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Paraguay: Visit to Planetarium in Sajonia

Mon, 02/16/2009 - 10:21am

Mirtha González of Cuerpo y Alma [es] recommends readers to visit the planetarium in the Sajonia area of Asunción, Paraguay. As a trip with her son, she listened to an interesting talk given by the director, Professor Blas Servín.

Categories: Science Feed

Antarctica: More Blogs from the Coldest Place on Earth

Fri, 02/06/2009 - 7:50am

Editor's Note: This is part 2 in a 2-part series looking at blogs written from or about Antarctica by Latin Americans

The frigid surroundings of Antarctica may be the last place one would find bloggers. However, there have been a handful of Latin Americans who have become interested in sharing their experiences traveling or working on this desolate continent. Some do write directly from Antarctica posting photos and videos helping readers feel what it is like to be so far away from home, while others wait once they return to the South American continent to post to personal and group blogs.

A summary of the presence of other countries can be found at the first part of this series.

From Argentina, the blog Antarctic Open Expedition [es] is counting down the days until the new expedition departs for the frigid continent. Juan Kestelboim writes about his departure day:

hoy es quizás el día más importante de mi vida. Hace tres noches que no duermo, son las 3.45 de la mañana y en 45 minutos estaré en la puerta de la Dirección Nacional del Antártico para subir a un autobús con rumbo al aeropuerto militar de El Palomar. Allí me encontraré con Mariano Rabinstein, mi amigo de toda la vida con el que planeamos esto hace 12 meses.

Si todo sale bien, subiremos a un avión Hércules que en seis horas lllegará a Ushuaia. De la pista de aterrizaje, algún vehículo nos trasladará al ARA Canal de Beagle, un barco de carga de 120 metros de eslora y 17 de manga preparado para abastecer las bases antárticas argentinas. Pasaremos dos días entre olas de 10 metros y pastillas para el mareo antes de ver los primeros témpanos y a las personas que viven junto a ellos.

Today may be the most important day of my life. I have not slept for three nights, it is 3:45 a.m. and in 45 minutes I will be at the front door of the National Antarctic Office to board a bus towards the El Palomar military airport. There I will meet up with Mariano Rabinstein, my lifelong friend and with whom we have been planning this for the past 12 months.

If everything goes well, we will board a Hercules plane that will take us to Ushuaia in six hours. From the landing strip, some vehicle will take us to the ARA Beagle Channel, a cargo ship 120 meters long and 17 meters wide and which will supply the Argentine antarctic bases. We will spend two days on 10 meter high waves and with pills to combat seasickness before seeing the first ice caps and the people who live there.

The Argentine blogger Blinx has been blogging directly from the San Martín Scientific Base [es] and the site also contains a live webcam. He also filmed this time-lapsed video:

Timelapse Noviembre - Diciembre from blinx on Vimeo.

The blog Antarjub - Base Jubany - Antártida [es] maintained by Richard Javier Ortíz contains many educational posts, including one about the description of the climate:

El Clima tiene varias características, es húmedo por la cercanía con el mar, ya que es una isla y la Base está sobre la costa.También es muy ventoso, las precipitaciones son escasas en forma de llovizna, pero abundantes en nevada sobre todo en epoca invernal. No se producen tormentas eléctricas, ya que no llegan las corrientes cálidas hasta esta latitud. Si existe la llamada ventizca que son fuertes ráfagas de viento con precipitación de nieve, dando como resultado la visibilidad casi nula en reiteradas oportunidades y hasta serias dificultades para deambular. La temperatura en el verano, suele estar en el rango de -10 a +7 con registros mínimo de -17 y máximo 10 en ocaciones. En Invierno la mínima puede llegar holgadamente a los -30 y la máxima apenas llega a una cifra (+7). En cuanto al viento, es muy común en esta zona, al punto de considerar un buen día cuando sólo hay 20 o 30 Km/h pudiendo llegar sobre todo en invierno a los 170 Km/h, velocidad ésta que dificulta mucho caminar, y si a esto le sumamos la inestabilidad debido al hielo del suelo, resulta peligroso andar a la intemperie.

The climate has various characteristics, it is humid for its proximity to the ocean, since it is an island and the Base is on the coast. It is also very windy, precipitation is scarce in the form of drizzle, but snow is plentiful especially in winter. There are no electrical storms, since warm currents do not reach this latitude. However, there is what they call “ventizca” which are strong gusts of wind with snow precipitation, which makes visibility almost zero and makes it difficult to walk around. The summer temperature can reach a range of -10 to +7 C with minimum temperatures of -17 and up to 10 on occasion. In winter, the minimum temperature can reach -30 and the maximum barely reaches +7C. In terms of wind, it is very common in this area, and it is considered to be a good day when it only reaches 20 or 30 km/h and in winter the winds can reach up to 170 km/h making it very difficult to walk, and if we add the instability due to the ice on the ground, makes it very dangerous to walk out in the open.

There are some blogs that also contain some interesting photos such as Fresco pa' chomba! [es] and Lince Bajo Cero [es]. Another Argentine blogger named Martín writes at El Grillo Loco Desde La Base Antártica [es] and describes the role of the Argentine Polar Dogs:

Traidos por el General Pujato (fundador de la base) en 1950, originarios de Alaska y Canada. Han sido imprescindibles para las penetraciones polares del Ejercito Argentino. Cada año se fueron multiplicando y cruzando, hasta conformar una raza robusta y resistente de mayor porte y peso que sus padres originales. Simpáticos y dóciles, amigos incondicionales de los hombres, eran sumamente agresivos entre si, llegando a consumar peleas a muerte. Con increíble sensibilidad e instinto para detectar grietas, poseían capacidad para alertar infaliblemente situaciones de peligro. transportar trineos de carga incansablemente y encontrar caminos con rastros imperceptibles. La protección del medio ambiente antártico determino su triste ausencia hace poco mas de una década. Viejos antárticos atesoran el recuerdo de imágenes y emociones que solo pudieron ser, gracias al fiel servicio de los PERROS POLARES ARGENTINOS.

