6 Discoveries That Will Restore Your Faith in Science
Certain public figures may prefer to ignore inconvenient truths—despite overwhelming empirical evidence that, say, climate change is not a hoax. But lest you fear that scientific inquiry as a whole is imperiled, let these recent breakthroughs and discoveries hearten you.
RenovaCare’s SkinGun, which scientists began testing on patients last year, can deposit stem cells onto burned skin to help it regrow faster than a skin graft. Within 90 minutes of a patient’s arrival at the ER, her stem cells can be isolated and sprayed onto her damaged flesh, allowing new skin to generate within four days—without excess pain, risk of infection, or extended hospital stays.
The Nose Knows
About 30 years ago, Joy Milne of Perth, Scotland, noticed a musky odor emanating from her husband, Les. When he was diagnosed with the degenerative neurological disease Parkinson’s, which is often accompanied by tremors and speech problems, they attended a support group. There, Milne detected the same scent on members and realized she’d been smelling the disease on Les. She later mentioned it to a Parkinson’s researcher, who conducted an experiment using T-shirts belonging to two groups: those with Parkinson’s and those without. Milne could differentiate between the two (even identifying, in the control group, a person who was later diagnosed). Doctors are using Milne’s ability to train animals to sniff out Parkinson’s in its first stages, since early detection may allow for more effective treatment.
Chamber of Secrets
The Great Pyramid of Giza, built more than 4,500 years ago as a tomb for the pharaoh Khufu, stands around 450 feet high. Beneath its facade lies a surprise: a hidden room, found last year with subatomic particles. Remember those electrons you learned about in high school chem? Muons are their beefed-up cousins, 207 times heavier and able to travel through layers of stone. This makes them like little X-ray machines helping researchers gaze into Giza’s pointiest pinnacle. The chamber may reveal how the staggering structures were built—a mystery that’s persisted for millennia.
Old Drug, New Trick
A 102-year-old medicine appears to reduce symptoms of autism. In a 2017 study at UC San Diego, suramin, developed in 1916 to treat African sleeping sickness, resulted in appreciable improvements in five boys on the spectrum, including increased language ability. Some remain dubious, but the study’s authors believe the finding could pave the way toward establishing a treatment.
A Land Down Under
It turns out the country of New Zealand used to be a whole lot bigger: Recent findings reveal it’s just one portion of a continent now sunken beneath the Pacific. Last year samples taken from the lost landmass known as Zealandia showed the presence of shallow-water specimens and pollen, suggesting the continent was once above sea level. (The theory is that Zealandia sank when it broke from Australia and Antarctica around 80 million years ago.) These findings have implications for the study of tectonic movement and the origins of species that may have migrated across continents.
Amateur astronomers recently observed a new type of aurora—perhaps you’ve heard of the neon green borealis variety, a.k.a. the northern lights?—in the skies over northern Canada. They named this glorious swath of light Steve. Steve is bright purple and shoots vertically into the heavens. He’s awfully pretty.