Breakthroughs

Take a deeper look at some of the recent developments in physics, astronomy and other sciences.

  • New This Week
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    Anyone stuck in traffic has fantasized about lifting off and transforming their car into a helicopter. A sleek ride, capable of circumventing the chaos of city driving, soaring above coastal roads, or even the coast itself. Those days are upon us as flying cars move out of the realm of fantasy.

    • E76
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    While humans debate which is worse, dwindling resources or planet-killing celestial bodies, new breakthroughs in extra-planetary surveying and rocket propulsion are revealing the dichotomy of asteroids; those that might provide a new source of precious metals and those that can outright kill us.

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    This is an inside look at NASA's groundbreaking Artemis Program, the spacecraft, and the people who will bring humanity one step closer to the moon, Mars, and beyond.

    • E74
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    The dawn of a new era in astronomy has begun as the world gets its first look at the full capabilities of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. These first images from the world’s largest and most powerful space telescope demonstrate Webb at its full power.

  • Original
    • E73
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    Forecasting volcanic eruptions is notoriously challenging, but teams of scientists from around the globe may soon be utilizing cosmic rays to diagnose when a volcano is about to blow.

    • E71
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    New research reveals how incredible these ancient, unchanged reptiles really are - partly because of what’s called negligible senescence. This means that Alligators show almost no signs of aging -- regardless of how long they live - and that they are “biologically immortal.”

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    Astronomers linked radio dishes around the world to create the “Event Horizon Telescope” and have utilized this tool to photograph a supermassive black hole in the heart of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Its name is “Sagittarius A Prime” and it is over 4 million times more massive than the Sun.

    • E65
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    Nearly a century after the discovery of King Tut's tomb, archaeologists uncover the lost city of Luxor revealing new details about life in the Golden Era of ancient Egypt.

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    The ICARUS system monitors the movements and behaviors of Earth’s creatures from space. An antenna mounted on the International Space Station receives data from tiny trackers attached to animals and birds, opening the door to new discoveries that can warn us of natural disasters and outbreaks.

    • E63
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    65 million years ago, an immense space rock slammed into Earth, creating the equivalent of nuclear winter, killing all of the dinosaurs. Now, a team of scientists believes there was a witness to the catastrophe …a survivor that walked alongside T-rex … and that also allowed humans to be here today.

    • E64
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    From their unique predatory behaviors to the web masterpieces they weave, science is revealing big breakthroughs about spiders and their super strong and flexible silks.

  • Original
    • E59
    • 25m
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    The North Atlantic Right Whale is on the verge of extinction. The leading cause of death and injury to the whales is from ship strikes or entanglement in fishing lines. In this Breakthrough episode, we will hear from the leading experts and biologists who are racing to save this species.

  • Original
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    This is the epic story of the James Webb Space Telescope, told first-hand by the scientists who developed it. Building the largest, most advanced, and most expensive telescope ever made does not come without its challenges. But seeing further into space than ever before will be worth the struggle.

    • E66
    • 19m
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    A dog's sense of smell can do amazing things. Dogs can help humans sniff out all kinds of things that improve our lives, explosives, missing persons, illegal drugs. Now the latest research is revealing that dogs can detect disease, even cancer.

  • Original
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    By examining countless Megalodon teeth from around the world, scientists have concluded that "meg" was able to achieve its gargantuan proportions by starting its carnivorous diet early -- in the womb.

  • Original
    • E56
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    Watch as the Mars Perseverance Rover makes its historic landing on the Red Planet. We take you inside the harrowing February 18, 2021 landing, the science mission, and cutting-edge technology, including the first-ever Martian helicopter.

    • E57
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    Archaeologists and geneticists are uncovering surprising details about one of the most mysterious civilizations in Pre-Incan South America. While many are familiar with the Incas…few have heard of the Chachapoya, the people known as the Cloud Warriors, a mysterious pre-Incan Peruvian culture.

