Geek Out: Angelina and family take on breast cancer

Angelina

Hello Geeks,

I want to start by saying thank you to all my followers, readers and sharers. It has been a few weeks since my last post, life sometimes throws you a curve ball that takes you off track but I am back on it now. I have received so many lovely messages asking me to write more and your support is invaluable. Thank you so much.

I am in the middle of writing up a few posts simultaneously, one of which is very dear to my heart but before I wrap them up and post them I wanted to share Angelina Jolie’s amazing story in which she shares with us her decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. I have always secretly admired this woman for her strength, leadership and fighting for what she believes in despite what the media or people say about her.

It was the first thing I read this morning and it resonated with me much for two reasons. One, my father suffers from cancer and although it was in remission for a while it came back full throttle early last year and it made me wonder about the chances of me and my siblings developing the same cancer. Two, I remembered writing a post a while back about how important it was for all women to do the monthly breasts check up for lumps, this is one of the simplest ways for us to take some preventative action and control. My favourite quote from Angelina’s story is “Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of”

Click here for her full story. Read it, share it and then go back to my post about breast cancer checks , in-fact I am going to re-post it right after this post. In the words of Angelina and Janet, take control ladies, only you can. Play Janet in the background and do it now, if you are at work take a toilet break and do it in the toilet, don’t procrastinate with your health.

Ex

Google Glass

GoogleGlass2

Hello Geeks,

I was surprised that when I mentioned Google Glass to my friends and colleagues in-order to find out what they thought about it, not all of them knew what I was talking about. Secretly, I think I also want to be a tech nerd because I get really excited about new technology, inventions and gadgets. I am super-excited about Google Glass, it feels like “The Future” that I imagined as a kid has finally arrived…well, almost.

On the 20th of February, Google finally released Google Glass to the public. However, the people at Google are very clever and have come up with a brilliant marketing strategy. You cannot go and simply buy Glass just yet, no that would be too easy and Apple have upped the game when it comes to creating hype around a product.

google glass

In-order to get your hands on one of these bad boys you have to enter an essay contest of sorts and apply to The Google Glass Explorers Programme (you can Google that if you want to know more or get involved). Once you have been selected as worthy by the Glass team, you also have to pay $1,500 dollars and they are yours to do as you please with; EXCEPT you are legally bound from re-selling it to anyone or Google will de-activate the product (I knew they always had control over our gadgetsl!). Don’t worry, if you do not want to be an explorer or write 50 words or less followed by the #ifihadglass, Google aims to bring Glass to the market early next year for all.

Click on the video below and get hyped.

Oh and please humour me and click on this video, too funny.

E

Q- Dr E, how do I know if I am lactose intolerant or not?

SayCheese_Lactose

Happy Friday Geeks,

It has been a while since my last knock knock post and I’m excited to put this one out. I get asked this question all the time and it is not an easy one to answer scientifically but I am going to give it my best shot. It is science “thick” but I am going to do my best here to touch all bases and hopefully make the science easier for everyone to digest (like my little pun here?)

I hear people say they think they are lactose intolerant quite often and they usually go to the extreme of cutting out all dairy products. I can definitely understand why that would be the first point of action for many, but it has always worried me because dairy products are our main form of calcium intake (as well as good protein and carbohydrate sources). Calcium is a very important part of our diet and it is hard for many to grasp how important it is until they are at an age (50 and over) where they are prone to an increase in bone fractures and other calcium related dis-orders associated with calcium restriction.

Let me start by explaining to you what lactose actually does for us. Lactose is the main source of sugar from milk and milk products from all mammals except the sea lion. After ingestion, lactose passes into the small intestine where it comes into contact with lactase (a natural enzyme within our bodies) at the intestinal brush border where it is hydrolysed/converted into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose (sugars), which are easily absorbed. In-short, lactose is good for us because it can be converted to sugars by lactase which are then used by many bio-chemical processes in our systems. Remember sugars are not bad!, sugars are basically our human fuel or petrol, a car can’t run properly without a good supply of petrol and the same goes for our bodies. Over subscription to sugars is what is bad.

