Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

World hit by mysterious animal death epidemic

2 million fish have died in the Chesapeake Bay area in Maryland. Hundreds of dead birds have fallen from the sky in Louisiana. Australian homes have been flooded. 200 dead birds found on a bridge in Texas. 100 tons of sardines, croaker and catfish were found dead along the Brazilian coast. Hundreds of dead turtle doves in the streets of Faenza, Italy. A little closer to home in Britain, 40,000 dead devil crabs washed up along Kent’s coast.

With deaths in such large quantities it has caused a stir amongst scientists, the media and the public. So are these incidents related to one another?

Many conspiracy theories have hinted at religion being behind the deaths. A warning from God or prediction from the Bible. However magazines such as the New Scientist have said this is not the end of the World and not to fret. It has been suggested that New Year fireworks could have affected the birds. Polluted waters and plummeting temperatures were also suggested for the number of fish deaths. However this article only tackles two of the many incidents reported.

The Cool Jew website has suggested that the birds dying were a type of retaliation to Israel. Another rumour suggests the military are behind the deaths with Phosgene gas testing resulting in a number of bird deaths. Nacho Politico website has discussed this theory in more depth.

Bloomberg reports the deaths occurred after less than two weeks after a total lunar eclipse. Since then Google has been bombarded with people searching to uncover the mystery by searching for the key lexeme ‘bird‘. Conspiracy theorists have called these incidents the “Aflockalypse“.

So is it just a coincidence or is it something else? Many scientists have remarked that mass animal deaths are not uncommon in some parts of  the world and specifically America. Other scientists have suggested that the disturbances and deaths could have been caused by the continuous shifting of the (magnetic) North Pole (25 miles a year). In some of the cases testing has been undertaken however there are not yet satisfactory explanations for all of the cases. Do you believe the conspiracy theory? The religious theory? Or is it the environment beginning to collapse?

Related articles

Daily Mail

BBC articles on mass bird deaths

World News Insight

Long Island Press

Pope questions: was God behind the Big Bang?

Pope Benedict announced on Thursday 6th January 2011 (Epiphany) that God’s mind was behind complex scientific theories such as the Big Bang and emphasised Christians should reject the idea that the universe came into being by accident.

Benedict announced that the Universe is not the result of ‘chance’. This was a surprise to both religious and non religious people as a significant statement bringing science and religion together. Over the years Pope Benedict and his predecessor John Paul have been trying to shed the ‘anti science’ image of the Church.

CERN researchers in Geneva have been experimenting with protons, smashing them together at near the speed of light. This simulates conditions that they believe brought the Universe (stars, planets and life) into existence.

Atheists strongly argue that science can prove that God did not create the Universe but Pope Bendedict said that this was a limited approach to creation as many of these theories only start at a certain point and do not fully explain the “sense of reality”. Benedict said that scientific theories, aside from faith, leave a lot of unanswered questions. Many atheists do not feel this is the case. In a recently aired debate about religion and faith atheists managed to have their say. The discussion was between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens questioning: is religion a force for good in the World?

The Catholic Church no longer teaches creationism (belief that God created the world in 6 days as described in the Bible). The Church now says that the account in the book of Genesis is an allegory (figurative mode of representation). However even though the Catholic Church discusses creation in a metaphorical sense it still objects to using evolution theories (commonly used by atheists) that in any shape or form denies God’s experience or role in creation.

So where does religion leave us today? Is religion now modernised to reach a larger audience? Is it opening its doors to a more diverse audience like other societies, companies or organisations in the World do to try and reach maximum numbers? Or is this statement (by the Pope) the beginning of an open relationship between science and religion? The chance for atheists and religious people to appreciate each sides theories.

Would you like your food printed in colour or b&w?

Carrot, chocolate, strawberry and cucumber sponge cake. That is an odd recipe I hear you say, well add a group of scientists, a printer, food and intelligence and the result is pleasing: printed food. How is that even possible?

Scientists in the United States of America have been building a 3D food printer. Cornell University’s Computational Synthesis Lab have been working on this project to change the future of food production. The printer uses food “inks” (liquid or melted versions of ingredients) that are contained within a syringe. The machine deposits food inks layer by layer and line by line according to an electronic blueprint. The blueprint uses CAD (computer aided design) software and instructs where materials should be placed.

So why do we need food printers?

The printer makes cooking possible for those who struggle with or find cooking difficult. The technology allows people to tweak and play around with flavours, textures and appearance. It brings fun to cooking. Alongside fun, the production of meals is time-saving. This allows for fast production of specific meals for those in need: hospitals, disasters or the homeless.

