The Year in Science 2004


With a bitter presidential election and the expanding chaos in Iraq, 2004 was a year of conflict both at home and abroad. And American scientists joined the fray in numbers unseen in decades–protesting an administration they believed distorted or ignored data that didn’t jibe with its political agenda on issues ranging from climate change to stem cell research to the evidence about Iraq’s unconventional-weapons programs. Yet while many
government-funded scientists were feeling stifled, thrilling developments were emerging from unexpected places. In South Korea, investigators cloned a human embryo, a breakthrough sure to advance medical research on an array of illnesses. On the Pacific island of Flores, Indonesian and Australian archaeologists discovered the bones of half a dozen hobbit-size humans, a heretofore unknown species that fundamentally changes our understanding of the human family. And at home, aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan launched the first nongovernment-sponsored astronaut into suborbit, expanding our vision of future spaceflight. Here, the year’s most important stories from the world of science.