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The witcher’s potion. What is known about the mutagenicity of ‘healing’ herbs

In the popular witcher saga, boys go through trials, gaining inhuman strength, magical abilities, and longevity. A major role in this is played by herbs, supposedly changing the metabolism and basic systems of the body.

From a scientific point of view, phytotherapy does not cause such radical mutations, but to get poisoning and even a tumor is quite real.
Herbal medicine has been known since time immemorial, when classical medicine was in its infancy. And now many are convinced that the infusions of herbs, different types of tea, plant extracts benefit more than tablets, because it contains only natural ingredients. It is widely believed that herbs are environmentally friendly raw materials, they have a mild effect and are safe for the body. However, we are dealing with a myth that has no scientific evidence.

Unlike drugs manufactured by industry, plants contain hundreds of chemicals, each of which may have a biologically active effect. Homemade herbal preparations or those purchased as dietary supplements are not standardized, not cleaned, often have not passed laboratory and clinical trials, and therefore it is not known how they act on the body, are combined with other medicines, do they give side effects, in which doses are safe, and in which are toxic.

Scientists from India in 2017 described such a case. A 73-year-old man came to one of the hospitals with complaints of pain in the lower abdomen and throughout the body, fatigue, vomiting, and constipation. Eight months earlier, he had been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, and he was taking the herbal powder prescribed to him by an Ayurveda specialist, traditional Indian medicine.

Doctors examined the patient and prescribed conservative treatment, but vomiting did not pass. The next course also did not bring relief. Then they sent Ayurvedic powder for analysis and found there an increased content of lead – extremely toxic to humans. It was what caused the poisoning and inflammation of the intestines in the patient. It has been known for a long time that plants, especially roots, accumulate heavy metals and other toxic compounds well. Scientists use this feature to monitor soil pollution. The reverse side of plant susceptibility is the real risk of poisoning.

Weight Loss Risk

Since ancient times, plants of the genus Aristolochia have been used in obstetrics and treatment after snakebites. The acids of the same name contained in them have anti-inflammatory properties, and until recently, aristolochia extracts were part of the preparations for arthritis, rheumatism, gout, suppuration.

In the late 1980s, scientists discovered that aristolochic acids cause cancer in rodents. They are discontinued everywhere. However, in traditional medicine they are continued to be used.

In 1991, about one hundred cases of kidney damage due to prolonged use of Chinese traditional medicine for weight loss containing Aristolochia fangchi were revealed in Belgium. Several hundred people in different countries of Europe and Asia suffered from such “treatment”. It has now been proven in experiments on mammals that aristolochic acids cause mutations in genes, provoking the synthesis of abnormal proteins in cells. This phenomenon is called mutagenesis. In 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer added these substances to the group of proven carcinogens, and in 2017, the Chinese authorities announced the names of 43 patented drugs and 24 plant species containing aristolochic acids.

Unexplored secrets of herbal medicine

According to rough estimates, about a third of people in the Western world use herbal and other folk remedies for colds, fever, inflammation, indigestion, constipation, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, diabetes, diseases of the central nervous system and even AIDS. In the United States, from 1993 to 2012, the number of herbal medicine products on the market increased tenfold. WHO recommends phytotherapy with proven efficacy in the medical insurance. All these trends, apparently, are associated with a strong belief in the healing properties of herbs that have been tested by folk medicine for thousands of years. At the same time, as American researchers note, the more widely the herbal medicine is used, the more cases of liver damage are associated with it. This is a slight increase in the level of liver enzymes and cirrhosis, and the accumulation of adipose tissue in the liver cells.

Now several natural components of herbs have been identified that have toxic and carcinogenic effects. For example, pyrrolisidine alkaloids are found in more than six thousand plants, including licorice, coltsfoot, and cucumber grass. In comfrey medicinal – 14 compounds of this type, considered genotoxic. The most famous are symphytin, 7-acetyllicopsin, 7-acetylintermedin and intermedin. These substances can cause mutations in genes, damage DNA, chromosomes, micronuclei. Many medicinal plants (Sassafras officinalis, Chinese cinnamon) and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, anise) contain compounds of the phenylpropanoid group. For some, for example, carcinogenic effects has been proven.

