TED Science worth knowing newsletter

Image: Flickr/ NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (CC BY 2.0)

Can we slow global warming by blocking the sun?

Sometime in 2019, a heavily modified weather balloon will launch into the stratosphere. Once it rises about 20 kilometers high, it'll begin to perturb the atmosphere, as the scientists like to say. First with ice and then, if all goes to plan, with chalk dust and maybe even some sulfate. Why? It's an official field experiment of proposed techniques to dim the sun by hazing the sky. Why on earth would we want to do that? Because we're not doing enough to cut down on greenhouse gases, the planet is warming up, and we might want to know if it's possible to dim the sun in order to cool the planet down a bit. Of course, we already know this works because of volcanic eruptions and the like (see the Year Without a Summer), but -- the more you know?

TED Talk: A critical look at geoengineering against climate change

Image: Flickr / SpaceX

First private spaceflight for humans

Private space companies like SpaceX have been launching rockets for years now, but in 2019 they will get their first chance to ferry humans into orbit. And we're not talking about Virgin Galactic's or Blue Origin's up-and-down suborbital flights (glorified roller coasters, honestly) -- we're talking about taking astronauts up to the space station. Private spaceflight is growing up! And that's a good thing for the US, since NASA's contract with the Russians to carry people to the ISS expires next year.

TED Talk: SpaceX's plan to fly you across the globe in 30 minutes

Illustration: Marina Muun

CRISPR in humans: What's happening?

Yes, there was a botched attempt to confer immunity to AIDS in a pair of Chinese babies this year, but in 2019, therapies based on CRISPR -- the DNA-editing technique that’s all the rage in biology -- will really hit the mainstream. Clinical trials will begin for a CRISPR-based therapy to attempt to cure some forms of childhood blindness. And there is ongoing research to use the tool for sickle cell anemia and a host of other inherited diseases. 

TED Talk: How CRISPR lets us edit our DNA

More to explore

Eclipses on the way in 2019
On January 20-21, people in North and South America and western parts of Europe and Africa will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. And a total solar eclipse is coming for parts of Chile and Argentina on July 2.

A new definition for a kilogram
On May 20, the revised metric system will officially be in place, with new definitions for the kilogram, ampere, kelvin and mole.

First hint of near-room-temperature superconductor tantalizes physicists
Physicists have long dreamed of room-temperature superconductivity. In 2019, they may get it.

Look out for Mercury
And on November 11, check out the relatively rare transit of Mercury, as the tiny planet moves across the face of the Sun.

On this day in science

On December 21 ... It's the shortest day of the year, also known as the winter solstice, for the Northern Hemisphere -- and it's the longest day of the year Down Under. It's also the day when the Challenger expedition -- a four-year scientific survey that laid the foundations of modern oceanography, among other things -- set sail in 1872.

Check out the TED Science Club on Facebook

Calling all science enthusiasts! Check out TED Science Club, a Facebook group where you can join TED's Science Curator, David Biello, and other science leaders in meaningful conversations about today's most critical ideas.

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