On This Day [June 3rd]

  • Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first wireless message from a photophone (a device that transmits sound on a beam of light).
  • Ed White became the first American to walk in space
  • Charles Richard Drew, an American physician and medical researcher who was instrumental in the preservation of blood plasma, was born.

Alexander Graham Bell Invented the Photophone June 3, 1880
Bell’s photophone
Medical Innovations: Charles Drew and Blood Banking
Today in Science – Jun 03

3 more podcasts to listen to

I admit it. I’ve been bitten by the podcast bug. Not only can they be informative, they’re a good way to kill time. I like to jokingly call them conversations I don’t need to participate in (#introvert). Finding a good podcast can be hit or miss, but there is something for everyone. It can be interesting to find polarising podcasts where people love or hate them – I’m usually in the latter category and have quit podcasts after five minutes (hey, life is too short!).

I last shared five science-related podcasts and I’m back again with more recommendations!

Each of these podcasts have one thing in common – I was completely mystified by the circumstances! Plus, I think the level of deception and obsessive behaviour is something that can affect any of us at any one time. Each situation comes with red flags that are ignored at some point (and that’s definitely a post for another time)! Continue reading “3 more podcasts to listen to”

The essential key for writing

PUR SCI QUOTE

The essential key for writing is to write regularly — like it or not — great ideas come often by writing; releasing the subconscious — waiting for inspiration and ideas will not work, but it does help to have a notebook with you all the time for sudden brainstorms or inspiration.

 Prof. Robert Marc Friedman, University of Oslo

I like this quote a lot, and it is true. I often come up with my ideas when I’m sitting down and working on older projects that I’m unsure about – and often the new idea turns out much better than what I was working on initially. I would love to carry a notebook around for sudden brainstorms, but I’d probably lose it. I’m thinking of physically attaching one to my person (it exists!). Our phones are walking notebooks, but unlike paper, it’s too easy to get distracted and never revisit ideas I store in my notes app.

Quote originally found here

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019)

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

The story of Theranos, a multi-billion dollar tech company, its founder Elizabeth Holmes, the youngest self-made female billionaire, and the massive fraud that collapsed the company.

I love watching documentaries, and during the pandemic, I whizzed through a whole bunch of them! I was happy to find one based on Elizabeth Holmes and her ill-fated company, Theranos. I also read a book written by one of journalists who helped to break the story (Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou). I still find it fascinating how many people were drawn into this web Elizabeth Holmes spun, especially given the calibre of people she managed to convince to invest in Theranos and work for it.

To give some background information, Theranos was a health technology company that made headlines when they developed a device called Edison which could supposedly perform a lot of blood tests quickly – the hook? The device only needed a pinprick of blood. Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, it turned out to be smoke and mirrors. Not only was Theranos faking its results, but its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was charged with several counts of fraud.

Continue reading “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019)”

5 Reasons Why Reading is Good for You

5 reasons why reading is good for you 2

Every year I make the same resolution – to read more. A few years ago I resolved to read 52 books in one year. It didn’t work. Being a so-called millennial, I remember the time when there was no social media. The internet was around, but you needed a dial-up modem and it took fifteen minutes to load one page. I had no choice but to read and that’s what I did. 

I read many books as a child. My understanding of the world and the people in it came from books. My ability to write both fiction and non-fiction is down to reading. Yet, I struggle to sit down and read books today. Occasionally, I’ll find a book that hits the right note and it feels like the world falls away. I get sucked into another universe and I feel good. And then the book ends, forcing me to keep on starting new ones to try and achieve the same high – similar to what happens when you finish binge-watching a show. 

I have now started reading more nonfiction books. With nonfiction, there is rarely a hook or climax. It’s just reading about the topic of interest. They’re not always easy reads, but since when was reading supposed to be easy? Reading is fun, but it’s also a valuable learning tool that benefits us in many different ways. From today, I’m looking at reading as a task and not a pastime.

On that note, here are five ways that reading is good for us and our brains!

1. You Learn From It

 A parent or a teacher has only his lifetime; a good book can teach forever. —Louis L’Amour

woman in red and blue plaid dress shirt sitting beside woman in blue denim jacket
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

It’s no surprise that more children turned to books during the national lockdowns imposed as part of the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, we were all faced with more free time than usual. There are so many hours we can spend binging TV shows. For children, in particular, having more time to read was highly beneficial. Not just for educational purposes, but because they renewed their enjoyment in reading in a world where everything is becoming increasingly web-based.

Many of us learn what we know today from books, and reading will always be a good learning tool. Reading can improve our vocabulary. An extensive range of vocabulary is linked to higher levels of intelligence. That person you know who always uses big words? They probably read a lot! Children who read a lot may become smarter later on in life. I’d say that’s a good reason to read. Not to be outdone, reading can also increase brain strength. It’s like a power-up for our brains. Reading can improve memory function and slow down the natural decline as we age.

It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own. —Katherine Patterson

Continue reading “5 Reasons Why Reading is Good for You”

New sickle cell treatment given to first patients in England

There is a new sickle cell treatment now being given to patients in England!

Sickle Cell Disease is a debilitating condition that predominantly affects black people. It is a painful condition that requires constant treatment and can lead to what is known as sickle cell ‘crises’. If patients are not treated, they are left in a great deal of pain. Up until now, there has been no treatment.

