British Armed Forces have played a substantial role in the Afghanistan
War. Their efforts in the country have been huge: second only to the
U.S. in terms of troop numbers.
2001 and 2010, over 325 British forces personnel and MOD civilians were
killed, exceeding the death toll of the Falklands War. Nearly 4,000
onwards, a phased withdrawal begins - and a transitioning of districts
and provinces - with Afghan forces leading security operations by 2014
and the last remaining British troops gone by 2015.*
is devastated by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami
11th March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami hit the
east of Japan, killing over 15,000 and leaving another 9,000 missing.
Tsunami warnings were issued in 50 countries and territories, while
emergencies were declared at four nuclear power plants.
the most powerful known earthquake to have hit Japan, and one of the
five most powerful in the world since modern record-keeping began in
1900. The quake triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves, in some
cases travelling up to 10 km (6 mi) inland. The earthquake moved the
entire Honshu region 2.4 m (8 ft) east and shifted the Earth on its
axis by 10 cm (4 in).
as loss of life and destruction of infrastructure, the tsunami caused
a number of nuclear incidents. By far the most serious was a level 7
event and 20 km (12 mi) evacuation zone around the Fukushima I Plant.
This became the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.*
cost exceeded $300 bn, making it the most expensive natural disaster
on record. Over 125,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, while heavy
damage was inflicted on roads and rail routes. Around 4.4m households
in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5m without
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, "In the 65 years after the end of
World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for
Japan." The Bank of Japan offered ¥15 trillion (US$183 bn)
to the banking system in an effort to normalise market conditions.
on the wider global economy was considerable - but would only truly
be felt in July 2011, when the next quarterly earnings figures were
released. These showed huge losses due to supply chain disruptions,
exacerbated by rising commodity prices.*
earthquake and tsunami | Credit: US
death of Osama bin Laden
the attacks of September 11th, which he had largely masterminded, Osama
bin Laden became the most internationally hunted fugitive in history.
Aside from a few videos of him living in unidentifiable wilderness locations,
he essentially disappeared off the radar. After nearly a decade of false
leads and high body counts, many began to think the search was hopeless.
this time, however, the CIA had been working to identify any possible
couriers of bin Laden, and, in 2007, one was positively identified and
then tracked. In 2010, a wire-tapped conversation between the courier
- commonly referred to as Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, and another man - helped
the CIA to deduce the location of bin Laden's compound, which was located
in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
months of gathering intelligence, it was decided that a mission could
be carried out to either capture or kill bin Laden. Operation Neptune
Spear was conducted on 2nd May 2011 by a team of 79 Navy SEAL commandos
after the go ahead was given by President Obama. A complex raid on the
compound was carried out, with SEALs approaching from all sides and
from a helicopter hovering above the roof. The team was met with some
resistance, but overcame the al-Qaeda operatives defending the building.
After four others were killed (including the courier), the SEAL team
discovered bin-Laden inside the house in his sleeping quarters. After
a short confrontation, he was shot once in the chest and again above
operatives were killed in the raid, but a helicopter was crashed and
had to be destroyed to cover up top secret flight technology. Several
hours later, the news of bin-Laden's death was announced publicly. The
event was heralded around the world as a major blow to al-Qaeda and
one of the most important events of the decade. In America, the public
reaction was extremely positive, with parties and parades actually being
held. This behavior raised eyebrows from other nations however. Some
also questioned the actual impact bin-Laden's death would have on terrorism
and whether the SEALs were right in killing him.
theories concerning his death quickly sprung up. The American-Pakistani
relationship was also stressed, as many Americans doubted Pakistan's
supposed ignorance of bin-Laden's location. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden's
body was taken by American forces and buried at sea within 24 hours,
in accordance with Muslim tradition.
Aerial view of Osama bin Laden's compound in the Pakistani
city of Abbottabad made by the CIA.
economic crisis in Greece
years, the successive governments of Greece had been spending money
they didn't have. These governments took advantage of the good economic
times in the early 2000s to borrow and spend at a greater rate than
taxes were being collected. As a result, the country ran up a massive
deficit, reaching an estimated 13.6% by 2010.*
of the eurozone, this level of deficit spending was outside the EU's
economic regulations. To deal with it, Greece continually misreported
its official financial statistics. In fact, the government actually
paid hundreds of millions of dollars to banks such as Goldman Sachs,
specifically to have them initiate baseless financial transactions that
would hide the true level of spending and debt.*
this combined made Greece extremely vulnerable to a financial crisis
- such as the major recession that struck the world in 2007. Subsequent
reductions in Greece's tourism and shipping industries stressed its
economy to near breaking point. By 2009, the country had begun to collapse
under its crushing debts, which had grown 20% larger than the entire
economy, and were now estimated to be over $410 billion. The banks Greece
had borrowed from were only making the problem worse. In order to hide
the fact that Greece could soon go bankrupt, they were now beginning
to charge the country higher rates when it tried to borrow more money.
