Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Startling Discovery

I usually wait to link scientific discoveries on Friday, but this was so remarkable that I'm going to go ahead and post it today. From MSNBC:
NEW YORK - Scientists have uncovered a startling explanation for the explosion in children's asthma: variations in the earth's own gravitational field.

Dr. Joel Asanya spent over five years on the island of Tristan da Cunha, trying to understand why half of the island's population had asthma. With absolutely no air pollution and strong winds, Tristan da Cunha was perhaps the least likely place on Earth for someone to develop asthma.

After a detailed examination of home environments that lasted over eighteen months, though, Asanya could find no common factors that could plausibly explain the epidemic. He did, however, have a gravitational reader that had been used in a previous, unrelated study, and its readings were consistently higher than 1.00 (Earth's gravity).

"I thought it was broken," Dr. Asanya said, "and I sent it back to the manufacturer. When I received the replacement, I plugged it in and it read 1.03, which is impossible. At that point, I became suspicious."

Asanya contacted colleagues around the world and asked them to make similar readings, then plotted the data in conjunction with known rates of asthma across the world.

The results were startling.

"I was stunned by the correlation between higher gravity readings and concentration of asthma sufferers," he said. "It was as if I was drawing the same map twice."

Asanya's discovery has wide and far-reaching implications for the prevention and treatment of asthma, say medical experts worldwide. "I think it's very eye-opening and I think it should start some serious discussion, said Dr. Jonathan Ramley, Director Of Respiratory Disease Study at Johns Hopkins. "Curing asthma may be as simple as relocating to an area with a normal gravitational field."

Dr. Asanya's study will be published later this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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