Part of Our Hey! Look at THAT! Science Series
I enjoy bringing you some of the delightfully amazing stories I come acres in the world of science. That is the plan for today, and happily, it is all good news for this round. We could all using some cheerful news, could we not?
Science and technology can be two edged swords, bringing both risk and reward. But overall, much of what ails us as a species and as a planet stand the best chance of being resolved by science. Equally important, much of our potential for ever improving life, not just holding on but doing better, also depends on science and technology.
Here, then, are four short stories to cheer you up as we go into the weekend.
Blue Light & Peroxide Saves the Day– I wrote just a few weeks ago about the deadly spread of MRSA, the super bug that is increasingly impervious to antibiotics. Thousands of Americans die from this every year and medicine is running out of products to deal with it.
Now, researchers at a Boston University appear to have developed a major breakthrough that has the possibility of eliminating MRSA as a threat. As is so often the case, the prospective solution is elegantly simple and comparatively low tech. Researchers have known for some time that hydrogen peroxide (that stuff you buy at the drugstore) can kill MRSA cells but getting through the bug’s protective membrane made this capability ineffective.
Well, it turns out that exposing MRSA to blue light, any blue light essentially, weakens its cellular walls. It does so to a very high degree, although for a short time. It is long enough to coat the cells with hydrogen peroxide, which then has a kill rate of over 99% in initial tests.
This does not stop the formation of MRSA at the outset, but it could make it an obsolete threat to human beings. This is a terrific story with major impact. You can read more about it at https://www.slashgear.com/blue-light-turns-hydrogen-peroxide-into-mrsa-super-bug-killer-08572475/ .
Suicide Risk Detection in the Brain – Recent suicides by youth and a parent who were victims of mass shooting events seemed another blow to the national psyche. These people had endured so much, only to end their own lives tragically.
In the wake of these events, we find reports that medical science has identified abnormalities deep in the brain, in the white matter, of some people that may make them more susceptible to depression and suicide. Research is in such early stages that scientists do not know if these abnormalities cause depression or if they are a result of depression, but the hunt for answers is underway.
We know that a large and varied population is at higher risk for suicides. Soldiers, first responders, disaster victims, even veterinarians are susceptible. If we could find a way to determine vulnerabilities early, such as these brain characteristics, thousands of lives could be saved, and the quality of life improved for thousands more. Read all about it at https://www.livescience.com/15403-brain-cells-astrocytes-depression-suicide.html .
Say “Cheese,” Black Hole –Scientists shared with us this week the first ever picture of a black hole. Well, actually the shadow of a black hole. It was an amazing capture and a great story as to how they did it. The numbers are staggering. The black hole imaged is over 6.5 BILLION times the size of the sun. The thing is 55 million light years away, at the center of galaxy M87. It’s diameter is about 38 billion kilometers.
Creating this photo would require a telescope about the size of the earth. To match that requirement, 200 scientists synchronized eight telescopes from all over the planet to make the image we now see. All numbers too amazing to grasp.
The press conference announcing all this was a joy to watch. It was only about 50 minutes long. They did a fine job of explaining the science to laymen. They also made an eloquent case for the importance of science to humanity and the importance of working together.
As an American I was saddened to see how small a role we played – we have forfeited on big science across many fronts for many years now. But others are picking up the lead. The Europeans certainly led on this one. Interesting that in a time where European unity and sense of identity is weaker than ever, its scientific community is closer and more integrated than ever.
If you missed the press conference, take a few minutes to watch it. It will be time well spent. Just watching the pride and enthusiasm of the scientists is worth the 50 minutes or so of the conference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr20f19czeE
A Space Plane That Sounds Like Science Fiction– A UK- European consortium is a long way from having a commercial product but has just completed successful testing of an essential engine cooling component for a hyper plane that could fly 25 times the speed of sound. How fast is that? How about London to New York in an hour (7 hours today)? Or London to Australia in four hours. Commercial aircraft today can fly at Mach 0.75. The Concorde flew at Mach 2.0. This thing will fly at Mach 25.
What wonders still await us?
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