Overnight News Summary: Saturday Science

Included in tonight’s science stories:

  • Synthetic molecule that targets tumors to destroy cancer cells
  • US embassies inadvertently improve air quality
  • Genes switched from snake to frog in Madagascar
  • Is Buddhism a religion?
  • A good time to delete data from Google
  • Zinc reverses lung damage
  • How Psychedelics Change Your Reality

The bright side

by Krista Conger, Stanford Medicine

Scientists are building a synthetic molecule that destroys cancer cells

Activation of the immune system at the site of a tumor can recruit and stimulate immune cells to destroy tumor cells. One strategy is to inject immunostimulating molecules directly into the tumor, but this method can be difficult for cancers that are not easily accessible.

Now, Stanford researchers have developed a new synthetic molecule that combines a tumor-targeting agent with another molecule that triggers immune activation. This tumor-targeted immunotherapy can be given intravenously and travels to one or more tumor sites in the body, where it recruits immune cells to fight the cancer.


by Doug Johnson

US embassies may have accidentally improved air quality

In 2008, the US Embassy in Beijing installed an air quality monitor and began tweeting its findings hourly. Since then, these monitors have appeared in more than 50 embassies in countries and cities around the world.

Something unexpected happened in each of the cities where the monitors appeared. The researchers found that, overall, air quality improved in cities where embassies tweeted air quality data. “We were surprised,” Ars Akshaya Jha, an assistant professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University and one of the paper’s authors, told Ars Akshaya Jha.

Quanta Magazine

by Veronique Greenwood

How genes can jump from snakes to frogs in Madagascar

Perched on a leaf in the rainforest, the little golden mantella frog harbors a secret. It shares this secret with the forked-tongued frog, reed frog, and myriad other frogs in the hills and forests of the island nation of Madagascar, as well as the boas and other snakes that feed on them. On this island, where many animal species exist nowhere else, geneticists have recently made a surprising discovery: a gene, BovBwhich apparently came from snakes.

think big

by Adam Frank

Is Buddhism a religion?

The conflict between science and religion is an old story. It goes back to Galileo, who faced the Inquisition for his heretical view that the Earth revolved around the Sun, not the other way around. In its modern version, the conflict revolves around Christian fundamentalism and its views on evolution. (It should be noted that the Catholic Church has no problem with Darwinian evolution.)

In all the battles between science and religion, Buddhism most often gets a pass. In fact, Buddhism is often presented as being in step with scientific discoveries in disciplines such as quantum physics or neuroscience. The so-called scientific approach of Buddhism has even led some to argue that it is not really a religion and should rather be seen as a method of empirical investigation. So today we are going to ask two questions. First, is Buddhism a religion? Second, what is the relationship between Buddhism and science?


by Brendon Hesse

You should probably delete your Google data – here’s how

Google collects a lot of data, which is used to organize content recommendations on services like Google Play and YouTube, as well as to show you ads based on your activity.

We talked about this practice a lot, but to Google’s credit, the company has given users greater control over the ultimate fate of the data it collects. This includes the ability to automatically delete this data at regular and repeated intervals. We’ve covered some of this in the past, but in light of some updates to its privacy options At the end of 2019, we’ll show you how to automatically delete your data on as many Google services as possible.

The bright side

by Laura Coverson

Zinc reverses lung damage and dramatically improves patient survival

Investigators from the Women’s Guild Lung Institute at Cedars-Sinai have found that common mineral zinc can reverse lung damage and improve survival in patients with a deadly age-related disease known as pulmonary fibrosis. idiopathic (IPF).

Their findings, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, have the potential to change the landscape of treatment for patients with this condition, which most commonly affects people over 50.

think big

by Matthew W. Johnson

Why Psychedelics Change Your Reality

Humans have been using psychedelics for millennia, but it’s only in the last century that we’ve made significant progress in understanding how they affect the brain and our psychology.

We have learned, for example, that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, LSD, and DMT cause psychedelic experiences primarily by affecting a particular type of serotonin receptor, while other drugs like ketamine and PCP primarily affect the glutamate system.

But there are still open questions about how these biological effects contribute to profound psychological changes in people who take psychedelics. One answer seems to focus on how drugs trigger communication between different regions of the brain. Additionally, psychedelics seem to encourage greater neuroplasticity, which means that the brain prepares to learn new things as a result of a psychedelic experience.

Check out this Big Think interview with Matthew Johnson, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, which explains how psychedelics work and what researchers hope to find out about substances in the future.

This is an open thread where everyone is welcome, especially night owls and early risers, to share and discuss the day’s events. Feel free to share your articles and stories in the comments.

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