Deluged with achievement, grief, and no shortage of historic firsts, 2018 can best be described as a roller-coaster year. With so many significant moments over the last 12 months, it was no easy task narrowing them down and picking the very best to fit our word-limit. Nonetheless, here they are!
China Successfully Clones Monkeys (January 24)
Two monkeys have been cloned using the technique that produced Dolly the sheep. Identical long-tailed macaques Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were born several weeks ago at a laboratory in China. Scientists say populations of monkeys that are genetically identical will be useful for research into human diseases. But critics say the work raises ethical concerns by bringing the world closer to human cloning. Qiang Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience said the cloned monkeys will be useful as a model for studying diseases with a genetic basis, including some cancers, metabolic and immune disorders.
Launch of the Falcon Heavy (February 6)
The Falcon Heavy test flight (also known as Falcon Heavy demonstration mission) was the first attempt by SpaceX to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket. The successful test introduced the Falcon Heavy as the most powerful rocket in operation, producing five million pounds-force (22 MN) of thrust and having more than twice the lift capacity of the NASA Space Shuttle launch system. The dummy payload was a Tesla Roadster, the flagship vehicle of Tesla — which is also owned by SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk.
Black Panther’s success (February 16)
Black Panther is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Critics considered it one of the best films set in the MCU and noted its cultural significance. It grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide, breaking numerous box office records including the highest-grossing film by an African-American director. For 2018 it is the highest-grossing film in the U.S. and Canada and the second-highest-grossing film worldwide; it received numerous awards and nominations.
Nerve Gas attack on Russian agent (March 4)
On March 4th, Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent for the UK’s intelligence services, and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury, England. According to official UK sources and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the two were poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent known as A-234. Two Russian GRU operators were the suspected perpetrators.
Stephen Hawking: 1942-2018 (March 14)
Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of March 14th. The British scientist was famed for his work with black holes and relativity, with several bestselling books — most notably, A Brief History of Time — under his name.
Hawking’s biggest accomplishment was unifying fields of relativity and quantum mechanics through his research in black holes. He discovered that black holes leak energy and fade to nothing – a phenomenon that would later become known as Hawking radiation. Through his work with mathematician Sir Roger Penrose, he demonstrated that Einstein’s general theory of relativity implies space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes. At the age of 22 Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease. Defying the odds, Hawking not only lived to 79, he continued assiduously working in search of new discoveries.
Last Male Northern White Rhino Dies (March 20)
The world’s last male northern white rhino has died leaving only two females left to save the subspecies from extinction. The 45-year-old rhino named Sudan had been in poor health in recent days and was being treated for age-related issues and multiple infections. A veterinary team made the decision to euthanize Sudan after his condition deteriorated significantly, the conservation group WildAid announced Tuesday. Sudan lived in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, surrounded by armed guards in the days leading up to his death to protect him from poachers. This has made the subspecies functionally extinct, with only two female rhinos left.
End of Castro Rule in Cuba (April 19)
When Cuba’s president Raul Castro stood down on April 19th, it marked the first time in nearly six decades that the island will not be led by a Castro. The country’s national assembly selected the current vice-president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, as the sole candidate to replace Raúl Castro. The handover will mark the end of an era: Cuba without the Castros has been the holy grail for Florida-based Cuban exiles – and a policy vigorously pursued by a dozen successive US presidents. Castro’s departure from the Cuban throne is best summarized in The Who’s 1971 hit song, Won’t Get Fooled Again, with the lyrics, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. Sure, it’s the end of an era, but for the poor, downtrodden population of Cuba, little will change. The average monthly salary will still hover at $25 a month, and political dissidents will continue to live under constant fear. Real, meaningful change in Cuba requires an embrace of economic liberalism in lieu of the current communist system that imprisons its people.
US Embassy to Israel officially opened in Jerusalem (May 14)
Following through on a campaign promise, United States President, Donald Trump moved the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — the historic Jewish capital — on May 14, 2018. This marked the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel.