The impact of food poverty on society | part 1

“Food poverty is contributing to social unrest. Add school closures, redundancies, and furloughs into the equation and we have an issue that could negatively impact generations to come. It all starts with stability around access to food.”

Marcus Rashford, Manchester United/England Football Player

Last year, Marcus Rashford, a young professional footballer threw himself headfirst into a campaign to ensure children in the UK were not left hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially met by resistance from the government, he was able to bring about something that has been lacking for years – action.

However, it’s worth noting that the best way to eradicate food poverty is to understand what it is and how it comes about. Many people in economically well off countries struggle to understand how people can’t afford to feed themselves or their children.

Continue reading “The impact of food poverty on society | part 1”

Taking a break from media

We need to take a break from the media including social media. That doesn’t mean I turn off the television and then I get on CNN online. That means I truly take a break. And children need to be taking breaks as well. … What we know about children is if they’re spending most or all of their time related to tragedies, that can increase their stress reactions.

Robin Gurwitch PhD

Lately, I’ve found myself picking up my phone, flicking through the same notifications and discarding it only to pick it up two seconds later. It’s difficult not to feel like this pandemic has been a missed opportunity to relearn how to enjoy ourselves without our screens, or how to learn or simply exist without them.

There is a lot of focus on maintaining communication with our loved ones via social media, but what about letter writing? How many people take the time to put pen to paper instead of the three seconds it requires to send a text message? How many of us send emails that aren’t work-related? Everything has been streamlined into micro-messaging and I’d argue that a lot of people don’t feel connected at all.

Still, taking a break from media isn’t just about not keeping in touch, it’s about mental clarity. We’ve been bombarded with so much information over the past year and a half that there’s no time to process it. There is no time to reflect. With our laptops, phones and televisions screens on, we are in a constant flux capacitor of information and we need a break.

“There’s a lot of stuff we can do that doesn’t involve a screen. We can get off our phones by subscribing to print magazines, or working on a physical puzzle. I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about a boom in escapist fiction – books that aren’t about a pandemic, really good stories you can get lost in.” – Tanya Goodin

I used to love reading books as a child and young adult, but with the popularity of social media and smartphones, I started reading on my phone. During the first lockdown in the UK, I created a huge spreadsheet of books I wanted to read – and proceeded to read four or five before I gave up. For the third (!) lockdown, I bought a physical book called The French Girl (and two ebooks). Reading the physical book was a revelation. At first, I struggled to get through a chapter. My fingers would itch for my phone, desperate to scroll through notifications! With time, I was able to sit through multiple chapters and switch off from the world for a little while.

As for the ebooks… I started one and got distracted by something else on my phone. The huge spreadsheet remains untouched.

Go figure!


Source: How to take a digital detox during the Covid-19 pandemic

On This Day [Aug. 26th]

AUGUST 26TH

  • 1938: a tape recorder was used for the first time to send a radio broadcast

pile of cassette tapes

  • 1743: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was born. He is considered to be ‘the father of modern chemistry’ and is responsible for naming oxygen and determining what role it plays in combustion and respiration.
  • 1874: Lee de Forest was born. He invented the Audion vacuum tube which made it live broadcasting possible.

You learn something new everyday!

I like to post quotes that resonate with me from time to time and this:

…and this:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

…caught my eye. It was attributed to Darwin, and I had no reason to believe he didn’t say it. The variations in the quote were probably a flashing neon sign that I didn’t see. Something compelled me to look up the quote online and it turns out it’s a misquotation.

One so prominent, it was featured in the California Academy of Sciences (until they removed the Darwin mention).

The real quote seems to be from Leon C. Megginson, Professor of Management and Marketing at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. While the quote itself is a good one, it is a lesson in knowing when to fact check and research (hint: ALWAYS!) – something I will do for all quotes I post in future.


Sources:

Do you need to wear a face mask outside?

