Climate, new physics and Jupiter on the horizon for 2016

eva headshotIt’s fitting that the first issue of the new year features stories about what will, I predict, hold on as scientific newsmakers during 2016. For instance, Thomas Sumner reports on the historic agreement that aims to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. Exactly how to cut carbon emissions enough to achieve this, and news about climate change’s impacts, will surely get major ink this year.

Another story with legs: Results from this year’s record-setting proton smashups at the beefed-up Large Hadron Collider has physicists chattering. Operating at substantially higher energies than that of its earlier runs, the LHC has already produced a hint of a possible new character in the drama of particle physics, Andrew Grant writes in this issue. “All eyes are on a little bump in the data that was presented in December,” Grant says. “New collisions in 2016 should either enhance the possibility of a new particle or reveal it as a statistical fluke.”

Grant also anticipates news from another frontier of physics. “2016 may be the year we finally detect gravitational waves,” he says, which would pave a new avenue for exploring the cosmos. Rumors of such a detection are now circulating.

Other Science News staffers are no less bullish about the coming year in science. Among their predictions:

  • The gene-editing tool CRISPR will continue to generate breakthroughs and stir controversy.
  • Scientists will persist with efforts to figure out what the earliest members of the human genus, Homo, looked like and when they first evolved.
  • The Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in July, replacing Plutomania with a Jovian obsession.

In 2016 we’ll also look behind the headlines, with in-depth attention to scientific issues, from the potential risks of genetically modified organisms to what science has to say about gun violence and the biology behind the inevitability of aging.

One writer, I should note, thought it might be best to hold her tongue. After all, Susan Milius says, “the best stories of the year are often a surprise.”

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