Watch: This self-balancing wheelchair can climb and descend stairs automatically .

Stairs and uneven ground surfaces pose a huge problem for wheelchair users, and while ramps can improve accessibility, they’re costly to implement and not always easy to retrofit to existing building structures.

Fortunately, students in Switzerland have answered this very problem with the ‘Scalevo’, an electric wheelchair that has the ability to ascend steps directly by lowering a tank-style tread that can roll the wheelchair up a flight of stairs.

Designed by students at ETZ Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts, theScalevo features gyroscopic technology that lets the wheelchair automatically balance itself on just two wheels while on flat ground (in the same manner thatSegways keep upright), and when the user approaches a staircase, the wheelchair turns around and ascends the steps backwards via the caterpillar track.

“The great thing is that everything on this wheelchair is automated,” said Miro Voellmy, who helped design the wheelchair’s frame and support system, as reported by Jim Drury at Reuters. “If I want to climb the stairs I can just drive up to them, turn around, press one button and all I have to do is control the velocity I want to drive at.”

The Scalevo travels at up to 10 km/h on flat surfaces and can ascend stairs – including spiral staircases – at a maximum speed of one step per second (which is four times faster than the speed you see demonstrated in the video above). It’s been entered into this year’s Cybathlon Championship – a competitive event sponsored by ETH Zurich in which racers with disabilities pilot advanced assistive devices.

“Tracks are excellent for this use case because they have a very large footprint, which makes it near impossible to tilt, and they are also very smooth so it doesn’t feel like you’re driving up stairs, so it just feels like you’re driving up a ramp because they’re so flat and they adapt to the stair profile,” said Voellmy. “So it doesn’t matter if the stair is wooden or metal or glass, the tracks grip and there’s no danger of slipping.”

In addition to letting the wheelchair climb stairs, the track mechanism can also significantly raise the height of the user to give the person operating the chair a more elevated view of things when on flat surfaces.

While the student prototypes that have been developed so far are not for sale, interest in the project has led the Scalevo’s creators to consider crowd-funding a more affordable consumer version. We can’t help but think there would be massive demand if the students decide to pursue the idea.

“It was built very compact, so it’s not much wider than a classic manual wheelchair and it can still go under tables,” said Voellmy. “[Y]ou can go through narrow doors and use it indoors without any hassle, so it’s extremely compact in comparison to different wheelchairs and it’s very easy to use.”

Watch the video. URL:

6 Reasons to Juice Rather Than Smoke Cannabis

Cannabis is one of the most versatile plants with few others matching its medicinal powers. Dozens of scientific publications have shown thecannabinoids from juices and extracts are very effective against diseases such as cancer, tourette’s syndrome, seizures, migraines, MS, IBS, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. Some believe that raw cannabis should be treated as a dietary staple.

Juicing cannabis usually involves blending or pressing fresh plant material instead of buds that have been dried or aged. And it’s easy.

Here are the top reasons to juice cannabis rather than smoke it.

5 Reasons to Juice Cannabis

1. Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Cannabis – whether Sativa, Indica, Ruderalis, male, female, hermaphrodite, wild, bred for fiber, seeds or medicinal resin – is a vegetable with every dietary essential we can’t synthesize: Essential Amino Acids, Essential Fatty Acids, Essential Cannabinoid acids and hundreds of anti-Cancer compounds.

Juicing better allows the body to interact with cannabinoids through the gut, small intestine and entire digestive system complementing absorption of many critical vitamins, minerals and enzymes within the plant.

6 Reasons to Juice Rather Than Smoke Cannabis

2. Juicing Will Not Make You High

Some people prefer their cannabis without psychoactive effects. This is where juicing is far superior to smoking. Since heat is required to convert the THCA in raw cannabis into THC, its psychoactive form, juicing provides a way of obtaining many of the benefits of cannabis without getting high.

“If you heat the plant, you will decarboxylate THC-acid and you will get high, you”ll get your 10 mg. If you don’t heat it, you can go up to five or six hundred milligrams and use it as a Dietary Cannabis…and push it up to the Anti-oxidant and Neuro-protective levels which come into play at hundreds of milligrams”, stated M.D. and dietary raw cannabis specialist Dr. William Courtney.

