Tops in science

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Discoveries involving stem cells - the controversial "master" cell that can become any cell in the body - topped the scientific advances of 1999, say editors of the journal Science.

The magazine rated research involving genomes, the entire collection of an organism's genes, as the "first runner-up" for biggest discovery of the year. The magazine noted: "The floodgates broke open on genomic research in 1999, releasing a torrent of data that included the complete genome for several microbes, two maps of the malaria parasite genome, and the first sequence for a human chromosome."

Other top discoveries, according to Science:

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*The first complete molecular map of the ribosome, the tiny factory in a cell that makes proteins.

*Fermion gas, a strange new state of matter that physicists hope will help them decide the basic nature of matter and build the next generation of atomic clocks and lasers.

*Australian rocks containing the remains of organisms that existed 2.7 billion years ago. The finding pushed back theories of when complex life originated by a billion years.

*Gamma-ray bursts linked to the collapse of supernovas. Both Earth-based and orbiting telescopes were able to capture the fading afterbursts of the explosions, which once mystified scientists.

*Measurements of microwaves left over from the "big bang." The findings suggest the universe was created in a burst that stretched space flat - meaning it will neither expand forever, nor will it all end in a "big crunch," but will just expand until the movement eventually stops.

*Images of neurons that illustrate how brain cells preserve memory.

*Planets outside our solar system.

Next year, Science editors said, watch for discoveries involving river- restoration projects, X-ray astronomy, epigenetics (the study of how cells decide to differentiate), and nanocomputers.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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