Revision bite: Was Noah an albino?

Today’s poison: Medical Genetics- Inborn errors of metabolism to be exact.

Albinism is a defect whereby little or no melanin production results in little or no pigment in the skin, hair and eyes.

Noah 2014, Movie Poster
Was Noah an albino? I guess we’ll never know! (Noah, 2014)

When doing a quick google of albinism, I found an article by the BBC, which proposed that Noah might have been an albino.

The film Noah is out now in UK cinemas, and Noah is played by Russel Crowe. It’s thought that Noah might have had variant OCA 1 (Occularcutaneous Albinism). OCA 1 is caused by a mutation in the tyrosine gene which converts tyrosine to DOPA (duhydroxy-phenylalanine). DOPA’s then converted to Dopaquinone and finally to melanin.

OCA1 is divided into two main types of mutations; OCA 1A where tyrosine’s absent and there’s no melatonin in skin or eyes, or OCA 1B whereby tyrosinase is greatly diminished but not totally absent, which causes there to be an increase in skin, hair and eye pigment with age, these patients do tan with sun exposure.

The Old Testament portrays Noah, who was ordered by God to build an ark, as having a long white beard. Some people have stated that text from the Dead Sea Scrolls elaborates further. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1946 and 1956 in a cave east of Jerusalem, and are thought to contain the earliest manuscripts of portions of the Hebrew Bible.

Within these scrolls, Noah is described as a child having “the flesh of whish was white as snow, as red as arose; the hair whose head was white like wool, and long; and whose eyes were beautiful2.

The scroll translation originates from an article written by Professor Arnold Sorsby in the British Medical Journal in 1958. Prof Sorsby is an ophthalmologic research professor, and in this article he attempted to find trace back Noah’s family tree to discover the genetic flaw that possibly caused the albinism mutation.

Many people however are thought to believe that the scroll refers to Noah’s angelic-ness rather than albinism.

 

Whether Noah was or was not an albino, there are mixed reviews on this film. It’s safe to say I won’t be flocking to see it!

For more information about albinism, visit www.albinism.org

References:

Aronofsky, D., 2014. Noah.

Carden, S.M., Boissy, R.E., Schoettker, P.J., Good, W.V., 1998a. Albinism: modern molecular diagnosis. Br. J. Ophthalmol. 82, 189–195. doi:10.1136/bjo.82.2.189

Sorsby, A., 1958a. Noah–an Albino. Br. Med. J. 2, 1587–1589.

 

Revision bite of the day: Snorting cocaine increases your stroke risk by 700%- Is it really worth it?

During revision for my exams it’s clear to see what areas of Biology I’m interested in- as these are the ones I eagerly revise first.

This year top of my list are; Cardiovascular Disease and Mammalian Reproduction- lectured by David Leake and the amazing Phil Knight at University of Reading. I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone in thinking that most students find these areas fascinating.

I also enjoy Conservation and Biodiversity, as my inner eco-warrier pushes out to grapple all sorts of hot conservation topics.

Today, when I sat down to revise the depressing topic of Strokes as part of the Cardiovascular Disease module, I didn’t think this topic would captivate me as much as it has.

At University, it seems that quite a few people are dabbling in a few pills and powders,without a second thought for their health.

When researching strokes it came quite apparent that there was a strong association with cocaine and strokes, and I wanted to find out why, so I went digging…

This February, the American Stroke Association held the ‘International Stroke Conference’ and a remarkable study was presented by Yu-Ching Cheng from the University Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

It’s well-known that cocaine’s a highly addicted substance, but many people don’t know how easily it could cause a disability or stroke.

Astoundingly, between a quarter and a third of young people in the study by Cheng said they’d used cocaine at some time. In the study, 1101 patients aged 15-49 who had had a stroke any time from 1991-2008 were compared to 1154 controls of similar ages in the Baltimore-Washington DC area.

cocaine
Snorting cocaine- is it worth it?

The results showed that having a history of cocaine didn’t necessarily increase your risk of having an ischaemic stroke later on in life. But it did show, however, that acute use of cocaine was associated with a 7-fold increase within the next 24 hours.