Save_Lactose

Now that is out of the way. What do we mean when we say someone is lactose intolerant? And this is where it can get a little confusing. Time for the hard-core science section.

Non-digested lactose can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and distending the intestines (bloating, cramps, abdominal discomfort) as well as psychological symptoms, events that are likely to lead to clinical symptoms.

Lactose malabsorption refers to inefficient digestion of lactose due to reduced expression or impaired activity of the enzyme lactase.

Lactose intolerance is when the gastrointestinal symptoms are clinically observed in an individual with lactose malabsorption.

Lactose_Intolerance_Diagram

What causes lactose malabsorption I hear you ask? The most common cause of lactose malabsorption is lactase non-persistence also known as lactase deficiency, a common condition in which lactase expression decreases during infancy. What this means is that we naturally start off needing lactose as it is our earliest form of providing our systems with the sugars/energy it needs to grow and develop to adults. But, as we get older we don’t need it as much. I am about to really go in on this, hope you are ready?

Lactase activity changes during development. In most humans, lactase activity reaches a maximum in late pregnancy but declines after 2–3 years of age and reaches a stable low level at age 5–10 (this is thought to be a process which might help weaning). However, a proportion of the human population, especially Caucasians from Northern Europe or Northern European descent, retain high lactase levels during adulthood. This is known as lactase persistence. Just to be clear, lactase persistence means you and lactose can be good friends, if you want to.

Therefore, lactase persistence and non-persistence are both “normal” human phenotypes. What is very interesting, is where lactase persistence is found and why?  The prevalence of lactase persistence is high  in most regions in Scandinavia, the British Islands, and Germany (80–95%); however, this condition is observed in only 20–40% of Indian adults, 30% of Mexicans, 30% of African Americans.

Lactase persistence is thought to be related to the development of farming during the last 10,000 years. Just in-case you really really wanted to know, the genetic polymorphism responsible for most cases of lactase persistence in Caucasian individuals is the13910C/T variant (it’s all very straight-froward :-), T at position 13910 upstream of the lactase gene within a putative regulatory DNA-region causes persistence; C leads to non-persistence). Basically if you are from any of these regions you are good and if you are mixed, then you are also good because lactose malabsorption is a recessive condition meaning you need a homozygous genotype as a heterozygous/mixed geneotype is considered clinically negative.

African tribes that herd cattle in Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania also have high prevalence for lactase persistence. However, lactase persistence is mediated by a different polymorphism (gene/DNA change). Importantly, this tells us that lactase persistence developed several times independently in human evolution in different areas of the world. So again, if you are east African you and lactose can be good friends. Of-course exceptions to the rule do exist, as they do with everything. (for review, see Ingram et al Human Genet 2009; 124: 579–591)

Lactose_Map

Statistical calculations of genetic data estimated that selection for lactase persistence commenced relatively recently, during the last 10,000 years. Lactase persistence was beneficial for our ancestors by providing a clean source of fluid and a source of protein, fat, and carbohydrates  generating a selective advantage of 1.5–19% in each generation. This indicates a strong selection pressure comparable to malaria resistance genes (2–5% for G6PD deficiency, 5–18% for sickle-cell trait) in various parts of the world. That is a big deal by the way, selective advantages are hard to prove.

So those rumours that humans are not supposed to drink milk, especially cows milk are questionable for two reasons, two very different reasons, in my humble opinion. Firstly, no significant bio-chemical difference between lactose in breast milk and cows milk has been observed, they both get digested in the same way via the lactase enzyme, which is common and present a birth. It is very rare that you are born lactose intolerant (known as congenital lactase deficiency). Secondly, cows milk has been reported to be ingested by humans from times dating back to the father of man, The Prophet Abraham according Biblical and Quranic scriptures and that tells me something, whether you are spiritual or not, history should at least strike a cord here? or maybe be not? As a scientist, I personally believe all evidence should be taken into account, including historical, religious, spiritual evidences.

