Those damned particles

Massive clouds of electrically charged particles can form in the upper atmosphere, and one such "plasma bubble" has been implicated in the downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan that killed seven American soldiers in 2002. Researchers used NASA satellite data to determine that the helicopter flew under a 62-mile-long bubble, which they believe disrupted a radio warning to the pilot to avoid an enemy-held mountaintop. Click here for more.

It's no fun being an aging galaxy. Scientists determined that massive, central black holes that spew radio frequency–emitting particles from the core of older galaxies can prevent the birth of new stars. Click here for more.

Elsewhere at Hopkins …


Twitter updates from insufferable flu sufferers may help predict outbreaks of influenza and track the progress of future epidemics. Scientists collecting and analyzing 5 million tweets a day for mentions of flu or flu symptoms found they could produce more accurate predictions by combining the social media data with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecasts. Click here for more.

The American public is more likely to regard drug addiction not as a medical condition but as a moral failing. In consequence, people tend not to support insurance, housing, and employment policies aimed at assisting those with drug dependencies. Thirty percent of those surveyed in a recent study said they believed recovery from drug addiction was impossible. Click here for more.


Researchers studying fast food restaurant chains noted that additions to their menus over the last two years have averaged
 12 percent fewer calories. That's only a 60-calorie improvement, but the lead author of the study said the impact on obesity could still be significant. Click here for more.

Printed signs that told teenagers how far they would need to walk to burn off the calories from a single 20-ounce soda persuaded them to buy healthier beverages, according to public health researchers. The effects of the signs persisted for weeks afterward. Kids must read, after all. Click here for more.


Broccoli sprouts for the win, again. In a small clinical trial, scientists found that sulforaphane, a chemical derived from sprouts, substantially improved the social interaction and verbal communication ability of people with moderate to severe autism. Sulforaphane has already been found to strengthen the body's defenses against oxidative stress, inflammation, and DNA damage. Click here for more.


Scientists used a PET scanner and a
 new chemical tracer to find and track
 in real time infection with a class of drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. The bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae, cause a variety of serious diseases including fatal pneumonias, bloodstream infections, and infections of body organs. Click here for more.


In the past five years, reported shortages of drugs have nearly quintupled; of 
820 hospitals surveyed, 99.5 percent experienced at least one shortage, and
 35 percent of patients suffered adverse outcomes as a result. New research found that traditional free market supply-and-demand mechanisms do not address the shortages and suggested incentives for manufacturers such as tax breaks and expedited FDA reviews to spur production of pharmaceuticals in short supply. Click here for more.