In the United States, almost
2 million adult nonsmokers vape
Of the 10. 8 million U.S. adults who used e-cigarettes
in 2016, about 1. 9 million were never smokers to begin
with, a study estimates.
E-cigarette companies market the devices, which heat
and vaporize liquids that typically contain nicotine, as a
way to help people quit smoking. But some public health
officials worry that e-cigarettes could become a means to
nicotine addiction, rather than an end.
This is of particular concern when it comes to young
adults and adolescents, whose developing brains are
especially vulnerable to addiction and health risks from
nicotine exposure. Among those who only vape, 63 percent — about 1. 2 million — were young adults ages 18 to
24, a team of U.S. researchers reports online October 9 in
Annals of Internal Medicine.
The work “highlights the potential
need to regulate sales and marketing
of e-cigarettes to protect vulnerable
populations,” the authors write.
The researchers analyzed 2016
data from the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention’s
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance
System. Among 261,541 adult nonsmokers, defined as having fewer
than 100 cigarettes in a lifetime,
1. 4 percent reported vaping. That
corresponds to about 1. 9 million
nonsmokers who vape when extrapolated to the U.S. adult population.
— Aimee Cunningham
Self-driving cars see better with shrimp vision
A new type of camera inspired by the eyes of mantis shrimps could help self-driving
cars better gauge their surroundings, researchers report in the Oct. 20 Optica. The
camera — which detects polarized light, or light waves vibrating on a single plane (as
seen at left) — has roughly half a million sensors that each capture light and dark spots
within a single frame. That’s similar to how mantis shrimps see the world.
The researchers wanted to “mimic the animals’ ability to detect a wide range of light
intensities” as the crustaceans move in and out of crevices in shallow waters, says electrical engineer Viktor Gruev of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The
range of light intensities a camera takes in is measured in decibels. Earlier polarization
cameras operated within a 60-decibel range; the new one works in a 140-decibel range.
A variety of technologies help guide autonomous vehicles, including lidar (light
detection and ranging equipment), GPS and digital cameras, but those cameras aren’t
good at handling lighting transitions, and they have trouble in fog (SN: 12/24/16, p. 34).
Gruev says the new cameras could cost as little as $10. — Jennifer Leman
E-cigarette users in
the United States
in 2016 who were
Portion of sole
who were young
adults, ages 18–24
Climate change threatens beer
Beer lovers could be left with a sour taste, thanks to news from
the latest study to map the effects of climate change on crops.
Barley, a key ingredient in beer, is particularly sensitive
to temperature change and drought, both of which are likely
to increase due to climate change. As a result, average global
barley crop yields could drop as much as 17 percent by 2099,
compared with the average yield from 1981 to 2010, under the
more extreme climate change projections, researchers report
October 15 in Nature Plants.
That decline “could lead to, on average, a doubling of [beer]
price in some countries,” says coauthor Steven Davis, an Earth
systems scientist at the University of California, Irvine. Beer consumption would also drop globally by an average of 16 percent, or
about what people in the United States consumed in 2011.
The results are based on computer simulations projecting
climate conditions, plant responses and global market reactions
through 2099. Under the mildest climate change predictions,
average barley yields would still go down by at least 3 percent,
and average prices would rise some 15 percent, the study says.
Other crops such as maize, wheat, soy beans and wine grapes
are also threatened by the global rise in average atmospheric
temperatures as well as by pests emboldened by erratic weather
(SN: 4/1/17, p. 14). There’s still hope for beer aficionados. The
study did not account for technological innovations or genetic
tweaks that could spare the crop, Davis says. — Jennifer Leman