Radio remains the dominant form of media in Africa, where most people do not have access to televisions and cannot always read newspapers, and the West African country of Mali has begun a new health program to educate people through the country’s most popular radio station.
“Innovation doesn’t always come in the form of the latest, cutting-edge technology,” said the Mali Health Organization Project’s Executive Director Kris Ansin, “We see radio as the ideal vector for health change among the poorest of the poor.”
In suburban slums–where populations are the fastest growing on the planet–crowding, land use and sanitation have created health challenges.
Health Radio was created with the intention of sparking discussion and acion in the homes and neighborhood in such slum areas, where health issues are most pressing. The radio program purposes to engage and organize slum communities to create positive change.
Some of the topics featured on the program are trash disposal, clean water and improved sanitation. The program also broadcasts crucial health information to empower users and inspire communities, with the intentions of promoting early detection of common maladies, lowering costs and saving lives.
Local businesses also play a part in the program, leveraging publicity and interest by distributing health supplies to participants.
Radio is a broadcast tool that is both low cost and scalable. By broadcasting Mali’s Health Radio into the daily lives of Malians, health has beem improved among the poor and the program has become a platform for better health.
Physicists at University of Queensland, Australia have simulated time travel using particles of light. The researchers achieved this by simulating the behavior of a single piece of light–a particle of energy–traveling on a closed timelike curve (CTC)–a closed path in space-time. The work may help to understand the longstanding problem of how time-travel could be possible in the quantum world and how the theory of quantum mechanics might change in the presence of closed timelike curves.
The work also shows how many effects, forbidden in standard quantum mechanics, may be possible inside a CTC and how light would behave differently depending on how it was created.
In the study, the research team simulated the behavior of a single photon that travels through a wormhole and interacts with its older self. This was achieved, PhD student Martin Ringbauer told The Speaker, by making use of a mathematical equivalence between two cases. In the first case, photon 1 “travels trough a wormhole into the past, then interacts with its older version.” In the second case, photon 2 “travels through normal space-time, but interacts with another photon that is trapped inside a CTC forever” (as shown in the illustration at top of the article). “Using the (fictitious second case) and simulating the behavior of photon 2, we were able to study the more relevant case 1,” said Ringbauer.
“We used single photons to do this,” said UQ Physics Professor Tim Ralph, “but the time-travel was simulated by using a second photon to play the part of the past incarnation of the time travelling photon.”
The paper, “Experimental Simulation of Closed Timelike Curves,” was completed by University of Queensland’s Dr Matthew Broome, Dr Casey Myers, Professor Andrew White, in addition to Professor Ralph and Martin Ringbauer, supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems and Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, and was published in Nature Communications.
In the team’s press briefing, Ringbauer commented on the relationship between the theory of general relativity and another important–but conflicting–theory, quantum mechanics. Time travel is thought to potentially help understanding the gap between the two schools of thought.
“The question of time travel features at the interface between two of our most successful yet incompatible physical theories – Einstein’s general relativity and quantum mechanics,” said Ringbauer.
Time travel in the quantum world may avoid general relativity paradoxes such as the grandparents paradox–a timetraveller preventing his grandparents from meeting and so preventing his own time travel.
The authors of the study believe that such paradoxes can be resolved in a quantum regime, because a quantum model of closed timelike curves–such as traversable wormholes–can be formulated consistently with relativity”
Ringbauer explained the concept to The Speaker this way: “General relativity predicts the existence of closed timelike curves (e.g. by following a path through a wormhole that connects two different temporal locations in space-time). This would allow travel back in time. In the classical world this is unlikely to be possible, since it causes paradoxes, such as the grandfather paradox. In the quantum world, however, these paradoxes are resolved and time-travel can be formulated in a self-consistent way.”
Part of the reason time travel could be freed from such paradoxes in the quantum world is that the properties of quantum particles are “fuzzy” and “uncertain,” and therefore there is “wriggle room” to avoid inconsistencies in such situations, according to Professor Ralph.
Although Ralph said that there was no evidence that nature behaved differently than the laws of standard quantum mechanics, it had not been tested in vastly different environments, such as near black holes, where the extreme effects of general relativity play a role.