Brought by General Pujato (base founder) in 1950, originating from Alaska and Canada. They have been indispensable for the polar incursions of the Argentine Army. Each year their numbers multiplied and they mated, until becoming a robust species and resistant and with a larger size and weight than their original parents. Nice and docile, unconditional friends of man, they were aggressive amongst one another, even fighting to the death. With an incredible sensitivity and instinct for detecting crevices, they possessed the capacity to infallibly alert for dangerous situations, tirelessly transport sleds with cargo and locate paths with imperceptible traces. The Antarctic environmental protects led to their sad absence for more than a decade. Old antarctic characters accumulate the memories of images and emotions that can be caused, thanks to the loyal service of the ARGENTINE POLAR DOGS.

Even though the population of Antarctica is listed officially as 1, there are still many who stay for months at a time, and these blogs help capture what life is like on scientific bases.

Categories: Science Feed

Malaysia: War on Dengue and Chikungunya

Thu, 02/05/2009 - 5:37pm

The Malaysian government has launched a dengue awareness campaign in response to the rising number of dengue cases. Last month, 4,521 dengue cases and 13 dengue-related deaths were reported. The high number of dengue cases is alarming. Last year, Malaysia recorded 49,335 dengue cases and 112 dengue deaths – the worst in the nation’s history.

Aside from dengue, there is another virus which is spreading in several Malaysian states: Chikungunya (pronounced chikoon-goon-nya). Doctor2008's Weblog writes about this little-known virus:

“(Its is) the latest in a series of diseases caused by a virus and spread by mosquitoes. While most of us were distracted by events of the world, this disease has steadily made its impact, not only in tropical regions but also in far-flung countries like Italy. In Malaysia alone, in 2008, more than 3700 cases have occurred. It used to have an incidence of 100 cases per year but this has now risen to 100 cases per week. Strangely enough, mainstream media has been deafeningly quiet and the health authorities have not done enough to educate the public on this relatively unknown condition.

Chikungunya is but the latest in a long line of diseases carried by mosquitoes, which include Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, and the West Nile Encephalitis and causing 1 million deaths worldwide.

Elizabeth Wong lists the dengue hotspots in Malaysia. Daddy-O's has compiled information about dengue fever and chikungunya which he collected from various sources.

Lim Kit Siang hits the Health Minister’s “protracted silence on the dengue epidemic last year.” Environe blames ignorance on public cleanliness for the epidemic:

“The situation is aggravated by the lack of awareness among the Malaysian people about public cleanliness. Refuses and garbage not only pollute the drains,rivers and streams, but they clog them as well. Clogged waters are the best breeding grounds for Aedes mosquito.

“As people continue to be ignorant towards a clean environment, it is no wonder that the dengue cases kept on rising, alarming the Malaysian government.”

Palmdoc agrees with the observation that the present campaign against dengue may be a “phony war”:

“We’ve had years and years of a dengue endemic in our country. Now we are also plagued with Chikungunya which is also transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. We’ve heard and read similar noises before so it’s no surprise to read that a “War on dengue” has been declared by the Health Ministry. Fogging won’t be a permanent solution since it only kills the adult mosquitoes, and indeed the authorities acknowledge the problem is that there are too many breeding grounds for Aedes.

“Unless everyone gets serious, I am inclined to think LKS is right and all this is just lip-service and indeed a Phoney war”

Fogging operation in a Malaysian village. From the blog of As normal as I can be.

M. Bakri Musa thinks that civil engineers should help in the anti-dengue campaign:

“We should engage civil engineers in local councils and the Ministry of Works, instead of medical doctors in local hospitals and the Ministry of Health. If those engineers could get away from their air-conditioned offices, they would notice those stagnant drains, silted ponds, and ditches with overgrown weeds. If those officers could brave the stench and examine closer, they would see mosquito larva luxuriating in the stagnant waters.”

Ji Keon's Blog urges citizens to remember their responsibilities in helping prevent the spread of dengue:

“It has been reported that residents do not allow the authorities to perform fogging activities in their premises. However, no fogging activities have been carried out so far in my area unlike previous years where relevant authorities will dispatch people to carry out fogging activities to eradicate those bloody mosquitos.

“It is unacceptable for the dengue and chikungunya cases to escalate for a prolonged period of time. Swift action must be taken to halt the problem from taking a turn for the worse.

“Prevention is better than cure. The Malaysian citizens must be reminded of the responsibilities they have in helping to curb this outbreak. Let's not allow those mozzies to reduce our productivity and our competitiveness at such critical time when the country needs everybody's effort to revive its ailing economy.


Picture in the front page is from the Flickr page of Pedro Trindade.

Categories: Science Feed

Antarctica: Latin Americans Blog from the Coldest Place on Earth

Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:07pm

Editor's Note: This is part 1 in a 2-part series looking at blogs written from or about Antarctica by Latin Americans

The frigid surroundings of Antarctica may be the last place one would think to find bloggers. However, a handful of Latin Americans have become interested in sharing their experiences traveling or working on this desolate continent. Some write directly from Antarctica posting photos and videos helping readers feel what it is like to be so far away from home, while others wait once they return to the South American continent to post to personal and group blogs.

Several countries are well represented in the Antarctic blogosphere. Chile, in addition to the website of the Chilean Antarctic Institute [es], publishes information via the blog Antarctic Air Base President E. Frei M [es]. The blog unfortunately only has one post published and is devoted mainly to radio communications. Roberto Bravo Vidal of Terra Australis Incognita [es] devotes his blog to news and reports about Antarctica.

For more than 20 years, Peru has been working and conducting research from the Machu Picchu Scientific Base administered by the Peruvian Antarctic Institute [es], and which was profiled at the blog Vida y Futuro [es] from the newspaper El Comercio. Finally on his own personal blog, Peruvian filmmaker Humberto Saco publishes his documentary about Peru's presence on the continent [es].

Uruguay has many more blogs devoted to Antarctica, including one called Antarctic Feelings [es] that publishes poems about the continent and another called The Blog of the Antarctic Association [es]. Both are not written from the ice, but of the expeditions taken: Antarkos 23 [es] and Antarkos 25 [es] During the former, an interesting phenomenon [es] called an Ice Prism is described:

Photo of Ice Prism by Antarkos 23 and used with permission.

