Last Year in Science 2023

The weight loss drug of 2023

Obesity is the risk factor for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Achieving weight loss before these diseases take you in their grip is the best case scenario but even if you develop one of these diseases, weight loss remains as one of the treatment goals. 

Wegovy or semaglutide is the weight loss drug was a hype online in 2023. It was approved for use in 2017 for diabetes, and then later in 2021 for obesity. Since then it is being hailed as the best weight loss drug ever known to humans. 

Wegovy or semaglutide increases insulin release, slows down stomach emptying, and signals the brain that the stomach is full. It is owned by Novo Nordisk and their recent clinical trial results show that not only is the drug effective in causing weight loss but also reduces the risk of heart disease by 20%. 

The sales for the drug are expected to go as high as billions of dollars in the next year. It does feel like a miracle drug but before you think of going to the nearby pharmacy to buy it, hear the downside. It needs to be injected weekly and once you go off this medicine, the lost weight is gained back. 

There are many more weight loss drugs on their way to the market in 2024 and some of them are going to focus on burning fat instead of reducing sugar levels and your appetite.

A sweet protein that can replace artificial sweetener

Why not remove one of the major culprits of weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes? I am talking about sugar. There are artificial sweeteners in the market but many of them have been shown to affect the microbes inside your gut, reducing the good gut bacteria and leading to health complications including eventual weight gain. 

Now, we have a new sweetener - which is a protein and is 3000 times sweeter than sugar. The protein is monellin and was discovered in serendipity berries, a type of tropical berry. Amai Proteins is going to synthetically produce this protein - and have named it sweelin,  which can withstand the high temperatures of cooking unlike the naturally occurring protein monellin. They claim that sweelin will reduce the percentage of sugar by 50 - 70% in chocolates and ketchup.

Chandrayaan-3 moon landing

I reached my destination and you too!' was the first message from Chandrayaan-3 after landing on the south pole of the moon on 23rd August 2023. 

The whole world was watching as the Chandrayaan 3 spacecraft was launched on 14th July. With an indigenous propulsion module, lander (Vikram lander) and rover, the mission life was of 14 earth days or one lunar day. The main purpose of this mission was to demonstrate the technological readiness of India for conducting inter planetary missions. 

After the soft landing, the rover explored the surface of the moon's south pole, conducting experiments that measured temperatures at different depths from the surface of moon, looked for the different elements that are present on the pole to see if it is different from other regions of the moon. It found Sulfur along with other elements like - Al, Ca, Fe, Mn, Si which are present in other areas of the moon as well.

Now the world is waiting for the results from ISRO's solar mission Aditya L1.

AI boom with ChatGPT

Artificial Intelligence was another biggest hype of 2023. Tools that can generate text, art, and code with a simple or a detailed text prompt were being rolled out throughout the last year. ChatGPT by OpenAI was the first one to be made open to the public. ChatGPT did not only pass the Turing test but was found to be clearing exams like the pre medical entrance, law and engineering.

Since then there have been debates and polls on whether to use text generating tools like ChatGPT or not. Articles and videos describing how best to use AI started doing the rounds on the internet. Talks about job loss and the AI taking over the world continued.

And then ChatGPT was found to be making up information that did not exist. The concerns over intellectual property infringement and plagiarism were soon brought to attention. Tools to detect content generated by AI started coming out. As ChatGPT or similar tools are computer programs that are trained using a large amount of language data available on the internet. They generate text by predicting what the next word could be based on the information that they were trained on. This not only is breach of intellectual property but also reinforces the existing biases. ChatGPT does not understand language - the way we do has been said repeatedly by linguists like Noam Chomsky. 

It seems the pandora's box has been opened but we shall come up with solutions as we always do. 

Hottest year on record

Even though we have a solution for the epidemics, we still are struggling to save our planet Earth. 

2023 is the hottest year on record, taking up the position of 2016 which is now the second hottest year in the human recorded history. The average global temperature was 1.4 degree Celsius higher than the pre industrial 1850 - 1900 average global temperature, i.e just 0.1 degrees less than the crossing over the 1.5 degrees mark of irreversible damage. Levels of greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, sea surface temperature and sea level rise are also the highest so far in the recorded history.

And to make it all worse, 2024 could beat all the records of 2023.

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