3. Diverse Applications

Cannabis juice can be mixed with other healthy ingredients in your juices or smoothies to create high energy, high anti-oxidant beverages to keep you alert and active the entire day. Think of how much easier it is to drink cannabis in liquid form that smoking or vaporizing which is not only inconvenient in our society, but has a stigma attached to it. By blending or juicing cannabis, it becomes as versatile as any other leafy green.

4. Allows You To Avoid Smoking

While a large-scale national study suggests that moderate use of marijuana is less harmful to users’ lungs than exposure to tobacco, marijuana smoke irritates the airways and can lead to respiratory symptoms and even bronchitis. Vaporizing is one way to avoid the problems associated with smoking, but the benefits of juicing exceed either form.

5. Getting The Highest Dose Possible of Cannabinoids

This is possibly the most important reason of juicing rather than smoking cannabis. Cannabis plants actually produce cannabinoids in their acidic forms only, which are then converted to THC and CBD after being heated or aged. Decarboxylation is the chemical reaction responsible for this conversion. THCA and CBDA are believed to act as anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories and neuroprotectants, much like their non-acidic counterparts. When left in their natural forms, THCA and CBDA won’t get you high. However, they happen to offer many of the same health benefits as their better known counterparts. Without the high, these acidic compounds can be ingested in large doses without having an impact on your daily activities.

“THCA is the real tricky molecule… Once it’s heated, it turns into THC and the tolerable dose drops from hundreds of milligrams a day to 10 milligrams”, says Dr. William Courtney.

Figure Our What Works Best For You

The fact that THCA won’t get you high implies one major drawback for medical users – it doesn’t activate the endocannabinoid system. A large portion of medical marijuana research has focused on the activity of this unique biological system, which most – including Dr. Courtney – believe is responsible for the symptom relief that cannabis is known for. For example, symptoms of pain and neurological dysfunction are thought to be directly regulated by cannabinoid activity in the brain. Treatment with raw cannabis may not be as effective in these cases, although no one really knows for sure. Until more studies are done on the effects of raw cannabis, patients must shoulder the responsibility of figuring out what works best for them.

Hayden Panettiere Enters Treatment for Postpartum Depression: The Truth About This Misunderstood Condition

Nashville star Hayden Panettiere has entered a treatment facility for postpartum depression, her publicist told on Tuesday (Oct. 13).

Panettiere, whose daughter Kaya Evdokia is 10 months old, has been candid about her struggle with the disorder.

The 26-year-old’s TV character Juliette Barnes is also struggling with postpartum depression, which Panettiere has said she can relate to.

“It’s something a lot of women experience,” she said last month on Live! with Kelly and Michael. “When [you’re told] about postpartum depression you think it’s ‘I feel negative feelings towards my child, I want to injure or hurt my child’ — I’ve never, ever had those feelings. Some women do. But you don’t realize how broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on. It’s something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone, and that it does heal.”

But Panettiere’s struggle seemed to be behind her. She posted the following message on Twitter late last week:

While it may seem unusual for a mother to seek treatment for postpartum depression when her child is nearly a year old, experts say it actually isn’t. “The public has an idea that postpartum depression is just in the short term, but it certainly is not,” Julie Lamppa, RN, a certified nurse midwife at the Mayo Clinic, tells Yahoo Health. “It can happen any time in the first year after a baby is born.”

Karen Kleiman, LCSW, director of the Postpartum Stress Center, and author of several books on postpartum depression, including This Isn’t What I Expected, tells Yahoo Health that she sees women in her facility at any point in the first postpartum year “and sometimes beyond.”

Kleiman says women may wait to seek help because family and friends tell them their symptoms are normal or they confuse them with the “baby blues.”

“Baby blues occur within the first two to three weeks postpartum,” Kleiman says. “But symptoms beyond two to three weeks such as crying too much, feeling constantly irritable, feeling bad about attaching to your baby, or having scary thoughts — it is not baby blues and it is not OK.”

Anxiety is another big indicator of postpartum depression, Lamppa says, adding that it’s different from basic new-mom worries in that every thought turns into a worst-case scenario.