This is the value of the study, said Ralph. “Our study provides insights into where and how nature might behave differently from what our theories predict.”
“We see in our simulation (as was predicted in 1991),” Ringbauer stated, “how many effects become possible, which are forbidden in standard quantum mechanics. For example it is possible to perfectly distinguish different states of a quantum system, which are usually only partially distinguishable. This makes quantum cryptography breakable and violates Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. We also show that photons behave differently, depending on how they were created in the first place.”
In 2012, California businessman Russ George illegally dumped 120 tons of iron sulfide over a 25,000 kilometer (15,000 mile) square area off the British Columbia coast in order to create a massive algae bloom to feed Pacific fish and increase catches. Now, salmon runs are setting a new records to the tune of an added 100,000 tons, and the results have been hailed a “a stunningly over-the-top success” in addition to being criticized by more wary environmental groups.
Russ George initiated the precedent-setting iron sulfide test in July 2012. The test involved a geoengineering technique called ocean fertilization, whereby plankton are nourished with carbon dioxide–a source of nutrition which has decreased by 25 percent in recent decades. Russ George hoped to gain lucrative carbon credits from the project.
Iron commonly reaches offshore algae by being blown into the sea by dust storms on land, and sometimes iron enrichment occurs naturally, such as after the 2008 eruption of the Kasatochi volcano in Alaska, which spewed mineral-rich ash into the Northeast Pacific Ocean salmon pasture, causing the 2010 “volcano miracle salmon run.”
Iron nourishes the marine food cycle from the ground up, directly feeding zooplankton, which feed young salmon, which in turn feed larger fish and sea mammals.
Some of the waters that George seeded with iron, in the words of Timothy Parsons, professor emeritus of fisheries science at the University of British Columbia, were so nutrient-poor as to be a “virtual desert dominated by jellyfish.”
The iron sulphide was applied thinly from a fishing boat in an eddy 370 kilometers (200 miles) off the Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands, after George convinced the Old Masset village council to establish the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (HSRC) and offered to fund the project with $1 million of his own money. The corporation was also funded by $2.5 borrowed money from a Canadian credit union. The area covered by the dump was 25,657 km square, roughly the size of Lake Erie.
Evidence of the massive artificial plankton bloom has been provided by satellite images. The bloom is as large as 10,000 km square–10 times larger than any previous test.
Although the dump was illegal under Canadian Law (due to its scale) and United Nations resolutions (Seehere, here and here) , and although the Canadian government raided the headquarters of the offices of HSRC and George was compelled to resign from the HSRC presidency, recent evidence has suggested that the Canadian government may have known about the geoengineering scheme, but not stopped it.
George said of the project, “Let’s not make this a story all about CO2 and Carbon… it’s really about whether the ocean pastures come back to the abundance of life that they and we enjoyed 100 years ago. My hypothesis is that if we can help replenish and restore the ocean pastures we will see the results in the one thing that mankind is most connected to the ocean by, it’s FISH!
“Indeed my experiment, which at a size of 30,000+ sq. km. is perhaps the largest single experiment of its kind ever conducted, has demonstrated that the fish come back in incredible abundance, quickly… All species of fish have responded but the best data comes from those fish who swim back to us instead of making us go hunt them down.”
The largest run of Pink salmon–which take two years to mature–occurred 12-20 months after the iron seeding project took place.Salmon are able to grow bigger in rich environments and more frequently reach catchable size. In a rich ocean environment, salmon can gain more than one pound per month, it has been reported.
In the northeast Pacific Ocean, salmon catches more than quadrupled–from 50 million to 226 million–and in BC’s Fraser River, where catches only once exceeded 25 million, 72 million fish were caught.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recently completed an assessment of the 2013 commercial salmon fishery. With the record pink salmon harvest of 219 million fish, the 2013 harvest ranks as the second most valuable on record. In 2013 the value of the Pink harvest was $691.1 million, below only the 1988 harvest value of $724 million. The total number of salmon harvested also set a new record at 272 million fish, well above the expected 50
This years Fraser River Sockeye salmon run is projected to be at a record high as well–twice the previous record set in 1900. Up to 72 million Sockeye are expected. In history, the number has not exceeded 45 million.