Also, the risk of having a stroke was higher in women.

The Science bit

Simply speaking, Ischaemic strokes are a ‘transient or permanent reduction in blood flow restricted to the territory of a major brain artery’.  The chances of dying from an ischaemic stroke are 30%.

Now for the science -turn away now, if you’re afraid of a little science talk!

As there’s a reduction in the blood supply (normally due to a thrombus- or giant mass of platelets and other things clogging up your blood vessel), this causes an energy failure to the brain, which causes the depolarisation of neurons. This causes the activation of specific glutamate receptors, normally stored inside the synaptic terminals, moves into the extracellular space by an energy dependent process , and so more glutamate is in its depleted energy state. This causes the opening of the AMPA receptors (actually called alpha-animo-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxanole propionate- you can see why scientists use abbreviations!), causing membrane depolarisation, so increasing the amount of calcium and sodium, which in turn increase the amount of potassium released into the extracellular space.

This propagates a wave of depolarisation, whereby water moves into the extracellular space, creating an oedema.

Intracellular calcium’s important because it causes the activation of a series of destructive, boisterous enzymes such as proteases, lipases and endonucleases that allow the release of cytokines (chemical signals) and other mediators.

Calcium ions then over-activate the enzyme systems, generating free radicals by breaking down lipids (See week 2 CVD fellow biologists, to understand the mechanism by which this occurs!) which damages membranes and mitochondria.

Mediators are then triggered which activate the microglia, and this up-regulates the endothelial adhesion molecules, causing inflammatory molecules to invade and initiating the inflammatory response.

This occurs during a focal ischaemic stroke, but this is also surrounded by an area in which cells start to lose their membrane potential too- called the ‘penumbra’.

So now you know the science behind it all if you didn’t all ready.

Is it really worth it? Personally, I don’t think so as you never know what other kinds of horrid things they put into drugs.

I’m not against anyone doing drugs, everyone has free will, but I think people should be educated about the stuff they’re putting into their body.

One other thing-  If you think someone’s having a stroke, remember to act F.A.S.T.  (Face, Arms, Speech, Time).

Comment below if you think you’d risk it for a taste of the white stuff or tweet me @elspethhoulding, follow the debate #EHCocaineDebate 

References

http://www.uic.edu/com/ferne/pdf/pathophys0501.pdf

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/820592

Fruit flies- the key to hairless legs?

Fed up with shaving and waxing? Well, hairy legs could soon be a thing of the past.

A recent genetic study has discovered a new molecule to repress hair growth on the legs of the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, which one day, could lead to a new method of hair removal.

Shaving, waxing and many other well-known methods of hair removal were voted Britain’s most hated beauty chore (1).  But with Spring looming, women everywhere are dusting off their razors and getting their legs out.

Hair removal is regarded as the ‘holy grail’ of the beauty industry. In 2011, the hair removal market was worth US$2.1 billion, showing that tapping into this niche has hair-raising potential for businessmen and scientists alike (1).

But why are fruit flies important?

Well, to biologists, the fruit fly is a powerful tool and model organism, used worldwide for genetic and developmental research due to its small genetic sequence (formed of just 4 chromosomes compared to the human’s 46), simple diet, and short life cycle (2) . This allows scientists to analyse the DNA of a simple creature, effectively, cheaply and quickly, before applying these concepts to large, more complex DNA sequences, like humans.

Alistair McGregor and his team of scientists at Oxford Brookes University have made a new discovery during their studies of the ‘naked valley’ of Drosophila.  This area on the upper leg of the fruit fly, is known to have a diverse range of ‘trichomes’ (hair-like projections), which vary in size and shape. McGregor has discovered a molecule, mir-92a, that prevents trichome formation on the ‘naked valley’ (3).

This has sparked excitement, not only by geeky scientists in labs, but beauty gurus worldwide, who think that this could be the key to having permanently hair-free legs, making razors and wax strips tools of the past.

McGregor’s research could be used to indicate similar molecules in the human body which could be targeted in order to prevent hair growth, saving not only your time, but money too.

This method of hair removal would prevent those awkward stubbly mid-wax days and shaving accidents. However, research on fruit flies is a lot easier than humans.