The public often has an incorrect impression of what constitutes postpartum depression, which Lamppa says can be dangerous for the 15 percent of new moms who experience it.

As Panettiere pointed out, many people think postpartum depression involves having thoughts about harming your baby or yourself, but Lamppa says that’s a “much rarer” symptom known as “postpartum psychosis.” Most women who suffer from the disorder experience a range of symptoms that may have nothing to do with their feelings toward their baby.

“Often mothers with postpartum depression are incredibly good moms,” says Kleiman. “They’re very good at taking care of their baby, not at taking care of themselves.”

These feelings and symptoms can persist for long periods of time and can even get worse if they’re not treated. It’s possible to get better without treatment, Kleiman says, but it’s also possible for women to continue on with a “low-grade, high-functioning form of depression” that can last for a long period of time.

Once women realize they need help, Lamppa says it’s important to turn to their OB/GYN, general health provider, or a therapist who they’ve previously worked with for assistance.

Treatment typically involves talk therapy and may include antidepressants. But experts stress that women can — and will — recover from postpartum depression.

“People just need to realize that this is not a shameful thing,” says Lamppa. “It happens to more people than you realize.”

THE HUMAN LAYER | More Intelligent Life

Is humanity’s impact on its environment so huge that the planet has entered a new geological era: the Anthropocene? The idea is gaining ground—and dividing scientists. Helen Gordon investigates

“CONCRETE IS A new kind of rock…We’ve made about 500 billion tonnes of it, which is enough for one kilo for every square metre of the Earth’s surface, land and sea.”

In the summer of 2015 Jan Zalasiewicz, professor of palaeobiology at the University of Leicester, was speaking at the Tate Modern as part of the Anthropocene Project conference. Concrete, he explained, can be considered a characteristic deposit of the Anthropocene Epoch just as coal is of the Carboniferous Period.

Leaving the stage Zalasiewicz quickly found himself at the centre of a crowd of artists and curators who wanted to talk about the Anthropocene. Men in black-framed glasses and women with Jean Seberg haircuts discussed tectonic forces, millennial time and the infrastructural unconscious of contemporary urbanism. The Otolith Group, Turner prize-nominated artists, showed a film about a Californian woman who claims to be able to predict earthquakes and Dipesh Chakrabarty, a historian, suggested that “the term…invites you to place human beings in the context of deep time.”

Anthropos: “human being”. Kainos: “new”. In 2000 Paul Crutzen, an atmospheric chemist, and Eugene Stoermer, a biologist, crystallised a radical idea that had been floating around: humankind’s impact on the Earth’s ecology has been so profound that it is fashioning an entirely new geological epoch. The change is being wrought not just by concrete and plastic but also by soaring extinction rates and changes to the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle and temperature. The Holocene Epoch, according to this theory, is finished: we have entered the Anthropocene.

The term’s power derives from the intellectual heft it borrows from an academic discipline, geology. By measuring humanity’s planetary influence on a geological timescale, it implies an impact vaster than empires, though not more slow. It carries in its tail familiar narratives of planetary disaster and the looming threat of extinction.

The term has spread rapidly from the sciences through the arts and out into popular culture: there is a graphic novel, several death-metal albums, a Brian Eno track and an “Anthropocene Fashion” Pinterest site board. Yet its air of authority is misleading, for the Anthropocene has no formal scientific status. Among geologists there is no consensus as to when, or indeed whether, it began; it is a source of disagreement and, to some, embarrassment.

THE EARTH HAS existed for 4.6 billion years. For convenience, geologists divide this span into units of time: ages, epochs, periods, eras and eons. Some of the periods are familiar: Jurassic, Carboniferous. But a list of ages—Wordian, Roadian, Kungurian—sounds more like the roll call for some intergalactic council meeting in the Alpha Centauri system. Divisions between units are based on the occurrence of “significant” events that leave a changed world and a record of this change in the strata (layers of rocks or occasionally ice). The Pleistocene/Holocene division is a global-warming event that can be seen as a sudden change in the composition of trapped air in the Greenland ice cores. The Cretaceous/Paleogene division is the mass extinction of some three-quarters of plant and animal species, including all non-avian dinosaurs. Evidence from the rocks might include a radically altered fossil record. “Geology is often a forensic science,” said Zalasiewicz. “It’s Sherlock Holmes stuff basically.”

