New Year, New Science: What Scientific Research May Produce in 2010

_tmp_articling-import-20100106095306722312_463012a-i1.0Richard Van Noorden in Nature:

Earth-like worlds elsewhere

As planet-hunters eagerly await the discovery of an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone around a Sun-like star, they may have to make do this year with an easier target: a potentially hospitable planet around a red dwarf star. NASA's Kepler telescope has already discovered previously unknown planets (see page 15).

Hope for HIV prevention

Early this year, the first clinical trial to use a gel incorporating an antiretroviral drug is expected to release its initial results; several large trials of other microbicides have failed to show benefit in blocking HIV. Early results are also due from long-anticipated trials that look at 'pre-exposure prophylaxis', or administering anti-HIV drugs before risky sex.

A perfect symmetry

Evidence for supersymmetry — the theory that every known fundamental particle has an undiscovered, superheavy partner — may be the most intriguing discovery to come from Europe's Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland. The find would be even more bizarre than the anticipated Higgs boson, the particle thought to imbue matter with mass.

Quantum effects go large

Solid objects in physics laboratories could be seen to enter a superposition of states — the real-world version of Schrödinger's mythical cat that is dead and alive at the same time. The effect, predicted by quantum mechanics, has previously been seen in objects no bigger than ions, but could push into the macroscopic realm this year.