Increasingly chaotic weather, potentially habitable planets and closing in on the elusive Higgs boson are just a few of the developments observed and discoveries made by the scientific community in 2011. The editors at LiveScience asked university scientists to describe what they think were the most important advances of the year. –ARK


Michael Mann, climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University:

“That’s a tough one. But I think I’d have to go with a body of work — several studies — establishing a more definitive link between climate change and certain types of weather extremes (heat waves and intense rainfall events/flooding), and studies by Stefan Rahmstorf, Tad Pfeffer and others suggesting a significant upward revision of projected sea level rise this century relative to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) estimates, with the latest studies suggesting that 6 feet (1.8 meters) of global sea level rise under business-as-usual emissions is not out of the question.

Stephen Sterns, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University:

“I think the acceleration in the discovery of potentially habitable planets is the biggest story of the year. If we find life on other planets, as now seems increasingly likely, it will have enormous consequences for our view of our place in the universe. If we can actually study it, we will learn a lot about our own biology by comparing it to one that evolved independently.”

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