By 2010, Greece was forced to
ask for outside assistance, revealing the true levels of spending and deficit
that had accumulated over the years. As a result, it was downgraded
to the lowest credit rating in the eurozone. This made it difficult
for the government to receive outside help, with investors viewing the
country as a financial black hole. The EU allowed Greece to borrow from
other European countries as well as the International Monetary Fund,
in what became the largest bailout package in recent history.
Greece was forced to drastically cut back its spending. Government corruption,
large increases in taxes, and cuts to public social programs resulted
in widespread civil unrest during 2011.*
In 2012, Greece edges further towards default - forcing a further restructuring in which the government is only
able to pay back around half of what is owed.** This destroys what little investor confidence it had left. Throughout this crisis,
Europe as a whole has been economically battered, along with every other country which trades
with it.* The value of the euro continues
to fall - stressing the economies of countries besides Greece - with Spain,
Italy and Portugal suffering the most during this time.**
of investor confidence and the ongoing decline in value of the European currency
continues to negatively affect stock markets around the world for years to come.
world's first synthetic organ transplant
June 2011, surgeons in Sweden carried out the world's first synthetic
organ transplant.* A 36 year old man, suffering
from terminal cancer of the trachea, received a completely new replacement
windpipe. This was achieved using a nanotechnology scaffold - made from
a spongy, flexible polymer - which was seeded with his own stem cells
in a bioreactor. The
scaffold was based on 3D scans moulded to the exact dimensions of his
trachea. The cells were grown on the scaffold for just two days before
transplantation into the patient. Since the cells used to regenerate
the trachea were the patient's own, there was no chance of rejection
by his immune system.
in regenerative medicine will make future transplants far quicker and
more accessible. It requires no human donation, takes just two days
before implantation and is a perfect fit. It will particularly benefit
children, for whom trachea donors are much less available compared to
progress in this area of medicine includes tooth regeneration, synthetic
arteries and the growing of thigh muscles and fingertips. In the 2020s,
more complex organs and body parts will be developed, such as hearts.
Later in the 21st century, entire synthetic humans will become a reality
(though not without controversy).
decades of conflict with the north - in which 1.5 million people died
- South Sudan secedes from Sudan, becoming the 193rd country recognised
by the UN and the 54th member state in Africa.*
was held from 9–15th January 2011. The results released on 30th
January were that 98.8% had voted for independence. This led to formal
independence on 9th July, although certain disputes still remained such
as the sharing of oil revenues. An estimated 80% of the oil in the nation
was secured from South Sudan, which would represent amazing economic
potential for one of the world's most deprived areas.
has a population of 8 million. Its capital and largest city is Juba.
It is divided into ten states, corresponding to three historical regions
of the Sudan: Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Greater Upper Nile.
the secession, Sudan was the largest country in Africa, with an area
of 2.5 million km².
Space Shuttle fleet is retired
year sees the last of the Space Shuttle missions to the International
Space Station and the subsequent retirement of the fleet. Two private
companies - SpaceX and Orbital
Sciences Corporation - will take over the remaining work, using
cheaper disposable rockets. These will provide cargo delivery flights
to the ISS up to 2016.
population reaches 7 billion
October 2011, the global population reaches 7 billion. Over 74 million
people are now being added to the world each year - equivalent to the
entire population of Turkey. On current trends, the population is forecast
to reach over 10 billion by 2100. Most of the increase is from high-fertility
countries in sub-Saharan Africa.*
3.0 is widely available
3.0 is the third major revision of the Universal Serial Bus (USB) standard
for computer connectivity. It has transmission speeds of 5 Gbit/s, which
is 10 times faster than USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/s). USB 3.0 significantly
reduces the time required for data transmission, reduces power consumption,
and is downward compatible with USB 2.0.
surface computing enters the consumer market
These coffee table-sized devices have been appearing in business
venues for a couple of years already. They are now becoming cheap enough
for the consumer market.
platform responds to natural hand gestures and real world physical objects.
It has a 360-degree user interface and a large reflective surface, with
projectors underneath which project images onto its underside. Cameras
in the machine's housing record reflections of infrared light from objects
and fingertip movements.
is capable of object recognition, object/finger orientation recognition
and tracking, and is multi-touch and is multi-user. Users can interact
with the machine by touching or dragging their fingertips and objects
such as paintbrushes across the screen, or by placing and moving placed
objects. The platform can respond to over 50 touches at a time.
of multi-touch technology is increasing exponentially during this time.