En la noche del 5 de setiembre de 2007, tuvimos el privilegio de observar un Hidrometeoro poco común, llamado “Prisma de hielo”. Este fenómeno consiste en la precipitación de cristales de hielo que tienen forma de agujas, placas o columnas, normalmente muy tenues y que dan la sensación de estar en suspensión en la atmósfera los cuales al observarlos sobre un foco de luz, producen reflejos como el que se aprecia en la foto. Estos cristales de hielo pueden caer de una nube o con una situación de cielo despejado y se producen a temperaturas inferiores a -10ºC.

On the night of September 5, 2007, we had the privilege of observing an uncommon Hydrometeor called the “Ice Prism.” This phenomenon consists of the precipitation of ice crystals which takes the form of needles, blocks or columns, normally very light and gives the sensation of being suspended in the atmosphere. When observing it over a light bulb, it produces a reflection that one can see in the photograph. These ice crystals can fall from a cloud or in some cases from a clear sky when the temperature is below -10 C.

From the second blog, Uruguayan Waldemar Fontes, describes how the team celebrated Christmas [es] on the Artigas Scientific Base:

Photo of Christmas dinner on the Artigas Scientific Base by Antarkos 25 and used with permission.

El 24 de diciembre de 2008, la dotación Antarkos 25, más un grupo de científicos alemanes y uruguayos, celebramos la Navidad en familia. Compartimos una cena con turrones, pan dulce y tortas alemanas y degustamos un delicioso lechón al horno. A las doce la noche, sin distinción de origen o nacionalidades, levantamos las copas y brindamos. Lo mejor de la velada, fue la llegada de Papá Noel, que viajando en la pala del tractor de la Base, llegó hasta nuestro comedor y uno a uno, fue entregando regalitos a quienes se habían portado bien.

On December 24, 2008 the team Antarkos 25, which is more than a group of German and Uruguayan scientists, celebrated Christmas as a family. We shared a dinner with traditional candy, sweet bread, German cakes, and enjoyed delicious oven-baked pork. At twelve midnight, with no distinction of origin or nationality, we lifted our cups and toasted. The best part of the evening, was the arrival of Santa Claus, traveling on the shovel of the base's tractor, arrived to our dining room and one by one, started to distribute gifts to those who had been good.

Part II featuring Argentinean bloggers in Antarctica will be published later this week.

Categories: Science Feed

Best Blogs Brazil: Winners by jury, public and hacker votes

Sat, 01/31/2009 - 2:04pm

Be it expressing opinions, fighting for freedom of press and technology, or spreading the word about creativity and quality in writing, we know that not all blogs in the world do this, but these qualities do apply to many of those in the Brazilian blogosphere. But, how do we know which blogs really deserve a visit? Well, we always have our personal favorites, but if you read Portuguese why not broaden your feeds by looking at the best blogs of 2008?

For the second consecutive year, the polls at the Blogs Brazil 2008 Award website were open from December last year throughout January, ending at Campus Party Brazil, on January 23 and split into two types, jury and public, with the finalists grouped into 30 different categories. The jury was made up of specialists, who had been giving lectures and participating in discussions about blogs during the Campus Party. On the other hand, over 30,000 people participated in the public vote [pt]:

“Acabou a votação aberta ao público. Foram mais de 78 mil votos, dados por 34 mil pessoas que se inscreveram para participar e contribuir com o Best Blogs Brazil.”

“The poll open to the public is over. There were more than 78,000 votes cast by 34,000 people who subscribed to take part and contribute to Best Blogs Brazil.”

Not always was the same blog chosen by both jury and public. According to the panel of specialists, the best blog in 2008 was Blog do Tas, whereas according to public opinion Brogui deserved the top prize. With over 1,000 followers and almost 4,000 updates, Brogui was a brave contender to beat Blog do Tas, written by a successful and well known Brazilian journalist, Marcelo Tas. Being quite as informative as Tas, Brogui is more light-hearted, design-conscious and also outdoes Blog do Tas in interactivity with other blogs. Brogui won 1,621 votes ahead of the 1,415 won by third placed Blog do Tas.

Like the main category contest, public and jury votes also diverged in the sport blogs category. Blog do Juca, by Juca Kfouri, one of the best sports journalists in Brazil, was awarded first-prize by the jury but deserved only fourth position according to public opinion. It received only 360 open votes against 1,467 cast for Terceira Via Verdao, a blog with a clear connection to Brazilian football club Palmeiras. Their content, therefore, might be more appealing for fans of that club.

Moving onto the best arts and culture blog, the focus of Livros & Afins [Books & CIA] on just one specific segment of culture - books - was enough for the blog to be the popular winner, at the same time that Amalgama, fifth in the public vote, took home the top trophy by the specialist jury. Set up by scholars and people who not only love art but understand it inside out, the blog is open to anyone who would like to jot down some ideas about cinema, literature, and music.

Only blogs in six categories were unanimously chosen as best blogs by both public and jury: the science prize went to a blog about Biology, Brontossauros em meu jardim [Brotosaurus in my Garden]; the business and finance prize was won by Dinheirama; the wedding plans of the blogger at Planejando meu Casamento won it the best blog in the daily-life category; the advertising and communication prize was won by Brainstorm #9, a blog for those who want to know about media; the best blog design prize was taken by Sedentario e Hiperativo [Sedentary and Hyperactive], and, closing the list, Kibe Loco was chosen in the humor category.

To be or not to be fair – that's the question

Blogs were nominated by anyone who had a valid email account and agreed to subscribe to the website. However, as the web is not a cheat-free zone, the organizers were driven crazy by a blogger who wanted to win at all costs - even by taking an unfair advantage. On the penultimate day of the pole, the organizers posted the following:

“Longe de ser um mar de tranquilidade, o Best Blogs Brazil foi como um tsunami nos últimos dias. Decisões foram tomadas, sempre em busca de ter uma eleição justa, imparcial e verdadeira, para sabermos quais são, de fato, os maiores blogs do Brasil.

