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News & Views

AxiOnline: Living from ear to ear
By Bernard Wheeler Remember when your older sibling would pin you down and tickle you until you either wet your pants...
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By Bernard Wheeler Remember when your older sibling would pin you down and tickle you until you either wet your pants or cried? (No? Just us? Sigh.) Okay well apparently those childhood traumas might not have been simply a brutal ritual of character-building – tickling could in fact have a genuine health benefit. According to new research, tickling ears with a small electrical current appears to rebalance the autonomic nervous system for over-55s – potentially slowing down one of the effects of ageing. Scientists at the University of Leeds found that a short daily therapy delivered for two weeks led to both physiological and wellbeing improvements, including a better quality of life, mood and sleep. The therapy, called transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation, delivers a small, painless electrical current to the ear, sending signals to the body's nervous system through the vagus nerve. It’s thought therapy could help protect people from chronic diseases which become more common with age – such as high blood pressure, heart disease and atrial fibrillation!   In other news, it looks like there’s another radical carbon-capturing technology on the horizon – this time in the form of algae bio-curtains (sounds stylish). Developed by a team of architects and scientists in London, the bio-curtains are essentially an alternative to urban trees. And they use the power of algae to absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Check them out here. Not exactly Venetian blinds, but a smart idea nonetheless.   And finally, just when you thought we’d run out of waste management solutions that sound like they’ve come straight from an episode of Futurama, it looks like a start-up is about to eliminate pollution by basically vaporising rubbish and turning it into clean energy and fuel! The start-up, called Sierra Energy, is targeting the millions of tons of waste that currently goes to landfills, blasting rubbish at temperatures of up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature everything breaks down molecularly, producing reusable carbon monoxide and hydrogen, rather than methane (which as we know, is creating a bit of a pickle). Good work, guys. Although personally we thought the idea of simply blasting garbage balls into the Sun wasn’t without its charm. Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash