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MIT discoveries top magazine's list of year's best

Five discoveries from MIT have been named to Discover Magazine's Top 100 Stories of 2008. The list appears in the magazine's December issue.

Coming in at #21 is Professor Daniel Nocera's discovery of a simple, inexpensive method to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, which can be stored to power a fuel cell. The process, reported in Science in August, could lead to a practical way to store solar energy for use when the sun is not shining.

Another solar advance made #26 on the list: Associate Professor Marc Baldo's development of a "solar concentrator" that collects sunlight from a large area and focuses it onto a much smaller area. The work appeared in Science in July.

Research by Professor Edward Gibson came in at #39. In June, Gibson reported that an Amazonian language with only 300 speakers has no word to express the concept of "one" or any other specific number. That work was published in the journal Cognition.

Coming in at #74 is a paper by professors Paula Hammond, Yet-Ming Chiang and Angela Belcher describing a way to use viruses to build and install microbatteries. The team reported the method in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August.

At #86 is work by Aude Oliva showing that the human memory has a much larger capacity for visual detail than previously believed. The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in September.

In addition, Discover's #2 story of the year was the launch of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, which MIT scientists played a key role in launching.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 17, 2008 (download PDF).

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