Throughout the course of the 1800s and 1900s, the human race discovered so much. Fingerprints weren’t discovered as a viable way of identifying a human being or even an individualistic characteristic until 1823! Electricity and the harnessing of it was only discovered a brief two years earlier by Michael Faraday! DNA and all of the medical implications that follow it was only discovered by Crick and Watson in the 1950s, which was of course almost as helpful as when it was discovered how disease was spread in the late 1800s. We’ve had the grand inventions of cruise liners, electric batteries, the steam locomotive, air conditioning, radio broadcasting, the washing machine, the automobile, and even the cell phone! After all of that, it almost feels like there’s not a whole lot left to discover.
Of course that can’t be true, though. We’ve come so far, surely, but we’ve got so far to go! Think of all the discoveries that have yet to be made to make our world a better place, or the inventions that must come along for the needs of remedying the discoveries we make concerning adverse conditions all around our world. Sure, we’ve done a lot in the past few centuries, but we have so much more that we can and will do. Consider the great amount of progress we made in the 2000s alone! We discovered how to build (and managed to invent) the hybrid car; we made a video sharing network called YouTube that changed the world; and perhaps most famously, we invented the iPhone which has been one of the smartest pieces of technology made accessible to the common man. But then… we’ve had some weird advances too. Not every discovery is a great step for all of mankind; sometimes they’re just odd side steps. Here are 15 of the strangest discoveries of the 2000s.
15. Dark Matter Exists – Discovered
Dark matter has been rumored to exist for a long time. It’s a very baffling topic to consider, so if you’ve never been able to conceive what it is we’ll try to cut the jargon and fancy talk and make it understandable:
Dark matter is a distinct but unidentifiable kind of matter that exists in space. We know that it’s different from other kinds of identified matter, like baryonic matter or dark energy, but we can’t quite pinpoint what it is. However, in 2006, we got the confirmation we needed to know that dark matter, though we can’t quite define all of its properties, does exist and play an important role in our universe. Scientists could determine its existence from observing two galaxies collide from afar. Though there are still many discoveries yet to be made, scientists now know a lot more about this thing we know practically nothing about.
14. GPS – Invented
First of all, can we just say: thank goodness this was invented. We couldn’t live without GPS these days! Who in this modern day can say that they’re really good at reading maps or can get to any random location from their home without a little help from their phone? Maybe a few cartographers, sure, but most of us are punching in addresses constantly into our GPS device. GPS actually stands for “global positioning system,” so the device you have in your car or on your phone isn’t really a GPS but is rather a GPS device or aid. The first one to be made accessible to us plebeians driving about the world in our cars came out around 2005, and we’ve been obsessed with them ever since. Nowadays, we’re pretty sure that our GPS’s would be some of the first things we’d miss if the world suddenly went dark.
13. Pluto Wasn’t a Planet – Discovered
If you were growing up during the 2000s, the topic of Pluto was probably a very confusing one. First, it was a planet. Then, it wasn’t. Then it was again, but there was some sort of caveat. Eventually, most of us gave up on caring and shifted our interest to something that hit a bit closer to home.
Well, let us elaborate on what really happened with itty bitty Pluto. In 2005, scientists discovered Eris: a minor celestial body that still managed to be 27% bigger than Pluto. Upon reflection of Pluto’s miniscule size (seriously, it could be the planet from The Little Prince), scientists changed their minds and said Pluto wasn’t a planet. But wait- that causes a lot of implications. How big is too small to be a planet? And if it’s bigger than an asteroid but smaller than a planet, what is it? Pluto was shortly after reclassified as a Dwarf Planet, along with a bunch of other Dwarves you’ve never heard of.
12. The Segway – Invented
When this transportation mode was first discovered as a possibility to be in existence, it sounded like an impossible feat. A self-balancing mechanism that can give a human driver the mobility and versatility to travel wherever they want without ever lifting their foot? Sounds impossible- improbable, to say the least. But Dean Kamen made it happen. In the year 2000, Dean had his plans laid out and some adventurous backers stepped up. By the end of the following year, he’d made the plans come to fruition. This Segway Human Transporter is made with a built in computer, a gyroscope, and tilt sensors, all of which adjust to the drivers movements at approximately 100 movements per second. Today, due to updates made in 2006, these Segways can be controlled with minimal effort on the part of the driver. Who would have thought that engineers would soon after take the design a step further to invent the hoverboards of today?
