Category: Top Posts

Supercomputers Tackle Antibiotic-Resistant ‘Superbugs’

By Sandrasegaram Gnanakaran | April 25, 2018 11:59 am

superbugs

Acne, bronchitis, pink eye, ear infections, and sexually transmitted diseases are just a few of the illnesses treatable by antibiotics — assuming that the bacteria that cause these illnesses are not resistant to antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance, one of the most urgent threats to public health, occurs when antibiotics are unable to kill the bacteria causing an infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: vaccines & drugs

Drugs from Bugs: Bioprospecting Insects to Fight Superbugs

By Troy Farah | April 13, 2018 12:05 pm
(Credit: Yusnizam Yusof/Shutterstock)

(Credit: Yusnizam Yusof/Shutterstock)

Somewhat like looking down the barrel of a gun, antibiotic resistance is a looming threat to modern medicine. The rise of MRSA, super drug-resistant gonorrhea and other “nightmare” bacteria risk rendering our microscopic defenses useless. What to do when your last-last-last resort fails to kill these pathogens?

Someday, perhaps sooner than later, we’re going to need new antibiotics, not to mention medicines for cancer, depression, and other conditions that aren’t readily treatable by current prescriptions. So, how do we find new pharmaceuticals? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: vaccines & drugs

Our Ancestors Got High, Too

By Cody Cottier | April 9, 2018 8:00 am
high-drug-ancestor

Humans have been getting high for a long, long time. (Credit: Shutterstock)

The tales we tell — from Homer and Genesis to your friend’s ninth recounting of that epic rave last summer — are rich with drug use. But studies show our ancestors were chewing, brewing and blazing long before they started to record their intoxicated escapades.

Virtually all human societies use mind-altering substances. What’s more, about 90 percent give drug-induced altered states of consciousness a role in their fundamental belief systems, according to a survey of 488 modern societies. And this isn’t new. Many psychoactive plants we consume today, and those that have fallen out of style, date back thousands of years. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Top Posts

Don’t Blame Me, Blame My Brain Implant

brain-implant

Probes that can transmit electricity inside the skull raise questions about personal autonomy and responsibility. (Credit: Hellerhoff, CC BY-SA)

Mr. B loves Johnny Cash, except when he doesn’t. Mr. X has watched his doctors morph into Italian chefs right before his eyes.

The link between the two? Both Mr. B and Mr. X received deep brain stimulation (DBS), a procedure involving an implant that sends electric impulses to specific targets in the brain to alter neural activity. While brain implants aim to treat neural dysfunction, cases like these demonstrate that they may influence an individual’s perception of the world and behavior in undesired ways. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: medical technology

How to Discover New Cloud Species

By Graeme Marlton, University of Reading | March 27, 2018 1:09 pm
File 20180321 165580 1mj5vws.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Asperitas cloud over Newtonia, Missouri, US. (Credit: © Elaine Patrick, Cloud Appreciation Society Member 31940)

Clouds form in a multitude of different shapes and sizes, their infinite combinations and position across the sky offering a visual drama in response to the light conditions. But despite their apparent randomness, a detailed naming convention is in place to categorize them.

When a cloud ultimately can’t be fitted into one of the many existing categories, it can be nominated for a classification of its own. In 2017, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) added 12 new types of cloud to the International Cloud Atlas, the world standard guide for cloud classification. And I worked as part of a small team investigating the science behind one newly categorized cloud, Asperitas, which exhibits wave-like perturbations, reminiscent of a rough sea in the base of the cloud. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts

Should We Worry About Computer Algorithms’ ‘Mental Health’?

By Thomas T. Hills | March 26, 2018 11:12 am
computuer-AI

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Is my car hallucinating? Is the algorithm that runs the police surveillance system in my city paranoid? Marvin the android in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy had a pain in all the diodes down his left-hand side. Is that how my toaster feels?