However the technology has not been perfected. The raw ingredients each have different materials reacting differently depending on the situation or combination. The project therefore needs more time to understand the properties of materials.

What does this project promise?

The project promises a step closer to invention seen in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the fictional character Willy Wonka creating marvellous food combinations. The printer allows your imagination to run wild, mixing exotic flavours and create colourful food with exquisite tastes. A food printer would make the unimaginable imaginable. However some people feel the printer could be influential on home cooking and alter family dynamics. Traditional home cooked meals could be a ‘thing of the past’ along with cooking skills and time spent either preparing, cooking or consuming a meal. The printer although being able to tailor an individual’s needs could mean less cohesion and unity around eating. This leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Imagine sending a “home-baked” meal to your partner living abroad via Msn. Facebook messaging a heart cookie to your crush on Valentines day. The industry would also benefit from fast production of meals in places needing or providing care such as hospitals or shelters. The food printer is an innovative idea and personally my taste buds tingle at the thought of such an idea.

Related articles


BBC coverage

The best physics sites of 2010

November 16, 2010 1 comment

Since leaving school I have left science far, far, behind and beyond (into the realms of space) and have put all of my energy and attention into my studies of the media, english language and drama. However, whilst browsing the web today, I starting burning a new flame (love) for physics.

The web awards 2010 awards the best physics websites available to readers on the internet. The websites were awarded in different categories ranging from best blog to best podcast. The awards were nominated by the general public and a panel of judges. Each website uses unique angles and perspectives to explain and create excitement about physics (accessible for all).

Have a look at the winners list to explore the different winning websites. These are my three top favourite from the winners:

  • Pop Sci – this online magazine discusses five distinct areas: gadgets, cars, science technology and DIY. It is easily accessible and has interesting articles. An article that caught my attention today was a virtual nightclub being sold for just over half a million dollars? Really, I hear you say. Yes.
  • New Scientist – a website offering questions and answers about everyday science. This website has everything and anything you could want to know.
  • S-cool revision – if you need to brush up on your GCSE and A-level science this website is ideal. It may come in handy if your children need help with homework or coursework. Be the well-informed scientist (parent) you have always wanted to be!

Paying our way to a lighter future

November 16, 2010 4 comments

The government is considering taxing fatty foods in order to reduce obesity. The BBC emphasise the increase of obese people in the last twenty years and that our country can not ignore this warning. A fatty good tax, is a (needed) wake up call and signal to society that change needs to happen, and soon. As quoted from the BBC article :

“Would putting up the price of junk food – with its high sugar and fat content – cut these rising obesity rates in the same way as a tax on cigarettes – vigorously contested by the tobacco industry at the time – has helped reduce smoking?”

Last night, Panorama aired a documentary, ‘Fat Tax’, with reporter Shelley Jofre, discussing the tax being enforced and the positive effects. As discussed by Private Healthcare the programme did not offer a new or fresh angle to obesity, however, it was informative but not necessarily inspiring for all viewers.

I think it is important to address the issue of obesity but there are a lot of unanswered questions with this approach. Who would decide what is ‘fatty food’ exactly? In order for effective taxing on ‘fatty foods’ the public and governing body would need to define what is ‘fatty food’. This term has been used continuously and repeatedly by media organisations and I for one feel it has lost a lot of value, content and effect. In a supermarket you may have heard something along these lines, “Oh no I am not eating that. That’s junk food. Yuk. It’s fatty food”. I feel there is a need to remind and update the meaning behind the phrase of ‘fatty food’ in order for us to progress as a healthy eating nation.

I feel this tax is forgetting a key aspect in battling obesity. Yes you guessed correctly. Exercise. We need to promote and encourage physical exercise in our lives and different lifestyles. Whether it is half an hours yoga in a morning, to participating in a particular sport, jogging every couple of nights, joining a club or society or attending a dance class. There needs to be more focus on media hype and publicity on the positive aspects on combatting obesity. Surely, a positive approach to such a negatively discussed issue would motivate people?

So don’t starve me of information now, as I need to know, would you pay a little bit extra for that one slice of chocolate cake? So rich, dark and velvety that simple melts on your tongue. A moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips. And also on the bank debt. Or would you (as they hope), seek a healthier alternative and a quick fix to a ‘better’ body?

See the full Panorama ‘Tax the Fat’ programme

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