Um fato intrigou muitos durante este tempo: como um blog anoitecia com x votos e quando era no outro dia de repente aparecia com centenas? Alguma coisa estranha existia, mas como provar? Não havia ainda uma resposta. (…)

Enfim, consegui finalmente descobrir como isso aconteceu. Simplesmente eram criadas várias contas de email para que o blog ganhasse votos. E descobri o IP desses votos.

“Far from being free and easy in the last days, Best Blogs Brazil was like a tsunami. Decisions were taken always in order to promote a fair, impartial and true contest, for us to know which are, in fact, the best blogs in Brazil.

One fact intrigued many people during this time: how could one blog have X votes in the night and then, on the next day, it would suddenly show up X hundred votes? Something weird was going on, but how could it be proved? There was no answer. (..)

At last, I finally managed to find out how it happened. Basically, there were many email accounts opened for a blog to win votes. And I found out these votes' IP address.“

The discussion was open to everybody in the community built around the awards, and organizers and public reached a decision together:

“Decisão tomada. A votação permanece como está. Avaliando todos os comentários abaixo, vemos o quão é difícil analisar a situação. Mas se a grande parte concorda que se as regras não previam isso e se a tecnologia permite que isso aconteça, então os votos são validados. Porém, algo tinha que ser feito. Alguns IPs que enviaram uma quantidade absurda de votos, foram bloqueados. Que vença o melhor.”.

“The decision has been taken. Voting will go on the way it is. On reading all the comments below, we realised that the situation is very difficult. If the majority of you agree that the rules did not forbid this and the technology makes it possible, then the votes will be valid. However, something has had to be done. Some IPs sent an absurd amount of votes and have been blocked. May the best site win”.

To see the full list and find out more about the other winners, visit Best Blogs Brazil 2008. To see pictures of the award ceremony, check Wagner Fontoura's photo set on Flickr. As of now, there is no news about next year's edition, but, hopefully it will take place again and this time the cheats will be, in one way or another, completely defated.

Categories: Science Feed

Kazakhstan: Little Progress in Science Policy

Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:54am

Patrick Frost reviews the efforts of Kazakhstani authorities make to increase science research funding in the country 25 times over in six years, saying that little progress has been done so far.

Categories: Science Feed

Russia: Bloggers Debate Immunization of Children

Fri, 01/02/2009 - 1:13pm

One of the most popular health-related topics discussed by Russian bloggers is that of the immunization of children. Current digital media discussions reflect to a great extent debates that are taking place in traditional media in many post-Soviet countries. Although immunization has been mandatory in these countries since the time of the Soviet Union, more and more parents are now refusing to vaccinate their children. In most cases parents are basing this decision on arguments they find on the Internet or in other media.

It is much easier to find bloggers in the Russian-speaking blogosphere who do not support mass immunization than authors who support it. You can find arguments about the ineffectiveness of vaccination in many blogs. These arguments are very well summarized in the blog of helien_ln blog (RUS):

Production of vaccines is the most profitable part of the pharmaceutical business. A part of earned profits are directed to funding so-called “scientific research,” which just has to “prove” that the vaccine is effective and safe.

Vaccines are poisons. They include aluminum, and other toxins …

Vaccines are often based on animal cells and might contain viruses …

The introduction of vaccines in mass usage during the last two centuries has been associated with threatening, scary effects, and the omission of some facts and falsified statistics.

There is no evidence that it was immunization which helped humanity fight some of the infectious diseases. There are statistical data which show that the spreading of diseases such as TB, malaria, pox had decreased dramatically before mass immunization was introduced. This happened due to the improvement of sanitary and hygienic conditions, like better veterinary and food control, chlorination of water, etc.

Annually immunization could be a reason for the death and bad health of thousands of children all over the world. It ruins the immune system of a baby.

Immunization reflects only traditional approaches to understanding infectious diseases, which is not the only possible approach.

Mass immunization totally ignores the individual characteristics of a person, the state of their immune system, and other individual features of a human being.

If a vaccine is a cause of death or injury, medical authorities will obviously do everything to prove that this happened not because of immunization.

Blogger Irena Slavina is one of the few supporters of immunization in the Russian-speaking blog community. One of the reasons she thinks immunization is a good choice for her baby is because of the reputation of pharmaceutical companies. She says (RUS):

Can you imagine all the procedures that a new vaccine has to go through before it will be approved for mass immunization? These is pre-licensing, post-licensing, the monitoring of side effects, government drug certification…

I think that none of the big pharmaceutical companies are interested in a bad reputation of its product. Companies are very concerned about the quality of their products, otherwise they will go bankrupt. If a country chooses vaccine A for mass diphtheria immunization and the next year a country faces a diphtheria epidemic, then this pharmaceutical company would face very serious problems. Nobody likes problems.

She goes on to talk about how, though vaccines are poisons, they can still be beneficial:

Antibiotics are also very harmful for our health but at the same time they help save millions of lives. Often poisons under certain conditions may actually heal the disease… I believe that I have made the least dangerous choice for my child, but you are free to make any other choice. I believe in the accomplishments of modern medicine, but you have a right not to trust any doctors or drugs. But to reject blindly the entire benefits of immunization based just on popular Internet articles sounds really silly for me.

Finally, Irena Slavina points out that vaccines were not created to kill babies, but rather to help them:

I am sure that whoever started mass immunizations a hundred years ago were not unprofessional people and they were not more stupid than me. They did not have any intentions to kill babies. The immunization schedules were developed based on the most dangerous time periods in the life of children. Just think about how many years of medical studies were devoted to developing the immunization schedule and enforcing them all over the country. Just think about the required experience, knowledge, sharing of data… After all this, I, who had just read a few Internet articles, cannot say that immunization is bad as I know better what my child needs.

Categories: Science Feed

UAE: World's First Refrigerated Beach

Sat, 12/27/2008 - 5:01pm

Dubai's new Palazzo Versace Hotel is set to feature the world's first refrigerated beach, reports Norma of Bloggin' Banat. She comments: “Clearly, nature is no obstacle for this lavish playground. The beach’s sand will be cooled via an underground system of heat-absorbing pipes and giant wind blowers… Apparently the refrigerated beach might generate enough carbon to affect the climate.”