Right now we are living in the Holocene Epoch, in the Quaternary Period, in the Cenozoic Era, in the Phanerzoic Eon. Geological units are hierarchical and nest inside one another like matryoshka dolls. An “epoch” is defined by relatively minor geological change and typically covers between 2m and 30m years. Eons, by contrast, are massive. All of geological time is divided into only four eons. The most recent, the Phanerozoic, covers the last 540m years and the significant event that led to its creation was the beginning of multicellular life.

The branch of geology that concerns itself with the classification of layers of rock (or ice) is known as stratigraphy. By building up a picture of the layers of strata you build up a history of the Earth and, eventually, a geological timescale. Today the official version of that timescale is known as the International Chronostratigraphic Chart, produced by the International Committee on Stratigraphy (ICS). The result of centuries of painstaking work by thousands of geologists, it provides an organising structure that supports all studies of the Earth’s past. “It’s the one thing you’ll find in every professional geologist’s office,” a friend who lectures in Earth sciences told me. “It’s the equivalent of the periodic table.” This is the chart that would need to be amended should the Anthropocene be formally accepted.

Used to working with timescales of thousands, millions and billions of years, stratigraphers are not famously impulsive. In their discipline, “BP” stands for “years Before the Present”, and the “Present” is defined as 1950. According to ICS guidelines any new boundary definition must be left in place for a minimum of ten years before amendments are allowed, and proposals relating to changes to geological units involve a lengthy, hierarchical procedure. Zalasiewicz chairs the Anthropocene Working Group, the official body that must debate whether the term “Anthropocene” is (a) scientifically justified and (b) useful to the scientific community as a formal unit. If the answers are yes, then a summary paper will be handed to the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS). If the SQS are in agreement, the proposal will be passed up the chain to the ICS. If accepted by the ICS it will be sent finally to the International Union of Geological Sciences for formal ratification.

The Working Group was set up in 2009 and now has more than 30 members drawn from around the world. In 2014 they published a collection of papers: “A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene”. In 2016 they hope to present one or two summary papers to the ICS. Plenty of jokes have been made about the work proceeding on a “geological time scale” but for the traditional stratigraphers this feels more like break-neck speed: the haggling over older divisions of the timescale often lasts for decades.

EARLIER THIS YEAR I travelled to Leicester to speak with Zalasiewicz. In addition to his day job he writes popular science books and is translating the work of 18th-century French naturalist the Comte de Buffon. “I think about the 18th- and 19th-century naturalists and how they came at everything fresh. We come at it with clutter, with all this bloody education,” he said. For Zalasiewicz the Anthropocene is, among other things, an opportunity to see anew what has always been in front of us. “We can look at buildings, for example, and say that they are also part of the rock cycle. They are made of rocks and will go back to being rocks. They will leave a distinctive record.”

We drove out through the suburbs of Leicester to an old railway cutting. Tall nettles and purple-flowering willowherb grew in the shade of a steep tree-lined bank. One hundred and eighty-five million years ago, during the Early Jurassic, we would have been standing on the floor of the shallow sea that covered the whole of Britain. Today that sea floor has been translated into a sandy-coloured limestone rock filled with fossils: brachiopods, ammonites and belemnites. Also preserved are the tracks and burrows of floor-dwelling organisms. These are what are known as “trace fossils” or “ichnofossils”—not the organism itself but a mark it left behind. Considered one way the London Underground system (or the New York Subway, or the Tokyo Metro) is a giant trace fossil. Another type of trace fossil is what Zalasiewicz calls a “technofossil”—the fossilised trace of a manufactured product. A paleolithic flint axe might become a technofossil, so might a double-decker bus or a toothbrush. Zalasiewicz was excited: “One thing we want to pursue is, what is the true diversity of techno-fossils? Has anybody ever counted how many different types of toothbrush have been made?”

