If you have a heart attack outside hospital in the future, you could be saved by a drone with a defibrillator attached rather than an ambulance.

Swedish scientists compared the response times of a drone and an ambulance for 18 flights and found the drone beat the medical team by an average of 16 minutes, which could be enough to make the difference between life and death.

In an experiment, the drone was developed and certified by the Swedish Transportation Agency, equipped with a defibrillator, GPS, high-definition camera and integrated with an autopilot software system, and dispatched for out-of-sight flights to locations where cardiac arrests within a small radius of a fire station had previously occurred.

The median time from call to dispatch of medical services was three minutes - compared with just three seconds for the drone - while the median from dispatch to arrival of the drone was just 5.21 minutes, compared with 22 minutes for an ambulance.

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While the time saved was important, the authors said more test flights were needed, along with analysis of how the drones could work in with services.

Can a mirror make your food taste better?

Eating in front of a mirror - or even with a picture of yourself eating - makes food more appealing.

It's already known that people rate food as tasting better when they dine with company, but now researchers at Japan's Nagoya University have discovered that the same effect can be achieved in individuals eating alone simply by providing a mirror to reflect them while they eat.

Eating in front of a mirror - or even with a picture of yourself eating - makes food more appealing, scientists say. Photo / 123RF
Eating in front of a mirror - or even with a picture of yourself eating - makes food more appealing, scientists say. Photo / 123RF

"We wanted to find out what the minimum requirement is for the social facilitation of eating," lead author Dr Ryuzaburo Nakata said.

"Does another person have to actually be physically present, or is information suggesting the presence of others sufficient?"

In a new study, the researchers found that people eating alone reported food as tasting better, and ate more of it, when they could see themselves reflected in a mirror, compared with when they ate in front of a monitor displaying an image of a wall.

"Studies have shown that for older adults, enjoying food is associated with quality of life, and frequently eating alone is associated with depression and loss of appetite," co-author Associate Professor Nobuyuki Kawai added.

"Our findings therefore suggest a possible approach to improving the appeal of food, and quality of life, for older people who do not have company when they eat - for example, those who have suffered loss or are far away from their loved ones."

Sunless tans for redheads?

There might yet be hope for pale-skinned redheads who are especially susceptible to UV radiation, after researchers successfully darkened human skin cells grown in a petri dish. Photo / 123RF
There might yet be hope for pale-skinned redheads who are especially susceptible to UV radiation, after researchers successfully darkened human skin cells grown in a petri dish. Photo / 123RF

There might yet be hope for pale-skinned redheads who are especially susceptible to UV radiation, after researchers successfully darkened human skin cells grown in a petri dish - providing an artificial tan that lasted for days.

A study published in 2006 found a topical solution that could generate a cancer-protecting tan in red-haired mice, but it proved unsuccessful in humans as the substance could not penetrate our tougher skin.

Now, researchers in Boston have developed small molecules that can penetrate and darken human skin, which they hope one day will be used in conjunction with traditional sunscreens.

The molecule works by stimulating cells to produce more UV-absorbing pigments.

"Human skin is a very good barrier and is a formidable penetration challenge, therefore other topical approaches just did not work," said study author Dr David E Fisher, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

"But 10 years later, we have come up with a solution. It's a different class of compounds, that work by targeting a different enzyme that converges on the same pathway that leads to pigmentation."

It will be longer still before you might find such a product in your local pharmacy - more preclinical tests are needed before the treatment can be proven to be safe for human use.

Energy from paint

Researchers have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapour and split it to generate hydrogen - the cleanest source of energy. Photo / 123RF
Researchers have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapour and split it to generate hydrogen - the cleanest source of energy. Photo / 123RF

In other sun-related science news, researchers have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapour and split it to generate hydrogen - the cleanest source of energy.

The paint contains a newly developed compound that acts like silica gel, which is used in sachets to absorb moisture and keep food, medicines and electronics fresh and dry.

But unlike silica gel, the new material, synthetic molybdenum-sulphide, also acts as a semi-conductor and catalyses the splitting of water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

"We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air," said lead researcher Dr Torben Daeneke, of Melbourne's RMIT University.

"Titanium oxide is the white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate."

The breakthrough came with a big range of potential benefits: there was no need for a clean or filtered water to feed the system, and place that had water vapour in the air - even remote areas far from water - could produce fuel.