is a physicist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Climate is affected by tons of different variables, including tiny, uncontrollable shifts in our oceans to the massive amounts of greenhouse gases humans are adding to the atmosphere. As the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), Gavin A. Schmidt develops detailed climate models that illustrate the effects of each of these factors. In 2009, he and photographer Joshua Wolfe coauthored '
Climate Change: Picturing the Science' to show how climate change is changing the face of the planet.
Schmidt is the director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies and principal investigator for the GISS ModelE Earth System Model.
Gianluca Gregori created a supernova -- a powerful explosion that can radiate as much energy at once as the sun's entire life span -- in a lab.
Last year, Gianluca Gregori and graduate student Jena Meinecke created a supernova -- one of the most powerful explosive forces in the universe -- in a lab. Current theories state that the magnetic fields in outer space should be a uniform strength, but in reality the fields are much stronger than scientists expected.
To figure out what makes the magnetic field so strong, Gianluca placed a rod of carbon in a chamber filled with argon to simulate outer space. When he hit the carbon with a laser, it resulted in a powerful explosion of plasma filled with so much energy it mimicked a supernova, an explosion so powerful that it briefly outshines an entire galaxy. This experiment helps show scientists why the magnetic fields in exploded stars are so uneven and gives them a way to explore what makes forces in the universe stronger than what they theoretically should be.
Gregori is a professor of physics at Oxford University in England.
You can call Helen Fisher a love expert -- she's spent over 30 years researching human emotions and romantic relationships. Fisher's research explores what happens when two people fall in love and how factors such as sex, lust, and marriage alter brain processes. For example, in one paper she explored the long-term use of antidepressants, finding that in some people they can halt the brain's ability to fall in love.
Fisher's chronicled her research in several books, including 'Why Him? Why Her?: How to Find and Keep Lasting Love' and 'Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love' and has shared her findings a popular TED Talk about why people cheat. Fisher puts her vast relationship knowledge to use in a practical way -- she's the chief scientific adviser to Match.com.
Fisher is a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University.
By studying the artifacts left by ancient Mayans, anthropological archaeologist Holley Moyes hopes to both preserve Mayan culture and discover stories of these ancient people. Moyes has spent the past 20 years exploring more than 100 caves in Belize, finding everything from tools to sacrificial remains to everyday pottery, to uncover how the Mayans' ideologies were created and maintained.
Discovering the why behind ancient people's decision-making allows us to understand the implications of their decisions. One particular ritual Moyes focused on was why Mayans performed human sacrifices deep inside of caves. Though it's a developing theory, Moyes believes the Mayans cared deeply about rain (their lands were dry for many months of the year) and left increasingly large sacrifices to their god, Chac, to lift a devastating drought.
Moyes is an assistant professor at the University of California at Merced.
Hugh Herr develops bionic limbs for amputees, and with two bionic legs himself, it's an industry he's personally invested in. At MIT's Media Lab, he creates new and better legs for amputees. The lab's biohybrid smart prostheses and exoskeletons integrate microcomputers that monitor things like joint pressure and gait, allowing the limbs to respond to the body the same way biological legs would. The prosthetics are available through BiOM Inc., which Herr founded.
Herr is an associate professor and leads the biometrics research group at MIT's Media Lab.
The Thwaites Glacier
will inevitably collapse in less than a few hundred years, raising sea levels by about 2 feet total all on its own. The Thwaites holds the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet together, and its loss means the inevitable loss of the entire sheet, the researchers said.
That will cause sea levels to rise up to 13 feet when it melts completely. Glaciologist Ian Joughin and his team were able to model the glacier's deterioration over the last 18 years, and used that data to predict how the melting will look in coming decades.
Joughin is an affiliate professor of Earth and space sciences at the University of Washington.
The trillions of microorganisms, known as microbiomes, that live in the gut are composed differently for every person and can influence a number of things, including seasonal allergies and autism. By collecting microbiome samples for everything from plants to dogs, Jack Gilbert hopes to figure out how unique combinations of genetics and environments affect our health.
His many projects, including the Home and Hospital Microbiome projects, collect samples from different people and surfaces, analyse each, and provide every person with customised results. He's also launched the kittybiome project on Kickstarter, to study the gut bacteria of cats around the world.
Gilbert is an associate professor at the University of Chicago in the department of ecology and evolution.
