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2008 in Photos--10 Biggest Science Stories

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Filed: Country: Philippines



What began the year as a fringe environmental concern went mainstream in 2008: Bisphenol A (BPA), a common ingredient in household plastics, came under suspicion as a potential health risk. BPA, studies showed, could be especially harmful to the development of the nervous and hormonal systems of babies and youngsters. Canada went so far as to ban BPA from baby bottles. In April, Canadian Minister of the Environment John Baird presented five-month-old Georgia Symonds with a BPA-free baby bottle (pictured here). And manufacturers such as Nalgene dropped BPA plastics from their product lines. But despite growing evidence of its ill effects, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continued to assert it was safe to use in ordinary applications, drawing the ire of enviros and consumer advocates.




A convergence of factors--surging fuel prices, an agricultural shift toward biofuels, increased demand for meat in newly prosperous nations, crop-straining droughts--drove food prices to dangerous highs in 2008. Hardest hit were poor countries with already strained food supplies such as Somalia, pictured here. The global financial crisis in the latter half of the year relieved part of the pressure by easing prices somewhat, but the long-term outlook for the world's food security remains cloudy.




The eyes of the world turned to other worlds as astronomers made huge strides in the study of planets outside our solar system. The biggest coup came in November when two teams simultaneously published the first photographs of such planets (one of them, Fomalhaut b, is pictured here). Before this milestone announcement, the presence of extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, had previously only been inferred from the behavior or properties of their host stars. But even such indirect study has yielded bountiful results: This year methane and then carbon dioxide were found in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, boding well for future efforts to sniff out signs of life on other worlds.



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