Saying all the above, I do appreciate that many people are experiencing discomfort when ingesting milk and dairy products. So what do you do if you are one of them?

Treatment of lactose intolerance should not be aimed at reducing malabsorption but rather at improving digestive symptoms. Reduction of lactose intake rather than exclusion is recommended because long-term effects of lactose restriction may help improve gastrointestinal complaints but can lead to other damages. For example, the long-term effects of a diet free of dairy products may be a concern as you are significantly decreasing the amount of calcium. Low calcium levels are leading to an increase in fractures and orthopaedic problems. Adolescents require approximately 1300mg and over 50’s approximately 1200mg of calcium, which is roughly equal to 3 cups of milk per day. Furthermore, in blinded studies results indicate that most patients with self-reported lactose intolerance can ingest at least 12g lactose (equivalent to 250ml milk) without experiencing symptoms and taken with other foods, up to 18g lactose can often be tolerated (Suarez FL, Savaiano DA and Levitt MD, N Engl J Med1995; 333: 1–4).

I know I took you all through the paces with this one, but I really wanted to flesh this one out. As with everything all food groups are important and good for you as long as it is taken with moderation, completely cutting out a good source of calcium because you think you may be lactose intolerant is not recommended. But, if you are then you should take all necessary steps to make sure you are providing your body with the healthy amount of nutrients it requires. Many lactose supplements and calcium supplements produced as “drugs” are available that can be taken to supplement your diet, but I hope you go the foodie route, it is much more colourful, fun and tastes all so wonderful.

Lactose_ComicStrip

Hope you enjoyed the read and if the science was too “thick” for you ( ha, not sure why I like that word today, but like I do) click play and relax to this brilliant song by James Blake.

Have a great weekend all.

E

Weapons of choice – guerilla gardening

GG1

Hello Geeks,

I have been meaning to post this video for over two weeks when a good friend of mine put me on it. You may have guessed I am a big fan of TED videos so I make no apologies for posting up yet another amazing story.

Ron Finley had a major problem with the fast food culture in his community and would drive for 45mins out of town to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables to help him maintain a healthy diet and life-style. This video is about how one inspirational man and his vision provided some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

He plants vegetable gardens in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs in South Central LA. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some hope for future generations. Press play and witness how one man’s great vision/seed grew and became a pillar of education, empowerment and hope for his community.

One of my favourite quotes from his talk is “you will be surprised how much of a difference a sunflower makes, they are beautiful just to look at”

Sunflower

So on that note I want to leave you with one of my all time favourite songs. Special shout out to my London people fighting the April snow.

Eyman

p.s We are trying to grow our own avocado plant at home.  The roots have started to shoot but we are not sure if it’s time to pot it or not? anyone got any tips they can send my way? or even better some photos.

How to reverse climate change- The best argument I have seen so far.

New_ClimateChange

Hey Geeks,

This past week in London has been crazy weather wise, we have experienced snow, rain and sunshine all in one day and within moments of each other. This has been the coldest March in over 70 years. Those that know me, know I am not a fan of the cold, I much prefer temperatures close to and above the 30 degrees Celsius mark, I am from what they term sub-saharan Africa after-all.

Naturally, I kept blaming it all on climate change and that got me to researching the topic yet again. The battle against climate change has always been a complicated one leading to heated discussions mainly because the world we live in is controlled by many factors such as politics, economics, health and population dynamics. As you can imagine, these factors do not go well together especially when they are pitched up against science and carbon cutting necessities such as reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. But let us not get too political here. That is not what this post is about, I want to introduce you to a new exciting theory I came across during my research. I love TED for things like this.

Deserts_ClimateChange

Whilst researching I came across Allan Savory’s TED talk titled- How to green the desert and reverse climate change. It blew me away. I learned so much and his theory actually makes more sense than anything else I have ever read on the topic. I don’t want to give too much away but the man made a mistake in his early career and spent the rest of his life figuring out a way to make up for it. The story and science is compelling to say the least and I urge you to press play and hear him out (he is a slow talker but he talks with passion and heart).