Jacob Lurie is changing how mathematicians understand complicated geometric objects. He is a specialist in the field of algebraic geometry -- the study of curves, surfaces, and their higher-dimensional counterparts intimately linked to the solutions of algebraic equations. Lurie has developed a radical new framework for this field called 'derived algebraic geometry' that combines concepts from algebraic geometry and the related field of topology.
This new way of looking at the interplay between equations and shapes promises to lead to a much deeper understanding of geometry, and could also lead to breakthroughs in other areas of mathematics. Lurie is also a MacArthur fellow and recipient of the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in mathematics, and his work has been published in two books, 'Higher Topos Theory' and 'Higher Algebra,' and numerous other journals and papers.
Lurie is a professor at Harvard University in the department of mathematics.
Jennifer Doudna developed CRISPR, a method of genetic engineering that allows scientists to make precise genetic changes relatively easily. Last November, CRISPR saw its first major success in two female monkey twins, Mingming and Lingling, who were born healthy but with specific genetic mutations created through the technology.
But it's not without drama: The development of CRISPR ignited the scientific world with controversy after Chinese researchers had experimented with genetic engineering on a human embryo.
Doudna is a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley.
Social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt studies the ways people judge and profile others based on race, largely focusing on crime.
At a time when these biases are extremely prevalent, the findings prove particularly poignant. Eberhardt, a 2014 MacArthur fellow, works with law-enforcement officials to apply her findings, improving police policies and helping to build trust within the communities they serve.
Eberhardt is an associate professor at Stanford University in the department of psychology.
Regarded by some as the 'brightest young scientists' they know, Jeremy England has a controversial new theory about the origins of life.
England's mathematical theory, he says, does not contradict Darwinian evolution. Instead, Darwin's theory is a special case of England's much broader theory, which describes life at the level of genes and populations (instead of species) and suggests that the first life on Earth was an inevitable result from the fundamental laws of nature and not just random chance.
England is an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
While engineers are hard at work designing prosthetics with more flexibility and dexterity than ever before, John Donoghue is figuring out how patients can control those prosthetics just by using their brains -- the same way they would control a real arm or leg. Donoghue leads the BrainGate2 project, which is developing technologies to 'restore communication, mobility, and independence of people with neurologic disease, injury, or limb loss.'
In 2015, Donoghue announced that he will be spending the next year leading the launch of a new research center in Switzerland focused on bio- and neuro-engineering.
Donoghue is the Henry Merritt Wriston Professor in the department of neuroscience at Brown University, director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science, and director of the Center of Excellence for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology, Rehabilitation R&D Service, department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Providence, Rhode Island.
Karen King is the first woman to be appointed the title of the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard. King is an expert on the history of Christianity and has written half a dozen books on the subject. So when archaeologists discovered a fragment of an inscribed piece of parchment paper dating to between the second and fourth century, with the mysterious words 'Jesus said to them, my wife,' King was the person they called to decrypt the message.
While many had suspected the statement implied something about a potential wife of Jesus, King firmly disabused the public of that notion by announcing in 2014 that the words had nothing to do with a wife. Instead, she said, it was referring to mothers and wives who could be disciples of Jesus, a position that virgins were generally thought to hold in early Christianity.
King is the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard University.
Ten years ago, Karl Deisseroth was one of the only people in the world who thought it might be possible to control neurons by making them genetically sensitised to light. Today, thousands of labs across the globe are using Deisseroth's method, called optogenetics, to better understand the human brain and devise treatments for brain disease and mental-health conditions.
In 2010, the journal Nature Methods named optogenetics the 'Method of the Year,' and in 2014 Deisseroth was co-awarded the Keio Medical Science Prize, which recognises significant contributions in medical and life sciences that promote the peace and prosperity of mankind.
Deisseroth is the D. H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University.
Author of 'The Cosmic Cocktail,' Katherine Freese was one of the first women undergraduate students to graduate with a physics major from Princeton University.
She has since taken a position as the director for one of the most prestigious theoretical institutes in the world in Stockholm and is credited for her ground-breaking work to better understand dark matter -- one of the most outstanding cosmic mysteries of the century. Scientists know that there's some invisible material that makes up 26% of matter in the universe, but they don't know what it is. They call this substance dark matter and there are dozens of instruments around the world trying to discover particles of this substance. But Freese has another idea.
