A Universal Flu Vaccine Is Close

Two drug companies are testing formulations of a universal flu vaccine in hopes of bringing a successful version to market in the coming years. It could replace the annual flu shot. 

What's the Latest Development?

Several pharmaceutical companies are getting closer to marketing a universal flu vaccine which could replace the annual autumn flu shot and prove more effective. Designing a flu vaccine is notoriously difficult because the virus can morph quickly, thus fooling the immune system. But the company BiondVax has tested a vaccine which arms the body against all strains by isolating nine characteristics that remain constant across all types of flu. In a clinical trial, the vaccine vastly outperformed the placebo vaccine. 

What's the Big Idea?

Preventing the seasonal flu is one small aim of a universal flu vaccine. Flu pandemics like the H1N1 virus of 2009 have already threatened large populations and the United Nations announced in August that a new strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus is currently menacing Asia. "It's almost inevitable that another pandemic will come," says Dr. Antonio Lanzavecchia of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. If the bird flu virus gains the capacity to spread from human to human, it could decimate the world population. 

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
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China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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