For example, sales of touchscreen phones will rise from 200,000 in 2006
to over 21 million by 2012, while iPads and other tablet devices are
seeing similar growth.
first open petaflop supercomputer comes online
"Blue Waters", the first open scientific research
supercomputer to sustain one petaflop performance (a quadrillion calculations
per second), comes online at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.* While the military supercomputer "Roadrunner" achieved this
speed in 2008, its use was restricted to limited climate change problems
before being placed in a classified environment, to study the aging
functionality of nuclear weapons stockpiles.* Blue Waters, on the other hand, is open to university access and runs
a range of science/engineering applications.
Intel begins production of a new 22nm microprocessor - code-named
Ivy Bridge - the first high-volume chip to use 3D transistors. A nanometre
is one-billionth of a metre. The successor to 32nm, these will continue
the trend of Moore's Law for years to come.
"Tri-Gate" transistors are a fundamental departure from the
two-dimensional "planar" transistor structure that has been
used in the past. They operate at lower voltage, with lower leakage,
providing an unprecedented combination of improved performance and energy
efficiency. Dramatic innovations across a range of electronics - from
computers to cellphones, household appliances and medical devices -
will now be possible.*
robotics are booming
Thanks to falling costs, this decade sees the beginning of
robots entering mainstream society. From 2008 to 2011, sales of professional
and personal service robots more than double - from 5.5 million to over
popular in Japan, Korea and the Far East, they are now spreading to
Western homes too. Some robots clean carpets or mow the lawn; others
help busy professionals entertain children or pets; other machines feed
and bathe the elderly and incapacitated.
first commercial spaceport
A new chapter in space exploration begins with the opening
America - the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport.
This offers sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public.
almost $225 million, the facility is built on 27 square miles (70 km2)
of state-owned desert near Upham, an uninhabited part of New Mexico.
various companies involved is Richard Branson's Virgin
Galactic. Travelling at over 2,600mph (4,200km/h), the spacecraft
carry up to six passengers at a time, to a height of approximately 68
miles (110km), using a single hybrid rocket motor. When maximum altitude
is reached, the engines are switched off, and the passengers can experience
up to six minutes of zero-G whilst looking down on the Earth.
use a feathered re-entry system, feasible due to the low speed of re-entry,
and are designed to re-enter the atmosphere at any angle, for maximum
next decade, a new generation of ships will be developed, capable of
reaching much higher orbits. Initially,
the flights are very expensive (around $200,000 each). However, competition
between space tourism companies begins to reduce costs, making them
affordable to middle-income citizens by the middle of the century.
Costing almost $30 billion, this is the largest power plant
ever built. It has been in planning for nearly a century.
body was completed in 2006 and the originally planned components of
the project were finished in 2008. Six additional generators were installed
underground in 2011 - taking its total electric generating capacity
to over 22 gigawatts.
management team and the Chinese state regard the project as a historic
engineering, social and economic success: a breakthrough in the design
of large turbines and a significant move toward the reduction of greenhouse
gas emissions. It will remove some 100 million tonnes of CO2 and 2 million
tonnes of SO2 that would otherwise have been generated by coal-fired
the dam has also flooded archaeological and cultural sites, displaced
1.4 million people, and is causing significant ecological changes, including
an increased risk of landslides. The building of the dam has been a
controversial topic, both in China and abroad.*
largest desalination plant in Australia is operational
Australia is a country with a long history of drought. This
year, another step is taken towards saving its future water supply,
with the completion of the Wonthaggi Desalination Plant. Costing $3.5
billion, this becomes the largest desalination facility in Australia
and the sixth largest in the world. It is also one of the first major
plants to be built specifically with climate change in mind, and is
easily the most technologically advanced.
made to supply the city of Melbourne with much needed water during
times of intense drought. The facility operates using a number of
filter systems, the largest being the reverse osmosis building - this
contains 55,000 new, highly precise reverse membranes and three 1.2
million gallon water tanks. Also in use are 72 of some of the largest
industrial filters ever created, each one able to meet the demands
of 90,000 people. These, combined with the reverse osmosis membranes,
produce some of the purest water possible through desalination, with
the entire plant pumping out up to 200 gigalitres per year.
to access the city of Melbourne's water supply system, 52 miles of
pipe had to be laid, with run-off made available to agriculture along
the way. The facility is 100% green, gaining all of its energy from
a nearby wind farm. The roof of the structure is also made to blend
into the natural surroundings, being covered with a number of plants
and grasses.* This has the added benefits
of sound dampening the machinery and protecting the environment from
the corrosive salt in the air. The plant will remain in operation
until 2045, but this may be extended in the face of an increasingly