Freese has developed the theory of 'dark stars' that could be a bizarre type of star powered not by nuclear fusion but dark matter. Part of Freese's work is to determine how these dark stars might be observed in the universe. If she's successful in spotting one, it could be the first time anyone has ever observed dark matter directly.
Freese is the George Eugene Uhlenbeck Collegiate Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan.
Since the dawn of the 20th century there have been more breakthroughs in neuroscience than during any other century. Yet there are still many aspects of the human brain that we're no where near completely understanding. For example, what areas of the brain are responsible for consciousness and personality?
To help solve these mysteries, Katrin Amunts is leading a team of researchers who are carefully constructing a 3D map of the brain. The team announced last year that they'd made the most detailed map of the brain ever, which should lead to unprecedented insights into the construction and organisation of the brain and how it drives our behaviour.
Amunts is a professor at Jülich Research Centre in Germany and the director of the Cecile and Oskar Vogt Institute for Brain Research at the Heinrich Heine University.
Climate change is a growing problem that humanity has yet to correct, but some politicians are suggesting that we introduce chemicals into the atmosphere that could, in theory, reduce the rising levels of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere.
Speaking out against this quick fix, which could have unknown consequences on Earth's climate, is environmental scientist Ken Caldeira. At a meeting of over 12,000 scientists held in Vienna in April 2015, Caldeira addressed the dangers that this method of climate-change correction could lead to, such as drastic changes in plant growth and agriculture, which could have a devastating effect on the human population.
Caldeira is a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institute.
Kenneth Lacovara is famous for his involvement in the monumental find in 2014 of the largest land animal to ever live: a dinosaur species named dreadnoughtus. The average dreadnoughtu weighed in at about 65 tons -- about 12 elephants combined. This monstrous animal was a vegetarian that walked on all fours and had a long neck. Lacovara named the dinosaur after warships of the 20th century (called dreadnaughts) because for a time they were completely impervious to attack.
To be a successful archaeologist you have to know where to dig, and Lacovara certainly has that gift. Earlier in his career, he uncovered over 16 tons of fossilized remains from dinosaurs over five expeditions in the southern South America.
Lacovara is a professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science and a Paleontology Fellow at Drexel University's Academy of Natural Sciences.
Manu Prakash is making low-cost, high-tech medical devices for countries that traditionally can't afford them.
In the developing world, scientific instruments and medical diagnostics tools and treatments are coveted luxuries. Manu Prakash is out to change that with his innovative approach to what he calls 'frugal science.' Frugal science involves the design and manufacture of affordable scientific instruments to improve healthcare in developing countries.
One of his latest breakthroughs, which earned him a spot in Popular Science's 'The Brilliant Ten of 2014,' was a pocket-sized paper microscope that could detect malaria in a single drop of blood. The best part? It costs 50 cents.
Prakash is an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University.
Maryam Mirzakhani is helping us understand the complex mathematical relationships that govern twisting and stretching surfaces.
In 2014, Maryam Mirzakhani was one of only four people to receive a Fields Medal, which is regarded as the most prestigious award in mathematics since there is no Nobel Prize for maths. She's also the first woman to ever receive the award.
She studies shapes and surfaces in several fields of abstract mathematics including hyperbolic geometry. Mirzakhani tackles important questions in these fields -- like 'how many simple closed geodesics shorter than some given length can there be on a particular Riemann surface' -- by taking novel approaches to the problems that other mathematicians have said is nothing short of 'truly spectacular.'
Mirzakhani is a mathematics professor at Stanford University.
Michael Mann knows more about Earth's climate over the last 1,000 years than most. He's studied the history of changes in Earth's climate over the past 1,000 years to better understand how human-driven climate change of the 21st century compares. Mann has also pioneered techniques the climate scientists use today to discover patterns in past climate change to better understand how our situation may develop in the next 10, 100, and 1,000 years.
Mann is outspoken against sceptics of climate change: One of his notable achievements was helping to found Real Climate, a website run by a group of climate scientists who strive to provide the scientific facts on mainstream discussions of climate change. If you're looking for the statistics, facts, and other real science of the latest news or hype regarding what a celebrity, politician, or even the Pope said about climate change, you're likely to find it on Real Climate.