Read more about it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-60498916

What’s the latest with COVID-19?

According to an editorial in Nature (dated 10 Jan 2022), it is time for us to come to terms with the fact that COVID-19 is here to stay.

Rather than laying plans to return to the ‘normal’ life we knew before the pandemic, 2022 is the year the world must come to terms with the fact that SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay.
Rather than laying plans to return to the ‘normal’ life we knew before the pandemic, 2022 is the year the world must come to terms with the fact that SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay.

Given the amount of pandemic fatigue there is at the moment, many people have already come to terms with it. However, as Nature states, this doesn’t mean that we should stop taking precautions to reduce transmission. With Omicron emerging as a serious threat to moving on from the virus, experts are stressing the need to continue wearing masks and social distancing.

“Omicron is a real threat. Omicron is much more transmissible, and it’s capable of infecting people who have been vaccinated or previously infected. If you’re going to get together with relatives and loved ones, test before you come together. And wear masks in public. And try to social distance in other circumstances.”

It’s also worth noting that the virus will continue to mutate and we will see more variants, but thanks to the ongoing research, scientists will be better equipped to handle them.

“I slightly suspect that there will be future variants, but I think with all that we’ve learned now, we actually should be able to deal with them with much greater certainty.” Professor Peter Openshaw Professor of Experimental Medicine

So, it might be presumptuous to say that this (vaccines, wearing masks, jumping three feet into the air if someone coughs nearby) is our new normal, but it’s our normal right now.


References

  1. COVID is here to stay: countries must decide how to adapt | https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-00057-y
  2. Omicron – latest research and expert views as PCR test rules change

5 Science-Related Podcasts To Listen To

1. The Dropout

Money. Romance. Tragedy. Deception. The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye? How did the woman once heralded as “the next Steve Jobs” find herself facing criminal charges — to which she pleaded not guilty — and up to decades in prison? How did her technology, meant to revolutionize health care, potentially put millions of patients at risk? And how did so many smart people get it so wrong along the way? ABC News chief business, technology and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, along with producers Taylor Dunn and Victoria Thompson, take listeners on a journey that includes a multi-year investigation. You’ll hear exclusive interviews with former employees, investors, and patients, and for the first-time, the never-before-aired deposition testimony of Elizabeth Holmes, and those at the center of this story.

When I first heard about this story I was shocked it wasn’t more popular. So I was happy to find a podcast based on the entire saga and shocked at how far Theranos went.

Most surprising was that people with biological backgrounds were on board with an idea that seemed impossible – a testing system designed around a single pinprick of blood. I’m not an expert, but to conduct multiple assays you need to have enough of your sample. Even when mixed with reagents and diluted, a speck of blood is not enough.

It was fascinating to see just how much people believed in a bad idea. My takeaway was that sometimes there’s too much focus on the becoming ‘next big thing’ and not enough on finding ways to help people.

As of writing Elizabeth Holmes is on trial for various offences and the podcast is covering that also.

Continue reading “5 Science-Related Podcasts To Listen To”

The impact of food poverty on society | part 2

In the previous part, I spoke about food insecurity and how it impacts the lives of many around the world. In this part, we’ll be learning what food insecurity is, and what measures are being taken to combat it and the last impact it has on society.

Food security is made up of four different components. This includes:

  1. Availability
  2. Stability
  3. Utilisation
  4. Access

What happens when there is a lack of food security?

The lack of food security comes with expensive drawbacks, and it may be cheaper to avoid food insecurity than to reverse it. Currently, most governments have been unable to come up with workable solutions. This leaves a hole that is filled by third sector organisations, some of which are not very secure themselves.

Food banks have become more common and they are plugging gaps in society. However, they are not a sustainable alternative to the real issue at hand – people are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in a world that keeps on evolving and growing, leaving those who can’t afford necessities behind. Continue reading “The impact of food poverty on society | part 2”

What do we know about the latest coronavirus variant, ‘Omicron’?

There is a new variant of COVID-19, the virus that has caused a global pandemic that began in early 2020 and shows no signs of letting up.

Here’s what we know about it:

  • Official name – SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529. Classified on 26/11/22 by WHO and named Omicron
  • First reported to WHO on 24/11/21
  • First discovered in specimen taken on 9th November 2021
  • Has a wide range of mutations, thought to make it more infectious and not targeted by current vaccines available
  • Seems to be localised to South Africa but is now in other countries (including the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Italy) due to people traveling from South Africa.
  • It carries an increased risk of reinfection
  • Has been designated a VOC – variant of concern

According to UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson – who speaking after consulting with scientists – Omicron can be spread rapidly between two people, even those who are double vaccinated.

How has the world reacted?

Several countries have banned travel from South Africa and up to eight other surrounding countries. In the UK, travellers are now required to take a PCR test upon returning or entering the country regardless of vaccination status. Face masks have also become compulsory in shops and public transport.

What do we do now?

  • Continue to maintain safe hygiene practices
  • Keep any small spaces well ventilated
  • Maintain social distance of at least 2m
  • Avoid heavily crowded areas or wear a face mask where necessary

For more information: