10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week
We’ve talked about this before. And I don’t mean to minimize your troubles. All I’m saying is that whatever problems you’re having this week -- if the miracle of technology is making you a mental case or if you were the embarrassed TSA agent who got the guy with the world’s longest penis in his line (I should have that person’s problems), tut tut. At least you don’t have a guinea worm and thankfully soon no one else in the world will either.
1. The worm has turned
This week saw a lot of encouraging news on the disease-eradication front: the FDA approval of Truvada , the first HIV preventative drug and the possibility that a peptide in spider venom -- specifically that of the Chilean rose tarantula -- could thwart the progression of muscular dystrophy. But for a blue-ribbon gross-out factor it’s hard to beat the guinea worm. This creature enters the human system through drinking water that has fleas in it that have guinea worm larvae in their system: “The larvae grow to maturity inside the human body,” reports Scientific American’s Roxanne Roberts . They grow to be up to 3 feet long in there and then escape…put down your coffee or you’ll spit it... through the leg or foot.
Did I lie? Say it with me: “Yes, things are bad but I’m not pulling a 3-foot worm out of my instep.”
Most cases occur in South Sudan and people who get it try to stem the pain of the exit by putting their feet in water -- and guess what happens? The water causes the process to start all over again. Jesus.
But through the efforts of the Carter Center and other groups the guinea worm is on its way out…of the world. These groups are providing cloth water filters and larvicide for drinking water and there has been a 99% eradication of the worm, which is kind of a superhero thing to do.
“We are approaching the demise of the last guinea worm who will ever live on earth,” says former US president Jimmy Carter, namesake of the Carter Center.
One thing’s for sure. Worms in real life are never, ever as good as they are on Futurama. Then again, what is?
2. See how you are
So cures did well this week, but diagnostics not only leapt forward but got a thousand times cooler. We’re about to get glasses that can tell you the health and mood of another person just by looking at them.
A2I Labs in Boise, Idaho has come up with a pair of glasses called 02AMPS. These "mood ring" glasses, reports Natalie Wolchover of Life’s Little Mysterie (she always writes about the coolest stuff) will enhance our natural ability to detect colors in a person's skin -- red, yellow, green, blue -- that tell us things about their health like whether their blood is oxygenated, has pooled or drained. It also subconsciously lets us know that person is, say, angry (red) or weak (green). Doctors “cite skin color when making about 15 percent of their diagnoses.”
Mark Changizi, an evolutionary anthropologist and director of human cognition at 2AI Labs says that parts of the spectrum of color we see in skin are “noise” -- useless information. Get rid of the useless information and you enhance the ability to see useful information.
The glasses will come in three types -- “vein-finders,” which you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever had a nurse poking at your arm for 20 minutes saying “I can’t find a vein”; “hemo-finders,” which will help EMTs tell where blood has pooled or drained; and “health monitors,” which enhance the contrast between colors in your skin, i.e. red vs. green, yellow vs. blue, giving cues to both health and emotional reactions.