Every month, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN—the longest-running magazine in the U.S. and an authoritative voice in science, technology and innovation—provides insight into scientific topics that affect our daily lives and capture our imagination, establishing the vital bridge between science and public policy.
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• FUTURE OF EDUCATION
Researchers are finding that video games have great educational potential. A well-designed game can exercise evidence-based reasoning, problem solving and collaboration in ways that traditional pedagogy often does not. Game developers from the private sector working with educators and scientists could design games for inside and outside the classroom that deliver educational benefits—and that kids want to play. See: Information Technology: Mind Games
• DRUG RESEARCH
Ecstasy, LSD, marijuana and other psychotropic drugs have been federally banned from medical use since the Controlled Substance Act was passed in 1970. These substances could, however, provide desperately needed therapies for the 14 million American adults who suffer from severe psychiatric disorders, from depression to schizophrenia. Innovation could be accelerated if pharmacologists did not have to confront antiquated legal frameworks that declare off-limits compounds that could be the chemical basis for entire new classes of therapeutic drugs. See: The Science Agenda: End the Drug War's Research Bans
• BRAIN ENHANCEMENT
Modern society is starting to embrace the idea of enhancing our cognitive ability by methods such as transcranial direct-current stimulation, which delivers miniscule amounts of current to the brain via electrodes applied to the scalp. That brain-enhancing method is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and experts agree that it should only be performed under qualified super vision. It is worth examining such new brain-enhancing advances to make sure that the trade-offs, side effects and social implications are fully understood. See: Forum: Wired for Thought
• FIGHTING CANCER
Cells and a stiff, fibrous material called the extracellular matrix can squeeze blood vessels in tumors and thus block delivery of cancer-fighting drugs to many parts of the mass. Evidence in mice indicates that depleting the matrix with a drug already used to control blood pressure can improve the delivery of anticancer drugs in a tumor and improve survival rates. This drug is now being tested in humans. See: Medicine: An Indirect Way to Tame Cancer
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