We’re all clamoring to get into space these days, but lost in our excitement to fly to the Moon and colonize Mars is a brutal truth: the final frontier is a cold, inhospitable wasteland that’ll kill you at the first opportunity it gets. Astronauts already know this, but for the rest of us, here are just a few of the potentially lethal dangers faced by spacefaring pioneers.
This past week, a Texas family suffered a heartbreaking loss when their four-year-old son succumbed to a suspected (though not officially confirmed) case of secondary drowning—a condition in which inhaled water causes fluid to build up in a person’s lungs. In these cases, death can occur hours after a child goes swimming. Such fatalities are extremely rare, but knowing the causes and symptoms can help put parents’ minds at ease—and help you act fast if something isn’t right.
You might not want to book that trip to Mars just yet. Researchers have published a study estimating that the risk of cancer from cosmic rays is twice as high as previously thought. They’ve determined that conventional risk models are incomplete. While NASA and other groups believe that radiation-based cancer stems only from direct cell damage and mutations, the new model accounts for the possibility that heavily damaged cells will increase the cancer risk for “bystander” cells. There’s a knock-on effect that would be difficult to escape.
When you think of gene editing technologies like CRISPR, you might imagine editing genes that relate to height, eye color, or our risk of getting certain diseases. But in truth, our DNA and RNA are full of countless proteins whose jobs have tiny yet important effects on our health. Some, for example, are heavily involved in the cell cycle, which regulates how all cells grow and divide—including cancer cells. A group of researchers out of the University of Rochester Medical Center recently used the CRISPR gene editing technique to try to eliminate one of the key proteins that allow cancer cells to proliferate out of control. While it’s just a first-of-its-kind study, the researchers think that in the future, it could be incorporated into a therapy to treat the disease.
Botulinum toxin is one of the most potent poisons on Earth—less than a millionth of a gram in your bloodstream would kill you—and is perhaps also the most lucrative. It generates over $3 billion in revenue every year for the pharmaceutical industry, where it goes by the name botox.
Body odor is a universal human experience. As such, we as a species put a lot of time, money, and effort into finding ways to eliminate unpleasant natural stenches. But most of us put less time, if any, into understanding what actually causes our malodorous condition. But understanding the processes that create b.o. is the first step to creating a less smelly future.
Daily brushing and flossing has become so ingrained in our society that, for most adults, our oral hygiene routines have become second nature. But that means we don’t think twice about whether we’re actually caring for our teeth properly. In fact, if done incorrectly, brushing and flossing can have a detrimental effect on our health. So use this scientific advice to take a step back and evaluate your cleaning work—your teeth will thank you for it!