Health & Science
Giza’s hidden chamber
The Great Pyramid of Giza was built some 4,500 years ago, but scientists are still uncovering secrets hidden within its towering limestone walls. Using a sophisticated imaging technique called muon radiography, researchers were able to peer inside the massive structure and discover a previously undetected and inaccessible empty space measuring at least 98 feet long and 26 feet high, reports NationalGeographic.com. The newly found chamber is situated above the grand gallery—the sloping corridor at the heart of the pyramid that links the burial chambers of the king and queen. Experts speculate that the space served an architectural purpose during the pyramid’s construction, or could have been a secret room with unknown contents. But study co-author Mehdi Tayoubi says the role of the void is a mystery. “What we do know,” he says, “is that this void is there, that it is impressive, [and] that it was not expected by any kind of theory.” It’s not possible to reach the space without damaging the historic structure, so Egyptologists may have to settle for guesswork.
Nearby solar system?
A ring of icy dust discovered around Proxima Centauri, the sun’s closest stellar neighbor, suggests there may be an entire solar system of hidden planets just 4.2 light- years away. Using a network of radio telescopes in Chile, researchers examined the light from Proxima Centauri and found a ring of dust situated up to four times as far from the red dwarf star as Earth is from the sun. An additional ring may lie farther away. Scientists believe the rings contain debris left over from the formation of planets, noting they are reminiscent of the Kuiper Belt—the disc of icy remnants encircling the outer edge of our solar system. Last year, astronomers discovered an Earth-size planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. The new findings suggest this world, known as Proxima b, isn’t alone, ScienceDaily.com reports. “What we found in Proxima Centauri suggests an elaborate system that might be harboring several planets,” says study co-author Mayra Osorio. If so, those planets are in our cosmic backyard—an intriguing development in the search for extraterrestrial life.
Ozone hole shrinking
The hole in Earth’s critical ozone layer is the smallest it has been in 30 years, primarily thanks to a ban on the chemicals that created it, according to scientists at NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Back in 1974, chemists at the University of California, Irvine warned that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in aerosols, air conditioners, and refrigerators were accumulating in the upper atmosphere and would deplete atmospheric ozone, which shields life on Earth from the sun’s harmful UV rays. As predicted, CFCs eventually chewed a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. The 1987 Montreal Protocol eliminated the use of CFCs, although these chemicals linger in the atmosphere for decades. Using satellite data, weather balloons, and ground observations, researchers monitoring the hole found it had a maximum size of 7.6 million square miles this year—1.3 million square miles less than in 2016 and 3.9 million square miles less than at its peak in 2000. The global ban on CFCs is slowly healing the ozone layer, but scientists estimate it won’t return to its pre-1980 condition until about 2070. Had there been no CFC ban, scientists say, there would have been 2 million additional skin cancer cases a year by 2030.
Health scare of the week
The alcohol-cancer link
Even light drinking can increase the risk for several forms of cancer, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The cancer specialists say their review of existing evidence finds that alcohol is linked with malignancies of the head and neck, breast, liver, esophagus, colon, and rectum, The New York Times reports. In fact, the organization says, drinking is directly responsible for 5.5 percent of all new cancers and nearly 6 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide. The more people drink, the higher their risk. Smoking and sun exposure are well-known cancer risk factors, but 70 percent of Americans aren’t aware of the association between the disease and alcohol. In the body, alcohol is metabolized into acetaldehyde, which can cause mutations in DNA that lead to cancer. ASCO recommends that adults limit their alcohol intake. “The message is not, ‘Don’t drink,’” says the lead author of the statement, Dr. Noelle LoConte. “It’s, ‘If you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less.’” But if you don’t already drink, she adds, don’t start. ■