Editor's Choice: Flight, cancer, paper and allergies
A round-up of discoveries from the scientific and technical journals.
Cutting drag on aircraft wings
A company in the US, FlexSys, has unveiled a breakthrough in aircraft wing technology that could deliver fuel savings of up to 12%. The innovation addresses a flaw in previous wing design that decreases aerodynamic efficiency – the join where the main wing meets the trailing flaps. The new system, invented in 2006 by FlexSys founder Dr Sridhar Kota, seamlessly integrates the trailing edge and the main part of the wing (above). The technology can be retrofitted into existing wings.
Study raises doubts about antioxidant use
Could the antioxidants you take each day in the hope of warding off cancer actually accelerate the disease? That is the alarming suggestion from new clinical trials. The provocative study by Swedish researchers exposed cancer-prone mice to antioxidants such as vitamins A, E, and C, which were thought to mop up DNA-damaging molecules called free radicals. But it appears they spurred growth of early lung tumours in the mice. The scientists suggest that the antioxidants, by soaking up free radicals, hinder a natural cancer brake known as p53 that is triggered by those same free radicals. The paper, published in Science, can be found here.
Rewritable paper can be used many times over
The Chinese invented paper, so it is perhaps fitting that scientists there are perfecting it. A team in Jilin University has developed a rewritable paper that uses only water and no ink. Using a commercial jet-printer, water is applied to paper that has been treated with invisible dyes that appear when wet and gradually disappear. The researchers say that the paper can be used many times over without loss of quality. The only drawback is that evaporation may make the print fade too fast, making it vanish in front of the eyes of the reader. It will disappear within 22 hours at temperatures below 35 degrees Celsius and faster if it is hotter. The work was published in Nature.
New hope for children with nut allergies
A six-month trial in the UK holds hope that children with nut allergies may be able to live a more normal life. The study, led by Andrew Clark from Cambridge University Hospitals, gave children aged seven to 16 with varying severities of peanut allergy, gradually escalating dosages of peanut protein. By the end of the first stage of the trial, 84-91% of the children could safely tolerate daily ingestion of the equivalent of about five peanuts, 25 times as much as they could before the therapy. News of the research was published by The Lancet.