He said “We once thought the earth was flat. We were wrong. We are wrong again. I was wrong”. It takes a brave man to admit his mistake and dedicate his life to fixing that mistake.

This is one of my favourite songs as it is one of the few early songs that uses Sudan within the lyrics and I thought it was very fitting for this post.

Press play and enjoy the journey.

Have a great weekend.

Eyman

Fire In The Blood

FireInTheBlood

Hello,

I have been waiting to see this documentary ever since I read about it over 6 months ago. It was finally release here on the 23rd of February to my excitement. Unfortunately, viewing it turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated. Several frustrating searches revealed that it was only showing at a hand full of cinemas in London and even at these cinemas it was only showing at those “difficult to make” times.

I actually do not know why I expected it to be, maybe because it was given great reviews at Sundance and by most major critics and I some how lost track that it is actually reporting one of the worlds largest humanitarian disgraces; the failure of western pharmaceutical companies to provide affordable drugs to patients in the developing world. So of course it would not be “main-streamed”.

This campaigning documentary basically indicts the pharmaceutical giants that could have saved millions from AIDS in the developing world. This is what the the Guardian said about it:

“As presented, the corporate defence sounds horribly racist: that poorer Africans’ inability to read packaging or tell the time leaves them ill-suited to following any medication program. For some time, director Dylan Mohan Gray is limited to restating the same depressing story, using input from doctors and campaigners to punctuate footage of families grieving around child-sized coffins. But hope emerges in the form of the Indian physicist Yusuf Hamied, whose company Cipla undertook in the noughties to produce cheap, generic drugs in defiance of the Pfizer patent lawyers. As the indignation rises, the outcome of this battle cannot entirely be guessed, although one closing credit appears to address Big Pharma directly: “Help prevent a sequel.”

Please, if it is showing anywhere near you, go and watch this documentary. Conspiracy theory aside, it is important that you know that HIV/AIDs should not be around now (we know all we need to know about it as scientists/researchers) and medically we know how to put a stop to it. Why is it still around and increasing, polio isn’t and neither is small pox!?!?!?!?

Click on the trailer below.

I am going to see it tomorrow at Ritzy, Brixton, London. I hope it gives us all food for thought and further understanding to the type of world we live. Maybe in the future, we can figure out a way to support those who do not follow the “rules” and get rid of medical patents. I hope.

E

Genetically Modified Foods Can Make or Break Africa? The Debate.

GMO1

Hey All,

I did promise more on the Science Theories section so here it is. Roughly, three weeks ago I was invited to debate the topic of this post on the Africa Today show for Press TV by Henry Bonsu. It was a great experience and brought back to light an subject that was very much in the public eye over 10 years ago but has since slipped under the radar.

The reason for this re-interest in the subject was Kenya’s recent decision to ban the import of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). I want to take a moment to explain the science behind GMO’s before getting into the debate.

The general feeling behind genetically modified foods or organisms in Europe and the UK is an instant flurry of negatives emotions. I know this, because I get to hear the general public express those emotions at a geneticists quite often. This is by far not the public’s fault, however, it is exactly what the media has lead you to feel and think. I am about to tell you why, but first the hardcore science explanation.

I simplify genetically modified organisms as super-speed Mendelian genetics. Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) spent many years cross pollinating different strains of plants, mainly peas, in-order to create the best/strongest/weakest/largest/smallest version of the plant/pea. He noticed that some species had certain traits that he deemed worthy and others he deemed unworthy, for want of another word. Mendel demonstrated that the inheritance of certain traits followed particular patterns, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance. One of the most significant discoveries in Science. Absolutely brilliant stuff for that time.

After completing his work with peas, Mendel turned to experimenting with honeybees to extend his work to animals. He produced a hybrid strain so vicious they were destroyed, but failed to generate a clear picture of their heredity because of the difficulties in controlling mating behaviours of queen bees. He also described novel plant species. What is important to note here is that this process is seen as “natural” by the media as it didn’t happen in a laboratory. However, it is not “natural” as it was forced by a series of events created by a person, in this case Mendel. For it to happen naturally it would mean Mendel had to live three life-times for us to gain the same results.

