Each week, I plan to give you my Top 5 favorite science related news stories. These features will provide a brief synopsis of what the article is about and a link. I hope you enjoy
5. How a Deadly Heat Wave Led To Floods 2,000 Miles Away by Kendra Pierre-Louis: A heat wave that happened in Russia, killing tens of thousands of people, had an effect on rainfall in Ladakh, India.
During the heat wave Russia was experiencing its hottest temperatures since 1879. Meanwhile, in Ladakh, the area was experiencing horrendous flash flooding. The hot and dry temperatures in Russia coincided during monsoon season in India.
Ladakh is up in the mountains, and the soil is dry, the monsoons typically happen at a lower elevation. The heat wave may have had an effect on where the rain normally occurs. The rain caused the dry soil to wash out.
The article speculates that global climate change may have been a factor. Since 2000 Europe has experienced an increase in deadly heat waves, but in Ladakh there aren’t good records to determine if the heavy rain is typical to the area.
4. Quantum Computers Versus Hackers, Round One. Fight! by Lily Hay Newman: A quantum computer uses aspects of quantum mechanics for increased processing speed. In classical computing bits of data are coded as either a 1 or a 0, Quantum computing uses something called a qubit, which is a 1 and 0 existing simultaneously.
Quantum computing company called D-Wave first customer is the computer security firm Total Digital Security.
With processing speed that is between 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than a normal computer, Quantum computers show promise for cyber security. IBM has about 200,000 security events per day. A quantum computer could help security experts determine what is an actual threat and what isn’t.
3. Answers to How Are Brains Make Meaning, with a Little Help from LSD: Researchers used LSD to help them determine what neurochemicals and receptors are associated with the sense of meaningfulness.Study participants were divided into three groups: those given LSD, those given LSD plus ketanserin, and those given nothing at all.Ketanserin is a drug that blocks the effect LSD has on serotonin in the brain.
Participants were played a series of songs and then asked to determine whether they were meaningful or not prior to receiving LSD or LSD and ketanserin. Songs that previously had no meaning to the subjects were found more meaningful after LSD was taken. Combined with functional brain imaging researchers determined that the 5-HTDA receptor in the brain is associated with the sense of meaningfulness.2. MRI reveals heart changes in elite divers: Admittedly, this is not a new article, but it is on a topic that I am incredibly interested in – free diving.
I’m not a free diver, but after reading the book Deep by James Nestor a year ago, and seeing the Wim Hof documentary Vice did; I have become intrigued by breath training and its potential benefits or detriments. Researchers tested 17 elite free divers in Germany during a dry land breath hold to see what it effect it would have on blood flow. During breath holding, the heart pumps more blood to the brain and then levels off, blood pressure begins to build. The divers blood raises to the point of heart failure, but once breathing was resumed the pressure returned to normal. The researchers determined that for free divers that the activity may be fine, but for those with heart or other medical conditions it could be dangerous.
2. Why this 14-Year Old Built a Nuclear Reactor by Simon Worrall: I’d never heard of Taylor Wilson before, it wasn’t until I listened to Joe Rogan’s most recent interview with VICE co-founder Shane Smith, that I’d learn about him.
Wilson is a super genius who built a nuclear fusion reactor when he was 14-years old – he is now 22.
Simon Worrall interviews author Tom Clynes, The Boy who Played with Fusion. The book tells Wilson’s story as a 14-year in his parents basement making a nuclear reactor to becoming an adult winning science competitions.
Wilson is one of 32 to people to build a nuclear fusion reactor by themselves.
Interesting story, about an interesting character, I’ll be adding this book to my Amazon wish list
1. Doctors Successfully Treat Two Babies with Leukemia Using Gene-Edited Immune Cells by Claire Maldarelli: Two infants, one 11-months and the other 18, we treated for their leukemia using a combination of CAR T cell therapy and gene editing technology TALENS.
CAR T cell therapy is a new type of cancer therapy that involves taking T Cells, a type of immune cell, from a person and genetically alters it to attack cancer. This is done by attaching a type of receptor called a CAR to the cell. The CAR T cell attaches to the cancer once reinserted into the patient and destroys it.
The problem is that people with cancer typically have low T-Cells. The solution that researchers used was to take T-Cells from donors and to make genetic changes using TALENS.
The changes included making the T-Cell universal, meaning that it can be accepted by any person without an attack from the hosts body. It also included adding the CAR receptors needed to attack the cancer.
The two infants have been cancer free for 18 months. One of the children received stem cells after the CAR T with TALENS therapy putting a question mark on the overall success. So it cannot be determined that the therapy exclusively helped to treat their cancer.