Categories: Science Feed

Singapore: Unnecessary study on Tsunami impact

Wed, 12/24/2008 - 6:47pm

DK is surprised that the government commissioned a S$1.3 million two-year study which only confirmed a well-known fact that Singapore is protected from tsunamis.

Categories: Science Feed

Philippines: Fisherman saved by dolphins and whales

Mon, 12/22/2008 - 1:02am

According to Filipino fisherman Ronnie Dabal, he was saved by dolphins and whales when his boat was turned upside down last week in Palawan, Philippines.

Redempto Anda wrote this story for the Philippine Daily Inquirer – the country’s leading newspaper. How did the dolphins and whales save the fisherman’s life? Below is the fisherman’s story:

“Early in the morning while fishing for tuna in the choppy waters of Puerto Princesa Bay, a squall came upon him and turned his boat upside down.

“Dusk came as Dabal’s hopes started to vanish and a creeping darkness began to envelope him. From out of nowhere, a pod of around 30 dolphins and a pair of whales measuring about 10 meters in length came and started to flank him on both sides.

“As he lay still on top of his piece of plastic board, Ronnie narrated how the dolphins would alternately nudge his tiny life raft using their pectoral fins towards the direction of land.

“Dabal said he passed out while the dolphins were doing their slow chore of nudging him to shore, and woke up on the beach of Barangay (Village) Luzviminda where he was finally assisted by local residents there.”

The fisherman is also a dolphin spotter.

Blogger Ang Kape Ni LaTtEX was fascinated by the story of the fisherman. He connects the story to the need to promote eco-tourism in the country:

“Dolphin spotters — a common second job for Puerto Princesa fishermen — head out early in the morning to look for large pods of dolphins, whose location they then relay to boatmen bringing tourists in for dolphin watching tours (using, what else: SMS text messages).

“Clearly, the Philippine eco-tourism scene’s promising outlook presents several lessons that must be fully appreciated. Foremost of these lessons is that locals will fiercely defend whatever livelihood they have — make the environment their livelihood and they will defend it out of their own volition. Everything else follows — compliance with laws, self-policing amongst ranks, even a total change in attitude with regards to littering.”

But DJB doubts the story of the fisherman. He explains his reasons:

“Sorry, but it sounds to me like a fairy tale for adults. Or a parable pleading for a kinder, gentler Homo sapiens. If this were some illiterate fisherman, and not one of Mayor Ed Hagedorn’s “dolphin wardens”, the story would be nearly miraculous. As it stands, though, I am almost ashamed to admit it, But I’m SKEPTICAL about the entire veracity of this story! I don’t know why, but that was my first impression after reading PDI’s (Inquirer) story today. Now there are a lot of details…Hmmm…

“Been doing a prelim search. I haven’t found even ONE reported instance of such a thing happening in the past. But then, that is just my googling.

“Also, I didn’t realize that crustaceans (”bugto”) could swim out in the open ocean and eat up soggy fishermen. Maybe on the beach, but while he was floating on the piece of styropor? These must be amphibious bugto super cannibalistic crabs or something.

“Thirty spinner dolphins and two pilot whales saves a human being. That’s one for the headlines.”

View Larger Map

Palawan is located on the western side of the Philippines. It is part of the Luzon region. It is a popular tourist attraction; and more importantly, it is endowed with natural treasures:

“The island province of Palawan has been declared as a natural sanctuary of the world, and for good reason. It is wrapped in a mantel of rainforests, outstanding dive sites, majestic mountains, primeval caves, and pristine beaches. It is surrounded by a coral shelf that abounds with varied and colorful marine life. It boasts of exotic flora and fauna, like the mousedeer and the scaly anteater, that are found nowhere else.

“Palawan waters are among the best in the world, not only for diving but also for fishing. A diver’s paradise, it has miles of sub- surface coral and rainbow reef walls whish surround the coasts and coves teeming with rich marine life.”

Categories: Science Feed

Japan: Digital mech art

Fri, 12/19/2008 - 12:18am

Edo from Pink Tentacle has a collection on digital illustrations of mechs, droids and borgs.

Categories: Science Feed

Israel: Innovation in First Aid Technology

Wed, 12/17/2008 - 11:28am

Dr. Eran Shenkar has developed a remote medical vehicle that can deliver first aid in place of human first responders. Israelity reports: “It’s smaller, cheaper, and more compact than a helicopter – meaning it can go places a helicopter can’t, and, in times of war, there’s nobody to shoot down… The MedUAV can carry sophisticated equipment equipped with Wi-fi sensors, allowing a field medic to hook up a patient and allow a doctor to provide remote treatment, by giving instructions to the medic.”

Categories: Science Feed

Russia: Mikhail Lomonosov

Tue, 12/02/2008 - 7:30pm

The Reference Frame writes about the great Russian polymath, scientist and writer Mikhail Lomonosov.

Categories: Science Feed

Environment: Dirty Dealings and Water Masses

Mon, 12/01/2008 - 2:26pm

African bloggers are highlighting water related issues, from the politics in South Africa that led to suspension of a water quality expert, new devices for collecting and cleaning water, to the 'scramble for fish' the East African lake region.

CC licenced photo by Julien Harneis on flickr.

We start with South Africa where the blog Urbansprout highlights the suspension Dr. Anthony Turton . Dr Turton is a researcher who was set to deliver a presentation at the conference “Science Real and Relevant” in Pretoria. He was barred from delivering the presentation, and later suspended by The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The blogger includes the presumed reason for his suspension as communicated by the CSIR, but also looks at the content of Dr. Turton's paper[pdf on], noting…

Taking a brief look at Dr Turton's paper, he argues that a lack of investment in science, engineering and technology (SET) since the early 1990's, the termination of important research projects and the shift to a contract driven income model has had a “catastrophic effect” on our national scientific capacity to deal with the technical challenges our water quality is facing.

There is also the question of academic freedom of scientists to present their findings. Urbansprout quotes a science journalist reacting to news of Dr. Turton's suspension.

