Impact Science takes a look at the science and technology news from October.
Wifi Walkways– 14th October
Virgin Media are currently trialling a new scheme to incorporate wireless signals under public footpaths. The trial has begun in Chesham, which has an average population of 21,000 people and has a large number of independent business’ who are helping to provide feedback on the technology. The network service is capable of reaching speeds up to 166 Mbps and can be accessed from as far as 80 metres away from the nearest router. The facility labelled as “Streetsurfing” is the first public WiFi under a pavement and will save people money by allowing them to cut the amount of data used on their mobile devices.
Wifi Annoying Meteorologists – 14th October
“The rain will then move along to the East, completely missing us here in Nottingham” the radio declares at 8am. By 5pm you’re soaked and wishing you’d never listened to the nice woman on the breakfast show and brought your umbrella with you. Now, you can blame the ever-growing Wifi network which is blocking out vast areas on meteorologists’ charts and making it increasing difficult for them to monitor storms, tornados and hurricanes. The blackout is caused by the radio waves that wireless devices emit, causing havoc for everyone trying to bring you your daily weather updates. A report published in the ‘Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society’ warned that this could lead to deceased warning times for major weather events.
Parkinson’s Diagnosed by Smelling Patients – 21st October
A woman with an incredible sense of smell capable of diagnosing Parkinson’s disease has been found. Joy Milne uncovered this extraordinary ability after her husband developed Parkinson’s alongside a distinctive “musty” odour. Dr Kunath and his team researched this phenomenon and found Joy could correctly diagnose 12 Parkinson’s patients from scent alone. More astonishingly, the 12th patient was not diagnosed until 8 months after the study. Researchers believe that this could revolutionise diagnostic testing, which presently relies on symptom progression. Doctors could soon be predicting Parkinson’s and preventing patients from losing their ability to move using a simple skin test.
European Cosmetic Industry to Ban ‘Microplastics’ by 2020 – 22nd October
While news of the introduction of the mandatory 5p plastic bag charge may have filled column inches and news feeds this month, what you may not have heard is that Cosmetics Europe has advised its members to discontinue products containing so called ‘microplastics’ by 2020. The little plastic exfoliating beads found in shower gels and face washes, have come under the microscope (quite literally) as scientists investigate their impact on marine creatures which accidentally consume them. The fear is that these plastics are accumulating in the food chain and that we could find ourselves ingesting microplastics when we eat seafood. Researchers are still trying to determine what effects this kind of plastic pollution might have on human health.
Elemental Cube Kickstarter Project – 27th October
It’s the perfect present for any science fanatic, it’s the element cube! This novel idea combines 62 elements together into a 2cm squared cube, but one might ask “why are there only 62 elements present”? The specific number only includes those which are inert solids and are not radioactive or man-made. The creator, Cillian McMinn from Belfast, identifies this as the world’s largest alloy and has even offered one lucky person the opportunity to have the alloy named after themselves in exchange for a £1000 donation to the project. The cube itself is £50 and could be the solution for those who want to collect the elements.
Could Genetic Modification be the Only Savior of the UK’s Ash Trees? – 30th October
The “Dieback” fungus has been spreading through the UK at an alarming rate since first being identified back in 2012 and is expected to wipe out 90% of ash trees on mainland Britain within the next few years (which is made more alarming by the fact that 20% of tress in the UK are ash trees. A £7 million study into the current situation was commissioned by the government last year. The results, published this month, recommended using genetic modification to transfer the gene that provides resistance to the fungus into the new generation of saplings. Public opinion is bound to be mixed and more research is needed to observe the effects the modified trees would have in forests with other species. However, with time running out for the UK’s ash population, action will have to be taken soon.
Image from EFF Photos via Flickr