Scientific American October 2009: On Newsstands Now
The Latest in Science News
Energy: Accessing more oil from existing wells · Medicine: Adjuvants help vaccines work effectively · Neuroscience: Boosting brain power with neuroenhancers
Neuroscience: Turbo-charging the Brain - Do Neuroenhancers Really Work?
Pharmaceutical companies eager to go beyond the treatment of neurological disorders such as ADHD are now working to develop drugs that boost the brain power of otherwise healthy individuals. Surveys of over-stressed students and busy executives alike show that many of these drugs are already widely used off-label. But are they really effective? Can they deliver a real increase in cognitive focus and clarity, or should we all just stick with that old standby - a good strong cup of coffee?
Energy: Squeezing More Oil from the Ground
Although some analysts predict that global oil production will peak in the next few years and then begin to decline, many experts now feel that advanced exploration methods and improved technologies can maintain healthy levels of oil production. Primary and secondary extraction methods, such as drilling and the injection of water or natural gas into reservoirs, can boost the recovery rate to 20 to 40 percent of the total supply. With tertiary methods-such as the use of heat, gases, chemicals and microbes-this figure could increase to closer to 60 percent. With an estimated 1,124 billion barrels still underground, supplies could remain robust for decades to come.
Medicine: Boosting Vaccine Power - New Immune System Stimulators
By exposing the body to a small sample of disease-causing microorganisms, vaccines teach the human immune system to recognize unwelcome invaders and fight them off when they reappear. This treatment, however, is not always effective: people with weak immune systems may not respond well, and some disease-causing organisms-such as those associated with malaria and AIDS-can actually ward off immune defenses brought on by vaccines. With the use of adjuvants, or immune system stimulators, researchers are now finding better ways to achieve the desired immune response.
Security: Privacy and the Quantum Internet - Is Complete Privacy Possible?
With every Google search we make, certain data are recorded and supplied to third parties, including advertisers. Although Internet users are assured that their identities remain anonymous and information is kept completely secure, breaches are not only possible but are very real. Seth Lloyd, MIT professor of mechanical engineering, explains how quantum physics might change the way people interact with the Internet-in complete privacy.
Other stories in this issue include:
- Tasting the Light, p.22 - Device lets the visually impaired "see with their tongues."
- The Way the Wind Blows, p.27 - Global warming's impact on wind speeds and the wind energy industry.
- Black Stars, Not Holes, p.39 - effects raise questions as to the existence of black holes..