For his work, Mann has received numerous awards including the first Friend of the Planet Award from the National Center for Science Education.
Mann is a distinguished professor of Meteorology and Director of Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.
Michio Kaku is credited as one of the cofounders of string theory, which predicts that the most fundamental components of the universe are made up of one-dimensional strings. If proven, string theory could solve some stubborn problems in physics that have been puzzling scientists for decades, such as whether a universal theory of quantum gravity actually exists, and if it does, how it works and helps govern the behaviour of our universe.
Unlike the stereotypical, introverted theoretical physicist, Kaku is an outspoken popularizer of science. He has nearly half a million Twitter followers and has appeared in radio, TV, and films that explore some of the wackiest cosmic mysteries like whether wormholes exist and most fundamental philosophical question, like is there such a thing as free will? In 2014, Kaku published his third New York Times best-seller, 'The Future of the Mind.'
Kaku is a professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York.
When your company gets the attention of a powerhouse like Google you're doing something right. Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg, cofounders of Flatiron Health, a healthcare technology company based in New York City, have managed to accomplish this feat twice over. Flatiron Health aims to advance the fight against cancer by developing a 'software platform that connects cancer centres across the country to help change the face of cancer.'
Turner and Weinberg first caught Google's eye in 2010, when Google bought their tech company, Invite Media, for $US80 million. Then in 2014, Google invested $US100 million in the two men's healthcare tech company Flatiron Health. As of May 2015, Flatiron Health has acquired over $US139 million in funding to help them achieve their lofty goal to cure cancer.
Turner and Weinberg are business entrepreneurs and founders of Flatiron Health and Invite Media.
Nina Tandon, CEO and cofounder of EpiBone, is revolutionising medicine. Her company is the first in the world to use a patient's stem cells to grow human bone that can then be used to repair bone defects like bone loss.
Ideally, these bones can be grown to the exact shape and size needed and are easily implanted into the body because they are made from the patient's own cells. Tandon was named a TED senior fellow last year and she's also one of Business Insider's '
40 under 40: People to watch in 2015.'
Tandon is the CEO and cofounder of EpiBone.
Norman Doidge has developed a brand new field of science that revolutionizes the way we think about our brains.
If you're looking for the next big thing in neuroscience, the best person to speak to is Norman Doidge, a physician, psychiatrist, and writer. Doidge pioneered a new field of science called neuroplasticity, wherein he says the human brain is capable of repairing itself from damage or injury much better than previously thought.
Doidge has written two New York Times best-sellers on his theory, 'The Brain That Changes Itself' (2007) and 'The Brain's Way Of Healing' (2015) where he argues that the human brain can rewire itself -- change the neuropathways by which it processes information -- and thereby heal itself from learning disorders or even some of the physical consequences that result from a stroke. The way this rewiring works is through a series of mental exercises that target the impaired part of the brain. Through these incremental exercises that grow increasingly more difficult, the brain can change and heal.
Doidge is faculty member at the University of Toronto's department of psychiatry.
Richard Buckley has spent 35 years excavating the English city of Leicester. In 2012, Buckley was member of a team of archaeologists that came across the remains of the country's King Richard III buried underneath a parking lot.
It was an incredible discovery that continues to surprise archaeologists. For example, in March of this year, excavators of the site reported that they had found the remains of nearly a dozen women buried with the king.
Buckley is the codirector of University of Leicester Archaeological Services and project manager and lead archaeologist at the University of Leicester.
Sara Seager has one big goal: Find another Earth.
While that discovery remains elusive, she's already helped discover a whopping 715 exoplanets using the Kepler Space Telescope. By studying and understanding the composition and temperature of these planets, scientists are a step closer to being able to identify atmospheres similar to Earth's. Ultimately, if Seager succeeds in finding another life-sustaining planet, the scientific possibilities are endless.
Seager is an astrophysicist and planetary scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As humans we like to think of ourselves as the most intelligent animals on the planet. But how do you measure human intelligence? Traditionally, tests focus on how well we use logic. However, that's just one of many facets that describe intelligence, according to Scott Barry Kaufman, who is redefining the way we think of what being intelligent means with his dual-process theory of human intelligence.
Kaufman argues that a person's level of passion, persistence, and ability to set and meet personal goals are as equally important as logic and reasoning when it comes to measuring human intelligence. Kaufman has published five books on his theories about what defines human intelligence. He writes a regular column for Scientific American called Beautiful Minds and hosts The Psychology Podcast.
