In Arthur C. Clarke’s epic Space Odyssey, it was posited that by the year 3001, humankind would have solved many of the societal problems we face today and transformed Earth into a utopian ideal. One of the technological marvels depicted in that idealized future was the construction of towers on the continents of Earth that reached all the way to space stations in orbit of the planet. Inside of each of these “space towers” was an elevator that could rapidly propel individuals up through the different levels into space, thus eliminating the need for rocket-propelled spacecraft to enter orbit. Clarke was so enamored by this idea that he wrote an entire book called The Fountains of Paradise about the concept.
However, unbeknownst to most people, for decades, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been developing plans to build a “space elevator” not too dissimilar from what was suggested in the Space Odyssey series. Now, it appears that international scientists and engineers are poised to begin construction once a critical proof-of-concept experiment is completed.
Breakthrough Gene Therapy Thought to Be an Effective Treatment for Some Kinds of Cancers Just Turned Deadly
Immunotherapy represents a whole new approach for combating several types of human cancers. The tactic involves scientists genetically reprogramming the cells of a person’s immune system to target and attack malignancies. Immunotherapy is now considered the “fifth pillar” of cancer treatments, rapidly evolving into a more promising tool for battling cancer than standard radiation and chemotherapeutic treatments.
Although there are many different immunotherapies in development and practice, chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CAR-T) therapy has shown the most promise to date. Indeed, CAR-T therapy is the first anti-cancer gene therapy to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use against advanced adult lymphomas and childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Unfortunately, just recently, a patient given CAR-T therapy for aggressive leukemia died as result of the treatment.
Since Galileo and Copernicus, most of humankind has understood that planets orbit our sun and that moons orbit the planets. Astronomers have also shown that there are planets in other solar systems outside of ours called “exoplanets.” Furthermore, the definition of a planet has been refined with much criticism as Pluto got downgraded to “dwarf planet” status. Now, it has been revealed that there might be even smaller objects orbiting moons that have been bestowed the ignominious title of “moonmoons.”
According to recent reports, there might be “skyscraper-sized” objects orbiting the moons of Earth, Jupiter and Saturn. If a combination of two factors is met, if the moon is sufficiently large and distant from the planet it is orbiting, there is a good probability of it having moonmoons. Astronomers studying this phenomenon call this the “Goldilocks zone,” where the moonmoon is tethered close enough to its cognate moon gravitationally to prevent it being pulled away by the planet, but far enough away to not get pulled into the moon by its gravitational field. Within our solar system, there are three planets that meet these criteria: Earth, Jupiter and Saturn. Specifically, moonmoons have been speculated to exist in the orbits of Saturn’s moons of Iapetus and Titan, Jupiter’s moon of Callisto, and Earth’s single moon.
The First Flying Car Is Set to Roll Out Next Year, But It's Far From the Image We Have From Science Fiction
Many may recall the blockbuster 1989 sequel to Back to the Future that took place in a speculative 2015. Its depiction of the future was surprisingly accurate about several things: a national baseball team based out of Florida, flat screen televisions, voice-activated appliances, and flying drones. However, the most glaring prediction that the filmmakers got wrong was the invention and implementation of flying cars. But maybe only by a few years. A company based out of Massachusetts is set to begin selling its vision of the world’s first flying car next year.
The Trump Administration Recently Canceled a Human Fetal Tissue Research Contract, and Here We Go Again
On Monday, September 24th, the Trump Administration canceled a human fetal tissue research contract that had been brokered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with a company called Advanced Bioscience Resources on the grounds that “serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations” needed to be investigated. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) further stated that it would determine if “adequate alternatives exist to the use of human fetal tissue in HHS funded research and will ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated.”
The debate over how to ethically utilize embryonic stem cells for the discovery and development of new therapeutics for difficult-to-treat medical conditions dogged prior presidents and has now morphed into the fetal tissue controversy that the current administration has engaged.
A question that has long dogged scientists is when did life first emerge on Earth? The answer to this question will provide context and insight to our understanding of how life developed and evolved over time on this planet. This conjures up the iconic scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation, when the Q entity transports Captain Picard to prehistoric Earth, riddled with intense volcanic activity. He points to a slimy, green puddle and says “this is you…right here, life is about to form on this planet for the very first time…the building blocks of what you call life…everything you know, your entire civilization, it all begins right here in this little pond of goo.”
Moreover, it will aid in our ongoing search for life beyond Earth.
As if the reports widely circulated around the globe about the rapid spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the threat posed by these adapted germs were not bad enough, now, there is a new group of bacteria that should concern the general public. If you thought that hand sanitizers were going to protect you from diseases, think again: bacteria resistant to the cleansing effects of hand sanitizers have now been discovered.
A group of doctors and scientists in Australia have recently discovered that a particular species of bacteria, Enterococcus faecium, has shown tolerance to the alcohol-based solution found in hand sanitizers in hospitals. These bacteria are capable of infecting multiple parts of the human body including, but not limited to the skin, bladder, urinary tract, heart, blood, and digestive tract. Beyond Australia, they are the leading contributor to a blood infection called sepsis