One hundred and eighty-five million years from now, what else might be preserved from our own time? What evidence discoverable in the rocks? Suggestions include changes to the fossil record (this organism stopped existing; this one suddenly appeared on the other side of the world); anthropogenic deposits (sediments containing manmade materials such as metals, plastics, glass); evidence of anthroturbation (underground holes and tunnels dug by humans); the altered composition of air trapped inside ice cores. From a stratigrapher’s point of view what matters is not that humans are leaving an imprint but that the Earth system is changing. Humans just happen to be important geological drivers of that change.

We walked farther along the cutting. Here, shelly limestone stopped about a metre from the floor; above it was a shale, very dark blue-grey and composed of thin, crumbly layers like sheets of paper. There were no fossils. This was something called the Toarcian Extinction Event, which marked the end of the Pliensbachian Age. It took place around 183m years ago when an estimated 2 trillion-5 trillion tonnes of carbon were released into the atmosphere and the world warmed up by some five degrees Celsius. The oceans became anoxic (depleted of oxygen), and stagnant. A lot of things died out, which was why there were no fossils in the layers. The presence of so much carbon was responsible for the dark, almost black colour. “It’s one of the events used to compare with modern global warming,” Zalasiewicz said. “We’re beginning to create a modern Toarcian event. We’ve not gone as far yet but we’ve done about half a trillion tonnes of carbon, mostly in one century.”

FOR AN EPOCH to be formalised it must have a starting-point—either a Global Stratigraphic Section and Point (GSSP) or a Global Standard Stratigraphic Age (GSSA). A GSSP is one physical location where the transition between units can be seen. Typically a GSSP is located in a section of rock and marked with a “golden spike” (in actuality a bronze disc). The GSSP for the base of the Silurian Period can be viewed at Dob’s Linn in Moffat, Scotland; the base of the Jurassic at the Kuhjoch section, Tyrol, Austria. Where no GSSP can be identified—for the 4-billion-year-old Eoarchean, say, where there are few physical traces—then a GSSA is used. This gives a chronological point but not a physical reference.

The Anthropocene’s proponents have been debating when that point might be. Crutzen argued for 1784—to coincide with the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Other suggestions include the expansion of agriculture and livestock cultivation during the Neolithic, or the growth of mining around 1,400BC; though, inconveniently, these developments happened at very different times in different places around the world. A paper published earlier this year proposed 1610: there was a noticeable drop in global levels of CO2, which the authors linked to the settlement of the Americas, the deaths of some 50m indigenous people, the abandonment of agricultural lands, forest regrowth and thus the fall in CO2 levels.

Zalasiewicz and others have argued for a mid-20th-century date. This would coincide with the so-called “Great Acceleration” in global economic activity following the first world war, and the extraordinary growth of cities and major infrastructure projects that may be considered a distinctive feature of the Anthropocene. Geological evidence might include the spread of nuclear waste, nitrous gases from exhaust fumes and industrial pollution and the upturn in levels of carbonaceous fly-ash particles, which are a by-product of the burning of fossil coals.

Zalasiewicz is cautious when asked about his chances with the ICS: “It’s a very conservative body. I think it’s unlikely that they will formalise the Anthropocene next year, but the right questions are now being asked…In my personal opinion there’s no question that we’ve entered the Anthropocene but not all the effects have been felt yet. We haven’t yet had climate change, for instance. We’ve had a fraction of a degree, almost certainly human driven, but we’re still not yet higher than peak temperature in the last interglacial, 125,000 years ago.”

NOT EVERYBODY IN the geological world agrees. Last year Michael Walker, emeritus professor of quaternary science at the University of Wales, left the Anthropocene Working Group. Unconvinced of the need for a formal Anthropocene Epoch and with views increasingly at odds with the majority of the group, he felt that his presence there no longer served a useful purpose. “In the geo­logical community there is a growing sense of disquiet about the whole ‘Anthropocene’ business,” he wrote in an e-mail.

A close colleague of Walker’s is Philip Gibbard, professor of quaternary geology at Cambridge University and a former chair of the SQS: “I never thought I’d be cast in the role of the man with his foot on the brake but I do think we need to say slow down, let’s look at what’s really going on here,” he told me. “Certainly there have been huge amounts of anthropogenic change—and when the green lobby say that we’re a bit of a plague on this planet I tend to agree with them—but does it warrant a change to the [ICS] chart?”

