A leading science magazine has released a list of what it calls the top 10 physics breakthroughs of this year, and topping the list was the landing on Comet 67P by Rosetta spacecraft's Philae lander.

That accomplishment was put at the top of the list for its "fundamental importance to space science," Physics World magazine said in announcing its list.

"As well as looking forward to the fascinating science ... we also acknowledge the technological tour de force of chasing a comet for 10 years and then placing an advanced laboratory on its surface," said Hamish Johnston, editor at physicsworld.com.

In compiling their list, Physics World editors and reporters considered the fundamental importance of candidate accomplishments, their advancement of knowledge, a strong linking of theory and experiments, and the level of their general interests to all physicists.

Among some of the runners-up on the magazine's list were the first detection of neutrino particles created in the principle reaction that powers our Sun and the development of a a new holographic memory device.

  • In the neutrino detection experiment, the results matched with what had long been theorized, suggesting our understanding of the processes that take place inside our parent star has been accurate.
  • On the computer front, Russian and American physicists successfully developed a new kind of holographic memory device capable of storing data in the form of magnetic "bits."
  • In a laboratory in England, scientists used lasers to create miniature star explosions, gaining insights into supernovas, the most powerful of cosmic events.
  • A staple of science fiction, the "tractor beam," became reality as physicists created a device capable of attracting object to it by firing acoustic waves at them. One possible use of such technology could be manipulating medical devices within the human body, the researchers say.
  • Astrophysicists was able to harness the radiation coming from a quasar as a "cosmic flashlight" they could shine on mysterious tendrils of dark matter that underlie the visible universe.
  • One holy grail of physics, fusion energy, came one step closer as U.S. scientists at the National Ignition Facility in California were able to get more energy out of a fusion reaction that had been put into the fuel with the NIF's extremely powerful laser.

In all of the runners-up on Physics World's list, each "represents an important step forward made by a team of creative and talented researchers," Johnston said.

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