Science journalist and former Journalism head of department of the University of Stellenbosch, Dr George Claassen asserted that the withdrawal of the presentation by the CSIR was an “absolute disgrace”. “This is a very serious encroachment on academic freedom and the right of scientists to announce their results, no matter how bad those results are for our view of things,” he commented. Claassen noted that academic and research freedom was protected under Section 16 of the constitution, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

Urbansprout provides the link for an online petition in support of Dr. Turton and concludes:

Turton's report highlighted that South Africa could be headed for a water supply and water quality crisis that could negatively impact on the economic growth and development of the country, as well as lead to social unrest. The findings conflicted starkly with recent government assurances that South Africa was not facing a water crisis similar to the one prevailing in the electricity-supply sector.

A previous post on Urbansprout gives more information about the water crisis in South Africa, which is characterized by sewage seeping from municipal treatment works to rivers. The water from the rivers feeds into the local tap water system.

A WaterMill is described on the BLDG blog as a device that “uses the electricity of about three light bulbs to condense moisture from the air and purify it into clean drinking water.” Rory of The Carbon Smart blog links to the BLDG post, and considers ‘micro devices' like the WaterMill, and whether this could be a source of clean drinking water for urban areas. He writes:

Discussion about the WaterMill — a small-scale dehumidifier that collects and cleans water from the air — leads to conjecture not only about how much of our drinking water could come from the air, but also about whether the urban microclimate could be significantly altered by installing thousands of these low-energy devices. Could we do away with a significant number of energy-sapping air conditioners by making our environment more comfortable through a combination of better building design, appropriate clothing, vegetating the landscape and reducing the ambient humidity with thousands of WaterMills?

In East Africa, the Kenyan blog Kenvironews highlights a piece by Namhla Matshanda of the African Security Analysis Programme. The piece looks at the conflict over Migingo island in Lake Victoria, which is claimed by both Uganda and Kenya. The piece warns:

The so-called ‘scramble for fish’ in Lake Victoria is turning out to be a source of conflict between nations bordering the lake and could potentially threaten regional stability. In the past month alone there have been several incidents around the lake that have heightened tensions between Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. It is now apparent that the main source of these incidents is the lack of a clearly delimited and demarcated border between the three countries sharing Lake Victoria.

Since 2003, a number of Kenyan fishermen have been arrested and their boats and equipment confiscated by either Tanzanian or Ugandan authorities for “illegally crossing the common borders.” The latest incident happened when about 400 Kenyan fishermen were kicked out of Migingo island by Ugandan authorities. Migingo is claimed by both Uganda and Kenya. This incident has exacerbated the already strained relations between the two countries. The Kenyan fishermen have appealed to their political leaders to intervene, some even threatening violence.

Categories: Science Feed

Environment: SA Bloggers sound off on GMO foods.

Mon, 11/24/2008 - 1:15pm

Genetically Modified foods have been a concern for many environment bloggers in South Africa and other parts of Africa too. On this post we check in a handful of bloggers who've recently written about genetically modified (GMO) foods and seed.

Picture by Vagawi on flickr

UrbanSprout points to a report in Mail Online article that indicates lower fertility in mice fed on GM (Genetically Modified) maize

Dr Jurgen Zentek, Professor for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna and lead author of the study, said a GM diet effected the fertility of mice.
One of the studies was a reproductive assessment by continuous breeding (RACB) trial, in which the same parent generation gave birth to several litters of baby mice. The parents were fed either with a diet containing 33per cent of GM maize, a hybrid of Monsanto's MON 810 and another variety, and a normal feed mix.
The team found changes that were 'statistically significant' in the third and fourth litters produced by the mice given a GM diet. There were fewer offspring, while the young mice were smaller.

Prof Zentek said there was a direct link between the changes seen and the GM diet.

Regarding Monsanto (a major producer of GMO seed) UrbanSprout deadpans…

Perhaps this is the environmentally friendly benefit of using GM seed that Monsanto has been touting - they're unwittingly helping to reduce population growth!

On Relax with Dax, the blogger contemplates the topic of GM foods as a solution to world hunger. He is very careful to see all sides of the issue. He says:

We all suffer from confirmation bias to some degree, but being aware of it can help us to avoid it at least partly. I actively try to expose myself to both sides of the story, especially topics which I feel strongly about. I feel very strongly that GM foods are a danger to our future, but I try to expose myself to the other point of view. For this reason I attended a presentation at the UCT Graduate School of Business which was pro GM. It was an interesting presentation and those who attended were enthusiastic in their support (except me).

Dax gives more information about the presentation he attended, and directly challenges Prof Chassy's assertions.

Prof. Chassy himself made the point strongly that all people who are against GM foods are just uneducated rabble who have no idea what is going on and those who are pro GM foods are very intelligent scientists. Not only is this an appeal to authority, it is also completely and utterly untrue. There are more scientists than I can count who are anti GM foods. Remember, we are not talking about research into genetic modification, we are talking about allowing GM foods to be released into the environment and eaten.

Prof Chassy spent some consideral time explaining to us that we will in the future be unable to grow enough food to feed the world’s population, a fact I can agree with. However, his proposal that GM foods will allow us to grow enough food, I do not agree with. In fact this is what this post is about. I want to show that contrary to Prof. Chassy’s comment that no scientists are anti GM, it is actually scientists who are saying that GM is not a solution to the impending food crisis and that in fact, organic and sustainable farming methods are a better option.

He lists links to reports by other scientists, and concludes by saying:

If one takes the time to do some research, it becomes evident that there are many scientists which do not see GMOs as the solution to our food problems. Activists are just the people who have taken on the task of informing the public.

UrbanSprout posts an in-depth documentary review of the film ‘World According to Monsanto'

I have watched a lot of documentaries on GM foods and Monsanto and although they each have their own style and there is always some new information, they generally cover a lot of the same material. This recently released documentary is not like that. It takes a very different angle, looking at the history of Monsanto and the way it operates, rather than focusing specifically on GM foods.

The blogger asks some pertinent questions and posts a link for others to watch the film online.

So after seeing all this evidence of Monsanto's lying and test fiddling, one has to ask the question: When they say GM foods are thoroughly tested (which they are not), does that actually mean anything? Even relying on social concience would be dangerous. Surely they wouldn't let GMOs be released if they knew there were harmful effects? Well, if they can watch people dying from exposure to PCBs outside their factory, while they continue to manufacture and pollute, then they are capable of doing anything.

