Tuesday, 28/1/2020 | 7:34 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Honouring Scientific Discoveries, Innovation, and Progress

Plants, animals, fungi and viruses: the IAEA contributes to science for finding solutions to today’s problems. (Photos from left to right: Q. Liang/IAEA, J. Teyssie/IAEA, Joint FAO/IAEA Programme, NIAID/Flickr)

Through science we can uncover the beauties and mysteries of the natural world. Careful observations and experiments allow us to develop a deeper understanding of how the world works and discover new layers of the complex systems around us, from the immensity of the universe to the power of the tiny atom. This scientific knowledge has historically influenced and advanced our progress as a civilization, and as science makes breakthroughs, they chart new paths for innovation and improvement of our lives.

In commemorating hundreds of years of scientific study, the IAEA is joining the international community in celebrating World Science Day for Peace and Development on 10 November 2014. In support of this year’s UNESCO theme on Quality Science Education: Ensuring a Sustainable Future for All, the IAEA is highlighting some of its recent scientific contributions to help educate the public about the many, often lesser known roles the IAEA plays in building a sustainable future and helping to bridge the gap between science and societies — one of the core aims of this annual celebration.

Finding Four in One: Breaking Research in Fruit Fly Genetic Mapping

Four destructive fruit fly species that have posed a global biosecurity threat were identified in late 2014 by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division as being one and the same. Identifying that the flies are one species is central to quarantine, international trade, pest management and basic scientific research. This knowledge also allows for more targeted application of the sterile insect technique (SIT), a tool using ionizing radiation to mass sterilize male insect pests, for reducing the populations of these pests and their devastating impact on the global agricultural development.

Combating an Epidemic: Supplying Diagnostic Technology for the Fight against Ebola

The largest and most complex outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) since the virus was discovered in 1976 took place in 2014 affecting certain countries in West Africa. The disease causes serious illness which is often fatal if left untreated. The most severely affected countries have weak health systems and lack the resources to supply adequate care. Early diagnosis of EVD, if combined with appropriate medical care, increases the victims’ chance of survival and helps curtail the spread of the disease by making it possible to isolate and treat the patients earlier.

In answer to the United Nations Security Council appeal for international support and Sierra Leone’s request to the IAEA, the Agency set a plan into motion to supply Sierra Leone and other countries with diagnostic technology known as Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), a nuclear-derived technology which allows EVD to be detected within a few hours, a stark contrast to other methods that require several days before a diagnosis.

Cracking the Code: Unravelling the Tsetse Fly Genome

The genome of the tsetse fly, an insect pest causing food insecurity and severe illness in humans and animals, was sequenced and annotated in early 2014 through the ten-year collaborative effort of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division and over 140 scientists worldwide. This breakthrough is contributing to the effective application of the sterile insect technique (SIT), a tool using ionizing radiation to mass sterilize male insect pests, for the suppression, and in some cases, eradication of these insect pests throughout mid-continental Africa between the Sahara and the Kalahari deserts.

Facing the Changing Climate: Understanding Environmental Complexities with Nuclear Science

The ocean contains complex ecosystems. The deterioration of these ecosystems is in part a reflection of the changing global climate which brings symptoms of ocean acidification, rising global temperatures and increasingly severe weather events. By supporting the use of nuclear-related technologies, such as isotopic analysis, the IAEA is aiding scientists worldwide in studying environmental processes and gaining a deeper understanding of its complexities. This enhanced knowledge can help us to protect the environment and address the challenges of climate change, which can have a significant impact on this generation and generations to come.

Irradiating Foods to Help People: From Displaced Villagers to Farmers and Everyday People

When a landslide hit a small village in Indonesia in 2013, more than 2000 villagers were displaced and food was scarce. In response, the Joint FAO/IAEA division and the Indonesian National Nuclear Energy Agency supported work to bring the villagers meals with traditional Indonesian flavours that had been made safe through food irradiation. Food irradiation is the process of using ionizing radiation to eliminate any microorganisms that could spoil food without effecting its taste or quality. It enables the food to be transported and stored at room-temperature for long periods without going bad. Safer foods also benefit patients with weakened immune systems who easily fall victim to food illnesses. Additionaly, these irradiation techniques can be used in treating and preserving crops and food to prevent the spread of unwanted pests or other disease-carrying bacteria, which can assist in securing a farmer’s socio-economic situation and enhancing food security for people throughout the world.

Protecting Livelihoods and Food Security: Breeding a New Wheat Variety to Battle Ug99

When the wheat crops of eastern Africa and the Middle East were hit by Ug99, a fungus that causes wheat stem rust disease, farmers were devastated as they watched their wheat crops and their livelihoods be devoured by the rapidly spreading disease. As the wheat disease destroyed over 37 per cent of crops, its threat to food security grew. In the face of a pending wheat epidemic, the Joint FAO/IAEA Division in collaboration with a network of over 20 Member States, quickly responded and developed a new mutant variety of wheat that was resistant to Ug99 by using minute doses of radiation to induce mutations. These nuclear techniques in plant breeding and genetics allow scientists to develop new varieties of plants that are useful for crop improvement and agriculture, such as varieties that can withstand drought, saline soil conditions and diseases. 

Unlocking History: Investigating the Past and Age-old Mysteries with Paleoradiology

Unwrapping the mysteries of Egyptian mummies and uncovering stories buried in historical artefacts, paleoradiologists use nuclear technologies to analyse artefacts and shed light on the details of the world hundreds and thousands of years ago. Using tools like X-rays, computed tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), experts can non-invasively collect billions of data points from artefacts that are under archaeological study and cultural preservation. This process leaves the artefacts intact, untouched and unharmed, yet delivers a wealth of information and insight into the historical past of human civilization.