Among the huge variety of potentially useful plants, the genotoxic properties of plant compounds and extracts have been studied in a very small part, the authors of the review note. To many experiments there are questions. Most were made on cell cultures, in rare cases on animals, the doses at which negative properties are manifested have not always been studied, and the results are often contradictory. Little is investigated about the manifested qualities of the compounds in complex mixtures, and this is how they are most often used in folk medicine. But the very fact that compounds dangerous for DNA are found in plants used by humans, requires studying this category of traditional medicine more carefully.

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Science & Technology

Can Internet be limited due to coronavirus Quarantine?

According to The Sun experts in the field of communications, the functions and capabilities of the Internet for the British in the near future may be limited, to ensure the operation of critical sites and applications.

The problem is that with the development of the pandemic, networks are experiencing a critical increase in traffic, which puts strong pressure on the UK’s mobile and broadband infrastructure. Social distancing means that many Britons are now working at home. And closing schools means that some British children have more free time than ever.

This dramatically changes the dynamics of the Internet load. In particular, Vodafone told The Sun that their web traffic grew by 30%. It is important to note that peak traffic now occurs between 06:00 and 08:00, decreases slightly by noon and increases again in the evening, but in much larger volumes than in the morning. Therefore, now, as experts and insiders tell us, the government is busy with large-scale projects on “Internet rationing”. This does not seem to imply restricting users to a certain amount of data, but it means a certain priority for important data. For example, streaming video and games are already not very important data.

Experts advise: “In this difficult time, users should think about a backup connection, whether it be another SIM card or a new data transfer provider.”

Actually, providers are already slowing down, reducing the bitrate of their videos. They typically reduce the quality of streams by about 25% in the UK and Europe to reduce network load.

Now the question arises: can British networks cope with the growing load?

“Our networks remain strong,” Vodafone spokesperson told The Sun. “We have enough stock to meet growing demand and maintain global connectivity with the UK.”

It all looks pretty weird. The load on the network appeared on the network for a long time and the network does an excellent job. As we are told by insiders at Internet companies, this surge was predictable and providers have long been busy purchasing and installing additional equipment. One UK chain said they have a 100% margin of safety. Now the new “load” was 20%, which means that they still have 80% of their unused bandwidth to cope with any significant increase in usage.

Moreover, new equipment is already being installed. And for mobile networks there should not be any problems at all. Companies are constantly facing hurricanes and snowfalls. Does someone lose their mobile connection? It does not appear to be the case because mobile operators have many tools to redirect data flows. As a result, the new involved channels begin to experience a radically increased load. Nevertheless, nothing stops nowhere and the Internet does not disappear.

At the moment, the experts interviewed call the government’s new initiative crazy and idiotic, expressing the hope that officials have the intelligence not to bother with their valuable instructions on rationing the Internet.

As The Sun has outlined, high traffic is not a problem, but rather good news. People sit at home, pay for cable channels, buy upgrades and more. Accordingly, providers buy new hardware, hire new people. Equipment manufacturers and so on are loaded with work. All is well. 

This is though, only the beginning, as the pandemic has given many leading companies a backside, forcing them to invest in organizing the work of people at home. Plus, a similar stimulus to the pandemic boot is given to the education system. Similar reforms beg in medicine and in sales networks, and so on.

Further, when the situation is toughened up and it is no longer possible for ‘systems’ to cope, disruption in the UK’s communications networks will be on the verge. 

 The trend may be in front of us. 

 

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US military has learned to quietly track radio signals of all frequencies

US military experiments have shown , that they created a quantum receiver is able to pick up signals from all radio frequency range.

Scientists from the Army Research Laboratory have developed a quantum detector capable of detecting signals from the entire spectrum of radio waves with just one antenna. Conventional instruments cannot recognize such a wide range of radiation unless they are equipped with multiple antennas and amplifiers.

The American quantum detector uses Rydberg supersensitive excited atoms to detect electromagnetic fields and waves. You can turn an ordinary atom into a Rydberg atom using laser radiation.

An electron on the outer shell, usually a single shell, is transferred using a laser an amount of energy close to the ionization threshold – the separation of an electron from an atom. As a result, the excited electron moves away from the nucleus. The distance between the electron and the nucleus can increase up to a million times. At such distances, an excited electron feels a weaker electrostatic field of the nucleus and reacts more strongly to external electromagnetic influences.

