Inhaled Poison

 

A strange vaping-related respiratory illness is sweeping the United States, afflicting more than 800 patients and killing at least 16. Officials still aren’t sure what’s causing “vape lung,” but theories range from the oils in vaping cartridges to fumes from the vaping devices themselves.

In an attempt to solve the mystery, a team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic analyzed samples of lung tissue taken from 17 vape lung sufferers, publishing the results of their analysis in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What they saw when they looked at those samples is downright disturbing: injuries that looked like the ones suffered by people exposed to mustard gas and other poisons.

“All 17 of our cases show a pattern of injury in the lung that looks like a toxic chemical exposure, a toxic chemical fume exposure, or a chemical burn injury,” surgical pathologist Brandon T. Larsen told The New York Times.

“To be honest,” he continued, “they look like the kind of change you would expect to see in an unfortunate worker in an industrial accident where a big barrel of toxic chemicals spills, and that person is exposed to toxic fumes and there is a chemical burn in the airways.”

Larsen told the NYT that the researchers didn’t notice any oil buildup in the samples, meaning suspicions that vaping oils themselves cause vape lung might be unfounded.

Two of the patients whose lung samples the Mayo team analyzed have already died as a result of their lung damage. But according to Larsen, even patients who don’t succumb to the respiratory illness may face a lifetime of issues because of it.

“Based on the severity of injury we see, at least in some of these cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if we wind up with people down the road having chronic respiratory problems from this,” he told the NYT. “Some seem to recover. I don’t think we know what the long-term consequences will be.”

Climate Change will KILL us all

 

Global Warning

More than 11,000 scientists in 153 nations have endorsed a newly published statement on climate change — and it’s extremely gloomy.

“The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected,” the authors wrote. “It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

Climate Emergency

The statement, published on Tuesday in the journal BioScience, includes decades’ worth of hard data and scientific analysis on climate trends to support the authors’ claims. It also includes a slew of concrete actions humanity could take to address climate change, from replacing fossil fuels with renewables to reducing meat consumption.

“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” the scientists wrote. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems”.

Decades Of Destruction

The timing of the statement’s publication was appropriate for two reasons.

First, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference. And just one day prior to the statement’s publication, the United States officially notified the United Nations that it’s leaving the Paris Climate Agreement — potentially humanity’s best hope of avoiding the disaster foreshadowed by the authors.

READ MORE:More Than 11,000 Scientists Just Officially Declared a Global Climate Emergency [ScienceAlert]
More on climate change: “Climate Apartheid” Is Imminent. Only the Rich Will Survive.
 

Nasa black hole visualization

 

Hungry Hungry

new trippy visualization by NASA researchers shows how a black hole distorts its appearance by skewing the matter around it and warping the light itself with its immense gravity.

Gigantic black holes often appear at the center of large galaxies, where they pack an immense amount of matter into a tiny space. The resulting gravitational field eats up everything, including light.

Warp Zone

In the visualization, the yellow highlights are twisting magnetic fields as they’re making their way through churning gas. The inside gas nearest to the hole itself orbits the hole at almost the speed of light, according to a NASA statement.

The reason it has separate rings jutting out of the bottom is because of intense gravitational forces bending the light emitted by the disk, thereby providing a view of the disk’s underside.

Warping Space And Time

A team of scientists used NASA’s Event Horizon Telescope to snap the first-ever image of a black hole to the world back in April. Scientists are already working on getting an even crisper, higher resolution shot using two or three satellites.

READ MORE: New NASA Visualisation of a Black Hole Is So Beautiful We Could Cry [ScienceAlert]
More on black holes: Uh Oh: The Milky Way’s Giant Black Hole Is “Getting Hungrier”

Mysterious object in Solar System

 

Interstellar Visitor

Amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov made a wild discovery on August 30: an object moving too fast to be captured by the Sun’s gravity — and which probably came from outside our solar system.

And now, thanks to the Gemini Observatory, we’ve gotten a closer look at the object — the first interstellar comet ever to be observed, according to the Observatory.

“This image was possible because of Gemini’s ability to rapidly adjust observations and observe objects like this, which have very short windows of visibility,” said Andrew Stephens from the Gemini Observatory in a statement. “However, we really had to scramble for this one since we got the final details at 3:00 am and were observing it by 4:45!”

The image was stitched together from two exposures, in different color bands, captured by the Gemini North Multi-Object Spectrograph from Hawaii’s Maunakea island. The streaks are stars that appear to be moving since the comet is also whipping through space.

Night At The Observatory

Luckily, C/2019 Q4’s trajectory will make it even easier to spot over the next few months. And that could allow us to learn more about its home and origin story.

And that’s a big deal — the interstellar object called ‘Oumuamua, first spotted in 2017, was already too far away to get a close look once it was identified.

READ MORE: The First Images Have Started Coming in of That New Interstellar Visitor [Science Alert]

More on the comet:An Interstellar Object May Have Just Entered Our Solar System

A spacecraft to Mars by 2018

 

sagan*sensesciencealert

On Wednesday, Elon Musk’s private company SpaceX announced on Twitter that it plans to send a spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018.

The mission – which SpaceX is calling ‘Red Dragon’ – will involve sending a Dragon 2 spacecraft to Mars to retrieve samples collected by NASA’s Mars rover and then return them to Earth.

SpaceX has had big plans to usher in a new era of reusable rockets that could send the first humans to Mars and return them home for a while. In 2011, SpaceX released a video showing how they were going to re-land a rocket booster after launching it to space – something that had never been done before. And in 2015, SpaceX began attempting to land their rockets exactly how they had envisioned in the video.