Promising the moon

In a novel approach to doing away with streetlights, Chengdu, a city in China, has announced plans to launch an artificial moon to illuminate the city at night by 2020.

MoonAccording to the People’s Daily, the “illumination satellite” will “complement the moon at night”, at eight times the brightness of the real moon, lighting up an area of 10 x 80 km.

Wu Chunfeng, Chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute made the announcement at a national mass innovation and entrepreneurship event held in Chengdu. He commented that the testing of the illumination satellite started years ago, but now the technology has finally matured enough to allow for launch.

The idea has been credited to a French artist who imagined hanging a necklace of mirrors above the earth to reflect sunshine through the streets. But perhaps few at the time thought that such an idea could become a reality.

Concerns have been raised regarding the reflected light from space, which could have undesirable effects on the daily routine of some animals. However, Kang Weimin, Director of the Institute of Optics, School of Aerospace, Harbin Institute of Technology, assured critics that the light of the satellite is similar to a dusk-like glow, so it should not affect the regular routines of animals.

Better the devil you know?

Although most people accept that smoking isn’t exactly a healthy habit, much research has been done to document the addictive effect of nicotine and the harmful effects of smoking are largely understood. However, less research has been done on vaping and currently, it is believed to be a safer alternative.

New research by Duke University Medical Center, published in the journal of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, has shown that what has previously been considered innocuous – flavourings added to e-liquids – could actually have considerate health consequences.

smokeChemical additives, used to make flavourings, react with compounds already present in the e-liquid creating new compounds that could trigger irritation and inflammation when inhaled. What is particularly concerning about these findings is that these reactions make new chemicals that haven’t been disclosed or thoroughly researched.

Flavourings such as cinnamon, vanilla and cherry react with solvents in the e-liquid to created acetals. According to Dr Sven-Eric Jordt, an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University Medical Center manufacturers of e-liquids have not widely documented or disclosed the presence of these acetals in the inhaled vapour.

Jordt said: “These individual ingredients are combining to form more complex chemicals that are not disclosed to the user. When inhaled, these compounds will persist in the body for some time, activating irritant pathways. In time, this mild irritation could cause an inflammatory response.”

The researchers found that when flavour additives are mixed with the e-liquid solvents around 40% of the additives are converted into acetals. And additional testing showed that 80% of these acetals were transferred into the vapour for inhalation.

The acetals were found to trigger receptors in the body involved in lung irritation, the same receptors the research demonstrated that maintain irritation and inflammation in people suffering from asthma.

Dr Hanno Erythropel, a Postdoctoral Associate in chemical and environmental engineering at Yale and a co-author of the study, said: “Individuals who use e-cigarettes frequently should know they are exposing themselves to these chemicals and that the long-term effects of these chemicals on the airways are unknown.”

Could having a daily bath help to combat depression?

Research written about this week by NewScientist has suggested that taking biweekly baths could be enough to improve the mood of those with depression.

bathA small study conducted at the University of Freiburg in Germany, as reported by New Scientist, has found that “afternoon baths just twice a week produce a moderate but persistent lift to mood.”

Currently, physical exercise is recommended to those with mild or moderate depression, but the benefit of taking a hot bath produced a similar benefit.

It has been theorised that the hot bath helps because it restores normal circadian rhythms to individuals, something that is often disturbed in those with depression. Improvements to circadian rhythms could also lead to a better night’s sleep.

A circadian rhythm is a cycle lasting around 24 hours, which is involved in body processes of all living things. The cycles can be altered by external cues such as temperature and light but are originally generated by internal mechanisms within the organism, which can become imbalanced.

An additional explanation for the results is that the hot bath causes more serotonin to be released in the body, a brain signalling molecule shown to regulate mood.

Written by Angharad Kolator Baldwin


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