This all sounds ludicrous until we realize that our algorithms are increasingly being made in our own image. As we’ve learned more about our own brains, we’ve enlisted that knowledge to create algorithmic versions of ourselves. These algorithms control the speeds of driverless cars, identify targets for autonomous military drones, compute our susceptibility to commercial and political advertising, find our soulmates in online dating services, and evaluate our insurance and credit risks. Algorithms are becoming the near-sentient backdrop of our lives. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts

Let’s Journey Through the Mind of a Dog

By Erica Tennenhouse | March 22, 2018 12:55 pm
an adorable dog looking at the camera

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Inside a dog’s furry head are millions of neurons firing away, passing chemicals to one another and generating thoughts. We may guess at what our canine pals are thinking about: food, a walk, their loving owners.

But for all the time humans spend interacting with dogs, their thoughts largely elude us, and it’s easy to see why: dogs can’t speak their minds (at least in any language we know). But we still are curious about our best bud’s mindset, and scientists have devised creative methods to get into their heads. While our grasp of canine cognition may never approach what we know of the human psyche, the latest research has yielded tantalizing nuggets about the inner lives of dogs. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Mind & Brain, Top Posts

Theoretically, Recording Dreams Is Possible…Scientists Are Trying

By Charlotte Hu | March 21, 2018 1:44 pm
(Credit: Shutterstock)

(Credit: FCSCAFEINE/Shutterstock)

Dreams can feel awfully real when you’re deep in sleep. Perhaps you find a hidden doorway in your home that leads to entirely new rooms and passageways. Maybe you went to work in your underwear—yikes.

When you wake up, you check your closet for that mysterious doorway; maybe you jolt awake in a cold sweat, instantly relieved you still have plenty of time to properly clothe yourself before leaving the house. Regardless, whatever you were experiencing felt very real just moments ago.

Dreams are essentially vivid memories that never existed. Yet you find yourself inside an all-encompassing parallel reality, a fantastical world that’s uniquely yours. The trouble with dreams, especially the fun ones, is that they’re fleeting. Often, you can’t remember a thing from a dream just moments after waking—the echo of some feeling is all that remains. But what if you could record your dreams, and play them back for analysis, or even share them with friends?

Theoretically, experts say, that might one day be possible. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Top Posts

Hold Off Dyeing Your Hair With Graphene Nanoparticles

By Andrew Maynard, Arizona State University | March 20, 2018 3:56 pm
graphene-nanoparticle-hair-dye

Subbing new risks for the current dyes’ dangers? (Credit: Evgeny Savchenko/Shutterstock)

Graphene is something of a celebrity in the world of nanoscale materials. Isolated in 2004 by Nobel Prize winners Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, these ultrathin sheets of carbon atoms are already finding novel uses in areas like electronics, high-efficiency heating systems, water purification technologies and even golf balls. According to recent research published in the journal Chem, hair dyes can now be added to this list.

But how safe and responsible is this new use of the carbon-based wonder-material?

Northwestern University’s press release proudly announced, “Graphene finds new application as nontoxic, anti-static hair dye.” The announcement spawned headlines like “Enough with the toxic hair dyes. We could use graphene instead,” and “’Miracle material’ graphene used to create the ultimate hair dye.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: materials science

A Brilliant Life: Stephen Hawking Defied All Odds

By Martin Rees, University of Cambridge | March 14, 2018 9:22 am
stephen-hawking

(Credit: Lwp Kommunikáció/Flickr, CC BY-SA)

Soon after I enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1964, I encountered a fellow student, two years ahead of me in his studies, who was unsteady on his feet and spoke with great difficulty. This was Stephen Hawking. He had recently been diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and it was thought that he might not survive long enough even to finish his PhD. But he lived to the age of 76, passing away on March 14, 2018.

It really was astonishing. Astronomers are used to large numbers. But few numbers could be as large as the odds I’d have given against witnessing this lifetime of achievement back then. Even mere survival would have been a medical marvel, but of course he didn’t just survive. He became one of the most famous scientists in the world – acclaimed as a world-leading researcher in mathematical physics, for his best-selling books and for his astonishing triumph over adversity. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
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