In the work, scientists quantified the sensitivity of the sensor to the effects of oscillating electric fields. The field oscillation frequency that the receiver successfully registers ranges from 0 to 100 gigahertz. Such results cannot be achieved using devices based on electro-optical crystals or passive electronics with a dipole antenna.

“Another advantage of a quantum receiver is its size,” said David Meyer, a research fellow at the US Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Laboratory, “The new sensors are small and almost invisible. In addition, quantum mechanics allows a very accurate calibration of each sensor. ”

Rydberg’s atoms have recently begun to be used in devices for the detection of electromagnetic fields, including radio signals. 

Thanks to a new study, a quantitative description of the sensitivity of such detectors has appeared. In the future, scientists intend to enhance sensitivity in order to record even the weakest signals.

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How to turn a planet into a spaceship

Man has long guessed that nothing lasts forever under the sun. In the middle of the last century, it turned out that our eternity did not last forever. After 5.5 billion years, it will begin to expand slowly, and its surface – to cool … The coming cataclysms do not promise anything good to our planet.

Calculations show that after several billion years, in the phase of maximum expansion of the Sun, the current orbit of the Earth will be inside its plasma ocean. The fate of the Earth is not so clear, but nonetheless tragic.

Since the Sun during its transformation into a red giant will lose about a third of its mass, its gravity will greatly weaken. It can be expected that the radius of the Earth’s orbit due to this will be extended by about 60 million kilometers and the Earth, most likely, will not fall into the solar furnace. However, its surface will heat up to at least 2000 degrees – with all the obvious consequences. According to another model, later tidal forces will slow down the Earth and it will dive into the atmosphere of the Sun.

It seems that these forecasts should not bother us – there are closer dangers. Since the birth of the Sun, its luminosity has been steadily increasing. Already after 1-2 billion years, the oceans will evaporate and the surface of the planet will be unsuitable for life (in fact, serious troubles will begin much earlier). But, let’s say, our distant descendants will somehow cope with this threat. The question arises: will they have to build space squadrons sooner or later in order to get out of their native planet, or can they save it from burning in a solar furnace?

It turns out that such opportunities exist and are even being discussed. One of them, was proposed in 1982 by M. Taube, a nuclear technology specialist from the Zurich Polytechnic Institute. He recommends turning our planet into a gigantic spaceship and, without waiting for disaster, to go on a long journey beyond the orbit of Pluto. Taube believes that this can be done by maintaining the daily rhythm of the Earth’s rotation, the change of which would entail global geological cataclysms.

How so? Taube proposes to put 24 gigantic bundles at the equator at the same distance from each other, including hundreds of missiles with 30-km nozzles. Each missile system must be switched on once a day half an hour before noon local time, and it should work for an hour. As a result, a reactive force, directed along its radius vector in the direction opposite to the Sun, will continuously act on the Earth. This will allow the Earth to move away from the Sun (naturally, without parting with the Moon) along a slowly unwinding spiral trajectory, which will gradually lead it out of Pluto’s orbit.

Taube thought out all the details. The energy for such a flight will be provided by thermonuclear reactors – nothing better is yet to be expected. Each rocket during operation and for every second, will throw into space 100 tons of super-hot hydrogen flying out of its nozzle at a speed of 300 km / s. Calculations showed that not so much time will pass from the start of the trip to its finish, only several tens of thousands of years. Naturally, maneuvering the Earth in space will not work, and therefore, it will be necessary to destroy or move the asteroids that may be in its path ahead of time.

Planetary bookkeeping

Will humanity have enough resources to realize such a daunting task? The right amount of hydrogen is 10% of the mass of the Earth. Where does it come from if the total amount of this element in our planet is much less than one percent? Taube proposes to produce hydrogen either on Jupiter or on another giant planet, where it is in abundance.

The Zurich prophet took care of satisfying the energy needs of earthlings at the end of the journey. At first they will be heated by the swollen Sun, but what about when only a shriveling white dwarf remains from it? One of the possible solutions is to extract deuterium on Jupiter and transport it to the surface of the dwarf in order to support fusion reactions that occur with the release of energy. Taube estimated that such an artificial star would provide our descendants with heat and light for a hundred billion years.

In 2008, Taube slightly modified this plan. In particular, he proposed to stretch the Earth’s journey to the Kuiper belt for 10 million years and put it into orbit around the artificial Sun created by the merger of a couple of tens of gas giants confiscated from other stars. So our descendants have many opportunities. But will there be a desire?

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