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Advo-Catie: Purple Unicorns and Twinkle Fairies

I could call today’s column something like “Enough Already: Part 2” but then it would look exactly like I feel and no one wants to read a column from an angry female. 

Rather than complain, I’m going to share whatever good news or cool stuff I can find with Google because I’m not able to watch the depressing news or scroll through my pot-stirred Facebook feed. 

First, it occurs to me that the word “news” actually has the word “new” in it. So I ask myself, why is there never anything new in it? Can we just call it “CNN Olds: The Same Information Over and Over”? 

Buckle up, buttercups… let’s talk about Kelly O’Hara. I know way too much about those other soccer players I won’t give another minute to, but Kelly is a lot more than the patriot who picked up our flag and made us proud. She is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in science, technology and society with a focus in environmental engineering, a recipient of the Hermann Trophy (soccer’s answer to the Heismann), and is an Olympic gold medalist. She surfs, has been playing professional soccer for ten years and has been in the World Cup twice. She’s really a good girl. 

Have you heard of Jack Andraka? When he was 13 years old, he created a test for cancer that costs $.05? Jack lost a friend to pancreatic cancer. He spent some time working on it and, essentially, created a kind of pregnancy test for cancer using carbon nanotubes and antibodies. He found the right combination of markers to indicate if a person has pancreatic cancer and it may eventually work for ovarian and breast cancer. He speaks often about the fact that pancreatic cancer has about a 2 percent survival rate because it is often not detected until it is Stage IV; how often does a person have a stomach ache and think… “must be cancer”? There are, of course, many things to be proven and patented and he is now a student at Stanford. Let’s just hope no one at a big pharma company gets a similar patent first and charges $1000 for it. Go for it, Jack!

While we’re on medical stuff, an Israeli team of researchers say they have a cure for cancer that will be ready for testing in less than a year. The fact that the developers already won a Nobel Prize for it gives them a little credibility in my book. The concept, called MuTaTo, will work like an antibiotic for cancer. Using compounds that function like viruses that infect bacteria, doctors introduce DNA that tells the bacteria which cells to attack. This is a step forward because current cancer treatment treats one kind of cell and can’t track or keep up when they mutate. So just like our anti-HIV drugs became successful when they were administered in a “cocktail”, this new treatment can stop mutations faster than the cancer cells can think up new ones—and—introduce toxins to kill cells that are already malignant. Cool… are you listening, network news? I bet people would be happy to know that. 

I found out recently that Viking women were just as warrior-esque as Viking men. Researchers realized some of the skeletons they uncovered, buried with axes and other large weapons, were female. Some were even decorated. Seems like gender equality has been coming and going in a lot of ways for at least 1000 years. When we finally invent time travel, I think I’ll go with “Valkyrie: 1016” over “Pink-Hat: 2016”. 

Was anyone going to tell us DNA evidence may have finally identified Jack the Ripper? It’s not a rainbows and cheer kind of story, but it is pretty darn cool. The Journal of Forensic Sciences claims Jack may actually have been a 23-year-old Polish barber named Aaron Kominski. The theory was introduced in 2014 but was reviewed again when the DNA test had a close mitochondrial match to one of Kominski’s living descendants. Turns out, Kominski was a suspect at the time and, although the evidence (blood and body fluids on a crime scene shawl) would not likely get a conviction in a court, the results, along with a witness account of Kominski attacking one of The Ripper’s victims with a knife, might be enough to get us a couple of good Hollywood movies on a new topic. In any case, being able to test 126-year-old DNA is a pretty great too. Go Science!

Did you know NASA is on the verge of landing a man-made object on an asteroid for the first time? Primitive asteroids have not changed much in the past 4.5 billion years, so scientists might find organic molecules on asteroid “Bennu” like those that may have formed life on Earth. That would be a pretty big deal, especially given the possibility that Bennu may actually hit us sometime late in the 22nd century. I’m sure by then Bruce Willis will have better ideas on how to divert and/or blow it up. 

Still, the idea that Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans could help end of our biggest arguments here on this planet. Asteroids like Bennu also contain things like water, organics, and precious metals. Maybe someday we can use them to hitch a ride, or use as a gas station to explore more of the universe ourselves. 

Even better, NASA invited the public to look at photos of Bennu and count its rocks to help them decide where they should land their probe. Wouldn’t it have been cool to suggest “Sea of Tranquility” for Neil and Buzz 50 years ago? Go to Bennu.cosmoquest.org and sign up to help. 

Then, have an outrage-free day 🙂 

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