    • E61
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    Our bodies are habitats for bacteria, and many of the microbes are beneficial to us. Scientists believe that within a few decades many useful microbes will have disappeared … so they want to create a vault for Human Microbiota like a Noah's Ark for the future of the human species.

    • E69
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    For the first time in decades, NASA is sending two new missions to Venus designed to study and explore the planet’s atmosphere and earth-like composition. Together, DAVINCI and VERITAS will provide a new, 360º view of Venus -- its history, and perhaps a window into Earth’s past as well.

    • E55
    • 11m
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    OSIRIS-REx is NASA's first asteroid-sampling spacecraft on an asteroid called BENNU. It attempts a "touch-and-go" (TAG) sample collection which involves a series of maneuvers that will bring the spacecraft down to the asteroid's surface.

  • Original
    • E62
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    Drones have already conquered Earth, and now they're heading out into the solar system. The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity is proving to be successful and will pave the way for Dragonfly, a future daring mission to Titan.

  • Original
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    Capture teams from the U.S. National Park Service track down and relocate wolves to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior under an ambitious initiative to restore balance to a wilderness ecosystem.

    • E53
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    The latest developments in space technology continue to reveal the wonders of our solar system. With new moons recently spotted orbiting Saturn, the gas giant has taken the lead in our cosmic neighborhood's moon count.

    • E52
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    Could a 75 million-year-old dinosaur skull that has been sitting in a museum for over 20 years hold the first-ever dinosaur DNA discovered by humans? Follow an international team of scientists as they try to unlock the mystery of dinosaur DNA sequences.

    • E48
    • 21m
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    Hundreds of millions of people around the world could run out of water soon. Experts are desperately searching for solutions to stave off "Day Zero" when the taps will run dry. But the recent discovery of a massive aquifer hidden beneath the U.S. coastline may offer the greatest hope for humanity.

    • E43
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    Is it possible that there is a hidden planet within our own solar system? New evidence suggests that the fabled Planet X, or Planet 9, may indeed exist… but where? Meet the teams racing to discover and redefine our planetary neighborhood.

    • E47
    • 12m
    • 91%

    With countries racing to combat COVID-19 and communities across the world on lockdown, the world's attention has been directed towards medical solutions to this disease outbreak. However, there's another largely unseen health factor currently at play: our mental well-being.

    • E46
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    As the COVID-19 pandemic ramps up globally, every day brings new information about the disease. Learn what the virus does to the human body, and hear from the medical experts searching for techniques to treat the illness.

    • E45
    • 14m
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    According to current estimates, a widely available COVID-19 vaccine will likely be available within the next 12 months. Why so long? Learn how vaccines are developed and explore the current state of the coronavirus landscape, guided by the scientists on the ground trying to find a solution.

    • E44
    • 16m
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    Officially designated as a pandemic, it seems as if COVID-19 has taken over the world. Lucky for us, this isn’t the first time we’ve had to deal with a serious virus outbreak. Experts share the methods currently in place to slow down this infectious disease.

    • E42
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    The coronavirus disease is spreading at frightening speeds from Wuhan, China, to the rest of the world. How did this virus develop, and how close are we to finding an effective vaccine?

    • E1
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    This year we said goodbye to one of our most intrepid planetary explorers, the Opportunity rover. Take a look back at its storied 15-year mission on Mars, and how it revolutionized our understanding of not just the red planet, but our solar system at large.

    • E2
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    El León es conocido como el Rey de la Selva. Pero fueron los tigres dientes de sable los que gobernaron las Américas en el pasado. Sus fósiles nos cuentan la vida violenta y casi humana de esta misteriosa especie.

    • E3
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    The Greenland ice sheet, the last remnant of the Ice Age, is melting at an unprecedented rate. Today, scientists and researchers from all over the world are paying close attention to what could become a global catastrophe.

    • E5
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    Wildfires have greatly increased in size and intensity over the past few years. After record-setting conflagrations erupted in the region’s prized forests, new tools using cutting edge technology are being developed to help save property and lives.

