Predicting 2009’s Headlines

Stem cells, black holes, and more

What will next year’s science headlines bring? Popular Science predicts.

Read more of Popular Science’s predictions for 2009.

Dinosaurs’ True Colors Revealed

Last year, researchers at Yale University discovered organelles called melanosomes on a 100-million-year-old dino feather. This year they will examine the shape and concentration of the melanosomes to determine the original colors of winged dinosaurs.

Feds Aim to Save Ecosystems

A new approach used by conservation biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service highlights environmental trends to direct rescue funds toward bigger-picture causes, such as agricultural runoff, that affect not just single species but entire ecosystems.

Stem-Cell Science Gets Rebooted

Several groups have reprogrammed adult skin cells to behave like embryonic stem cells using genes ferried by viruses, a method that can cause the cells to become cancerous. This year’s goal: Replace viruses with chemicals that can do the job safely.

Mission: Invisible

Last year, scientists demonstrated the first visible-light metamaterial, a metal-semiconductor hybrid, paving the way to an “invisibility cloak.” Meanwhile, metamaterials that work with radio frequencies could improve cellphone reception.

Elusive Black Hole Captured

Next year, astronomers will look into the heavens for evidence of the rare medium-size black hole. Studies will try to establish why they’re so scarce and will combine traditional visible-light astronomy with X-ray emissions from star clusters.