Now fast-forward to today’s modern day science, following the “genetic revolution” and this same process is no longer “natural” but “un-natural” because it happens much faster in a laboratory and we are more precise about which traits we deem as worthy. Instead of waiting for each new plant to produce a new hybrid, we can now insert the desired DNA or genetic information that produces the hybrid we want, more precisely and dare I say it, more safely. Why? because we have the technology and means to do it, we can read whole DNA sequences now. It is all very simple and very routine and has been in action for approximately many years now. Furthermore, no absolute health issues have been associated with GM foods which have been in our food chain for over 20 years now, whether you knew that or not is another matter.

Here is a simplified scientific diagram of how it works;

GMO-making

I ask you this, why have we not been asked to go back to a slower internet speeds becasue of the probable health risk which has been associated with technological radiation and its increased connectivity in the future? This also has not been absolutely proven. Maybe the media hasn’t told you to do so yet? I wonder why….could it be financial death for Western Industries?..who knows…but I am just saying..it is worth mulling over..

GMO_Int

Now to the debate. Globally, GM research is led by six large multinational companies in industrial countries, the USA being the largest. These corporate and capitalist companies drive to sell the GMO’s they produced and patented to Africa and not Europe.

Although human development, food security & environmental health issues are often the focus of marketing strategies for companies it is unlikely that such altruistic concerns are driving their investment! The developing agricultural state of Africa is a potential market as a consumer especially as Europe is not receptive to GM products (much aided by the media).

In developing countries, Brazil, Argentina, China & India are leading in independently producing GM products.  In Africa the countries which have GM capacity include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Egypt & Uganda but very minimally. Others are only recently starting to engage in research & field trials.

As a scientist, I do not have a problem with GM crops, food or research. In-fact I would go as far as supporting it. Economic world analysis predict a major food crisis in the near future. A food crisis that I believe Africa could avoid if it was to invest in it’s own GMO research and development.

The issue is the private sector dominance has meant the focus is on developed country concerns e.g. improved crop quality instead of drought tolerance or yield enhancement, saving labour costs associated to herbicides and insecticides. Insect resistant crops are particularly important for Africa due to infestation losses leading to approximately 15% of losses. In some cases, such as with the African cassava mosaic virus total loss of harvests has been reported. Genetically modified cassava could save African farmers large economic losses. So far the only way to stop it is intensive use of insecticides, which is expensive & also known to lead to biosafety issues later down the line such as those reported by the use of DDT (currently banned insecticide which was commonly used in the 90’s world-wide).

So what is the major problem here and why has Kenya taken such a strong stance? It is not without reason especially when you take a closer look at the industry and the politics or policies that control it.

Much like the pharmaceutical and music industries, the agricultural industry is also under the control of Intellectual Property (IP) patents and policies which are being monopolised by corporate capitalist companies mainly from the US and “west”.

