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Science shines amid COVID in 2020: From artificial sun to quantum computers, scientists break through our toughest challenges with bravery and boldness

30 years ago, the journal Science began its annual commemoration of scientific breakthroughs, shining a bright light on the brilliance and courage of ordinary humans engaging in the extraordinary. Here, we pay homage to this long tradition by highlighting recent breakthroughs that demonstrate ingenuity, often ignited under pressure. From the record-setting development of COVID-19 vaccines to the discovery of a chemical agent that causes locusts to swarm, to ambitious missions to the moon and Mars, one element in all these breakthroughs is clear: The problems were daunting and sometimes even dangerous, but scientists and engineers welcomed the challenge. The breakthroughs selected below were jointly collected by Science and its partner Tencent—a world-leading Internet company and artificial intelligence (AI) leader. Tencent and Science have compiled 40 major scientific breakthroughs occurring over the past year in the fields of astronomy, mathematics/physics, chemistry, and life sciences. The aim is to stimulate young readers’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Tencent leveraged its social, data, and analysis services and collected votes from over 1.58 million young users via Tencent Kandian and Tencent Penguin Tutoring. After fully gauging the interests of these teens, the editorial and news teams of Science chose the following final 10 breakthrough topics. The list will be announced by Tim Appenzeller, editor-in-chief of the Science news section, at the third annual Tencent Youth Science Festival.

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