Gibbard’s laboratory lies within a jumble of buildings behind the stately lines of Downing College. His office is upstairs. “It’s fine to say it’s a tip,” he said. Shelves are crammed with files and books, piles of paper covered the work surfaces and a toy woolly mammoth looks down from a precarious perch above the sink. Gibbard is dressed in black hiking shorts and sandals, and his grey hair sticks out to form a sort of halo around his head. At university in Sheffield he was a few years ahead of Zalasiewicz though they didn’t know each other then, meeting later and becoming friends while working on East Anglian ice sheets. Both speak warmly of the other and it was Gibbard who, as SQS chair, asked Zalasiewicz to form the Anthropocene Working Group.

The media spotlight rarely falls on stratigraphers. Society tends to leave them to work quietly on events that took place hundreds of millions of years ago. The debate over the Anthropocene has focused unusual attention on them. Gibbard calls it “extraordinary” and “welcome” but worries that the science is being simplified and misrepresented: “In many ways we’ve already lost control and this is exactly like the dinosaur business all over again—the whole thing grossly oversimplified by rocks falling from the sky etcetera, etcetera.”

Crutzen, not himself a geologist, sees the Anthropocene concept as fundamentally interdisciplinary, and while the Working Group is made up predominantly of Earth scientists, it also includes archaeologists, a philosopher, a lawyer and a historian. This makes Gibbard anxious. “However they want to use the term ‘Anthropocene’ in their own disciplines is fine but do they understand the geology? How is the term useful for geologists?” he asked. “That’s the real test of the term: is it useful?”

Stratigraphers worry that the search for evidence of the Anthropocene turns the discipline on its head. Normal practice is for observations of rocks to lead to conclusions about what must have been happening on Earth when those rocks were laid down. With the Anthropocene we know what has been happening, and the stratigraphers are trying to find the geological evidence for it. But a lot of things that may be fundamental in defining the proposed epoch haven’t happened yet. It’s far too soon, for example, for a fossil record to have formed. Indeed, some have argued that a period of 50 years is simply not long enough for any “anthropogenic detrital material” to have formed a geologically useful stratum. Gibbard said: “In many ways, we are just too close to the events to be able to talk usefully about them from a geological perspective. Even the Holocene is very short. It begins 11,700 years ago and that’s nothing, just a tiny period, a blink of the eye. Geologically, even 45 years ago is still ‘now’.”

Nor is it obvious that circumstances warrant a new epoch. “The reason the Holocene is defined as a separate epoch is the presence and activity of humans. Now from my perspective as a geologist I would say you can’t play the card twice, and so that means that what’s been going on to establish the Holocene can’t then be used again to define the Anthropocene.”

Gibbard says that for now he is staying in the Working Group but plans to take a back seat. Despite the problems a lot of good work has come out of the project, he says, but for now he favours the Anthropocene as an informal term—something like Bronze Age or Iron Age—making it part of human rather than Earth history. “Those are cultural terms and they don’t have fixed global boundaries because they are dependent on the migration of people or ideas with time. That might be a better way of using it because obviously in China 5,000 years ago there was industry well before we got on the scene.”

Stan Finney of California State University and chairman of the ICS has published a paper setting out a series of issues to be addressed by the Working Group. He points out, for instance, that other organisms have had far greater, longer-term impacts on the planet that have not been recognised with a formal time unit. Consider the development of photosynthesising vascular land plants that produced great volumes of oxygen for the first time in the atmosphere. Finney writes: “Might the desire to establish the ‘Anthropocene’ as a formal unit be Anthropocentric?”

Scents and sense ability: Diesels fumes alter half the flower smells bees need

In polluted environments, diesel fumes may be reducing the availability of almost half the most common flower odors that bees use to find their food, research has found. The new findings suggest that toxic nitrous oxide (NOx) in diesel exhausts could be having an even greater effect on bees’ ability to smell out flowers than was previously thought. NOx is a poisonous pollutant produced by diesel engines which is harmful to humans, and has also previously been shown to confuse bees’ sense of smell, which they rely on to sniff out their food.

