Our world is full of wonder and problems. I would argue that science is the key to deepening our wonder and solving our problems. A deeper understanding of how genomes function or the details behind our remarkable technologies changes how we see our planet. Far from the days of the card catalog and books, we now live in a world where investigating a question yields copious amounts of information at the click of a button. The number of great videos, animations and lectures one can find in less than a second and on any topic is staggering.
I was recently reminded of this power to learn the internet has handed us all. A new TV series called “Alter Ego” airs on Fox. It is another of who knows how many singing competitions, but their approach is pretty unique. The show involves performers hidden from the judges so they cannot be judged on looks but simply their voice and dance moves. The show uses motion capture technology to track the performers’ movements backstage while their holographic avatars appear in front of the audience and judges. The technology is not new, but it’s still awe-inspiring. I knew just enough about holograms to get the idea of how they pulled this show off, but I needed a refresher. It took me a few seconds to find a two-minute video that explained it all. My high school self could only dream of such power.
With great power comes great responsibility, and the power of the internet and technology requires caution. Finding a video to explain holograms or information on mRNA vaccines is very simple today. However, finding videos or web pages that miss the mark on their explanations or flat-out lies edited to shift a person’s view is as simple as finding the truth. Our species’ ability to discern fact from fiction is tested now more than ever, and I am unsure how this will play out over the next few decades. The technology to deep-fake a video using any person’s voice and likeness gets better and cheaper all the time. Science and society will have to solve this problem soon.
Another problem of the many that are snowballing is drug-resistant microbes. Like the internet and the ability to fake videos, this is a problem of our design and one science is feverishly working to solve. A new article published in the journal Molecular Systems Biology is titled “Engineering a genome-reduced bacterium to eliminate Staphylococcus aureus biofilms in vivo.” The article discusses the creation of a “living” medicine. The researchers genetically engineered the microbe “Mycoplasma pneumoniae” to be harmless and to produce enzymes that disrupt the biofilms of staphylococcus aureus. The engineered microbe also produces antibiotics that attack bacterial cell walls.
Fighting infection with an infection may prove to be more useful in our war against drug resistance.
Bacteriophage virus therapies are also proving useful, using a bacteria’s natural enemy to attack them. We see the writing on the wall that says our planet could expect 10 million or more deaths per year from drug resistance by 2050 if nothing changes. Luckily, we also see science churning out new ideas to ensure this prediction does not come to fruition.
Google “Living medicine created to treat drug-resistant infections,” and you will find a fantastic article that provides more detail. The article should deepen your wonder of what science can accomplish and illustrate how we will use science to solve our many problems.