Here are four good news stories about how science is improving our lives.
- Scientists have found a way to create nanodiamonds from PET plastic.
- A future-proven, universal COVID-19 vaccine is about to be tested in humans.
- There are new findings about the power of doing random acts of kindness.
- A woman with a keen sense of smell helped create a simple test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
Watch the video above for the full summary and learn more about the following:
1. Scientists have found a way to make nanodiamonds from PET plastic.
Turning plastic into diamonds sounds like something out of a modern fairy tale, but an experiment originally designed to understand planets known as ice giants — like Uranus and Neptune — led to an unexpected discovery.
Scientists have been investigating a phenomenon called “diamond rain,” which is believed to form due to the unique combination of elements within these planets.
They conducted the experiments using PET plastic, the polymer found in packaging such as water bottles, that is made from a mixture of hydrogen and carbon. The team was able to simulate the process that takes place inside the ice giants, by creating high-pressure shock waves using a laser light on the plastic.
If you imagine between a million and two million elephants jumping on something at once, that’s the kind of stress we’re talking about.
Researchers were excited when this tiny synthetic diamond was produced.
What is really unusual is the clarity of the results they saw in the results, says Professor Dr. Dominic Krause, of the University of Rostock, who was involved in the trials. “A large portion of the carbon atoms are converted into diamond, very quickly in a few nanoseconds,”
“Also when the pressure is released, the diamond remains. That means there are ways to get it back, make it workable, and possibly use it for other things.”
Man-made diamonds share many of the most important properties of natural diamonds, so – in addition to being very beautiful – these nanodiamonds have potential applications for quantum technology and medicine.
Experiments are set up to get a better understanding of the planets in our solar system. “This could again be one of the many examples in the history of science where such a curiosity and something that seems so remote could lead to some real-world applications,” says Professor Krause.
If this is, as it seems, a new and efficient way to produce nanodiamonds using the same plastic that is put into landfills every year, it could be great news for our planet.
2. A universal and future-proven COVID-19 vaccine is about to be tested in humans.
For years, public health figures and scientists have been complaining about a lack of funding to develop vaccines to protect us from current and future viruses. But COVID-19 changed everything.
After the pandemic began, tens of millions of dollars were allocated to research groups researching global coronavirus vaccines, which we now urgently need if we are to be certain of a COVID-free future.
A universal vaccine for COVID-19 would defeat any variants that might emerge in the future, as well as any future diseases caused by entirely new types of coronaviruses.
The good news is that people have already started working on this long before we hear about Alpha, Delta, Omicron, and the rest.
One of those scientists was Alexander Cohen, a doctoral student at the California Institute of Technology, and researchers in Cohen’s lab are getting very close to their goal.
The initial results look really promising, as the antibodies produced in the lab vaccine identified not only all eight coronaviruses included in the vaccine, but also four additional coronaviruses that were not included. In March of this year, the group reported that the vaccine appeared to protect mice and monkeys that had been exposed to a range of coronaviruses. In July, they published the results in Science.
The next step is to test the vaccine in humans, and the funding for that already exists. If successful, it may save us from having to endure another COVID-related lockdown again.
3. There are new findings about the power of doing random acts of kindness.
Making small gestures of kindness makes everyone happy – those who give and those who take. The strange thing is that the good Samaritans of the world tend not to realize how happy they are at making people, according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
Researchers believe this may prevent many of us from doing nice things for others too often, which means that people miss opportunities to feel good and make others feel good.
They conducted experiments with hundreds of people, who performed and received random acts of kindness, such as buying a stranger coffee or a cup of hot chocolate, and in all of them, those who performed the kind acts consistently underestimated how positive it was. Others feel.
The idea that kindness can enhance well-being is not really new. Several studies have already shown how voluntarily helping others generates positive feelings for both parties.
But experts say each new discovery strengthens the idea, making it a stronger scientific argument, not just something that seems logical.
4. A Scottish woman with a keen sense of smell helped create a simple test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
72-year-old Joy Milne mistakenly made a major advance in the discovery of Parkinson’s disease.
She had noticed that her husband’s scent had changed 12 years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, noting that he had developed a different musky smell than his normal scent.
“It’s strange that when I wake up in the morning, I don’t open my eyes, I can smell what’s around me,” she said.
Joy Milne has a hereditary hyperosmolarity. People with this condition are known as “super odors.”
A team from the University of Manchester has harnessed its power and discovered that Parkinson’s disease does indeed have a specific smell.
With the help of Ms Milne, they developed a test that can determine in just three minutes whether someone has Parkinson’s disease.
Professor Perdita Baran, who led the research team, explains to Euronews.
“Our focus is on doing what’s called confirmatory diagnosis for professionals to help them get the right treatment.”
To date no specific test for Parkinson’s disease has been performed, and the diagnosis was based on the patient’s symptoms and medical history. All of that is about to change, with a simple cotton swab.
Remember that one of the headlines can be hard to find, but some good news could be.