Last Month in Science – July 2016

We take a look at the biggest news from the science and technology industry over the last month. 

Montreal saves the World!

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs to you and me, were revolutionary for the world of refrigeration, but an unfortunate accident for the ozone layer. The hole in ozone layer was discovered in 1985, which led to the Montreal Protocol in 1989 asking for a phase-out, and eventual ban on their use in refrigerants and aerosols. Now, 27 years later there is published data showing that the ozone hole is shrinking.

Professor Susan Solomon of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, alongside colleagues from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, has shown that the average size of the ozone hole above Antarctica each September has shrunk from about 20m square kilometres to 16m square kilometres since 2000. September is a significant month since this is when the ozone destruction happens the most. They have also shown that over half of the shrinking is due to the CFC ban and just shows what fast, global action on environmental issues can achieve; predictions show that it could even close completely by 2050. With the success of the CFC ban, and the number of environmental issues we face, could this lead to further legislation to help the environment? Only time will tell.

“It really is a good year to be a 90s trading card game fan!”

Get your augmented game on!

90’s gaming is back and this time features 100% more going outside! With the release of Pokémon Go in the UK, augmented reality apps are becoming the new popular style of app, but what is augmented reality? Augmented reality is a live view on the world but with aspects that have been modified or added, i.e. the Pokémon roaming the streets of Nottingham. Augmented reality often gets confused with virtual reality but there is a clear difference. Virtual reality is a completely different view from the one you should be seeing and is thus a new world altogether. If you’re thinking “I’d love to play a 90’s card game which enables me to go outside and isn’t based on Pokémon”, then look no further than new Yu-Gi-Oh AR game (currently in alpha-development). It uses AR to bring the monsters to life just like Pokémon as well as seeing the cards you’re playing just like in the TV show. It really is a good year to be a 90s trading card game fan!

Harry Potter and the Future of Invisibility

It’s no doubt that one of the coolest items in the wizarding world is the Cloak of Invisibility given to Harry Potter in the Philosopher’s Stone, and scientists at Queen Mary University of London might just be one step closer to making it a reality. Don’t get too excited though, it cannot yet make any object invisible but it can make curved objects appear flat and future developments could lead to other camouflage techniques being discovered. It shouldn’t be too long until those Hogwarts letters finally arrive…

“The gene […] will help to develop new treatments for the condition”

Ice Bucket Challenge provides a breakthrough

One year ago saw many people posting videos of themselves being drenched in water in order to help prevent ALS and it all seems to have paid off. Donations from the viral challenge have helped to fund important research which has identified the specific gene responsible for ALS. ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a disorder which kills muscle neurons that cause muscle weakness and difficulty moving. The gene, discovered by “Project MinE”, is present in a small number of cases of ALS but will help to develop new treatments for the condition.

Luke Norman and Laura Samuel

Image: NASA’s Earth Observatory via Flickr (CC)

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