Treatments like this are not likely to be available for a long while yet, as stringent research and clinical trials are needed to identify the correct molecules in the human body.

The long-term effectiveness of such treatment is unknown, and scientists fear that it could prevent the growth of hair everywhere, removing beloved hair on the head, as well as eye brows and eye lashes.

Could the secret of hair-free living lie in the genome of the fruit fly, and would this ever be an effective method of hair removal?

Well, there’s a long while yet before we’ll see this treatment at the local beauty parlour. So for the mean time, you might just have to stick with your trusty razor.

References

(1) The Powder Room. (2013). ‘Women spend more than two months of their life shaving their legs’. Available: http://www.lady.co.uk/blogs/tags/tag/legs. Last accessed 13th February 2014.

(2) Richard Twyman. (2002). Model Organisms: The Fruit Fly. Available: http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_WTD020807.html. Last accessed 13th February 2014.

(3) Arif, S., Murat, S., Almudi, I., Nunes, M. D., Bortolamiol-Becet, D., McGregor, N. S., … & McGregor, A. P. (2013). Evolution of mir-92a Underlies Natural Morphological Variation in Drosophila melanogaster. Current Biology, 23(6), 523-528.

New species of river dolphin placed straight on the Red List

Biologists have discovered a new species of river dolphin in the Araguaia River basin of Brazil- this is the first new species described since 1918! However, they are recommending that it should go on the Red List immediately.

True river dolphins are one of the most rarest and most endangered vertebrate species. There are only four known species of river dolphin, three of which are on the Red List, meaning they are critically endangered. [1]

True river dolphins are located throughout the Amazon, Orinoco and Araguaia-Tocantis River basins. The Araguaia-Tocantis River basin isn’t actually part of the Amazon River basin, as it became disconnected in the transition from the Pliocene to the Pleistocene, approximately 5-2.5 million years ago, by the formation of huge rapids and waterfalls. River dolphins are really slow swimmers and are known to rarely leap, so they were totally cut off from the members from the Inis family.

Image

Tomas Hrbek and colleagues from the Federal University of Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil, took mitochondrial DNA samples from river dolphins in the Araguaia and Tocantis rivers. They observed over 120 of the Araguaian animals over the 12 week study period and, to their amazement, they discovered a totally new species. Their research was published in the journal Plos One.

Hrbek has named the new species Inia araguaiaensis (commonly known as the Araguaian Boto).  This new species was found to only have 24 teeth per jaw, rather than the 25 to 29 found in the Amazon’s other river dolphins.  (Hrbek et al., 2014)

There are only approximately 1000 of these dolphins, and researchers are already concerned about what the future holds for this exquisite species, due to its low genetic diversity. The Araguaia river basin has been under significant anthropogenic pressure through agricultural activities and the construction of hydroelectric dams. [2]

Hrbek believes that due to the threats it faces, the dolphin should be immediately categorised as Vulnerable on the Red List, this could be the first time in history that a newly discovered animal is placed directly onto the Red List.


[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25841135

Hrbek, T., Ferreira da Silva, V.M., Dutra, N., 2014. A New Species of river Dolphin from Brazil or: How Little Do We Know Our Biodiversity. PLOS ONE 9.

Blackout at Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bay

Last term I studied a module called ‘Conservation and Biodiversity- Global and Local Scales’- sounds boring? It was the total opposite. For a nature lover like myself, It was truly fascinating to be able to discover more about what makes our little Island of Great Britain so, well, great! With our epic biodiversity in the hotspot of political debate, there couldn’t possibly be a better time to address the issues surrounding conservation.

But how can ecosystems benefit us? Humans are selfish beings, and so this question is at the forefront of politicians lips. My argument is why aren’t they beneficial? Any conservation biologist will be able to tell you about the ‘services’ of the ecosystem for humans, from supporting nutrient and seed dispersal allowing our vegetables to grow and flourish, to providing drugs from the countless shrubs, flowers and trees, as well as regulating the climate, purifying water and air and producing crops allowing us to build houses and feed our families. Not forgetting ecosystems provide us with cultural intelligence, space for recreational activities and the tools for scientific discovery. For example, in 1965, Thomas Brock managed to isolate Taq polymerase, a highly useful DNA polymerase from the thermophilic bacterium Thermus aquaticus. Nowadays, this polymerase is used daily in laboratories, aiding PCR. Without Taq polymerase, PCR wouldn’t give as high yields as it does.