Kaufman is the scientific director of the Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center.
Have you ever wondered how a single memory can last for decades and why your brain chooses to store some memories and not others? That's part of what Sebastian Seung is trying to figure out by mapping the hundreds of billions of connections in our brains called the connectome.
Mapping all 7,000 connections of a tiny worm took scientists 12 years, which gives you some idea of the colossal challenge that Seung has accepted. To help him out, he's asking the world to participate through the Citizen science project he established called EyeWire, which turns brain-mapping into a game. If he succeeds, he'll create a new way to see the brain.
Seung is a professor of computer science at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.
One of the most mysterious objects in the universe is the black hole, a region of space with gravity so powerful it's strong enough to trap light and is thus invisible.
Shep Doeleman is ready with an
army of telescopes across the globe. Doeleman is out to unveil the cloak of invisibility surrounding the black hole at the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, by snapping a picture of it. If he succeeds, it would be the first picture of a black hole in history.
Some are saying it would be the 'image of the century.'
Doeleman is a principal research scientist at MIT and an assistant director at the Haystack Observatory.
You are in control of about 40% of your own happiness, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky. The other 60% comes from a mixture of genetics and your environment.
Lyubomirsky is an expert on human happiness and author of the book 'The How of Happiness,' in which she explains science-backed ways humans can increase their happiness. In addition to exploring how to be happier, Lyubomirsky studies whether happiness is a good thing and what things make people most happy. So if you're feeling low, crack open her book. After a few pages you might just find a way to feel better.
Lyubomirsky is a professor of psychology at the University of California at Riverside.
November 12, 2014 will be remembered as the day humanity first landed a probe on a comet. The probe was named Philae, the comet goes by Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and the landing was named the most important scientific breakthrough of 2014 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The team behind the Philae lander earned recognition in the history books, and we are recognising here the manager of the team, Stephan Ulamec, for overseeing and bringing to fruition one of humanity's greatest achievement in space exploration.
Ulamec is the Philae Lander Manager for the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt.
Project manager for the robotic 'Luke' Arm at DEKA Research and Development, Stewart Coulter is helping empower people who have lost a limb.
Named for Star Wars character Luke Skywalker, who loses his arm in 'The Empire Strikes Back,' the 'Luke' Arm is a robotic arm designed as a prosthetic that aims to help amputees complete day-to-day tasks never before thought possible. In 2014, DEKA announced that in a clinical trial, 90% of 36 participants with the arm could unlock a door and use chopsticks, which were tasks too complicated for former prosthetics.
Coulter is the engineering manager at DEKA Research & Development.
Archaeologist Vincent Gaffney was the project leader behind what LiveScience called one of the 10 greatest archaeological discoveries of 2014. The four-year survey that culminated in 2014 explored what was buried underneath one of earth's most iconic ancient emblems: Stonehenge.
Until Gaffney's survey, the consensus was that Stonehenge stood alone. But Gaffeny and his team discovered something unexpected: shrines and burial grounds dating as far back as 6,000 years ago beneath the structures of Stonehenge. This find offers new questions about Stonehenge and what we understand about it.
Gaffney holds the Anniversary Chair in Landscape Archaeology at the Department of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford.
Before solving one of the most outstanding mathematical mysteries of the last 150 years, Yitang Zhang was unrecognised for his genius, unknown in the mathematical community, and spent years working odd jobs at places like Subway.
But in 2013, all of that changed when he submitted a ground-breaking paper to one of the most prestigious journals in mathematics that discussed the unique patterns of prime numbers. There's something called a prime gap, which is the distance between prime numbers. For example, the prime gap for 5 and 7 is 2. N
o one knew if prime gaps just got larger and larger, out to infinity. However, Zhang provided a mathematical proof that there was a limit on the distance between primes: 70 million.
Since then mathematicians have advanced and revised the number. Meanwhile, Zhang has been featured in media outlets like Quanta, The New York Times, The New Yorker and has received such prestigious awards as the Ostrowski Prize, the Cole Prize, the Rolf Schock Prize, and a MacArthur fellowship. He has spent the last two years giving talks around the world.
Zhang is a professor of mathematics and physics at the University of New Hampshire.