Saturday, June 21, 2008

Science In the News

There are often tidbits of scientific advances in the news. Sometimes they get more press when it's something spectacular. But often, truly major events go largely unreported.

An example of the first is the recent results from the Mars project that may have discovered ice. While no fan of the space program overall, since it is government funded and often aims at goals that are of little practical value to anyone, I have to admire the superb technical ability that goes into achieving its aims.

Finding, and verifying, that ice (and therefore possibly some simple life forms) exists on Mars is one good case in point.

But for my money, the next item is the one that is truly worthy of unabashed praise.

Researchers reporting in the June 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine say this is the first time a patient's cloned T cells used alone have put an advanced solid-tumor cancer into complete remission.

The man was followed for two years, at which time he was still in remission.

As an ex-student of physics I have a greater emotional push toward the first story. But, objectively, I'm aware of how fantastically complex cancer is and how difficult it is to treat, especially in the way that Dr. Cassian Yee and team have done. Breakthroughs like this do much more than stop a very nasty condition; they lead to larger advances that apply to many areas.

Sincere and massive kudos to the modern day explorers of large and small who show the creativity, rationality, and courage to keep driving the frontiers ever onward. They are the true heroes of our age.

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