This is an electron scanning microscope image of a bee.

In polluted environments, diesel fumes may be reducing the availability of almost half the most common flower odours that bees use to find their food, research has found.

The new findings suggest that toxic nitrous oxide (NOx) in diesel exhausts could be having an even greater effect on bees’ ability to smell out flowers than was previously thought.

NOx is a poisonous pollutant produced by diesel engines which is harmful to humans, and has also previously been shown to confuse bees’ sense of smell, which they rely on to sniff out their food.

Researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Reading found that there is now evidence to show that, of the eleven most common single compounds in floral odours, five have can be chemically altered by exposure to NOx gases from exhaust fumes.

Lead author Dr Robbie Girling, from the University of Reading’s Centre for Agri-Environmental Research (formerly of University of Southampton), said: “Bees are worth millions to the British economy alone, but we know they have been in decline worldwide.

“We don’t think that air pollution from diesel vehicles is the main reason for this decline, but our latest work suggests that it may have a worse effect on the flower odours needed by bees than we initially thought.

“People rely on bees and pollinating insects for a large proportion of our food, yet humans have paid the bees back with habitat destruction, insecticides, climate change and air pollution.

“This work highlights that pollution from dirty vehicles is not only dangerous to people’s health, but could also have an impact on our natural environment and the economy.”

Co-author Professor Guy Poppy, from Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton, said: “It is becoming clear that bees are at risk from a range of stresses from neonicitinoid insecticides through to varroa mites. Our research highlights that a further stress could be the increasing amounts of vehicle emissions affecting air quality. Whilst it is unlikely that these emissions by themselves could be affecting bee populations, combined with the other stresses, it could be the tipping point.”

This latest research is part of continuing studies into the effects of air pollution on bees. Previous work in 2013 found that bees in the lab could be confused by the effects of diesel pollution. Dr Girling and Dr Tracey Newman from the University of Southampton are currently studying how diesel fumes may have direct effects on the bees themselves.

Researchers accidently find industrial waste, orange peel material sucks mercury out of water

Researchers at Flinders University have accidentally discovered a way to remove mercury from water using a material made from industrial waste and orange peel.

Polymer block

Mercury is a dangerous pollutant that can damage food and water supplies, affect the human nervous systems and is especially poisonous for children.

Synthetic chemist Dr Justin Chalker said his team initially set out to make a useful type of plastic or polymer made from something widely available.

“We ended up settling on sulphur because it’s produced in 70 million tonnes per year by the petroleum industry as a by-product, so there are not very many uses for it, and limonene is produced in 70,000 tonnes per year and so it’s relatively cheap,” he said.

“It literally grows on trees.”

The plastic-like substance they created is made entirely from sulphur and limonene, industrial waste products that are widely available but unused around the world.

“We take sulphur, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry, and we take limonene, which is the main component of orange oil, so is produced in large quantities by the citrus industry, and we’re able to react them together to form a type of soft red rubber, and what this material does is that it can grab mercury out of the water,” Dr Chalker said.

Max Worthington and Dr Justin Chalker

PHOTO Max Worthington and Dr Justin Chalker (L to R) found the material’s mercury-removing potential by accident.

“So we are taking waste material and making a polymer from it that can remove mercury from water.”

Because the material needed to make the polymer is so inexpensive, large quantities can be deployed at a site of contamination, in rivers, lakes and other waterways.

“We’ve also done toxicity studies to make sure that the polymer itself is not harmful to the environment so that gives us hope that we’ll be able to commercialise and actually use this in the environment,” Dr Chalker said.

The substance could be used to literally suck up mercury at sites where it is contaminating water.

“We also are thinking about using it as a coating to line pipes and other devices that are used to transport water or it could be used as part of a water filtration device,” Dr Chalker said.

The substance changes colour when it comes into contact with and absorbs mercury, which means it could also be used to detect whether waterways are polluted.

New substance could help solve potentially fatal disorder

Dr Jack Ng, who heads the risk assessment program for the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment, said mercury’s impact on humans could be devastating.

“When you talk about organic form of mercury, this neurological disorder, high doses can be fatal… [it’s] particularly a problem in younger generation children and its neurological disorders and that’s a major concern,” he said.