Some have hailed the project as a boon, such as leading sustainability media outlet Treehugger, who said George’s results “had truly amazing, positive impact,” and Robert Zubin, who in a piece for the National Review called the experiment “a stunningly over-the-top success.”
Other environmentalists have targeted the Haida First Nations and George for tampering with the marine environment.
“It appears to be a blatant violation of two international resolutions,” said senior high-seas adviser for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Kristina Gjerde. “Even the placement of iron particles into the ocean, whether for carbon sequestration or fish replenishment, should not take place, unless it is assessed and found to be legitimate scientific research without commercial motivation. This does not appear to even have had the guise of legitimate scientific research.”
“It is now more urgent than ever that governments unequivocally ban such open-air geoengineering experiments,” said Silvia Ribeiro, of the international anti-technology watchdog ETC Group. “They are a dangerous distraction providing governments and industry with an excuse to avoid reducing fossil-fuel emissions.”
One of the witnesses to an unprecedented 2012 orca group sighting commented, “If Mr. George’s account of the mission is to believed, his actions created an algae bloom in an area half of the size of Massachusetts that attracted a huge array of aquatic life, including whales that could be ‘counted by the score.’ . . . I began to wonder: could it be that the orcas I saw were on the way to the all you can eat seafood buffet that had descended on Mr. George’s bloom? The possibility . . . provides a glimpse into the disturbing repercussions of geoengineering: once we start deliberately interfering with the earth’s climate systems — whether by dimming the sun or fertilizing the seas — all natural events can begin to take on an unnatural tinge. . . . a presence that felt like a miraculous gift suddenly feels sinister, as if all of nature were being manipulated behind the scenes.”
Specific criticisms of the project include an idea of “ocean dead zones,” which result from too much plankton. George has responded to this criticism by saying that iron seeding “can only work in regions of the ocean far out to sea and where the water is miles deep… such locations are as different from the shallow near shore regions where ocean dead zones exist as are grasslands and mountain tops… .”
Another criticism is that the nourishment may create toxic blooms and “domoic acid.” George has responded to this criticism by saying that previous blooms in many areas did not cause such a feature in the ocean.
University of Missouri researchers have proven that a drug used as a cholesterol lowering agent not only halts breast cancer progression, but can kill cancerous cells, offering new promise to the one-in-eight women who will suffer from breast cancer in their lives.
The drug therapy may even be more attractive than now-popular anti-hormone medicines, such as tamoxifen, because when tumor cells develop resistance to anti-hormone therapies the tumor cells continue to grow and spread, but because tumor cells need cholesterol to grow, the cholesterol-lowering drug starves the tumor cells. Not only that, cholesterol also contributes to anti-hormone resistance because cholesterol is converted into hormones in tumor cells, therefore lowering cholesterol should help hormone therapy.
The study, “Cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitors as potent novel anti-cancer agents: suppression of hormone-dependent breast cancer by the oxidosqualene cyclase inhibitor RO 48-8071,” was funded by a grant from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Program and the National Institutes of Health. The study was published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.
“Because tumor cells grow rapidly they need to synthesize more cholesterol,” said Salman Hyder, lead researcher on the project. “Scientists working to cure breast cancer often seek out alternative targets that might slow or stop the progression of the disease, including the elimination of the cancerous cells. In our study, we targeted the production of cholesterol in cancer cells leading to death of breast cancer cells.”
The drug has already been tested on human breast cancer cells, and was found effective in reducing breast cancer cell growth. It also killed the cancer cells in many cases.
The research findings indicated that an estrogen receptor which causes tumor cells to grow was destroyed by the drug. This is thought to be the reason for the success of the drug in combating breast cancer.
The drug was then tested on mice with breast cancer and was found effective. The drug reduced the presence of estrogen receptors in the tumor cells.
The research team will next conduct further tests that they hope will lead to a drug that will both fight high cholesterol and breast cancer.
Driverless cars are now legal in America, but what happens when your car has to decide whether to save your life or others’ in an accident? Recently, a survey was taken to find out what Americans thought should happen.
