British Science Week is taking place from 10-19 March, 2017, encouraging people of all ages to get involved in science, technology, engineering and maths events and activities. So with the spotlight firmly on science and technology this week, Paramount’s Eugene McDaid has put together his top five scientific discoveries and inventions of all time:
5 – Artificial Intelligence
We often look at artificial intelligence from a human perspective, for example robots that begin thinking for themselves (and perhaps take over the world), but for me artificial intelligence is one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of all time because it enables machines to learn and process more information than we ever could as humans. With all the big data being generated from genomics projects and electronic medical records from across the globe, artificially intelligent computers can learn to spot patterns in all that information, leading to faster discoveries and huge jumps forward in our understanding of diseases and how to treat them.
4 – Medical imaging
Medical imaging is an essential tool for clinical analysis, allowing doctors to see beyond what is hidden by skin and bone to accurately diagnose and treat diseases. From X-rays and radiography to MRI scans and ultrasound technology, these scientific innovations have all helped to ensure modern medicine is the least invasive it can be while ensuring the best outcomes for patients. Medical imaging really showcases how science and technology are complementary disciplines, as one advances the other.
3 – Antibiotics
Antibiotics revolutionised medicine in the twentieth century, and together with vaccinations, have almost completely eradicated many once-common diseases such as tuberculosis. While the use of mould to treat infections was first noted by ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians and the Greeks, it was Sir Alexander Fleming who discovered the first antibiotic substance, Penicillin G. For the millions of lives that antibiotics have, and continue to, save worldwide, antibiotics have to be in my scientific top five.
2 – The Internet
Possibly the greatest technological invention of our time. A truly remarkable feat of physics and engineering in its own right, the Internet has had a huge impact on science from connecting scientists across the globe and allowing them to share information and research more easily, to providing scientific resources and papers to more people than ever. The internet is even helping to fund new discoveries; for example the social media phenomena the ALS ice bucket challenge, which fully funded a number of research projects including one which identified a new gene associated with the neurological disorder.
1 – DNA
Over the last 60 years, our rapidly evolving understanding of DNA has catapulted medical knowledge and treatments and even transformed the way we solve crimes. Since James Watson and Francis Crick’s discovery of the double helix structure of DNA in 1953, the scientific community has split in many different directions to investigate the building blocks of life to understand what makes us who we are. Without the discovery of DNA, we wouldn’t have all the ground-breaking studies going on right now in genome mapping and sequencing, so for that reason, DNA has to be my number one scientific discovery of all time.