Man affects biodiversity in every sense. Changes in population, technology, lifestyles, and even cultural and religious views can affect biodiversity, causing changes in local land use cover, species interaction and more. For example, a religious uprising could cause an increase in fish consumption, decreasing the fish population or increasing the application of fertilisers to increase food production. These interactions take place across all geographical and time scales, for example, the international demand for timber may lead to regional deforestation, increasing the flood magnitude along a local stretch of river.

In June 2010, I won a competition run by Earthwatch and Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent. The prize for conveying a passion for conservation and scientific research was the opportunity of a lifetime.

I got the chance to pick an expedition of my choice to go on, for free! I chose ‘Puerto Rico’s Rainforest’s’ and I had the most incredible time, meeting people from all over the US, and really enhancing my love of travelling and Biology- I’ll tell you more about my adventure in a future blog post!

Happy Kayakers enjoying the glow of the Bio Bay.
Happy Kayakers enjoying the glow of the Bio Bay.
Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/glow-flow-kayaking-eerie-bioluminescent-bays-puerto-rico-article-1.1126777

Puerto Rico’s ‘Grand Lagoon’ on Fajardo is a Bioluminescent Bay, and one of the last few remaining bays of its kind. It has become a top tourist destination, with tourist companies taking fleets of intrigued tourists out onto the bay in kayaks, to bear witness to this magical glow as you streak the water with your paddle. And during my day off on the expedition, we travelled to witness its beauty, and it was magnificent.

However, in November, this bio-bay went dark. And no one knows why.

From the 11th November, the darkness caused chaos. Excursions had to be cancelled and visitors reimbursed as the department of Natural Resources Secretary Carmen Guerrero and a team of highly trained scientists travelled to the site to find out what had caused the blackout.

The glow’s caused by the inhabiting dinoflagellates, oceanic plankton which emit an emerald green and ultramarine shine, which depend on a delicate balance of nutrients, vitamins, water temperature and quality in order to glimmer.

Gossip surrounding the devastation travelled around Puerto Rico like wildfire. Common topics included the recent storms could have caused giant waves and the clearing of mangroves to create larger paths for big boats. Another contributing factor could have been the runoff from the nearby water and sewer plant construction. This plant is actually being constructed to protect the lagoon from sewage discharge, but has it had an accidental detrimental effect?

The Bio-bay had a blackout in 2003, with the glow returning a few months later. There are about 700 jobs on the line should this ecosystem rupture, and rumour has it only a fraction of the luminescence has returned, proving that something has caused the bay to blacken.

Will the ‘Great Lagoon’s glow return? Let’s hope so, and soon.

Want to find out more…?

http://biobaypuertorico.com/

http://www.webpronews.com/bioluminescence-bay-goes-dark-2013-11

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/1119/Bioluminescent-bay-goes-dark-What-happened

http://fusion.net/modern_life/story/puerto-rican-bio-bay-suddenly-stops-glowing-239141

US Research Chimps Retire

The US National Institute for Health (NIH), the largest funder of medical research in the US, is slashing medical research on chimpanzees, hoping to transfer most of the chimps to sanctuaries.
Great news for chimps, but it might slow down the development of the Hepatitis C vaccine.

This decision follows the recommendation from the Institute of Medicine in December 2011, which declared that the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research was ‘unnecessary’ and a ‘specific set of guidelines’ were needed. 

The NIH currently uses 360 of 1000 research chimps in the US, and has created an advisory committee to monitor the use of chimps for scientific purposes.

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Chimpanzees at Chimp Haven, a national chimpanzee sanctuary in Louisiana, grooming and playing with Imageone another.
Credit: Chimp Haven Flick

The large majority of chimps are set for retirement in sanctuaries, such as Chimp Haven, a US government controlled facility. However a colony of 50 chimps will be retained for “future biomedical research”, situated in settings similar to their natural environment in order to promote their innate behaviour; large groups, large open area and lots of activities.

