Obama is sworn in as 44th president of the USA
Obama was inaugurated the 44th president of the U.S. in
January 2009, becoming the first African American to hold office.
His immediate actions were focused on the financial crisis plaguing
the country. He subsequently introduced several economic stimulus packages, with billions upon billions of dollars being spent in an effort to reinvigorate
the financial system and free up credit. A country-wide cleanup of the
banking system, with the aim of removing any toxic bank assets or loans,
was soon begun.
issue which became a prime focus of Obama's presidency was the failing
auto industry. The government issued financial aid to automotive giants
General Motors and Chrysler, with GM becoming partly controlled by the
federal government. During this time, the U.S. was going though a period
of high unemployment. Obama quickly began to put resources toward job
creation. Unemployment rates peaked in late 2009 and then slowly began
to trend downwards. Moderate rates of GDP growth and economic expansion
were experienced in the first years of Obama's term.
began several rigorous reforms to the social infrastructure of the U.S.
The most prominent of these was the trillion dollar health reforms.
These changes were made to stem the unending growth in healthcare spending
and to address issues with health insurance and access to care.
These reforms garnered considerable criticism. Many viewed them as a
sign of government over-spending, while others questioned how much the
healthcare system would actually benefit from the bills.
to pull troops out of Iraq between 2009 and 2010, while transitioning
those who remained from combat roles to counter-terrorism and the training
of Iraqi security forces. However, he continued to bolster the U.S.
military presence in Afghanistan. During the first years of his presidency,
Obama saw his approval ratings steadily decline, though he remained
popular in foreign countries. His ratings increased slightly
in May 2011 when he authorised a raid in Pakistan, conducted by US Navy
SEALs, which led to the death of Osama bin Laden.
breakthrough in cancer research
a major landmark in medicine was achieved, as the complete genetic codes
for skin and lung cancer were identified. Every possible mutation turning healthy cells cancerous was fully catalogued, paving the way for drug targets that could lead to possible cures
in the not-too-distant future. Blood tests to spot tumours would also
be possible at far earlier stages. The genetic
code for other types of cancer would soon be catalogued too: the USA
began looking at cancers of the brain, the ovary and pancreas; the UK was looking
at breast cancer; Japan was studying the liver; China the stomach; and
India the mouth.*
mouse genome is fully sequenced
In 2009, after a
10-year effort, scientists finished mapping the entire mouse genome.* This came six years after completion of the Human Genome Project. Given the prevalence of mice in laboratory experiments, it was hoped this could strengthen our understanding
and treatment of diseases.
engineer new plastics without the use of fossil fuels
In 2009, researchers
in South Korea developed a one-step production process for creating everyday
plastics through bioengineering, rather than fossil fuel-based chemicals.* Prior to this point, almost
all plastics were heavily reliant on oil, an increasingly limited
resource. These new plastics were also shown to be more environmentally friendly, biodegradable and low
is discovered on the Moon
Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) was the first U.S.
mission to the Moon in over 10 years. It was designed to relay data
from the impact and debris plume resulting from the vehicle's upper
stage, Centaur, hitting a large crater near the Moon's south pole. The probe
impacted successfully, with a velocity of about 10,000 km/h (6,200 mph).
The plume of debris thrown up by the craft revealed significant amounts
of water ice – perhaps enough to supply drinking water to future colonists,
as well as hydrogen for rocket fuel.*
Kepler searches for Earth-like planets
In March 2009, the Kepler space telescope was launched by NASA. It became the first
instrument capable of finding Earth-sized and smaller extrasolar planets. It was designed to observe
the brightness of about 145,000 stars to detect periodical
transits by planets. The mission had been hoped to work perfectly until 2016, but suffered a major setback in 2013 when the spacecraft's reaction wheels failed. Nevertheless, Kepler continued to return a wealth of data, with 134 confirmed exoplanets in 76 stellar systems, along with a further 3,277 unconfirmed planet candidates.*
of the first exoplanet that could hold liquid water
2009, astronomers at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona discovered the exoplanet GJ 1214 b – a "super-Earth"
orbiting a red dwarf star around 40 light years away. This
was the first planet outside our own Solar System with the possibility
of holding liquid water. Although direct confirmation was lacking,
the planet was strongly theorised to have a thick, hydrogen-rich atmosphere,
likely composed of water-vapor. Some scientists proposed that it could
in fact be covered in oceans, comparable to a heated-up Europa, only
on a scale much larger than Earth. This discovery increased the probability
of alien life elsewhere in the universe.*
Size comparison of Earth (left), GJ 1214 b (centre)
and Neptune (right). Credit: Aldaron (CC BY-SA 3.0)
is 98% mapped
The MESSENGER probe, launched by NASA in 2004, completed a third and final flyby of Mercury in 2009 – mapping 98% of its surface including the previously unseen
far side. It also revealed higher than expected amounts of heavy metals
such as iron and titanium, forcing scientists to rethink how the small
planet evolved. Data also revealed changing "seasons" on the planet, in
the form of varying chemical compositions in Mercury's tenuous atmosphere.*
control headsets enter the video games market
In 2009, a company called Emotiv released a headset
allowing users to control games from brain waves
alone. Sensors on the headset could
detect neuroelectrical patterns in the wearer's head, and these
were converted into actions on screen.*
scanning enters the consumer market
For many years, 3D scanning had been available for use in
design visualisation, CAD/prototyping, architecture, engineering, movie
production, healthcare, etc. Other applications had included reconstructing fossils in paleontology, replicating ancient
and priceless artifacts in archaeology, reconstructing bones and body
parts in forensic pathology, and reconstructing heavily damaged evidence
acquired from crime scene investigations.
A significant barrier to 3D scanning had been the expense, bulkiness and inconvenience of traditional equipment. This made it difficult
– if not impossible – for small businesses and hobbyists to have access
to such technology. In 2009, however, a new generation of smaller, cheaper and more portable devices emerged. One such
company driving this change was David Vision Systems, which unveiled a pocket-sized
3D laser scanner.* This could be used
in combination with a simple webcam and background setup, to capture
an endless variety of 3D objects (including the user's own face), for
use in home videos, animations, video games and other virtual environments. Scanned objects could also be used in combination with 3D printing to physically reproduce items.
tallest man-made structure in history is completed
floors, rising to a height of 828m (2,717 ft), the Burj Khalifa became the tallest structure ever built, shattering
all previous records and setting a new benchmark for skyscrapers. The decision
to build the tower was based on the UAE government's aim to diversify
from a trade-based economy to one that was service- and tourism-orientated.
According to officials, it was necessary for projects like this to be
built in the city to garner more international recognition, and hence
of the tower aroused controversy, with
many site workers being low-paid immigrants, some earning
less than US$5 per day. Scores of new office towers, hotels and luxury resorts were being built all over Dubai during this period, making
it one of the fastest growing cities in the world. As well as the
Burj Khalifa, some of these megaprojects included
Islands – a series of enormous artificial islands on which major
commercial and residential infrastructure was being built.
population reaches one billion
In just 27 years, from 1982 to 2009, the African continent’s
population had doubled. It was forecast to double again by
the 2050s. Among the main reasons for this explosive growth had been a lack
of access to education, contraception and family planning centres.
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