11. A New Species of Monkey – Discovered
Long ago, a man named Charles Darwin ventured out on a mission to classify and study many species of animals. He was one of the first scientists to care so deeply and intensely about zoology, wildlife, and (as it was named for him) Darwinism. Since then, it has been the mission of an entire sect of scientists to discover and classify all of the animals in the world. And they’ve been pretty damn successful! Most scientists believe that the most densely undiscovered animal populations exist in the deepest reaches of the oceans that humans have yet to explore.
Well, animals are evolving all the time and new species are constantly coming into existence. The Lesula monkey is evidence of that. Discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this monkey was just discovered and given a name in 2007 and it’s been under close study and keen observation ever since.
10. Friendster and the Social Media Revolution it Wrought – Invented
It doesn’t seem like something as currently irrelevant and outdated as Friendster should be considered a strange or even moderately notable discovery/invention of the 2000s. However, this silly and totally retro site is one of the most important, laudable, and frustrating innovations of our modern times. Why? Because of the social networking revolution it brought about.
Friendster was a social gaming site that launched in 2002. It wasn’t a very successful model (nor was any online gaming site back then, but it’s still working today), as it seemed outdated pretty quickly, but its biggest idea was one that has carried through to today: creating an online community for friends to connect. It’s the idea that Xanga, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter have built their legacies upon. So before you go hating on Friendster, remember that they are the ones that made it possible to waste half your work day talking to your friends.
9. Exo, or Alien, Planets – Discovered
“HOLD UP: WE’VE DISCOVERED ALIEN PLANETS?! THIS IS HUGE!! WE’VE DISCOVERED ALIENS?! WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE, WHERE ARE THEY, WHAT DO THEY…”
Okay, calm down sport, you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. We have indeed discovered alien planets (or, as scientists call them, exoplanets), but it’s not like we’ve been able to step down onto their ground and shake their hands (if they have hands, that is). We’ve defunded the sh*t out of NASA, remember? No, we know that these planets exist but only because we’ve seen them from afar. Most have planetary masses similar to Jupiter, and we can tell from remote perspectives that they have the capabilities to support life. And, as Murphy’s Law states, anything that can happen will happen. Even Mars, which barely seemed to have life-enabling environmental capabilities, seemed to support life (another recent discovery)! If these other exoplanets are better built to support alien life, we have every reason to believe that they already do.
8. DVR – Invented
But stepping back from celestial bodies and life on other planets, we’ve got a more important invention to talk about: DVR. All hail the almighty and wonderful DVR.
Digital Video Recorders were invented back in 2003, most popularly in the form of TiVo’s DVR box. By 2010, 32% of all TV households had a DVR attached to their cable or satellite television. If you don’t have a DVR and have never had the joys of using one, we pity you- but we’ll help you get your grasp on what it is. DVR is what lets you record your favorite show directly to your cable box and watch it at your leisure. DVR is what allows you to rewind your favorite or confusing moments in your most intense shows and movies. DVR is what gives you the freedom to live your life while also enjoying your favorite and most popular shows.
7. A Bioartificial Liver – Invented
This looks like a very confusing and daunting contraption, but let us rewind a bit because this invention is one of the most remarkable of the past decade and it has certainly saved countless lives.
If your liver failed back in the 80s or 90s, you would get yourself on a waiting list and hope that an organ donor would die in a safe enough way that their liver would be easily cut from their rapidly rotting body, transported to you, and safely transplanted. Then you would have to hope that the transplant sit well and that your body didn’t reject the foreign organ. It was all very risky, and it honestly still is today. However, if you can afford it (or if your insurance can), you can get on this bioartificial liver. Made partially of animal living liver pieces and mechanical engineering, this cyborg of a machine can replace your liver until you get a safe transplant.
6. Robotic Surgeons – Invented
Back in the day, death by complications from surgeries was fairly common. For example, Bill Paxton just died from complications ensuing a difficult surgery. Going under the knife was once a very big deal, a risky ordeal that entailed you going under anesthesia with the risk of you never coming back up. Nowadays, going in for a routine surgery is like going to the doctor for a physical: normal, easy, stress-free, and hardly even noteworthy. A lot of this revolution is due to the invention of robotic surgeries.
