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.
>> Key information from this month’s issue:
• FUTURE HEALTH SPECIAL REPORT
This month, Scientific American examines some of the promising medical devices in development.
• Wireless monitors that warn patients of an impending heart attack or help to manage their diabetes can provide patients and doctors immediate data to better plan treatment options. See: Tomorrow’s Medicine: Smart Implantable Devices
• Tiny nanoparticles may detect early-stage cancer cells; early results suggest that nanoparticles can pinpoint breast cancer tumors 100 times smaller than those seen in mammography studies. See: Tomorrow’s Medicine: Zeroing in on Cancer
• Synthetic photoreceptors could soon restore vision to the blind. The success of the first clinical studies and the speed at which technology is improving suggest that retinal implants could be more widely available in just a few years. See: Tomorrow’s Medicine: Bionic Eye
Rewriting the $300-billion “farm bill” is essential in promoting healthier eating habits. Up for renewal this year, the bill currently gives $4.9 billion annually in automatic payments to farmers of commodity crops, driving down the price of corn and corn-based products. Since these are common staples in many processed foods, unhealthy dietary options are cheaper than much healthier fruit and vegetable options. Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis are strongly correlated with excess weight gain, and are draining nearly $150 milion in medical bills each year. It is time to subsidize a wider variety of crops, to make eating well also economical. See: Science Agenda: Fresh Fruit, Hold the Insulin
• PUBLIC HEALTH
Gonorrhea has been developing defenses against drug treatment for decades, which has caused concern that it might become untreatable. It is one of the most reported infectious diseases in the U.S., with more than 600,000 new cases a year. Untreated gonorrhea can cause widespread organ damage, pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. See: The Science of Health: Return of the Clap
• EXTREME WEATHER
New radar and satellite technologies will allow forecasters to build better computer models for extreme weather events, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Better predictions allow for warning times of 30 to 60 minutes, providing the public with more time to prepare and find shelter. Present-day weather forecasting technologies only provide about 14 minutes of warning prior to the arrival of an extreme weather event, such as the 2011 Joplin, Mo., tornado. Better predictions are possible by combining computing power and technological resources, such as in the cases of the planned National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration low Earth orbit satellites and the increased power of supercomputers in analyzing recoded data. See: Meteorology: A Better Eye on the Storm