The survey, conducted by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) polled 196 participants. The survey asked, “Should your robot car sacrifice your life if it will save more lives?”
The decision was split. Around one third chose each of three options: Yes, the car should prioritize its drivers life; No, the car should be programmed to save the maximum number of lives; and that choice should be up to the owner of the car, who could pre-program the vehicle as he or she sees fit.
Beyond the ethical choice, other factors have been raised as important to the question of what a car should do in such an emergency. Cars are considered to be not designed to protect the lives of anyone except those within the car, so some commenters have said that each car can protect its own occupants best.
Other questions surrounding the advent of automated cars include how the law would relate to such cars in accidents. Can automated cars be held criminally liable? Are computized ethics enough, when most people believe good judgment can compel people to act illegally? How can driverless cars be insured? What are the tests for competancy to drive on the road? Should separate roads be set aside for driverless cars? How will the decision to use driverless cars be made?
Chinka Mui, the author of New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups, has commented on some of these questions. “Insurance companies make money on their premiums, and over time they’ll be fighting over a smaller pool,” said Mui. “That will have a massive impact from a business-model standpoint, but it will also have an impact on hundreds of thousands of jobs for people sitting in claims centres, answering phones.”
Currently, driverless cars are legal in five US States. Most recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed senate bill SB1298 into state law on May 22, providing for driverless cars on the states roads.
The legislation will allow driverless cars to be licenced in California beginning September.
But driverless cars may currently be legal anyway, since they are not yet legislated against. “Everything is permitted unless prohibited,” commented Stanford law fellow Bryant Walker Smith. Since there are no laws against driverless cars, Smith has argued, the tests of Google’s and others on America’s highways were most likely not illegal, and neither is any other driverless activity at the moment.
Scientists at Northwestern University have found evidence that four times the amount of water commonly thought to exist on Earth actually exists. The study, based on years of seismographical data, shows the existence of massive amounts of water located 255-400 miles (410-660 kilometers) under the surface of the Earth–equivalent to three times Earth’s oceans–and has caused a reassessment of the origin of Earth’s waters.
Evidence of the underground reservoir comes from years of US monitoring of subsurface movements. Researchers now believe they have found proof that a huge water reservoir exists in the transition zone–between the upper and lower mantle, the the two layers below the Earth’s crust.
The transition zone contains a mineral that has a high water storage capacity, called ringwoodite. Scientists believe ringwoodite fills the mantle.
Ringwoodite has been experimented on, and under extreme pressure, it has been found to trap water.
The ringwoodite sinks into the mantle when oceanic crusts slide under adjoining plates and are forced further and further down. As even more weight bears on the ringwoodite from above, the water trapped in the mineral is forced out. This process is called hydration melting.
The amount of water held in subsurface ringwoodite is expected to be around three times the amount that fills the Earth’s oceans. Transition-zone ringwoodite would have to contain 2.6 percent water to bear this amount. The amount of water thought to be under the Earth, if it were on the surface, would only leave the tops of Earth’s mountains poking out as islands.
Given this information, scientists also believe there is more grounds to believe the Earth’s oceans came from within the Earth–the so-called “whole-Earth water cycle”–not from icy comets, the other popular theory.
The depth of the water is unreachable with contemporary tools, however. The deepest modern tools have drilled into the earth is 7.5 miles (12 kilometers)–halfway through the Earth’s crust. At that depth, the drill bit began to melt from geothermal heat.
The study supports the research of University of Alberta’s Graham Pearson, who found that a diamond from the transition zone expelled by a volcano contained water-bearing ringwoodite. Pearson has since found another ringwoodite crystal that also contained water.
Seeking “a cheap and effective way to eliminate malaria from entire regions,” a team at Imperial College London’s Department of Life Sciences have modified mosquitos to produce sperm that creates 95 percent male offspring, leading to hopes that Malaria–which still kills 627,000 people per year, according to World Health Organization estimates–will be completely eradicated.
The report, “A synthetic sex ratio distortion system for the control of the human malaria mosquito,” was published in Nature Communications Tuesday. The report represents six years of research.