These robots, which were first used for surgeries in 2000, can complete some minimally invasive surgeries (like hysterectomies and gallbladder removals) better than most human doctors can and without such a margin of error. Scarring after surgeries has decreased. Incisions to complete surgeries are smaller. Recovery times are shorter. There are lower rates of infections. These robots are better surgeons than any human can hope to be!
5. Virtual Keyboard Text Messaging – Invented
Can you even remember a day without the joys of text messaging? Correction: do you even want to remember a day without text messaging? Texts are the easiest way for us all to keep in touch with all of the people we care about! Whether we’re shooting a message home to our wife letting her know we’ll be a bit late from work, or we’re keeping up with our college buddies who we only get to see but once a year, text messages are wonderful tools that enable us to stay connected with everyone we care about.
Texts were invented back in the 90s, but we’re more concerned with the modern text than the general text. The Virtual Keyboard text, commonly found on your smartphones, has “autocorrect,” a spell-check feature; can predict the endings of your sentences; corrects grammar on occassion; and even makes suggestions to improve your language skills. This text message of the future totally beats that 90s crap that took forever to send and longer to make sense of.
4. Mind-Controlled Robotics – Invented
You thought it was a big deal to have robots that could independently complete a surgery? Or to have a machine that could learn to balance itself? Okay. Watch and learn kids. We’re just getting started with how cool robots can be.
One of the biggest and coolest discoveries of the 2000s was the early steps into controlling robots with our brains. We’re talking no controls, no pushing buttons, no word commands: just thoughts and human cognition. And we can do it. In 2009 some Tokyo scientists were trying to find a way to have disabled persons utilize robotics to facilitate everyday life. It requires no surgical implants, and people can control these simple robotics with 90% accuracy. At that time, the biggest obstacle was that controllers had to wear helmets that made their heads bigger than Jimmy Neutron’s. But the wearers could send signals to the helmet’s electrodes and actually control the movements of the robots!
3. File Sharing (Napster Died) – Invented
File sharing was perhaps the biggest invention and innovation of the 2000s. Throughout the 90s, we were trying to figure out how to quickly and easily share information and data with our friends. What was the easiest way? Floppy disks? Hit clips? Dixie cups with a string connecting them???
Then Napster came along (a subsidiary of the same company that ran the innovative company, Friendster!), a file sharing website where users from across the globe could share their files. Though it was intended solely for music sharing purposes, it was very controversial at the time. But hold it- if you could share music on this site, what would stop you from sharing any kind of files on any site? Though Napster died due to lawsuits and litigation, their legacy lives on in all of the file sharing we’re all totally guilty of today, whether it’s through our Google Drive or through illegal sharing and streaming services.
2. Damn, Where’d That Glacier Go? – Discovered
Scientists, politicians- hell, even actors- we’ve all known for a good amount of time now that the global environment has been in a state of flux and change. We’ve been able to track that rainforests are getting hotter and more humid, deserts are becoming increasingly arid, and icy environments are becoming warmer. However, it wasn’t until the 2000s that we realized just how rapidly. Previously, everyone thought that perhaps the edges of glaciers were simply all that would melt- we’d have centuries to defend the lives of the centers of glaciers. Well think again. If our climate continues to warm at its current rate, we’ll lose a majority of our glaciers in the coming decades (that’s within our life spans, kids. We’ll watch them die). Which means higher sea levels, more catastrophic hurricanes and tsunamis, less fresh water for those that need it, and, of course, less screen saver worthy pictures of these frozen majesties. Um, why aren’t we freaking out yet?
1. Those Ridiculous Hand Dryers – Invented
You know these stupid hand dryers? The ones that brought about the revelation of the serenity of a bathroom by ruining it? You know, you’ll be quietly using the restroom in a public venue. You’ll wash your hands using a softly scented liquid soap. You’ll go to dry your hands and then A FAN COMES ON WITH THE FORCE OF A JET TURBINE TO DRY YOUR HANDS BY BLOWING THEIR SKIN OFF. Yeah, those fans.
They kind of suck… while simultaneously, they are the greatest things ever. Fun fact, they get your hands really dry if you keep your hands under them for 5-10 seconds which does a lot more killing of bacteria than paper drying your hands does (bacteria thrives in wet places). Also, using one of these dryers as opposed to two or three paper towels every time you use the bathroom saves the planet from deforestation, pollutants from paper manufacturing plants, and all the paper waste from your moderately damp hands. These annoying little buddies have been saving the world since the early 2000s.