    • E4
    • 10m
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    For all of human history, the Sun, our home star, has measured our days and our seasons while fueling all life on Earth. Yet it remains an enigma. NASA's Parker Probe Plus is on a mission to change that -- flying through dangerous radiation to become the closest spaceship to orbit our Sun.

    • E6
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    Lions may be known as the kings of the jungle, but it was saber-tooth cats that ruled over the Americas. New fossil evidence is shinning a light on the violent lives of these mysterious species.

  • Original
    • E7
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    The eruption of Mount Vesuvius is renowned for its decimation of Pompeii, but nearby, an equally impressive Roman settlement known as Herculaneum was lost to history. Today, the latest in technology is opening a wind to the past, as scientists digitally "unravel" the Herculaneum Scrolls.

    • E8
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    Rip currents can appear without warning, turning an ideal beach outing into a horrific scene of chaos and panic. But groundbreaking new research could teach thousands of potential victims how to spot and escape these silent killers before it's too late.

    • E9
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    The real impact of global warming is now being felt in communities around the world. Climate scientists explain what to expect where you live, and what steps might still be taken to reverse the climate crisis.

    • E10
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    A ballistic missile test by India recently shot down one of its own communications satellites. With over 900,000 pieces of debris currently orbiting planet Earth, space trash has become a very real threat to ongoing missions.

    • E11
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    Hayabusa2 just became the first spacecraft to take subsurface samples of an asteroid. How did they do it? Easy, just blow a crater on the surface! The probe now has its final sample and will begin its journey back home in the coming months.

    • E12
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    66 million years ago, an asteroid slammed into Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, causing a dinosaur mass extinction. With over 700,000 asteroids in space, what's in store for humanity and our planet if it happens again?

    • E13
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    One of the oldest known hominins in southern Africa. An almost complete skeleton dates back more than three million years. Found in 1994 in the Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg in South Africa, which form part of the “Cradle of Humankind”.

    • E14
    • 10m
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    Heart disease is the number one cause of deaths worldwide, but there are researchers frantically working to change that. Meet the people inventing the future of cardiac health, from new ways of imaging the body, to the possibility of 3D printing a functioning heart.

    • E15
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    The Tyrannosaurus Rex is known as the king of the dinosaurs, but how did its reign begin? Meet Moros Intrepidus, a 180 lb., deer-sized ancestor to the T-Rex. Learn how the latest in paleontology can now link this small dinosaur to the 19,000-pound Scotty, the largest T-Rex ever discovered.

    • E16
    • 11m
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    A non-profit organization established in 2011 is aiming to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon. This is the story of their attempt and the excitement of being the first private company to have a spacecraft launched with the intention of going to and landing on the moon.

    • E17
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    How close are we to rendering infertility a problem of the past? Scientists believe that they are steps away from making healthy babies from stem cells, opening the doors for those with health limitations to become parents. But what are the legal and ethical implications of this breakthrough?

    • E18
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    Wiped off the face of the Earth by humans nearly a century ago, geneticists are now working on resurrecting the enigmatic Tasmanian Tiger.

    • E19
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    Great white sharks are one of the most feared predators on Earth, and yet we know very little about them. Science is now revealing the mysteries of this perfect predator through evolutionary biology.

    • E20
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    For the first time, scientists have captured a photograph of a black hole. The image verifies one of the most important theories in physics and will help unlock the greatest mysteries of the cosmos.

    • E21
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    How long does it take for life to rebound after a major mass extinction? Scientists in Svalbard dig through fossil clues for surprising revelations about our Earth's history.

    • E22
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    The Hayabusa2 spacecraft has just completed one of the most intricate procedures in space exploration. The first mission to deliver rovers onto an asteroid has now descended to its surface for a sample, before returning back to Earth in 2020.

