Science Borealis

Science Borealis
Science Borealis

Monday, 18 February 2013

Jet-lagged thoughts

I'm jet-lagged. Tired and sleepless.

All too common for flying abroad. And most people know already about Melatonin and how it helps regulate our sleep.

But it reminded me of some interesting research buzz happening lately

Treating Alzheimer's with Melatonin.

It still has a long way to go before science can prove/disprove the benefits of using Melatonin to combat the effects of Alzheimer's disease  but initial studies seem promising.

(and at this point this is the extent of my sleep deprived rambling...)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A chemical is just a chemical after all

I just read a most inspiring article by Michelle M. Francl about chemophobia.
Yes, you read it right - CHEMOPHOBIA - the irrational fear of chemicals. It is this fear that makes people do anything from (a someone innocuous) switch from hard chemical cleaners to more environmentally friendly cleaning agents (which is not necessary a bad thing) to the more dangerous action of preventing life saving medication to your children.

But why do we fear chemicals?
Perhaps it is due to how media portrays them? (check out time 1:37 in Toxic Trespass)

Lets get something straight.

Chemicals can be bad for you! (and so do people)
Chemicals can also be good for you! (and so do people)

So how do we know which is good and which is bad? - Experience!
And the people who have experience with chemicals are called Chemists!

Here's an example.
A certain chemical has the following attributes:
When pure it comes as white to off-white powder
May be harmful if inhaled.
May cause respiratory tract irritation.
May be harmful if absorbed through skin.
May cause skin irritation.
May cause eye irritation.
May be harmful if swallowed.
The LD-50 (the lethal dose that would kill half of the rats tested) is only about 2 teaspoons per kg
Its chemical name is ascorbic acid

and here's the important point - you cannot function without it. This is Vitamin C.

The moral of the story is simple. Yes, chemicals can be bad for you. But it depends. How much of it is dangerous? in what form is it dangerous?

Chemicals should be treated as with anything else in life - in moderation and with care.
Don't accept things as dangerous just because they are "chemicals" (all matter around you is a chemical - even water), but also don't accept things as good for you just because they are "natural" or "organic" (they are still chemicals, like the extract of the bark of the Willow tree which is highly toxic, unlike its synthetically modified version of salicylate, better known as Aspirin, which has the same beneficial affects as the bark of the Willow tree, but much less toxic).

Friday, 8 February 2013

She's a witch, she's a witch! Burn her! Burn her!

I'm a Monty Python fan. Yes I am.
They're rough, unapologetic, and just plain mean. Which is how humor should be (sometimes...).

The reason I bring this up is due to a latest new report:

I doubt that the good people of Papua New Guinea took the time to check whether the accused women in fact weighs the same as a duck (for memory refresher, watch here, but to be a bit more serious about this appalling incident, this is just one more example that shows the strength of education (or lack off). It is always easy to choose women as a source of all evil (as history has shown time and time again), but as people are more informed, they are provided with more barriers of logic (one would hope) to refute such non sensible accusations, and condemn a poor innocent women to such a fate.

May we never hear of such ghastly crimes.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Can science explain how bees fly? and why does that matter?

I've recently watched a film with my daughter. You've probably seen it, and most definitely have heard of it. Its called "The Bee Movie".

It starts with a statement:

"According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly.
Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground.
The bee, of course, flies anyway because bees don't care what humans think is impossible." 
Now, the statement in itself may seem amusing, since it tries to convey the fact that 
nature doesn't need our permission to do what it has been doing since ever,
the flaw in the argument is a very important point, which is 
Science does not assume nature need to conform to its authority
Science merely exists to explain how nature bahves
It is the notion of divinity that assumes nature was given to humans to be ruled.
The biggest problem with having such joked in major pop films is that they help propagate
a false impression of what science is.
(just as a side note, looking up online whether science can explain bee's flight brings up some
neat anecdotes but are not my intention to include in this post)