The very interesting thing is this, when it comes out that GM foods are responsible for environmental problems, and human health issues, guess who is going to pay to fix it? The taxpayers, that's who. Monsanto will just carry on making money while we pay to clean up their mess.

How does this make you feel?
Watch online here.

Categories: Science Feed

Environment: Obama's Climate Challenge

Thu, 11/20/2008 - 7:00pm

On ChinaDialogue, Bill McKibben writes about President-elect Obama’s big climate challenge: “As he assumes the US presidency, Barack Obama must make climate-change legislation and investment in green energy his top priorities. He must be ready to take bold — and politically unpopular — action”

Categories: Science Feed

India: Landing on the Moon

Fri, 11/14/2008 - 2:04pm

The Moon Impact Probe (MIP) of the Indian space mission Chandrayaan-1 crash Landed successfully on the Moon today. My Thought Waves reacts: “Chandrayaan has made each one of us proud. We now join one of the very few countries in the world to have demonstrated the capability to carry out space missions.”

Categories: Science Feed

Japan: Mobile Suit Gundam

Mon, 11/10/2008 - 7:54pm

On the occasion of the foundation of the International Gundam Society (????????) during the Hiroshima Anime Biennale in August, Kange debates the aims of the research group which will study the future of mankind through the animated series Mobile Suit Gundam(????????). The blogger explains how the researchers at IGS, captained by a Chairman and a Vice experts in scientific fields, will focus on the anime itself as well as the anthropological and sociological aspects of the world represented in the series.

Categories: Science Feed

Obama's Victory: A Boost for Global Health?

Sat, 11/08/2008 - 11:45am

As U.S. President-elect Barack Obama prepares for his four years in the White House, many are discussing how his term will impact health issues, globally and in the U.S., and if he will deliver on his campaign promises.

As part of their campaign, Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden said that more must be done to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as malaria and tuberculosis (TB). They pledged to provide at least $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS, hoping to at least double the number of HIV-positive people on treatment, and supported increasing U.S. contributions to the Global Fund for AIDS, malaria, and TB. The ONE Blog lists other health- and poverty-related campaign promises.

Bloggers around the world are excited about what Obama's win could mean for health issues. Ray Hartley, blogging on The Times, South Africa, posts an excerpt of Obama's speech on World AIDS Day, 2006, after a visit to South Africa:

“We know how to save people’s lives. We know the medicine is out there and we know that wealthy countries can afford to do more. That’s why it was so frustrating for me to go to South Africa, and see the pain, and see the suffering …We should never forget that God granted us the power to reason so that we would do His work here on Earth - so that we would use science to cure disease, and heal the sick, and save lives. And one of the miracles to come out of the AIDS pandemic is that scientists have discovered medicine that can give people with HIV a new chance at life.”

yannick Santana, commenting on this excerpt says:

“If people have been wondering about ways in which President Obama change could positively impact the problem-solving process in Africa, this is an illustration.”

addis2000, blogging on Addismenged, provides five reasons why Obama's win is good for Ethiopians, including potentially helping Ethiopian-Americans access affordable healthcare. Within Ethiopia addis2000 adds:

“HIV/Aids and food insecurity form convergent miseries. To combat poverty, Ethiopian economists urge for immediate steps to curb the country’s exponential population growth. And yet, despite the Bush administration’s outstanding work to treat HIV/Aids victims in Africa through the PEPFAR programme, it worsened things by ordering USAID missions in six African countries to ensure that no U.S.-financed condoms, birth control pills, I.U.D.’s or other contraceptives are furnished to Marie Stopes International, which operates clinics in Ethiopia. Senator Obama supports family planning.”

Others also remain hopeful. A post on Med India says that Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., is optimistic about Obama's efforts to tackle global health issues, including ones in India. Understand Argentina also believes we have much to celebrate, and hopes this will be a new era for all Americans: North, Central and South. One of the reasons to celebrate, she adds, is because Obama will bring:

“More assistance in vocational training, micro-finance and community development; continue fighting AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis; reinforce global education.”

In the U.S., Obama's healthcare plan includes making healthcare affordable and accessible to all, lowering healthcare costs, and promoting public health. He also pledged to develop and begin implementing a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy during his first year of presidency.

RH Reality Check says that Obama's victory can be seen as a mandate for science and rationality, especially in healthcare policy. A post on Housing Works is also excited about these science-based policies, and hopes they will target people most in need.

“AIDS advocates were overwhelmingly thrilled by President-elect Barack Obama’s victory Tuesday, expressing hope that Obama’s election will bring meaningful changes to health care reform, science-based prevention, and a National AIDS strategy — all of which he promised during the campaign. And there is a real hope that the first black president — who has spoken out against health disparities in minority populations and homophobia in the black community — will frankly address the epidemic in the United States which overwhelmingly affects African-Americans, Latinos and gay men.”

Stiletto, blogging on Pourquoi Pas?, points out that though Obama has inherited huge problems from President George W. Bush, she hopes he will still deliver on his promises.

“For the American people, I hope he manages to find the 33 billion dollars to make America’s health system a thing of everyday like here in Europe, instead of being a joke like a third world country and having 45 million people with no health care cover. If that idiot Bush managed to find nearly 1000 billion dollars to go murder hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, surely, 33 billion dollars to keep the health of the citizens of USA is a lot more important and a lot cheaper. But this is your problem, Americans, and I wish you all the best. “

However, My African Diaspora cautions that we need to give Obama time to come through on all his promises:

“Temper expectations. Change won’t occur overnight. We’ve got so many pressing priorities: the economy, healthcare, the war, foreign policy and a slew of others. He won’t be able to wave a magic wand and make it all better. To expect him to would only demonstrate our own ignorance of the political process. Instead, reserve judgment and criticism and engage in the governance of your country. It is our right and our responsibility.”

Photo of Obama Posters by tonx on Flickr.

Categories: Science Feed

Green Obama Dreams: Environment Bloggers Weigh in on The Historic Day

Thu, 11/06/2008 - 6:44pm

Tim Hurst of Ecopoliticology blog posts an entertaining video titled ‘5 Green Obama Dreams'. The video mentions his posts on high resolution energy resource maps and the solar powered lawnmower.

