What about some science usability as something else for news? We don’t need to tell you everything on social media is pretty grim right now – it’s nigh on impossible to avoid articles about wars, Antartica melting, etc. But despite all the doom and gloom, in reality there are a whole bunch of incredible people doing really good things around the world right now. Sometimes they just don’t get as much press as they deserve.
So as a much-needed reminder that not everything is ruined, here are some of the awesome things happening in the world right now that you can talk about over dinner tonight (instead of global tension and nuclear weapons). You’re welcome.
1. NASA has released all its research to the public for free!
Last year, NASA announced that any published research funded by the space agency will now be available at no cost, launching a new public web portal that anybody can access. Aren’t they a top block of cool dudes?
2. We’re finally getting so very close to achieving sustainable nuclear fusion.
Nuclear fusion could be the key to producing almost-unlimited energy with few byproducts other than saltwater, but researchers have long struggled to create a machine that could sustainably control such a powerful reaction.But that’s changing. At the end of 2015, Germany switched on a massive nuclear fusion reactor that’s since successfully been able to contain a scorching hot blob of hydrogen plasma.
They’re not the only ones, either, with South Korea and China both achieving record-breaking reactions in their own fusion machines, talk about science usability. The UK has also switched on a revolutionary type of reactor that is now sustainably generating plasma within its core.In fact, MIT scientists predict that thanks to all these new advances, we should be able to get fusion energy on the grid by 2030.
3. We’re getting really close to eradicating the second disease from the planet. Talking about science usability, eh?
First, humans got rid of smallpox. Now we’re on the verge of wiping out the Guinea Worm parasite, which is a living nightmare that painfully erupts from people’s skin.
At the start of 2015 there were just 126 cases of Guinea Worm left on Earth, mostly thanks to an ingenious and cheap drinking straw filter that stops people from being contaminated via water. As of May this year, there were only five recorded cases.
4. We’re closer than ever before to having a drug that can treat autism symptoms.
A small, but promising clinical trial in the US showed this year that a 100-year-old drug called suramin can measurably improve the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.
There’s a lot more work to be done, but it’s the first time we’ve been so close to having a drug that can potentially treat ASD symptoms.
5. Science usability – scientists are working on a graphene-based sieve that turns seawater into drinking water.
As if graphene wasn’t awesome enough, back in April researchers achieved a major turning point in the quest for efficient desalination by announcing the invention of a graphene-oxide membrane that sieves salt right out of seawater.
At this stage, the technique is still limited to the lab, but it’s a demonstration of how we could one day quickly and easily turn one of our most abundant resources, seawater, into one of our most scarce – clean drinking water.
6. Scientists think they might be able to reverse Alzheimer’s memory loss.
Lost memories might not be gone forever. An enzyme that interferes with key memory-forming processes in people with Alzheimer’s can now be specifically targeted thanks to the discovery of a protein that helps it do its dirty work, according to new research out of MIT.
7. We just discovered a vitamin that could reduce the incidence of birth defects and miscarriages worldwide.
A good example of science usability is what scientists are calling “the most important discovery for pregnant women since folate”, a 12-year study has revealed that women could avoid miscarriages and birth defects by simply taking vitamin B3 during pregnancy.
8. Scientists recently classified a brand new type of aurora… and they named it Steve.
Steve the proton aurora is really the feel-good story of 2017. The new astronomical phenomenon looks like a ribbon of flickering light, and has been spotted in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. See? Life isn’t all bad.
9. Hyperloops are coming! We might see it in place by the end of 2021!
The hyperloop transport system is a brain child of Elon Musk that promises to shuttle people in tube-contained pods between cities at crazy speeds of roughly 1,126 km/h (700 mph). That’s New York to Washington DC in around 29 minutes.
So far test hyperloops are being built in the US, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The goal is to have a Hyperloop system between Amsterdam and Paris by 2021.
There’s even a (slightly crazy) proposal to turn the US/Mexico border wall into a giant hyperloop.
10. Scientists are fighting back against antibiotic resistance. What if they will succeed?
The United Nations has declared antibiotic resistance a ‘fundamental threat’ to global health, which some scientists predict could kill 10 million people annually by 2050. But we haven’t lost the battle yet.
At the start of this year, scientists announced the development of a molecule that reverses antibiotic resistance in multiple strains of bacteria at once, making it one of the most promising advances we’ve had to date in the fight against superbugs.
And Australian PhD student Shu Lam has the research community freaking out over a way to actually kill bacteria in the first place… without antibiotics. She’s developed a star-shaped polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics, simply by ripping apart their cell walls.