This decision was long anticipated and has followed a chain of efforts to protect chimpanzees both in the wild, and captivity. However, some researchers aren’t happy about the decision.

Just last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Services stated that all chimpanzees, even those currently in captivity, would be listed as endangered, placing a further hurdle in the way of scientists demanding to use this animal for experiments.  This would ensure that medical researchers apply for a permit for all experiments, unless they were purely observational or could take place during a normal veterinary visit.

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Professor Kevin Kregel, Department of Health and Human Physiology, University of Iowa, USA.
Credit: http://www.uiowa.edu/~ambi/members/kregel.html

Kevin Kregel, professor and chair of the Department of Health and Human Physiology at the University of Iowa has stated that the NIH decision is “somewhat controversial”, as chimps are the key in understanding many prevalent human diseases such as Hepatitis C.

Chimps are the only non-human animal that the virus infects, so could the vaccine development slow down, putting human lives at risk?

Many scientists believe that there are plenty of ways to ensure that drugs are safely tested without using chimps during experiments, such as mice or human cell culture to safely test drugs.

However, the genetic profile of a mouse is more significantly different to a humans profile than chimps, and so testing drugs on mice may not be a viable alternative.

Adding another obstacle to the scenario, Chimp Haven, the US sanctuary where the vast majority of the chimps would be relocated, can’t currently house all the chimps. The executive director said that “It would take between three and five years before Chimp Haven would be ready to take in more animals”, but the more pressing issue is funding.

In 2000, the US congress passed the ‘Chimp Act’, assigning $30m for the care of retired research chimps and the construction of Chimp Haven. However, today, there is less than $1m left, and the congress is yet to renew or extend the funding which covers 75% of the sanctuary’s costs.

So until the issue of housing the relocated chimps is resolved, the chimps are staying where they are, and they might be safe from Scientists.

The NIH is currently working with Congress to begin moving funds from chimpanzee research towards funding sanctuaries, but will the reduction of chimp-based research cause a rise in the Hepatitis C virus?

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23322774

http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2013/od-26.htm

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729023.400-us-medical-research-chimps-to-retire-to-sanctuaries.html#.UqDbQsRdWHQ

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/science/us-to-retire-most-chimps-from-research.html?_r=0

 

 

Monday’s Top 3 Science News Stories

Top 3 new stories this Monday:

1. Spanish Mountain Goat back from extinction!Image

Scientists in Zaragoza, Spain have received funding to test whether an extinct mountain goat is able to be cloned from preserved cells. The Pyrenean ibex, or bucardo, became extinct in 2000, however scientists collected cells from the animal before it died, which were frozen in liquid nitrogen.

This is not the first study to bring back the bucardo from extinction. In 2003,a bucardo calf was born, but died shortly after birth.

However, Alberto Fernandez-Arias of the Center of Research and Food Technology of Aragon in Zaragoza, told BBC News that they have begun to work on the cells from the last animal, named Celia, although “At this moment, we are not initiating a ‘burcardo recovery plan’, we only want to know if Celia’s cells are still alive after having been maintained frozen during 14 years in liquid nitrogen.”

If the cells prove to be healthy, they’ll attempt to clone embryos and implant them in female goats, or another possible approach could be to cross a healthy female bucardo clone with a closely related sub-species such as the Spanish ibex, and then selectively breed the offspring to enhance the traits of the classic bucardo.

However, the likelihood of this method proving to be effective and its controversial ethical position in the science society remains a question on every reproductive scientist’s lips…

2.       Indonesia raises Sumatra volcano alert to the highest status!

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Mount Sinabung is a stratovolcano in North Sumatra, Indonesia, has been erupting since the 15th September, evacuating 3,700 people from a 3km radius of the volcano.

The eruption then quietened down, however it erupted again on the 5th November, spewing a 7km column of ash into the air, followed by a strong pyroclastic flow (fast moving avalanche of ash, lava fragments and air), which raced down the peaks of the volcano, blasting out ash explosions atleast twice daily since, ejecting hot-ash and red hot rocks 5 miles up into the air.