The Imperial College team tested their proceedure in five labratory cages. Genetically modified mosquitoes were introduced into the cages already inhabited by regular mosquito populations. In four of the five cages, all mosquitoes were eliminated within six generations due to lack of females.
“What is most promising about our results is that they are self-sustaining,” said lead researcher Dr. Nikolai Windbichler. “Once modified mosquitoes are introduced, males will start to produce mainly sons, and their sons will do the same, so essentially the mosquitoes carry out the work for us.”
The process of genetic modification used involves inserting a DNA cutting enzyme called l-Ppol into the mosquitoes. The enzyme cuts the DNA of the X chromosome during sperm production. Therefore, during mating, almost no X chromosomes exist to pass on, so offspring usually bear the XY pair, and are born female.
The Imperial College team explain the process this way: “We combine structure-based protein engineering and molecular genetics to restrict the activity of the potentially toxic endonuclease to spermatogenesis. Shredding of the paternal X chromosome prevents it from being transmitted to the next generation, resulting in fully fertile mosquito strains that produce [greater than] 95% male offspring.”
The idea put in practice by the Imperial College team is not new, but experiments in the area were previously hampered by lack of knowledge of the genetic makeup and mode of action of naturally occurring sex distorters and the incidence of co-evolving suppressors.
Researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center have found evidence that sleep promotes memory by strengthening dendritic spines that grow during learning tasks. The study, published this month, was led by Guang Yang, Cora Sau Wan Lai, Joseph Cichon, Lei Ma, Wei Li and Wen-Biao Ga set out to discover the means by which sleep helps learning and memory, which are currently unknown.
Yang et al. observed memories forming and strengthening in mice. When the mice learned motor tasks, “spines”–protuberances–formed on dendritic branches of specific neurons. These spines represent the formation of a new memory. Such dendritic structures are subject to strengthening and decay.
When mice slept after forming a new memory, the spines were retained better. Not only that: the researchers observed the refiring of neurons that had fired during learning. The refiring occurred during slow-wave sleep. Another way of phrasing this finding is that sleep after motor learning promotes the formation of postsynaptic dendritic spines on a subset of branches of individual layer V pyramidal neurons.
Slow wave is deep sleep. when EEG activity is synchronized, producing slow waves with a low frequency and relatively high amplitude. Slow wave sleep has two stages: a down state in which neurons in the neocortex are silent and at rest, and a up state in which neurons fired excitedly for a brief period. Slow wave sleep proceeds REM sleep.
The research findings have brought science one step closer to understanding the process of sleep. The findings indicated to the NYU team that sleep has a key role in promoting learning-dependent synapse formation and maintenance on selected dendritic branches, and contribute to the storage of memories.
Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the worlds opium–which becomes heroin–and, although the crop is illegal in the country, it remains the main product of agriculture in large regions, especially in the south. Production in 2013 surpassed its previous record, which was set in 2010.
The UN estimates that Afghanistan has produced almost $3 billion worth of opium products in 2013. In 2012, the number was $2 billion–an increase of roughly 66 Percent.
On Tuesday, John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction–the watchdog of US spending in the country–informed Congress that the trade was poisoning the Afghan financial sector, inflaming corruption, contributing to the success of Taliban insurgents and criminal networks, and threatened to damage progress America has made in its efforts to improve health, education and government in Afghanistan. The problems associated with the opium trade also make it harder for aid workers to work–hampering rebuilding and oversight programs.
A team of scientists at Essex University with a goal of providing an artificial blood substitute to hospitals and disaster areas around the world–and overcome the barriers that have stumped 25 years and $3 billion of global scientific and business investment–have made progress with a recent $2.5 million funding boon.
Overcoming several of blood storage’s perpetual problems, the new blood is hoped to be stored at room temperature, last up to two years, and be available to all patients, regardless of blood type. Donated blood operations are also fraught with concerns about decreasing active donors worldwide and the challenges of distribution to locations where there is need, as well as purity and efficacy concerns.
The Heam02 project is working on creating an artificial hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier (HBOC). Hemoglobin is the key protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around our bodies. The protein is protected in the body by the red cell, and previous attempts to make HBOCs have failed because the artificial hemoglobins could not survive outside their protective natural environment.
