2016 Year in Review

46:55 minutes


The LIGO Observatory detected gravitational waves, ending a century-long quest. Developments in CRISPR moved ahead, including the announcement by a Chinese team of the first use of the gene-editing technique in clinical trials in humans. And Nintendo’s smartphone game Pokémon Go has been downloaded by hundreds of millions of users, showing what the future of augmented reality might look like. Ira Flatow and a panel of science and technology journalists talk about the big science stories of the past year and make a few predictions for 2017.

Segment Guests

Rachel Feltman

Rachel Feltman is Science Editor at Popular Science in New York, New York.

Maggie Koerth-Baker

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a senior science reporter with FiveThirtyEight.com. She’s based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

David Pogue

David Pogue is a technology columnist for Yahoo Tech and a correspondent for NOVA, CBS Sunday Morning, and Scientific American. He’s based in Connecticut.

Meet the Producer

About Alexa Lim

Alexa Lim is a producer for Science Friday. Her favorite stories involve space, sound, and strange animal discoveries.

  • Jonathan C Allen

    I am deeply gratified that my efforts at MIT’s Advanced LIGO were appreciated. Never in my 30 years as an electronics designer has my work received such recognition as that of having lowered the LIGO noise floor by 15 dB, allowing for the first verification of Einstein’s gravity waves in the fall of 2015. This does end a century long quest to prove the existence of gravity waves, but only begins the science behind it, as well as the analysis of the influence of the dark universe.

  • Reuben Granich

    The big story that is going under the radar is that we now have the tools to potentially eliminate HIV. Treatment and viral suppression prevents illness, death and HIV transmission. Treatment reduces the risk of transmission of HIV by 96% (HPTN 052) and immediate treatment prevents illness and death. 18 million people of the 37 million infected are now on treatment–unfortunately only around 60% of people living with HIV know that they have the virus. In the US only around 40% of people living with HIV are virally suppressed. With a collective effort we can diagnose people and help them get on lifesaving treatment. This basic message is probably unknown to your audience who may be confused by the news about potential cures (not existent) and vaccines (not existent) or PrEP (prevents infection in people who do not have virus but will not eliminate HIV or help those living with the virus). It makes sense to expand access to “test and treat” for everyone to stop and even eliminate HIV in some settings.

  • carterfrancis

    C’mon Ira. Dave is crazy when he parrots the Facebook line on fake news. It’s not hard to distinguish fact from fiction and honestly, if Facebook can write algorithms to parse text, they can tackle this. It’s just not a priority for them because of the ad revenue.
    The 40-odd% that get their news from Facebook should have their voter registration taken away.

    • Don_B1

      Distinguishing fact from fiction is not so simple for algorithm-based computer programs, which have the reputation of usually being worse than the human brain (even with smart people). The progress that has been achieved is usually for specific problems, like playing chess or, lately, the game of Go.

      This will always be true, as is demonstrated by many corollaries of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. Even approaches like that pursued by IBM’s Watson approach, searching for correlations and then finding which correlations actually represent cause and effect are unlikely to be effective when time is of the essence to the degree than in times of such rapid spread of lies means hours are not likely to be fast enough. Remember the Mark Twain quote to the effect that a lie is around the world before the truth has its britches and boots on.

      The fake news stories generated today might yield to better algorithms but that will only drive the fake news generators to create “better” false news stories. And remember that the human brain is built to make decisions badly, as evidenced in Michael Lewis’s latest book, The Undoing Project, and also Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

      The whole thing comes down to people’s tendency to turn a difficult question into one that is easy to answer but is the wrong answer for the difficult question. And that will continue no matter how good a “fake news” detector program is used. What approaches to turning this difficult problem into something simpler have you come up with if you decide to respond to this post?

  • Joel

    The comments from the guest about how the Dakota Access Pipeline was being forced upon the Standing Rock Sioux without any input from them is 100% wrong. Read some of the factual history in this court opinion from September denying the tribe’s motion for an injunction: http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/order-denying-PI.pdf The tribe actively chose not to participate in response to efforts to get their involvement.

    • Don_B1

      You might want to know a bit more of the history of U.S. and Native Indian relations over the years:


      which just might better inform you of why the tribe did not “participate” in the early steps. Maybe we should be glad that they are participating in all venues now. And let us all hope they win for once.

  • Jonathan C Allen

    Thanks for finally bringing up the warming climate. It is truly frightening how this process seemed to accelerate over the past year. The fact that global flooding is only at the first drop so far does not make it any less real.

  • FutureFox

    If James Bond ever needed an exploding phone he might outsource to Samsung. Sorry Q 🙂

  • SiskosTheMan

    Is it acceptable to comment on what you wanted see on Science Friday in 2016? But did not?