On the DotEarth blog,Andrew Revkin muses on the significance of Obama's election, writing

President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20 will become the most important leader of a species that has exploded in just six generations from a total population of 1 billion (around 1830) to a point today when teenagers alone number 1 billion, a species that is on a path toward more or less 9 billion people by mid-century. In numbers, think roughly of adding two Chinas on top of the one that exists today. Expectations that he will exert planet-scale leadership are high, as indicated in this letter from Nelson Mandela to the next president.

He is compiling a list of 10 best proposals to send to Obama's transition team. The proposals will be ranked by readers of his blog.

On the China Dialogue blog, a reprint of President-elect Obama's speech in 2007 is posted, reflecting on what Obama's presidency would mean for the environment.

What will a Barack Obama presidency mean for the global environment?

In a policy address delivered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in October 2007 – shortly after George W Bush hosted a Washington conference on energy security and climate change — Obama set out his plan. It included a strong focus on energy efficiency and the use of a “cap-and-trade” system. Obama also emphasised his commitment to investing in clean technology, saying that new technology from the United States can help countries like China to fight climate change.

“[W]e will share our technology and our innovations with all the nations of the world,” Obama said. “If we can build a clean coal plant in America, China should be able to as well.”

La Marguerite suggests channelling the magic of community organizing seen in the Obama campaign, into tackling climate change.

Sarah Palin should not have mocked Barack Obama for being a community organizer. If anything, tonight’s results proved her wrong. Our new President has given new meaning, and strength to the concept of community organizing. And he has shown us what citizens can do, when given the means to organize towards a cause, that’s greater than themselves.

Tonight I am thinking of the thousands of Obama offices, volunteer networks, and fundraising organizations, along with the sophisticated Internet machine, and the organizing methodology, that went into getting Barack Obama elected. As the signs are coming down, the thank you emails go out, and the temporary offices go back to their original owners, I wonder, is that it? Will we go back to business as usual, each in our homes, going about our private lives?

Or will we use the skills learned during the Obama campaign to mount a national community effort, this time to address the threat of climate change? The last time I checked, we had less than ten years to get our act together. Citizens have a crucial role to play on the conservation end. As someone who has tried for the last year and a half, to curtail my consumerist and energy appetites, I can testify on the difficulty of accomplishing such changes at the individual level. Instead, we need to summon the power of community to help each other.

Omar Basawad of the Safari Notes blog says ‘Congratulations America!'

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.” So, said the next President of the US.

I, we, have no doubt any more about that. And I do, for the first time truly envy Americans for how you can rise and at what you can do. And how lucky and blessed you are, to have such a democratic system and such ideals! Truly, you are a great people. And that is the reason you will continue leading the World militarily, economically and technologically; and you have just proven too, that you are above the rest of the World, morally. And now you have sent such a great statement across the globe, which will cause ripples and shock waves for a long time to come.

Very hopefully, the ripples and shock waves - will be so powerful so as to bring too, the same kind of change that will, one day, allow our children too - to have such a kind of democracy working in our parts of the World; a democracy that is truly: true, enlightened and ideal.

Tracy Stokes in South Africa had tears of joy on hearing the news that Barack Obama is the next president of USA. She wrote

I sprang out of bed this morning (very out of character for me) and rushed to the living room, grabbed the remote and had that TV on before you could say “election results”. Obama is the new president of the United States, Bush is on the way out. So here I am, miles and miles away from where it’s all happening, at the southern tip of Africa, a South African of European descent, and it moved me to tears. Why? Because from next January, the most powerful man in the world will no longer be a warmonger, bigot, and dare I say it, village idiot, but an intelligent, compassionate man who has brought to Americans the opportunity to join the rest of the world in working towards peace, upholding of human rights, and fighting climate change. So congratulations to the American people in choosing the right man for the job.

On the blog, Phil considers the signifance of Obama's win particularly regarding climate change.

It's up to us to make sure Senator Obama follows through with the vision of a world we desperately want that is now a little bit more within reach. Sending him to Poland is a needed first step towards rebuilding the world economy and solving climate change, tasks which will no doubt take years, if not decades, to accomplish.
At this historic turning point, it's up to us to shed the yoke of history and move forward by joining with our new leaders and pushing for a bold new solution to these dual crises. The world is counting on us.

On the GreenPeace Making Waves blog, amid thanks, a reminder of the promises Barack Obama made regarding the environment is stated.

Thank you, Barack Obama, for giving all of us new hope for a changed America.
We're non-partisan here at Greenpeace. We don't have any permanent allies or enemies. We support policies, not politicians. We endorse deeds, not words. So even while a lot of us (in our personal capacity as human beings and not Greenpeace employees) are jumping up and down this morning with glee, we want to take a moment to remind you of the promises you made in your election campaign.

It's delivering on these promises, or bettering them, that will be the true mark of your leadership. …

On ‘Its Getting Hot in Here' blog, Teryn Norris writes of reinventing America.

Few moments in history feel this monumental. It’s the feeling of renewed hope and immense possibility.
Barack Obama has once again tapped America’s power of invention. It’s the same power that led us to invent the first modern democracy. To invent the systems and technologies that continue to drive human progress. To constantly reinvent ourselves in the face of insurmountable hardship and division.
Invention is our greatest power — the very heart of the American spirit. It’s what can renew our promise once again and make this century the next American century.

Teryn concludes the post with

Obama has rekindled the American spirit. Now he must lead this nation to fully reinvent itself and the world — to lead us in what will be the greatest American project.

Let’s get started.

From South Africa, The Urban sprout blog offers kudos to the the American public for electing Barack Obama.

…how often do we ask ourselves what difference the leaders of New Zealand, Denmark, Germany or Iceland, for instance, will make to us all? But you have to give credit where credit is due and kudos to the American public for electing Barack Obama!

But what can we expect from Obama’s environmental direction, and can he be held accountable to his campaign promises?

We end this post with a quote from the Urban sprout blog.

Obama’s administration has 4 years to turn these visionary promises into something tangible, and that's the real challenge - but right now, there's plenty to be optimistic about.

Categories: Science Feed