The Top 10 Science Stories from March, 2015
In March, scientists across the globe were hard at work making you less wasteful, your hangovers less painful and giant beetles less willful.
10 — Put Your Money Where Your (Big Dumb) Mouth Is — In one of the best examples of a working justice system in all of history, a German vaccination/measles skeptic has been ordered to pay $100,000 Euros for being an outspoken ignoramus. Embarrassing the guys in our lab by professional association, the German biologist who has to pony up the cash believes that measles is a psychosomatic illness brought on by traumatic events and wrote a website post offering to pay $100,000 to anyone who could prove otherwise. Enter: Science. A doctor gathered irrefutable evidence which a German court upheld despite the protests of the “biologist”. (read more at bbc.com)
9 — The Crappiest Bus in the World — Have you ever complained about your city having s#$*&@ public transportation infrastructure? Well, if you happen to live in Bristol, England, your complaints just got a whole lot more literal. On March 25th the city’s first, 40-seater Bio-Bus, run completely on human waste converted into biomethane, started running a regular route after successful tests late last year. It’s said to be cleaner and quieter than traditional busses, plus will only smell like farts because of the slovenly guy seated next to you. (read more at firstgroup.com)
8 — To Cure What Ales — In a move that Ben Franklin would claim is “proof science loves us and wants us to be happy,”, scientists at the University of Illinois have shown that it’s possible to genetically modify yeast to make healthier wine and beer. By tweaking portions of the genetic code through gene editing, the yeast could produce libations with higher concentrations of beneficial bits (think resveratrol in red wine) while reducing the amount of hangover-inducing toxic byproducts of the fermentation process. The result? Healthy brew with less of a hangover! (read more at iflscience.com)
7 — Waste Not, Want Not — Continuing with the UK’s seeming fascination with potty-humorous scientific advances, a team at the University of the West of England have developed a power-generating porto-potty that derives electricity from urine using microbial fuel cells. The microbes in the fuel cells use the urine as a food source, utilizing biochemical energy to grow. The system taps into that biochemical energy and shaves a little off the top for human consumption. (read more at uwe.uk)
6 — Don’t Mind That “Nuisance Flooding” — In a hilarious study of the power of human denial, employees of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection have been unofficially banned from using the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’… That’s right, the state first on the list to be sunk by rising sea levels and increasingly devastating hurricanes brought on by warmer waters is in full-on denial mode, sticking to the age-old adage “the fastest way to fix something is to completely deny its existence.”
(read more at USAToday.com)
5 — Turtle Power — In a much more optimistic take on environmental news, the first baby tortoises have been born on the Galapagos island of Pinzón in a century and a half! It seems a mid-19th century invasion of rats brought over by ship was responsible for the lack of hatchlings because they would dig up and eat all of the eggs. So fickle park rangers began alternately poisoning and distracting the rats with treats and, voila: the return of baby tortoises. (read more at nature.com)
4 — Brown Eyed Girl Blue Eyed Girl — A new laser surgery developed by CA company Stroma Medical has the power to turn brown eyes to blue by removing a thin layer of pigment from the surface of the stroma (the spindly, colorful part of the eyeball). As it turns out, a tiny bit of the same melanin that gives skin color is all that’s stopping your beautiful blue eyes from shining. The 20-second, $5,000 procedure incinerates that pesky pigment, leaving you with baby blues a scant few weeks later after your body has removed the dead cells. (read more at cnn.com)
3 — A Kafkaesque Army — Picture yourself trapped under mounds of rubble after some sort of disaster. Sucks, right? Now imagine that, through cracks in the rubble pinning you to the floor, a bunch of giant cockroaches descends upon you. This scenario is only the stuff of nightmares if the cockroaches don’t have tiny backpacks stuffed with electronics enabling them to be controlled by a human. That’s right, the era of cyborg rescue-roaches is upon us. (read more at washingtonpost.com)
2 — Seek and Destroy — If you’re cool with a cyborg army of beetles rescuing you from a collapsed building, surely you won’t be squeamish about thousands of nanobots cruising around in your bloodstream, right? What if they’re completely made of DNA? Human trials have begun on an incredibly promising new technology that has the ability to autonomously seek out, and destroy, cancer cells. The first trial will be conducted on a patient with only a few months to live, but the scientists hope to have the patient cancer free within a month! (read more at iflscience.com)
1 — Reunited, and it Feels So Good — In huge news, the scope of which varies depending on who you ask (zing!), a team of doctors in South Africa have performed the world’s first successful penis transplant. The actual procedure took place a scant few months ago in December, but the patient is already fully functioning. One of the punny doctors actually refers to it as a “massive breakthrough,” so you should read more at iflscience.com.