Q&A: How physics could explain why people respond differently to coronavirus infection

The immune system is constantly hedging its bets to rearrange itself to protect from future infection, says physicist Aleksandra Walczak. Image credit - Ketut Subiyanto/pexels.com

Some people’s immune systems contain pre-existing protection against coronavirus, indicating that they have encountered a similar infection to Covid-19 before, according to Dr Aleksandra Walczak, a physicist at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France. Her team uses statistical physics to model the human immune system and try and predict how it will behave. She is currently … Read more

By recreating phobias and panic attacks, neuroscientists aim to improve anxiety therapies

Researchers are using virtual reality to test participants’ reactions to threats such as dogs or falling rocks to understand more about the brain mechanisms linked to anxiety. Image credit - needpix.com, public domain

by Fintan Burke Tracking the brain’s reaction to virtual-reality-simulated threats such as falling rocks and an under-researched fear reduction strategy may provide better ways of treating anxiety disorders and preventing relapses. Hippocrates described them as ‘masses of terrors,’ while French physicians in the 18th century labelled them as ‘vapours’ and ‘melancholia.’ Nowadays we know that panic … Read more

Making coal from food waste, garden cuttings – and even human sewage

Millions of tonnes of organic waste are currently dumped in landfill, where it decomposes and gives off greenhouse gases. Image credit - Pixabay/Ben_Kerckx, licenced under Pixabay licence

Food waste, garden cuttings, manure, and even human sewage can be turned into solid biocoal for energy generation, and, if scaled up, could help match the industrial demand for carbon with the need to get rid of organic waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Europe has a biowaste problem. Rather than using the carbon-rich material … Read more

Q&A: When and how does anxiety become a problem?

We do not really know why some people develop long-term anxiety disorders while others bounce back from adverse situations, says Prof. Baldwin. Image credit - Pexels/Pixabay

Short-term anxiety is a normal response to stress, but more needs to be done to understand and treat longer-term anxiety disorders, which affect the lives of millions of people across Europe and impose a significant economic burden on society, according to Professor David Baldwin, head of the mental health group at the University of Southampton, … Read more

How hard-to-recycle plastic is being made as good as new

The packaging of fresh foods such as meat and cheese often uses a variety of layers of different plastic types which need to be separated before recycling. Image credit - Pixabay/ photosforyou, licenced under pixabay licence

New recycling technologies currently being tested may allow plastics such as single-use food packaging, fibre-reinforced car parts and mattress foam – polymers which often wind up in landfills or are incinerated – to have more than just a second life: they can become as good as new. Plastic waste is a growing environmental concern. About … Read more

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