Thick, grey ash covers villages, farms and trees as far as 70 km north of Mount Sinabung.

Today, it erupted 8 times, causing thousands of terrified residents to flee their homes. A local government official said “”People panicked as the eruption was accompanied by a loud thunderous sound and vibrations. Then it started raining down rocks. They ran helter-skelter out of their homes and cried for help.”[i]

Now the volcano has been issued with the highest alert possible, which is an alarming scenario even for a volcano situated on the Pacific ring of fire.[ii]

A dangerous eruption could happen at any moment.

3.       Brightest ever Gamma-ray burst witnessed by Scientists!

Scientists have analysed a cosmic explosion caused by the death of a massive star. The flare of radiation, called a ‘gamma-ray burst’, was spotted earlier this year by telescopes positioned in space and has been confirmed as the brightest ever seen.

Image

Known by astronomers as ‘The Monster’, it was the biggest and brightest cosmic explosion ever witnessed. Any closer, Earth would have been toast.

Thankfully, however, the star was situated a mere 3.7 billion light years away, but it was spotted by orbiting telescopes in April.

The blast was a gamma-ray burst, caused when a star dies, collapsing, creating a brand-new black hole, generating a supernova and ejecting energetic radiation that is so bright it can be seen to travel across the universe at the speed of light.

The star is thought to be 20-30 times the mass of the Sun, but only a couple of times bigger in width- making it incredibly dense, and so when it exploded, it took the light approximately four billion years to reach us.

The gamma-ray burst had the “largest fluence, highest-energy photon,longest gamma-ray duration (20 hours) and one for the largest isotropic energy releases ever observed from a gamma-ray burst.[iii]

BBC News reported that the Astronomer Prof Paul O’Brien, from the University of Leicester, said that “These events can happen in any galaxy at any time. We have no way to predict them”.[iv]

NASA telescopes readily observe a gamma ray burst every few days for the past 20 years. But this one was slightly different, flooding NASA with five times the energy of the largest gamma-ray burst to date, a blast which occurred in 1999.

We don’t see any gamma-ray bursts on the Earth because the atmosphere obscures them and their light is not detectable with our eyes, but luckily, NASA has satellites that look for them.[v]

It’s unknown when the next supernova will be formed, but hopefully it’ll occur a good few light years from us!

NASA launch MAVEN Mars Mission

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Image: http://www.space.com/23631-maven-mars-orbiter-launch-photos.html

NASA’s next exploration is set for Mars. Many questions are still left unanswered by this mysterious red planet, and this exploration is set to answer one of the biggest queries yet; If Mars did have a thicker atmosphere and a surface of flowing water; how and why did the climate change so dramatically?

Yesterday, MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, from Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.  The rocket was launched at 13:28 local time (18:28 GMT), and the total project cost the tiny sum of $671m (£416m).

The sole aim of MAVEN is to measure the rates of which different air molecules are being lost today, in order to distinguish between the various responsible processes for the loss of water from this big Red Planet.

Bruce Jakosky, the mission’s principle investigator said that “After ten years of working on this, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this finished spacecraft ready to go”.  Stationed at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, he leads the mission into investigating the thinning of Mars’ atmosphere and answering of the question on ever physicists lips- where and why has the water gone from Mars? The latest theory states that the sun may have a role in aiding the escape of gas from the planet’s upper atmosphere.

The rocket’s upper stage will release Maven approximately 53 minutes into the flight, and the probe will then undertake a 10 month cruise to its destination.  But how does the rocket know exactly where to go? Well, during the cruise, four planned trajectory correction manoeuvres are planned whereby fire thrusters are fired to tweak the trajectory so that the rocket arrives at the right place and the right time to jump into orbit around Mars.

The atmosphere of Mars is composed mainly of carbon dioxide and is extremely thin, with atmospheric pressure at the surface of only 0.6% of the Earth’s surface pressure- any open liquid water rapidly boils away.  However, upon the Marsian landscape, there are numerous channels that were evidently cut with abundant, flowing water- could this be proof that the atmosphere was thicker in the past?!

