Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Breakthrough and breakdown

OK, so George W. Bush is Time's Man of the Year. That was predictable.

What was Science magazine's Scientific Breakthrough of the Year? That's a no-brainer too. The two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

The plucky robots dropped onto the surface of the red planet, took a few big bounces, and got right to work. Opportunity was especially lucky, finding itself among rock outcrops that offered convincing evidence of a previous water environment on Mars.

The real significance of the story, says Science, is the demonstrated value of robotic space exploration. There is now even talk of using a robot to rescue the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

And what was the magazine's Science Breakdown of the Year. Another gimme. Increasing tension between the scientific community and the Bush administration and its Evangelical constituency.