This new synthetic material could get rid of that horrible airplane noise

While airplane noise may not have any long-term effect on a person’s hearing abilities, many find the experience unpleasant. And the reason some of us have to suffer through this is because planes are built to be light.

The ceilings and floors of airplanes use a honeycomb structure, which provides strength without adding much weight. Sadly, this structure is also very effective in letting sound through. So all the unwelcome sounds of jet engines and rotor blades get plugged right in to your ears.

There may now be a solution. Find out on Quartz, published April 28, 2015.

Image by Yun Jing.

The British seem to get less cancer but also survive less than Americans. Why?

In the UK, more than 330,000 cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2011. That compares favorably with the rate of cancer in the US—396 per 100,000 people in the UK vs. 451 per 100,000 in the US.

But even though people in England, where the UK’s largest population is, are less likely to get cancer, five years after diagnosis, only 56% of English cancer patients survive, compared to 65% of American patients.

Find out why on Quartz, published May 5, 2015.

Image by Sam Blackman under CC-BY license.

The US Army is serious about developing invisibility cloaks

Among the superpowers people want, a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak generally comes pretty high on the list. Now even the US Army wants one for its soldiers. They are looking for companies to make them such cloaks in the next 18 months.

Scientific progress has turned many fictions into fact, but true invisibility may be unattainable, Martin Wegener of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany told the New Scientist: “Complete invisibility of macroscopic objects for all visible colors is fundamentally impossible.”

So the army will have to settle for a more workable definition of invisibility instead—perhaps a cloak that remains invisible under certain types of light, for example, making the cloaked soldier appear to be a ghostly image.

Read more on Quartz, published May 8, 2015.

Image by US Army under CC-BY license.

How Liberia finally got rid of Ebola

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the Ebola outbreak in Libera is over, which means there haven’t been any new cases for the past 42 days. But the country remains on high alert, as new Ebola cases are still being reported in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Stamping out an epidemic of a deadly infectious disease is a great achievement for any country. Liberia’s triumph is more remarkable still given the country’s poor access to healthcare.

Read more on Quartz, published May 9, 2015.

Image by European Commission under CC-BY-ND.

Astronauts will get dumber on their way to Mars

For enthusiasts of space travel, the bad news keeps coming. A new study, just published in Science Advances, finds that the smartest humans who will be chosen to go to Mars may not remain smart by the time they reach their destination (if at all they do).

We have known for a long time that leaving our cushy planet is fraught with problems. Space may be largely empty, but it’s filled up with invisible charged particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. Earth’s magnetic field deflects these particles, but space travelers will inevitably be exposed to such radiation. And the new study predicts that it will cause rapid and permanent damage to the brain.

Read more on Quartz, published May 1, 2015.

Image credit: NASA

Why natural disasters affect women are more than men

Disasters affect women much more than men. A 2007 study by researchers at the London School of Economics and the University of Essex found that between 1981 and 2002, natural disasters in 141 countries killed significantly more women than men, and that the worse the disaster, the bigger the gender disparity.

The latest figures from Nepal show that among the 1.3 million affected by the earthquake, about 53% are female—a small but not yet statistically significant bias. That might soon change. Lessons from previous disasters show that the bias affecting women can worsen in post-disaster relief.

Read the rest on Quartz, published May 1, 2015. Written with Shelly Walia.

Image credit: UN under CC-BY-NC-ND license

Fighting prostate cancer with new weapons

“All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison,” said the Swiss-German physician Paracelsus in the 15th century. Since the discovery of radiation—that all-too-powerful poison—Paracelsus’ principle has been applied for more than 100 years in treating cancer. Now 21st-century technology is enhancing its use, especially for those with prostate cancer.

Radioactive seeds and 3D-printed shields are new weapons to fight prostate cancerQuartz, 27 April 2015.

Image credit: US Gov/Wikimedia

PS: This is my first piece as a reporter for Quartz, where I will cover science and health for the online business publication. As loyal readers, I hope you will give me feedback—which you can do anonymously here—to help me write better stories. Thanks!