GMO_Patent

Importantly, developing country considerations for balancing incentives to producers are very different from the US context. Multinationals based in the US and elsewhere who are investing large sums in biotechnology and plant breeding would need large markets for their products and strong patent protection on genes as well as on tools and varieties to protect their investments.
In other words,  strong IP recognising plants and gene patents favours corporate investment, and arguably monopolistic tendencies while discouraging small enterprises and diversity of supply which is needed in Africa. Moreover, strong IP leads to higher prices for longer periods of time. China would appear to have no IP protection for its GM and the question being asked is if weak intellectual property protection becomes a constraint to innovation?  This has now become a major challenge that policy makers face in China.
So it seems Africa is stuck between a rock and a hard-place. Do we say no and risk being the reason for Africa’s food crisis in the future? or do we fall prey to the corporate companies using our land for their own prospects. I always try to be optimistic and in my optimistic and perfect world a mid-way solution is possible. Developing countries in Africa have not developed research facilities and as such are years behind in-terms of biotechnology and innovation strategies. We need to catch up, invest and make it one of the most pressing policies for Africa’s development as a continent. Africa should rightly be the leading agricultural super-power of the world, we have been blessed with the most suitable land.
Currently, developing countries can license these transgenic biotechnologies and in some cases collaborate successfully with the west, for example Burkina Faso and the cotton industry. Another example to support my optimistic world exemplifies why research cooperation between developing countries and institutions or companies based in the developed world has been important in promoting transgenic research in Africa. 
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (SFIT) in Zurich plans to collaborate with researchers in Nigeria, the UK and the USA on the African cassava mosaic virus (Sawahel 2005). This virus is transmitted to cassava by white flies when they feed on the plant. In parts of Eastern and Central Africa, epidemics of the disease can lead to total loss of harvests. Researchers at SFIT have used genes from a virus that periodically devastates cassava crops to create cassava plants that can resist the virus. Cassava is an important food crop in many parts of Africa and is strongly affected by genetic erosion, pest infestation and plant disease (Aerni,2005). Genetically modified cassava could save African farmers large economic losses. So far, the only way to curb the virus is by intensive use of insecticide to kill white flies. But this can be prohibitively expensive for subsistence farmers and can threaten their health and that of surrounding plants and animals (Sawahel 2005). This is when you have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of scientific innovations.
But the question still begs, can revenues from patent licenses finance research and development for small markets of developing country research? As we know from the pharmaceutical sector, strong patents can be an incentive to develop high price products for high income consumers, but can do little to encourage investment in high need products for low income consumers (as good example of this are retroviral drugs for the HIV/Aids epidemic). In the pharmaceuticals sector, this has led to large investments in diseases of the wealthy and neglect of diseases of the poor – or ‘orphan diseases’. Naylor et al (2004) have argued that a similar process could be at work with private investments in agriculture. Here is where the danger lies in my opinion.
I would like to conclude by saying no technology or human activity is completely risk free, people accept new technologies or sciences because they can see the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks. Public mistrust of governments & private sectors is validated in recent times. Policy makers need to be aware of this and better scientific information needs to be given to farmers and people in general. A key challenge in Africa is dealing with the information Gap. Kenya has 17 biotechnology research facilities and currently only one of them is investing in transgenic technology research for agriculture. I hope that they increase the research in this area and develop solutions for Africa by Africa.
The debate here is not black and white and I have so much more to say, although I could go on for much longer dissecting this issue, I would like to leave you with two very interesting chapters to read if you are interested. Click on this link and this link to really get stuck in.
Let me know what you think? Yay or Nay? Thank you for reading and I look forwards to your opinions and comments on this important topic.
Until next time, stay blessed.
Ex

Utopia

utopia2

Hello All,

This is the first time I am recommending a TV series and when you watch it you will understand why Geeks. This is by far the best Channel 4 Drama series I have had the pleasure of viewing in..I can’t remember how long. The writing is brilliant and the content blew me away. Not only is the writing splendid in my humble opinion but the whole thing was easy on the eye as it is coupled with beautiful photography and filming. I even went to the trouble of taking a few screen shots to share with you.

utopia1utopia4

I am no stranger to the conspiracy theories thrown at scientists, as a geneticist you hear all sorts of theories such as the “fact” that human cloning has already been achieved (this seems to be everyone’s favourite) . This is the first Sci-Fi drama  that has really made me question some of the recent scientific developments and honestly made me question how powerful science can be in the wrong hands. I don’t want to give too much away so below is the summary provided by Channel 4 ;

The Utopia Experiments is a legendary graphic novel shrouded in mystery. But when a small group of previously unconnected people find themselves in possession of an original manuscript, their lives suddenly and brutally implode.

Targeted swiftly and relentlessly by a murderous organisation known as The Network, the terrified group are left with only one option if they want to survive: they have to run.

utopia3I urge you to log onto Channel 4OD and enjoy. You can thank me later.

