Antibiotics that Fight Superbugs

As scientists gain a better understanding of how antibiotics work on a molecular level, they are learning how some superbugs become resistant. Can they also find a weakness?

What's the Latest Development?

By learning how antibiotics function on a molecular level, scientists aim to understand how some bacteria strains resist treatment. Biochemists at the New York University School of Medicine believe bacteria use the same technique that helps them survive other stresses, such as a lack of food: "They produce hydrogen sulfide, which, in combination with nitric oxide (a typical by-product of bacterial metabolism) seems to protect bacteria from antibiotic assaults."

What's the Big Idea?

Researchers found that bacteria produce a stringent response when they are deprived of nutrients, making them better able to resist antibiotics. "To test whether stringent response could also be protecting the bacteria from antibiotics, the researchers created a mutant strain that lacked such an alarm. Indeed, antibiotics were much more effective against those bacteria strains that could not turn on their stringent response." Scientists are now looking for ways to disrupt this stringent response.

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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.

10 paradoxes that will stretch your mind

From time-traveling billiard balls to information-destroying black holes, the world's got plenty of puzzles that are hard to wrap your head around.

Big Think
Surprising Science
  • While it's one of the best on Earth, the human brain has a lot of trouble accounting for certain problems.
  • We've evolved to think of reality in a very specific way, but there are plenty of paradoxes out there to suggest that reality doesn't work quite the way we think it does.
  • Considering these paradoxes is a great way to come to grips with how incomplete our understanding of the universe really is.
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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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