Fighting explosives pollution with mutant plants

Biologists have taken an important step in making it possible to clean millions of hectares of land contaminated by explosives. Biologists have unraveled the mechanism of TNT toxicity in plants raising the possibility of a new approach to explosives remediation technology. TNT has become an extensive global pollutant over the last 100 years and there are mounting concerns over its toxicity to biological systems. —> Read More

Washington D.C. Is Proof That Needle Exchanges Save Lives

Washington, D.C. has a higher AIDS diagnosis rate than any U.S. state, with about 2.4 percent of residents living with HIV/AIDS. Just over 14 percent of those cases are linked to injection drug use.

But until 2007, there was a federal ban on using D.C.’s municipal funds for needle exchange programs, an outreach technique that reduces disease spread and can channel vital health and addiction services to drug users. When Congress lifted the ban, public health scientists were eager to see if needle exchanges would stem the tide of new HIV cases in the district.

Thanks to a new study that followed the first two years of such needle exchange programs in D.C., the verdict is in: By funding the exchanges, lawmakers helped avert at least 120 new HIV cases in the District in the first 24 months, saving an estimated $44 million in lifetime costs for HIV/AIDS care.

Currently, only 16 states and Washington, D.C. explicitly authorize needle exchange programs, according to April 2015 data from LawAtlas. But research consistantly shows that providing clean needles to drug users reduces infectious disesase and, despite claims to the contrary, doesn’t “encourage” drug addiction.

“A lot of policymakers are caught up in that belief system without looking at the evidence,” said lead researcher Monica Ruiz of George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. But, she said, this latest study provides clear evidence that setting aside such biases in favor of evidence-based policies can save lives — and help reduce an unnecessary health care burden.

How needle exchanges work

Injection drug users have a higher risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C because the disease can be transferred from an infected person to a new person if they —> Read More

Paint by Number and Equation

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Artistic inspiration comes from anywhere even painting by numbers. However, in this case, the numbers are a table or matrix of numbers. How? First, take a look at this image that was part of the mathematical art exhibit at the

To understand this portrait, created by Dr. Bruce Torrence of Randolph-Macon College, you need to know the Lights Out game. We’ll play on a 5 by 5 grid of lights. When the game starts, a random number of these lights is switched on. In the game below, the upper left light is on.

Pressing any of the lights will toggle it and the adjacent lights. For example, pressing the lower right light, as seen below, toggles the lights above and to the right.

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If we then press the light in the fourth row and fourth column, the puzzle becomes the configuration seen below. Why all the toggling? The goal of the puzzle is to switch all the lights off, preferably in as few button presses as possible.

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This puzzle lies behind Torrence’s portrait of Tibor Gallai seen above. Gallai, a Hungarian mathematician, was the first to prove that for any sized grid in the Lights Out game, it is always possible to get from the all-on to the all-off state.

Where are the numbers in this art piece? The portrait is pieced together from 28 by 28 squares which come from reachable states of the Lights Out game on a 28 by 28 grid of lights. How do you know which configurations of lights can be acheived in a game? That’s where Torrence used math and equations. A 28 by 28 grid becomes a 28 by 28 grid of numbers where 1 and 0 —> Read More

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