“From the smartest artificial brain to the first artificial life.” <DISCOVER, 11.14.2007>

I have highlighted what Discover magazine has dubbed the ‘6 Most Important Experiments’ of our time. I have coupled each item on this list with a short description from the experiments’ website to try and hook your interest in finding out more. I would definitely suggest checking out the original article, which can be found online here. Also, I’ve added an experiment that I could not allow to be absent from this list. If you know of any additional experiments (in any field) which merit mention on this list, please let me know!

Here we go:

1. The Blue Brain Project

“The Blue Brain project is the first comprehensive attempt to reverse-engineer the mammalian brain, in order to understand brain function and dysfunction through detailed simulations.” <about>

“Earthtime is an organized, community-based international scientific initiative aimed at sequencing Earth history through the integration of high-precision geochronology and quantitative chronostratigraphy. Our main goal is the development of the geochronological techniques necessary to produce temporal constraints with uncertainties approaching 0.1 percent of the radioisotopic ages.” <about>

” In order to meet the raw material demands of a modern pulp mill, the Sarawak State Government (Borneo) entrusted the Forest Department with establishing 150,000 hectares of industrial tree plantations. To date, 60,000 hectares have already been established and an additional 2,000 hectares are being planted every month.” <about>

4. Dark-Matter Experiment

“After the very successful run of XENON10, the first XENON detector with an overall mass of 15 kg and a target mass of 5.4 kg (after cuts), a part of the collaboration decided to go one step further: XENON100 will have a 10 times larger fiducial volume. This will increase the sensitivity to the WIMP parameter space even further and will provide an improved chance to detect WIMPs directly.” <about>

5. The Census of Marine Life

“The Census of Marine Life is a global network of researchers in more than 80 nations engaged in a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans. The world’s first comprehensive Census of Marine Life-past, present, and future-will be released in 2010.” <about>

6. Artificial Life

“In 2003, JCVI researchers created a synthetic version of the bacteriophage, PhiX 174, and recently they successfully transformed one species of bacteria to another by genome transplantation. As they progress on their goal of synthetic life, they are ever mindful of the societal implications of this work. From the first work on a minimal genome in 1995 to today, these ethical implications are being explored by our scientists and policy experts. Synthetic genomics holds great promise for the future and our team intends to be at the forefront of discoveries and the important public dialogue.” <about>

Find the whole article, with a description of each experiment, here.

7. The Large Hadron Collide at CERN

“For the past few decades, physicists have been able to describe with increasing detail the fundamental particles that make up the Universe and the interactions between them. This understanding is encapsulated in the Standard Model of particle physics, but it contains gaps and cannot tell us the whole story. To fill in the missing knowledge requires experimental data, and the next big step to achieving this is with LHC.” <about>