What's the buzz
Simple way to make water clean
A scientist has developed a simple and cheap way to make water safe to drink, even if it is muddy.
Nearly 80 per cent of disease in developing countries is linked to bad water and sanitation.
It’s easy enough to purify clear water. The solar water disinfection method, or SODIS, calls for leaving a transparent plastic bottle of clear water out in the sun for six hours.
That allows heat and ultraviolet radiation to wipe out most pathogens that cause diarrhea, a malady that kills 4,000 children a day in Africa.
It’s a different story if the water is murky, as it often is where people must fetch water from rivers, streams and boreholes.
“In the developing world, many people don’t have access to clear water, and it’s very hard to get rid of the suspended clay particles,” Joshua Pearce from Michigan Technological University, said.
“But if you don’t, SODIS doesn’t work. The microorganisms hide under the clay and avoid the UV,” he said.
Quantum computers come closer to reality
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Toshiba Research Europe Ltd. have taken one step towards creating quantum computers by developing an all-semiconductor quantum logic gate, a controlled-NOT (CNOT) gate. They achieved this breakthrough by coaxing nanodots to emit single photons of light on demand.
“The ability to produce a photon in a very precise state is of central importance,” said Matthew Pooley of Cambridge University and co-author of the study.
“We used standard semiconductor technology to create single quantum dots that could emit individual photons with very precise characteristics,” he explained. These photons could then be paired up to zip through a waveguide, essentially a tiny track on a semiconductor, and perform a basic quantum calculation. Classical computers perform calculations by manipulating binary bits, the familiar zeros and ones of the digital age.
Test to find babies’ immunity
Testing a sample of their umbilical cord blood, doctors may now able to detect how strong babies’ immune system is at birth - and how likely they are to fall prey to colds in their first year.
A team from Washington University School of Medicine has developed a technique that identifies which babies have a diminished immune response to viruses from a sample of their umbilical cord blood.
They found these babies were more likely to go on and suffer respiratory infections in their first year. “Viral respiratory infections are common during childhood,” the Daily Mail quoted lead researcher Dr Kaharu Sumino as saying.
“Usually they are mild, but there’s a wide range of responses - from regular cold symptoms to severe lung infections and even, in rare instances, death.
“We wanted to look at whether the innate immune response - the response to viruses that you’re born with - has any effect on the risk of getting respiratory infections during the baby’s first year,” he explained.
The team used blood samples taken from 82 babies in the delivery room to measure for a specific immune system response to viral infections known as interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma).
The parents of babies who produced high levels of IFN-gamma reported they had fewer colds over the year.