In the second phase of trials involving 9 patients who had lost their sight to the hereditary disease retinitis pigmentosa, 5 have found that the retinal implants have improved their eyesight sufficiently to be useful in everyday life. Following on from this German trial more people have since been fitted with the implants in Oxford, London, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The implants stand in for defunct cells by detecting light rays and converting them into electrical pulses, which are transmitted along the optic nerve to the brain. They are powered wirelessly from a battery concealed in clothing. Brightness can be adjusted for differing lighting conditions using a dial worn behind the ear.
These are still early days for this procedure, but patients will be monitored for a year in the hope that the device will help to improve their vision further.
photo by: Greyson Orlando
The first major UK trial of a new surface mix of asphalt containing shredded rubber from old tyres has given the go-ahead to rolling it out across Britain. Extensive grip and skid resistance testing on a short stretch of the busy A90 dual-carriageway between Perth and Dundee, carrying around 35,000 vehicles a day, has also revealed a significant reduction in traffic noise of about 25 per cent. Given that around one heart attack in every 50 in European countries is caused by chronic exposure to loud traffic (WHO) this has to be good news.
Britain has at least 480,000 tonnes of old tyres to dispose of each year (European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers Association, 2009) and EU rules have banned the disposal of tyres to landfill since 2006. Life Cycle Assessment studies indicate that for every ton of scrap tyres re-used to make roads, 1.1 tons of CO2 emissions will be saved compared with the incineration of the tyres. Furthermore, experts claim that the road surface requires less maintenance and still allows for drainage, while tyre recyclers claim the technique will also save money because the new material is thinner than standard roads.
Rubber roads were first built in the 1960s in the US, where there are currently 20,000 miles of road made of recycled tyres, and they have also proved popular in China, Brazil, Spain and Germany.
photo by: Derek Harper
In a creative new initiative from José Mujica’s administration in Uruguay, bikes and laptops are being offered in exchange for unregistered guns. Spokesman Fernando Gil says that the ‘Weapons for Life’ campaign aims to “disarm society, on the way to a more harmonious co-existence, where differences are resolved through dialogue and negotiation.”
Gustavo Guidobono, president of the Association for the Fight for Civilian Disarmament, has said that “Uruguay is the most armed country in South America by a long way and is in the top 10 places in the world of arms per person.” It is estimated that the 3.3 million residents possess more than a million firearms, and half of these are unregistered and the most likely to end up in the hands of criminals.
Alongside the amnesty, sentences for the illegal possession of guns will be more severe. Residents have six months to exchange their weapons or have them officially registered. Anyone failing to do so will face prison sentences of up to 12 years.
photo by: Tallent Show
The European Union has voted for a 2-year ban on the nerve-agent pesticides blamed for the dramatic decline in global bee populations. Three neonicotinoids will be suspended from flowering crops on which bees feed unless compelling scientific evidence to the contrary becomes available. Over 30 high-quality scientific studies have found a link between the neonicotinoids and falling bee numbers, including a study by the European Food Safety Authority, which concluded in January that the pesticides did pose a risk to the health of bees.
Chemical companies and UK ministers have argued that food production could slump, but there is little evidence of this from countries like France and Italy which already have partial bans. Fast-declining populations of pollinators have been identified as a serious risk to global food production, and recent farming trends are towards using natural predators and crop rotation to control any pests.
The European commission will review new scientific evidence and data on the impact of the suspension within two years.