Dr Ng sees big potential for this new substance.

“From what the briefing describes it seems to be a promising product, typically for mercury in water or in aqueous form it can act with this polymer material,” he said.

Jon Miller, the managing director of environmental remediation company the Remediation Group, said there was a significant need for a solution to mercury contamination.

“In particular there is a significant amount of mercury in bio-solids, which is the end product of sewerage treatment processes,” Mr Miller said.

“There are large stock piles of bio-solids that contain mercury certainly here in Melbourne and if there is a way of being able to remove the mercury then it could be used for either energy generation of agricultural applications.

“So that comes to mind as being an obvious first starter if it can be proved that this process genuinely works.”

Clinical Spectrum of Encephalitis Associated With Antibodies Against the α-Amino-3-Hydroxy-5-Methyl-4-Isoxazolepropionic Acid Receptor:  Case Series and Review of the Literature

Importance  The clinical features of autoimmune encephalitis associated with antibodies against the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor (AMPAR-Abs) remain poorly defined.

Objectives  To describe 7 patients with encephalitis and AMPAR-Abs and to provide a review of the literature on this disease entity.

Design, Setting, and Participants  The setting was the Centre National de Référence pour les Syndromes Neurologiques Paranéoplasiques (Lyon, France), and participants were 7 consecutive patients diagnosed as having encephalitis and AMPAR-Abs between January 1, 2010, and December 1, 2014. Patients’ clinical data were analyzed, with a median follow-up period of 12 months (range, 2-31 months). Relevant articles were identified in the MEDLINE database using the keywords autoimmune encephalitisand AMPA receptor antibodies until February 15, 2015.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Modes of onset, full clinical presentations, and cancer prevalence.

Results  The patients included 4 women and 3 men (median age, 56 years). Four main modes of encephalitis onset were observed, including confusion (3 patients), epileptic (1 patient), amnestic (1 patient), and a severe form of fulminant encephalitis (2 patients). In contrast with previous reports, we observed only 1 patient with seizures. Two patients had cancer (1 lung carcinoma and the other thymic carcinoma). Analysis of the literature identified 35 published cases of encephalitis and AMPAR-Abs, including 18 with clinical data. The same modes of encephalitis onset were observed, including confusion (12 patients), epileptic (1 patient), amnestic (3 patients), and fulminant encephalitis (2 patients). Eleven patients were initially seen with a neoplasm (lung, breast, thymoma, or ovary).

Conclusions and Relevance  The clinical spectrum of AMPAR encephalitis is variable. Cancer was found in 13 of 27 patients (48%) with known cancer status. Most patients are seen with symptoms suggestive of autoimmune limbic encephalitis, although they can be paucisymptomatic or may manifest severe panencephalitis that evolves to a minimally conscious state and diffuse cortical atrophy. Patients suspected of having autoimmune encephalitis should undergo screening for serum and cerebrospinal fluid AMPAR-Abs.

Premature birth may weaken brain connections .

Premature birth may result in weakened connections in brain networks linked to attention, communication and the processing of emotions, thereby increasing risk of neurological and psychiatric disorders, new research has found.

“We found significant differences in the white matter tracts and abnormalities in brain circuits in the infants born early, compared with those of infants born at full term,” said principal investigator Cynthia Rogers, assistant professor of child psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

image for representation

White matter tracts in the brain are made of axons that connect brain regions to form networks.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor brain imaging to compare 58 babies born at full term with 76 infants born at least 10 weeks early.

Each full-term baby was scanned on his or her second or third day of life. Each premature baby, meanwhile, received a brain scan within a few days of his or her due date.

The researchers found that some key brain networks — those involved in attention, communication and emotion — were weaker in premature infants, offering an explanation for why children born prematurely may have an elevated risk of psychiatric disorders.

The researchers also found differences in preemies’ resting-state brain networks, particularly in a pair of networks previously implicated in learning and developmental problems.

These brain circuit abnormalities likely contribute to problems that materialize as the children get older, Rogers said.

“The brain is particularly ‘plastic’ very early in life and potentially could be modified by early intervention,” Rogers pointed out. – See more at: