The cooling power of dust

The cooling power of dust

EDITORIAL LOCATIONS UK Lacon House, 84 Theobald’s Road, London WC1X 8NS Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1200  Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1250 Australia Tower 2, 475 Vic...

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LOCATIONS UK Lacon House, 84 Theobald’s Road, London WC1X 8NS Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1200  Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1250 Australia Tower 2, 475 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood, NSW 2067 Tel +61 2 9422 2666  Fax +61 2 9422 2633 USA 225 Wyman Street, Waltham, MA 02451 Tel +1 781 734 8770  Fax +1 720 356 9217 201 Mission Street, 26th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105 Tel +1 415 908 3348  Fax +1 415 704 3125 to SUBSCRIbe UK and International Tel +44 (0) 8456 731 731 [email protected] The price of a New Scientist annual subscription is UK £143, Europe €228, USA $154, Canada C$182, Rest of World $293. Postmaster: Send address changes to New Scientist, PO Box 3806, Chesterfield, MO 63006-9953, USA. cONTACTS Editorial Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1202 [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] Picture desk Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1268 Who’s who Contact us Enquiries Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1202 Display Advertising Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1291 [email protected] Recruitment Advertising UK Tel +44 (0) 20 8652 4444 [email protected] Permission for reuse [email protected] Media enquiries Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1202 Marketing Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1286 Back Issues & Merchandise Tel +44 (0) 1733 385170 Syndication Tribune Media Services International Tel +44 (0) 20 7588 7588 UK Newsagents Tel +44 (0) 20 3148 3333 Newstrade distributed by Marketforce UK Ltd, The Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark St, London SE1 OSU Tel: + 44 (0) 20 8148 3333 © 2011 Reed Business Information Ltd, England New Scientist is published weekly by Reed Business Information Ltd. ISSN 0262 4079. Registered at the Post Office as a newspaper and printed in England by Polestar (Colchester)

Let them eat worms Official caution on parasite therapy has been overtaken by events IF YOU were to draw a world has been granted the status of map of severe immune disorders Investigational New Drug in the and superimpose it on a map of US, but given that it usually takes infections with parasitic worms hundreds of millions of dollars called helminths, you would see a and more than 10 years to get a very clear pattern. Where immune drug to market, worm therapy disorders are common helminthic is still a distant prospect. infections are rare, and vice versa. No wonder some people are According to the hygiene taking matters into their own hypothesis, this is because living hands: breeding the worms at in an ultra-clean environment “Some people are taking deprives the immune system of necessary exposure to pathogens matters into their own hands, swallowing eggs and parasites. If that’s true, then isolated from faeces” reconciling people with their long-lost worms could help to reset malfunctioning immune home, swallowing eggs isolated systems. That’s exactly what some from faeces or buying worms scientists have been investigating from companies that have sprung since the 1990s. up to meet the demand (see page But helminthic therapy has not 6). The US is so concerned about got very far. There has never been this “citizen science” movement a full-scale clinical trial and most that it has made it illegal to sell published studies recruited only a helminths for therapy. handful of people. Pig whipworm If there are more than a few

scientists intrigued by worm therapy and plenty of volunteers to swallow the worms, why aren’t there more clinical trials? The problem is onerous regulation. The caution is understandable: helminths are living organisms, not chemicals that can be precisely dosed, and they can cause illness. But given that there are already hundreds of people experimenting with therapies, it is clear that caution has been overtaken by reality. It is surely time to loosen the regulations and encourage fruitful collaborations between scientists and citizens. That would at least dissuade the do-it-yourself worm therapists who potentially endanger themselves and their friends. It may even deliver muchneeded progress in some of the most expensive and intractable health problems of our age. n

The cooling power of dust

have a similar cooling effect today. But the very uncertainty suggests it would be useful to know more. It is hard to see how we might find out the truth without large-scale and long-term trials. Given our apparent inability to reduce emissions, we should get on with these as a matter of urgency. But this time, unlike our inadvertent planetary engineering up to now, we should agree on a rulebook first. n

SHOULD we be squeamish about geoengineering? After all, we are already engineering the planet in ways profound enough for geologists to discuss whether we have left the Holocene behind and entered the Anthropocene. The question is revived by new evidence of the power of dust to amplify global cooling and plunge the world into ice

ages (see page 12). By fertilising plankton blooms that lock away carbon dioxide, iron-laden dust seems to have been the planet’s main thermostat for the past 4 million years. Of course, the fact that dust has played a natural cooling role in the past does not mean that the deliberate application of iron filings to the ocean surface would

A whale of an opportunity ARE you a university student with an interest in whales and dolphins? New Scientist has funding for five students (undergraduate or postgrad) to join a week-long field training course at the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit in Gardenstown, Aberdeenshire, UK.

The grants are worth £1000 each towards travel, accommodation, food and equipment. There are no cash payments. They are available to students from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds who are unable to fund such an opportunity

themselves. The course runs from 18 to 24 September inclusive. For more information and an application form, please email beverley. [email protected] with “whale” in the subject field. Closing date for applications is 19 August 2011. n

6 August 2011 | NewScientist | 3