    • E23
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    The New Horizons spacecraft revolutionized our understanding of the solar system as it rocketed past Pluto. Now, four billion miles since its launch, the craft approaches its next target…Ultima Thule.

    • E24
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    MOSE is one of the world’s largest and highest-profile civil-engineering works. But will it be able to save Venice? Venice has grappled with inundation for centuries. But due to natural subsidence and higher tides caused by global warming, the city is more vulnerable to flooding than ever before.

    • E25
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    The fate of the Mars InSight lander will all come down to a fiery seven-minute freefall into the Red Planet. Will it survive and reveal new insight into our planetary neighbor, or will the atmosphere of Mars prove to be too much for our new planetary explorer?

    • E26
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    The Mars InSight lander is on a 6-month journey to the Red Planet, with hopes of uncovering some of our planetary neighbor's secrets. Digging deep into Martian soil, the lander will measure marsquakes and also study the deep interior of Mars - perhaps revealing the origins of the planet.

    • E34
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    As the number of people affected by Alzheimer's Disease continues to grow at an unprecedented pace, researchers worldwide are racing to discover a cure. While stopping the disease is the ultimate goal, could a team in the UK have cracked a method to reverse Alzheimer's Disease?

    • E37
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    New evidence suggests humans arrived in North America far earlier than previously thought, and that they may have traveled along paths now buried deep beneath the sea.

    • E36
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    Discovered in 2013, new and puzzling finding of small-skulled fossils of Homo naledi have scientists trying to understand whether Homo sapiens lived at the same time as Homo naledi, and how Homo naledi communities may have lived.

    • E40
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    Scientists investigate the way the Sun builds its power -- through fusion -- hoping to find a way to use fusion as a less dangerous and less radioactive waste-producing path to energy than fission. But there are some major difficulties along the way...

    • E35
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    Geologists in New Zealand created a stir earlier this year when they declared their discovery of the eighth continent of the world. Learn how was it formed and how something so massive could remain undetected until now.

    • E32
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    Gravitational Waves from three billion light years away have reached earth -- the latest discovery from a new branch of astronomy that one day could give us a front row seat to the Big Bang.

    • E39
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    An extraordinary new discovery of a dinosaur fossil so pristine and complete, that it shows off the texture, patterns, and color of a prehistoric giant. Discover this brand new species that roamed during the late Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

    • E38
    • 12m
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    Twenty years after its launch, we bid farewell to the Cassini spacecraft as it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere in a planned death spiral. Productive right to the end, Cassini has rewritten the textbook on not only Saturn and its moons, but our whole solar system as well.

    • E30
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    NASA may have just gotten one step closer to the answering the question: are we alone? The Spitzer Telescope has made a groundbreaking discovery of exoplanets that could be similar to our own. And as Kepler also continues its search, our understanding of the universe continues to be redefined.

    • E33
    • 12m
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    As scientific studies confirm sea level changes throughout the globe, major coastal cities like Miami are now fighting back against these rising tides, before it's too late. Parts of Miami Beach are under serious threat, with major economic and social dangers looming large.

    • E29
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    New information from the eye of the Greenland Shark confirms it is the longest living vertebrate on Earth. Find out what qualities the shark has, and how looking at Sea Squirts (Tunicates) is also helping scientists understand more about the aging process.

  • Original
    • E28
    • 9m
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    Only 20 years ago, on July 5, 1996, scientists cloned a sheep, Dolly. Now genetics have advanced to gene editing, a technique that is promising to pave the way for curing genetically carried illnesses, like certain cancers. But how does it all work? And what are the challenges?

    • E27
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    Einstein was correct about gravitational waves. Here is a short primer on these up-to-now only theoretical waves. And you will find out how we have finally confirmed Einstein's theory and what the research into gravitational waves will tell us about the beginnings of our Universe.

    • E31
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    New evidence from NASA's Dawn mission to Ceres, a dwarf planet the size of Texas, is changing our understanding of not only the Asteroid Belt but may also may hold the key to deciphering the early life of our solar system.