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Do We Need to Worry About Intergalactic Travel Plans? The Mystery Behind the Quantum Cheshire Cat and Other Top Research News of the Week

Worried About

Impact Insider – Weekly Round Up of Trending Research

Volume 1 | Issue 11

Worried About Intergalactic Travel Plans? Breathe a Little Easier

Worried About

Molecular oxygen, perhaps the most crucial requirement for life as we know it, is also a rare commodity when you look beyond our home galaxy, the Milky Way. However, for the first time, scientists have found oxygen outside our galaxy. Scientists were observing a galaxy named Markarian 231 located 560 million light-years away in Ursa Major, when they found radiation at a wavelength of 2.52 millimeters, which is a classic sign of the presence of oxygen. This is also the highest amount of oxygen noted outside of our galaxy. This oxygen has formed, they believe, due to friction caused by high-speed gases from newborn stars, which frees oxygen atoms from ice and allows them to form molecules. While space travel is still a distant dream, the knowledge that we have a potential oxygen source in the direction of Ursa Major can definitely help science fiction enthusiasts breathe a little easier.

The Fourth Deathly Hallow: Novel Molecule Takes the “Invisibility Cloak” off Cancer Cells

“Immune therapy” is gaining popularity in cancer medicine, because it is specific and avoids the use of harmful chemical agents. But, cancer cells are sneaky little buggers: they genetically “program” themselves to escape attack by the immune system by masking some telltale biochemical signs and thus fooling the immune system into believing they are normal cells. Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have now discovered a way to “uncloak” cancer cells and present them to the immune system for destruction. In mice with induced melanoma (skin tumors), they injected nanoparticles containing genetically engineered plasmids (gene delivery vehicles) that force the cancer cells to express some 1 or 2 “signals” (surface proteins) that essentially act as “markers” for the immune system to identify it as a danger and thus kill the cells. When both the signals were force-expressed, the tumors in the mice completely disappeared. What’s more, the boosted immunity was also active against any further cancer relapse. Could this new technique establish itself as the go-to Marauder’s Map that identifies sneaky cancer cells despite their Invisibility Cloak and sends them for “detention”?

Another Feat of Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning Finds Molecule that Can Kill Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Another Feat

The discovery of the first antibiotic might have been an accident, but today, finding new antibiotics is a huge challenge. With an ever-increasing demand of antibiotics—particularly due to the rampant issue of antibiotic resistance—overcoming this issue has become imperative. Thus, instead of sticking to the traditional way of extracting antibiotic compounds from soil microbes, scientists have turned to drug-design techniques based on artificial intelligence. Recently, they discovered a new antibiotic using a machine-learning approach. By screening a database called “Drug Repurposing Hub,” they found that a molecule called “halicin” showed antibiotic properties. However, as opposed to conventional antibiotics, it displayed bactericidal activity against a wide spectrum of pathogens, even some strains that were previously thought to be drug resistant. This is yet another feat of artificial intelligence in medicine, potentially paving the way for new, effective solutions against antibiotic resistance.

Reading the Mysterious Magnetic Pulses on Mars

Decoding the mysteries of Mars has been a mission of space scientists for decades now. Often, in these missions, surprise discoveries are made that reveal some fraction of the solar system’s secrets. NASA’s recent mission to Mars detected strange and incredibly strong magnetic pulses on the Martian surface, which, they suspect, originate deep inside the planet—It is known that Mars had an ancient magnetic field comprising magnetized rocks that existed billions of years ago. The scientists conjecture that over eons, these rocks got buried in the ground and now emit pulses from hundreds to thousands of kilometers below the surface. While no conclusive theories can be formed without collecting more seismic evidence, this discovery adds to the repository of clues for solving the mystery of Mars’ midnight magnetism: a strange magnetic pulse that mostly starts and ends in a few seconds at midnight.
This discovery is a step further on the road to understanding the formation and evolution of Mars, but it is also a step towards comprehending similar planets in the observable universe.

Can Two Quantum Cheshire Cats Exchange Grins?

News story: A common-sense perception of any physical material is that it is inseparable from its physical properties. However, the notion of a recently proposed experiment aptly called “Quantum Cheshire Cat” finds this perception to be very tame: apparently, particles’ properties like their spin, for instance, may not even belong to them—which is similar to saying that our personality does not belong to us. And that is not the end of it.

This new version of the experiment basically starts with two grinning Cheshire cats and ends up with the grin of another cat gracing the other cat’s face, and vice versa. Therefore, in quantum terminology, it implies how two particles can exchange their properties.

Image courtesy:
‘Nebula’, ‘Cancer cell’, ‘Pink sphere’, ‘Mars’ ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Shutterstock

Anupama Prakash, Sharang Kolwalkar,  Avantika Deo, Rachana Bhattacharjee, Indrani Das

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