The best explanation for the loss of water from Mars, is the solar wind, an outflow of energetic particles from the sun, which could have caused the water to simply be eroded throughout time, as Mars does not have a protective global magnetic field, unlike Earth.  But is this theory true?

The arrival date is set for 22 September next year, so we might have to wait a while to get the answer to this probing question.

http://www.nasa.gov/content/maven-seeks-to-solve-another-mars-riddle/#.UonqxNK-3To

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24962919

 

 

Was the typhoon Haiyan cause by climate change?

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Image 1: http://static1.businessinsider.com/image/52823af0eab8eaba499f9e8f/heres-what-typhoon-haiyan-means-for-the-philippine-economy.jpg

On the 8th November, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines causing mass devastation. The 300 mile across typhoon was one of the most intense tropical storms to ever make landfall anywhere in the world, bringing torrential rain, sustained winds of over 195mph and a storm surge of up to 30 feet which devastated coastal areas.

Over 11 million people have been affected. Hundreds of thousands of families have been forced to flee their homes, and there are countless dead.  The aftermath of the typhoon is horrific. Bodies lay in the street, merely covered by a thin sheet of plastic, and every day, the risk if disease increases.

On the 14th November, World Vision distributed food, water and sanitation supplies to 900 families in northern Cebu, this was the first aid the region has received since the typhoon struck. 250 volunteers had been working since Sunday to pack aid kits in the offices of CAFOD, these packs contain enough supplies to last a family office for three days.

“[We have been] distributing water, water tanks, thousands of ready-to-eat meals, medicine, shelter, blankets, generators and inevitably, body bags” says Richard Gordon, Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.

 

Could this typhoon have been caused by climate change?

Just as the news of the typhoon Haiayan was spreading worldwide, a young Filipino diplomat, Naderev Sano, was leading his country’s negotiations in the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland. By the time he gave his talk in the UN conference, the world knew that this was the largest storm ever measured.

 He gave his emotive and passionate speech to the rest of the delegates, urging them to open their eyes to the possibility of the typhoon being caused by climate change and to see themselves what was happening on the other side of the world.

Once he finished his speech, he sat down, sobbing and was awarded with a standing ovation from the other delegates.

A self proclaimed ‘revolutionary’ and ‘philosopher’, Yeb stated that he would go on a hunger strike for the whole of the two week meeting. He was soon joined by many activists. But was this actually caused by climate change?

Undoubtedly, the issue of climate change is not aiding the argument that extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy, melting of the Arctic sea ice and heat waves in USA, Russian and Australia can be attributed to climate change.

Scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmopsheric Administration (NOAA), the UK Met Office ad research teams from 16 other global organisations collaborated and tried to calculate how much the climate change had positively influenced 12 extreme weather events that occurred in 2012.

They concluded that climate change had indeed helped to raise the temperatures during the run of 37.7’C days in the heat wave throughout the US last year, it was behind the melting of the Arctic’s ice, the storm of Hurricane Sandy, and many, many other extreme weather events.

Something needs to be done about the effects of climate change, and many of the issues for causing climate change are being discussed at the UN conference in Poland, especially the devastating news that Japan is backing away from its emission reduction targets, and the news that Australia is rejecting green house gas-curbing measures.

However, more importantly for the present time, efforts need to be focused on rebuilding the lives of families in the Phillpines. Many people are still without basic sanitation and fresh water supply, boats are stationary, smashed into houses due to the force of the storm as people try and carry on vaguely normal lives.

 

How can you help?

Fundraise for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which brings together 14 leading UK aid charities in times of crisis, including the Red Cross. The Red Cross have been on the ground since before the storm hit, helping with evacuation plans and warning communities. Now, they’re helping people most in need and are preparing to help thousands more. Or perhaps turn your unwanted good into cash through eBay for charity, and select the DEC when listing an item to donate a share of the sales.

 

Whatever you do, please help rebuild the lives of millions of people, help them reconstruct schools, public services and their homes. Help this poor country recover from the worst storm ever recorded.

 

 Watch the emotive, amazing speech by Yeb here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7SSXLIZkM3E

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/12/typhoon-haiyan-climate-change-blame-philippines