First Runner up, Genomics: 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. Sequences for the fruit fly and humans are ahead of schedule, with a rough draft of the human genome due in March 2000. The genomic explosion continues to drive the development of sophisticated tools like DNA "chips" and advanced databases to handle the sequencing, comparison, and analysis of thousands of genes.
Blueprints for the Protein Factory: A grueling, decades-long attempt to solve one of biology's most frustrating puzzles had a eureka moment this year with the creation of the first complete molecular map of the ribosome, the cell's essential protein factory. Several groups of researchers had a hand in sorting out the details of the ribosome's dauntingly complex structure. Energized by this flurry of success, scientists are now hoping to catch a glimpse of the ribosome as it operates its protein assembly line, engaging in the most basic activity performed by all living things.
The Weird World of Quantum Matter: This year scientists created a bizarre new kind of gas that may one day help them probe the basic nature of matter and build the next generation of atomic clocks and lasers. The gas consists of atoms that fall into the category of fermions, one of nature's two types of elementary particles, which by definition are antisocial particles that refuse to occupy the same energy state. Now a team of scientists has coaxed a swarm of fermions into a state where they are precisely arranged in a ladder of energies. This achievement clears the way for the creation of a completely new type of quantum matter-a counterpart to the famous Bose-Einstein condensate (Science's Top Advance of 1995) made from the o
Contact: Heather Singmaster
American Association for the Advancement of Science