Scientific Advances in the 21st Century

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  • 0:01 Why So Much Science?
  • 0:53 Robotics and Space Exploration
  • 2:10 Biotechnology and…
  • 2:56 Advances in Medicine
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Think that science hasn't changed the world in the past 20 years? Hopefully, you don't have the audacity to think that while watching this on a smart phone! This lesson details how the space race and the internet forever changed science.

Why So Much Science?

The last years of the 20th century saw an outpouring of scientific research. Much of this came as a result of the Cold War being waged between the Soviet Union and the United States as each side tried to remain on the cutting edge of technology. However, still more was demanded by a middle class, especially in the West, that demanded newer, faster, better, and more advanced everything. In fact, that outgrowth of research was only surpassed as humanity entered the 21st century.

Of course, the key to all of this was the development of the Internet. Now, information could be shared in real time instantly around the world. One field in which the Internet proved to be especially revolutionary was in all things related to physics and engineering, especially with respect to robotics and space exploration.

Robotics and Space Exploration

In the minds of many, the Space Race had effectively ended when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969, or when the Space Shuttle Columbia launched in 1981 and returned later that year, realizing the dream of reusable launch systems. However, space still offered a great deal of opportunity. For decades, the American government had developed a system of global positioning satellites. During the last few years, GPS navigation has become increasingly common in everything from new cars to mobile phones. Additionally, space flight has begun to no longer be the domain of superpowers, with a number of private companies preparing to offer the opportunity to enter orbit.

Meanwhile, advances in robotics, or the building and engineering of robots, have also benefited from space exploration. Space exploration requires robots that can operate with extreme dexterity, often surpassing that capable of a human hand, while working in extreme conditions. In fact, these advances have permitted the use of a new generation of robots on Earth that can do everything from flying to open-heart surgery with more precision than ever thought possible.

Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering

These new advances in robotics have given hope to millions around the world in need of functioning limbs. Prototypes are being developed now to replace prosthetic hands with more functional devices, all as a result of the knowledge gained in outer space. The genetic disorders that make need for a prosthesis in the first place are now being targeted with a new wave of genetic engineering. Since finishing the map of the human genome, or the whole human genetic map, researchers are now able to come up with genetic treatments for various diseases. Among the most high profile of these are identifying the genetic markers that indicate a high likelihood of certain cancers and then taking proactive measures to address those concerns.

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