How bacteria make it rain; and using psychedelics to treat trauma

The first of two articles for the BBC Focus end of year special – ‘Radical Ideas to Expand Your Mind’ – explored how microorganisms known as ‘ice-nucleation active bacteria’ can affect the weather.

These bacteria, normally found on crops, help ice form at slightly warmer temperatures than normal, and when blown off fields, high into the atmosphere, help rainclouds to form. Dr Cindy Morris, an expert in ice-nucleating bacteria, believes the bacteria are more important to global weather than previously thought and could even be used to ‘seed’ rain during droughts.

In the second, I spoke to psychotherapists exploring the use of psychedelic drugs to treat severe post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems, such as the anxiety experienced by patients with terminal disease. The article looks at trials of ‘augmented psychotherapy’ where patients are given psychedelic drugs like psilocybin (magic mushrooms), MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine and even ayahuasca, the plant-based brew used in shamanic rituals by tribes in the Amazon basin. The interesting results could mean controls on these substances are relaxed to allow further research.