Eyman

The 3D Printing Craze- Anyone for a 3D printed foetus?

3Dbaby1

Happy Friday Everyone,

The weekend is here but before we all get into the swing of things I wanted to share with you a debate I have been having with myself, in my own head, as you do, so please indulge me :-). You may or may not have come across technology’s newest advancement in printers, the 3D printer. These printers literally mean you can design something and print a 3D model either in miniature or to scale (if the design fits within the parameters of the printers settings of-course, some things do not change!). All sorts of things are being printed, tea-cups, mini-architectural designs, spoons, key rings and well you get the idea right?

Or, if you live in Japan, you can get a 3D printed foetus. Yep, that’s right, a 3D foetus. A Japanese clinic is offering parents-to-be the chance to hold their baby months before the child leaves the womb. The technology offered by Fasotec and Hiroo Ladies Clinic in Tokyo, Japan, creates a 3D model of the mother’s fetus and womb using a “Bio-Texture” process and MRI scans. The service is interestingly named “Shape of an Angel” and can be yours for a mere £764 or about $1,276 not including the cost of the MRI.  You get a small, plastic, anatomically accurate (if low on resolution) model of your son or daughter, encased, if you wish, in a see-through reproduction of the mothers midriff.

3Dbaby2

For the above price, the company will squeeze you or your partner into a MRI machine – a noisy, uncomfortable-for-the-patient piece of medical equipment capable of generating a 3D picture of the body’s interior – for an hour or so. I know you are thinking, that doesn’t sound nice but according to the Fasotec representative Tomohiro Kinoshita, the Japanese women loved it.

“We actually got three expectant mothers to try this out. They said it felt great to see how their babies looked before birth, and to be able to actually hold the inside of their own body,”  He goes on to say “They also enjoyed looking at the model after giving birth, thinking, ‘This is how my baby looked inside me’ and recalling how it felt to be pregnant.”

I am making light of it here but the technology is actually quite amazing. The service is in truth something of a PR stunt designed to promote Fasotec’s “bio-texture modelling” business, for which it has high hopes of making big money by connecting medical imaging technology to 3D printing. Fasotec also sees roles for the technology in plastic and reconstructive surgery, and in dentistry. My younger brother is an orthopaedic surgeon (aka the bone gods) and he thinks this will be the way medical students will learn to become surgeons in the future. Click on the video below to see for yourself. Pretty impressive stuff.

Although I have much respect for the technology and its promise of medical advancement, I just do not know how I feel about having a 3D print out of my foetus, when did a picture of your baby become a thing of the past? and why does this not excite me? Do they charge extra for twins, I wonder? the debate goes on….3D printed shoes however, I’ll take that.

3D_Shoes13Dshoes2

I love this song and all the shoes in this video, it has been the background song to my internal dialogues this week. Click play and enjoy while you ponder on the possibility of allowing a 3D print out foetus in your life.

Have a great weekend

Eyman

Sandy Vs Climate Change

New-York City, 2012. Photo by my favourite photographer Yosra El-essawy

Hey Geeks,

Recently, a storm by the name of Sandy wreaked havoc with devastating winds, record flooding, heavy snowfall and mass blackouts. Sandy wiped out homes along the New Jersey shore, submerged parts of New York City, and dumped snow as far south as the Carolinas. At least 50 people were reported killed in the United States, on top of 69 in the Caribbean (Jamaica and Haiti worst affected), while millions of people were left without power (numbers are still rising day by day). My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

Sandy, New-York, 2012.

I wrote this post a week ago but decided to wait before posting in-order to allow us all more time to come to terms with the impact off this event. I have been astonished at the lack of climate change debate following this hurricane. I guess I always thought “they will get it when the effects of climate change and/or global warming hit a major western city”. I quote myself here. What’s more concerning is that fact that some scientists say that the key to Sandy’s impact may be an extremely rare clash of weather systems, rather than the warmer temperatures that scientists have identified in other hurricanes and storms.