Heam02’s HBOC is detoxified by the body’s own defenses. HaemO2 is engineering recombinant hemoglobin variants with enhanced electron transfer pathways, and the variants will be better able to detoxify the reactive high oxidation state iron and free radicals produced in extracellular haemoglobin under conditions of oxidative stress.
“It means we could overcome some of the inherent problems with transfusions as there would be no need for blood group typing and a longer shelf life means you are able to stockpile the supplies necessary for major disasters. It also offers the opportunity for routine transfusion support in ambulances or at remote inaccessible locations,” explained Essex’s Professor Chris Cooper, a biochemist and blood substitute expert.
Professor Cooper commented on the $2.5 Medical Research Council-funded Essex project, which was leaving US attempts by the wayside. “This is an exciting time for artificial blood research in Britain. This funding allows our team to take to first step on the road to bridging the gap between top class research and the commercialization of a product.”
By smashing massless photons together, light can be converted into matter, according to physicists at London’s Imperial College, and the race to conduct the experiment is on–and should be carried out within the year. Until now, the idea of converting E into mc2 had been considered practically impossible.
“The race to carry out and complete the experiment is on,” said Imperial College London’s Oliver Pike. The experiment is now possible because physicists are able increase the number of photons to massive levels (billions of times the level of normal visible light) in order to achieve collisions in a photon-photon collider. The tiny size of photons was until recently a near-impossible obstacle to the experiment.
The proposed means of achieving massive photon levels is a photon-photon collider in a vacuum hohlraum. The apparatus consists of a high-powered laser, which bombards a slab of gold, producing a high-intensity gamma ray (photons) a hallow space (“hohlraum”) in which is accumulated a thick field of photons produced by another laser. The gamma ray bombards the hohlraum. Out of the other end of the hohlraum some electrons and positrons will fly, according to the English physicists. A shorter, more technical phrasing of the process is that a gamma-ray beam is fired into the high-temperature radiation field of a laser-heated hohlraum.
The theory of converting light into matter and matter into light dates back to 1930, when theoretical physicist Paul Dirac considered that an electron and its antimatter counterpart (a positron) could be annihilated (combined) to produce two photons. Four years later, physicists Gregory Breit and John Wheeler suggested that the reverse could also be true.
“It’s breathtaking to think that things we thought are not connected, can in fact be converted to each other: matter and energy, particles and light. Would we be able in the future to convert energy into time and vice versa?” said John Adams Institute, Oxford Director Andrei Seryi of the John Adams Institute on the matter.
Many laboratories around the world have the equipment necessary to perform the experimental photon-photon collisions, the English physicists say, and the experiment is expected to be conducted within the year.
NASA, planning a mission to the moon Europa–one of the best candidates for life-sustaining habitation–within the next 10 years, has opened the door for crowdsourced talent. The goal is to create a mission for under $1 billion. NASA has published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking creative help.
Although much smaller than the Earth, Europa is thought to contain more water than our planet, and last year jets of water were observed shooting out of the moon’s icy surface, causing scientists to strongly suspect the existence of water plumes.
With NASA’s RFI, it hopes to address several fundamental questions about the enigmatic moon and life beyond earth, and on a budget. NASA provided a list of its five top goals for Europa:
1. Characterize the extent of the ocean and its relation to the deeper interior;
2. Characterize the ice shell and any subsurface water, including their heterogeneity, and the
nature of surface-ice-ocean exchange;
3. Determine global surface compositions and chemistry, especially as related to habitability; 4. Understand the formation of surface features, including sites of recent or current activity,
and identify and characterize candidate sites for future in situ exploration;
5. Understand Europa’s space environment and interaction with the magnetosphere.
The $1 billion target excludes the launch vehicle, but includes everything else, including all the technology and scientific intstruments needed for the mission. Some considerations specifically mentioned by NASA in the RFI for the Europa mission include the extreme radiation environment and protection of Europa’s potentially inhabitable ocean from the Earth’s bacteria.
NASA has released Request for Information: NNH14ZDA008L Europa Mission Concepts Costing Less than $1 Billion, targeting science and engineering communities. The RFI includes details about what and how to submit to NASA.