Face masks have become part of our new normal over the past year both indoors and outdoors. While they’re highly recommended inside heavily populated areas like supermarkets/grocery stores and public transport, there’s not much guidance when it comes to outside.

According to Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, the risk of catching COVID-19 outside is quite low.

“The risk of outside transmission is very low because viral particles disperse effectively in the outside air. A study in Wuhan, China, which involved careful contact tracing, discovered that just one of 7,324 infection events investigated was linked to outdoor transmission. In a recent analysis of over 232,000 infections in Ireland, only one case of COVID-19 in every thousand was traced to outdoor transmission. And a scoping review from the University of Canterbury concluded that outdoor transmission was rare, citing the opportunity costs of not encouraging the public to congregate outdoors. Overall, transmission is around 5000 times less likely to happen outside than inside.” (Posted April 27, 2021)

Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases doctor and Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

… so, does that mean that we ditch our face masks and get some fresh air? With the vaccination programmes across the world coming along more efficiently and effectively we’re edging closer and closer to that point.

However, until it’s fully safe to do otherwise, we should all continue to maintain social distancing when around people who aren’t in our households, support bubbles or friendship groups.


The quote is taken from Sciline’s ‘Quotes From Experts‘.

torture the data and it will confess to anything

Torture the data and it will confess to anything, as they say at Guantanamo Bay.

Bad Science, Ben Goldacre

This quote is somewhat amusing but very much true of some research carried out. It’s not just limited to science either. How many times do less than reputable sources cherry-pick data and use it to support a conclusion that isn’t correct?

Particularly nowadays with the internet being an open house in terms of the information availability. Researchers must handle data with great care and avoid the temptation of moulding it to fit their hypotheses or narratives.

Update: EMA concludes that benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks

The EMA safety committee held a meeting on 18th March and found that:

  1. the benefits of the vaccine in combating the still widespread threat of COVID-19 (which itself results in clotting problems and may be fatal) continue to outweigh the risk of side effects;
  2. the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots in those who receive it;
  3. there is no evidence of a problem related to specific batches of the vaccine or to particular manufacturing sites;
  4. however, the vaccine may be associated with very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia, i.e. low levels of blood platelets (elements in the blood that help it to clot) with or without bleeding, including rare cases of clots in the vessels draining blood from the brain (CVST).

The full report of the meeting can be found here.

AstraZeneca vaccine suspended in Europe due to safety concerns

Several countries across Europe have suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine due to safety concerns. There have been reports of blood clotting and deaths in people who have been administered the vaccine.

In comparison, there seems to be little trouble with the rollout of the vaccine in the UK with scientists there insisting that the jab is safe.

What happens next?

The European Medicines Agency is currently reviewing the issue, along with the Moderna and Pfizer-Biotech vaccines which have also been linked to blood clotting. The EMA executive director, Emer Cooke, said:

There is no indication vaccination has caused these [blood clotting] conditions.

However, like with any form of medicine, we will only find the answers through continuous testing.

Currently, WHO has stated that it is safe to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine and indications are that the suspensions may not last, particularly in Europe where some countries are experiencing a third wave of infections.

16th March 2021:

WHO is investigating the reports and working closely with the European Medicines Agency.

As soon as review of the data is finalized, we’ll inform the public of any findings.

For the moment, the European Medicines Agency’s position is that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risks of side effects.

WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) is meeting today to review the reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in persons who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine.


Source:

On This Day – 14th March

On This Day, Albert Einstein was born. Born 14 March 1879 in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany, Einstein was a renowned physicist who developed the special and general theory of relativity.

He is, perhaps, one of the most influential scientists of the 20th Century, with his work continuing to have an impact even today (without his breakthroughs, technology such as the computer, television and music players would not have existed).

Einstein was also partial to dropping some notable insight, much of which exists in the form of quotes posted all over the internet.

My personal favourite (and one I need a constant reminder of) is:

If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.


Sources:

Reference

Today In Science

Biography