In this week’s haul, one of the world’s most advanced robots gets knocked down with a pipe and gets up again, scientists collect clues on defusing a superbug’s immunity barrier with a light source 10 billion times brighter than the sun, researchers fight drug-resistant leukemia with a Trojan horse virus and engineers take tips from a desert beetle to squeeze moisture out of arid air. Take a look.
A study published by Nature Climate Change found that clean-power technologies tied to goals set by the Paris climate accord could save the United States $250 billion in healthcare bills per year in the near term, and prevent as many as 175,000 premature deaths by 2030. “Including longer-term, worldwide climate impacts, benefits roughly quintuple, becoming [about] 5-10 times larger than estimated implementation costs,” the authors of the study wrote.
Scientists at The Ohio State University used a virus like a Trojan horse to smuggle cancer medicine into the body and attack drug-resistant leukemia. The strategy has been used against solid tumors in the past, but this is the first time it’s been unleashed on leukemia. “Cancer cells have novel ways of resisting drugs … and the exciting part of packaging the drug this way is that we can circumvent those defenses so that the drug accumulates in the cancer cell and causes it to die,” said study co-author John Byrd, a professor of internal medicine and director of the university’s hematology division. “Potentially, we can also tailor these structures to make them deliver drugs selectively to cancer cells and not to other parts of the body where they can cause side effects.”
Researchers at the University of East Anglia say they are “getting closer” to figuring out how drug-resistant bacteria protect themselves from antibiotics. Using a powerful new microscope, which shines light 10 billion times brighter than the sun, they were able to observe how bacteria assemble their defensive armor against antibiotics. “The findings pave the way for a new wave of drugs that kill superbugs by bringing down their defensive walls rather than attacking the bacteria itself,” they wrote in a news release. “It means that in [the] future, bacteria may not develop drug-resistance at all.”
Boston Dynamics, now part of Google’s parent, Alphabet, unveiled the latest generation of its Atlas robot. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound, battery-powered robot has LIDAR eyes, just like Google’s self-driving car, and uses sensors to keep balance. It can open doors, take a stroll through snow-covered forest, and lift and shelve boxes, and it’ll even put up with a fair amount of bullying. We dare you not to empathize with it.
Engineers have been taking clues from evolution for a long time: Thistle burrs led to Velcro, kingfisher noses shaped Shinkansen bullet trains. Now scientists at Harvard have used the “slippery asymmetric bumps” covering Namib Ddesert beetles, cacti and other desert plants to come up with a material that can pull water out of air 10 times faster than any other stuff known to us “I’m a big fan of ‘Star Wars,’ and so you could imagine this kind of condensation system being used simply for water collection on a moisture farm, such as the one on Tatooine where Luke Skywalker was raised,” Harvard’s Kyoo-Chul Park, who led the team, told Popular Mechanics. “The basic idea is already here: harvesting liquid water from air-bound vapor in an extremely arid region.”