“It’s a hybrid storm, which combines some features of tropical hurricanes with some features of winter storms, that operate on quite different mechanisms,” said Kerry Emanuel, a professor of Atmospheric Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although Emanuel said that there is a clear link between climate change and general trends toward more intense tropical hurricanes, in the case of Sandy more long-term study is required to determine whether climate change played a major role. I mean, MORE long-term study? how much longer do we need to study this for? are we waiting on three more Sandy’s or 10? when does it become a fact that is taken just as seriously as “the war on terror”?

Sandy, Haiti, 2012.

Most scientists agree that climate change “likely” aggravated the “unique” circumstances that produced Sandy. They go so far as to “include” global warming  as “contributing” by causing ocean temperatures and sea levels to rise.

“Sea level rise makes storm surges worse and will continue to do so in the future,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of physics of the oceans at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Potsdam, Germany. He is also quoted saying that a record thaw of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean in September also might have helped build up high pressure in the North Atlantic that drove Sandy westward.

“I would be very cautious,” he said. “But there is reason to suspect that there could be a connection between the record sea ice loss this summer and the path of this storm.”

The question is why does he have to be cautious? Records show world sea levels have risen by 20 centimetres (8 inches) in the past 100 years, a trend blamed on melting ice and expanding water in the oceans caused by rising temperatures.

Importantly, scientists also note that world temperatures in September this year parallel those in 2005, the year hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, as the warmest in modern records, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Is this not evidence enough off the impacts of global warming?

Sandy, Jamaica, 2012.

The climate change debate has been going on long enough. Yes, we know that the climate was more benign 15 million years ago than it is now. And, yes, very little ice was at the poles with higher sea levels. It was like this 15 million years ago due to the high atmospheric C02 levels at approximately 400 parts per million (ppm) and warmer temperatures. It was those conditions that allowed plants to grow, reducing CO2 levels to 280ppm to just before the industrial revolution and allowed us humans to spread all over the earth. However, post the industrial revolution, seven billion humans burning fossil fuels has increased the C02 levels to 380ppm today. If we don’t take responsibility for this, it is predicted to increase to 600ppm or more in the next century. Ultimately creating atmospheric conditions not seen for more than 50 million years.

Take a moment and really sit with the information above. Hopefully, common sense will tell you that this kind of rapid change to our climate would all but destroy our homes, food production capabilities, populations dynamics and ultimately lead to the collapse of civilisation as we know it. It’s either we re-adapt to storms/hurricanes/drought/famine or begin to think about taking action to drastically reduce C02 levels and/or adapt our way of living to these new weather conditions. Seriously.

This is already happening.

FACT– Warmer temperatures mean that the atmosphere can hold more moisture, bringing more rain in many areas. A U.N. report this year predicted that a higher proportion of the world’s rain would fall in downpours during the 21st century, making floods more likely.

FACT– The latest research suggests that a warming climate will lead to more extreme weather events such as flooding rains and drought. Michael Rawlins,Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts ,Amherst.

FACT– Recent research indicates that greenhouse gases have raised the chances of some events, such as the Texas heatwave of 2011 or a European heatwave in 2003 that killed approximately 70,000 people.

FACT– If all the words above don’t convince you, have a look at the video below shot by Malin Fezehai called Vanishing Nation about the Island nations in the South Pacific.

Vanishing Nation from Malin Fezehai on Vimeo.

As individuals we CAN do something, we can make sure we vote for the right political parties, the ones that have a clear agenda for reducing C02 levels and/or tackling climate change. For example, this article in the Guardian journals an interesting perspective. We can work at reducing our own carbon footprint bit by bit by switching to more energy efficient systems. Every little bit counts, especially those of us in countries that are producing the most C02 as the truth of the matter is It is more our responsibility.

I have purposely not inserted any links within this post to any specific research. There are thousands of articles on-line detailing research both for and against the climate change theory. This is my personal opinion. Let me know what you think? Do you agree or disagree, it always makes for an interesting debate.
Click play whilst you think it over, please think it over.

Thank you for reading and please the knowledge.

Eyman