A Mobile Health Innovation That Could Help Stop Ebola

Developing countries don’t have the high-tech equipment needed to quickly diagnose the disease, but they do have millions of cellphones. One UCLA professor has a way to turn those phones into diagnostic centers.

There are 6.8 billion cellphone subscriptions in the world. Even when you consider that some people have more than one subscription, that means that an incredibly high percentage of the world’s 7 billion people now have a mobile phone.

Although most of us use our phones for things like texting, taking photos and playing games (in addition to the occasional phone call), there’s a movement out there to harness the power of that giant community of cellphone users to help people living in the poorest countries on Earth.

Dr. Aydogan Ozcan is a member of that movement. The UCLA engineering professor is turning mobile phones into diagnostic centers that can be used thousands of miles away from labs with expensive hospital equipment.

Ozcan has created software and hardware that turn cellphones into microscopes and diagnostic machines. With the addition of a 3D-printed microscope, a field worker in Africa can quickly scan the blood of an HIV patient to see how the virus is reacting to medicine. Workers can —> Read More Here

The Darker Side of Black Licorice


Want to test your own knowledge of which candies have tested positive for lead? Check out the “Trick or Treat” app from the team at Youth Radio Interactive.

This Halloween, kids everywhere will be out trick or treating for candy. And while some might worry about the loot rotting our teeth, there’s another more potent risk. Traces of the powerful neurotoxin, lead, can be found in some candy. This isn’t a new concern. For more than a decade, we’ve known about harmful amounts of the metal showing up in chili-flavored sweets imported from Mexico. That problem was addressed, but the California Department of Public Health has found lead in some candies made and distributed in the US.

One of the best known candy makers in the Bay Area is Jelly Belly. Its headquarters are in Fairfield, California, and the place looks kind of like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. There’s candy everywhere, and the air smells like a mixture of citrus, strawberries, and pure sugar.

The top three flavors, according to the Jelly Belly tour-guide, are Very Cherry, Butter Popcorn and Black Licorice. Black Licorice in particular may not be as sweet as it sounds. Earlier this year, Jelly —> Read More Here

Update: One Survivor, One Fatality in Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Flight Accident

One of two tail sections (empennage) of SpaceShiipTwo lies on the Mojave desert moments after its breakup during test flight. (Credit: Mojave Rescue & Emergency Response Team)

One of two tail sections (empennage) of SpaceShiipTwo lies on the Mojave desert moments after its breakup during test flight. (Credit: Mojave Rescue & Emergency Response Team)

Officials from Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites have confirmed one of the pilots was killed and another was injured in a major anomaly during a test flight of SpaceShipTwo today (Friday, October 31). The names of the pilots have not yet been released. During a hastily-called press conference, officials said launch of the WhiteKnightTwo plane carrying SpaceShipTwo occurred at 9:20 am PDT this morning and at 10:10 am, SpaceShipTwo was released for its test flight to the edge of the atmosphere and space. Two minutes into its flight, SpaceShipTwo encountered an anomaly. Officials had no immediate cause but the rocket engine is the first point of concern.

The rocket motor had itself been flown in four previous flights but the solid rocket fuel called thermoset plastic — similar to nylon — was making its first flight. Participating in the press conference were executives Kevin Mickey, CEO of Scaled Composites, George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and Stu Witt, chief executive of Mojave Air and Space Port. They emphasized that the nylon-based rocket fuel and engine —> Read More Here

Arizona School Board Votes To Get Rid Of Textbook Pages That Discuss Abortion

An Arizona school district is making sure that students are not educated about abortion in biology class.

This week, Gilbert Public Schools’ governing board voted to remove pages from an honors biology textbook because the pages talk about mifepristone, a pill that can induce an abortion, reports local outlet 12 News. Members of the board contended that the pages violate a state statute, which prevents school districts from providing instruction that “that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion,” says the outlet.

The specific section in question is titled “Contraception can prevent unwanted pregnancy.” It says that “complete abstinence (avoiding intercourse) is the only totally effective method of birth control, but other methods are effective to varying degrees.” The passage, from the seventh edition of Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections, goes on to describe the morning-after pill and mifepristone.

The issue was first brought to the board’s attention after the conservative Christian organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote a letter to the district’s superintendent in August, saying that the textbook violates state regulations, reports the outlet. The board voted 3-2 to redact the pages in question, <a target="_blank" —> Read More Here

Rapa Expedition: The Difficulties of Leaving Paradise

A month ago we'd never been to this island in our lives. Now it feels like a home away from home. (Photo by Manu San Felix)

After exploring, diving, writing, photographing, and just plain living here in Rapa in far southern French Polynesia for the past few weeks, leaving is difficult.

The weather is perfect, our ship is in great order, our equipment is stowed ready for the seven-hundred-mile passage, and yet we feel such a strong connection to this community that we just can’t bring ourselves to depart. In fact we have re-calculated the passage plan a few times just so that we leave the site of the latest Pristine Seas expedition as late as possible.

A month ago we’d never been to this island in our lives. Now it feels like a home away from home. (Photo by Manu San Felix)

We love these waters, full of life, and little touched by human activities, but we also love these people and every moment with them counts.

Besides, we can’t possibly leave at the moment, as we have all of the island’s sixty schoolchildren aboard for a tour! They arrived at the ship, sang songs for us and are now in the cabins, on the bridge, in the engine room, the saloon, and the galley, and are hugely interested in everything especially the diving gear, helicopters, drop-cameras, and —> Read More Here

Hubble Spies Spooky ‘Ghost Light’ Of Dead Galaxies

ghost light dead galaxies

Just in time for Halloween, the Hubble Space Telescope has spotted something a bit spooky: the faint glow of stars spewed out billions of years ago by galaxies in their death throes.

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The image shows “Pandora’s Cluster,” a group of 500 galaxies–formally known as Abell 2744–located 4 billion light-years from Earth. The “ghost light” (artificially colored in blue in the photo above) comes from so-called orphan stars that drift freely between galaxies.

Astronomers believe these stars were once part of as many as six Milky Way-sized galaxies that were torn apart by gravitational forces around 9 billion years ago. They hope to use the “ghost light” to gain a better understanding of how galaxy clusters form and change.

“The Hubble data revealing the ghost light are important steps forward in understanding the evolution of galaxy clusters,” Ignacio Trujillo, an astrophysicist at The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, who was involved in the Abell 2744 research, said in a written statement.

A study describing the research was published online Oct. 1 in The Astrophysical Journal. —> Read More Here

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