Science in the City, Malta 2018 – all you need to know

Science in the City is an annual event taking place not only in Valletta, but in another 320 cities around the world. This will be the seventh anniversary of marriage between the arts and science. Science in the City, the brainchild of Dr. Edward Duca is now fixed in Maltese cultural calendar.

The message of this year’s event is that everyone starts from zero. Even experts started with no knowledge whatsoever. We encourage everyone and anyone to visit and start or continue to understand, admire and discuss the world around them.

The QA with the folks handling the PR for this event was amazing so I’ll leave it as is, and you can see the entirety of it here.

#scicitymalta #MSCAnight

Here’s a small TL;DR for whoever is lazy in his reading.

Words of Osiris Note: The shows featured are those that cropped up in our Question and Answer session, and should only be taken as suggestions. Feel free to wander around the stands and shows, especially those featured as main events! (Use the App)

1. Crowd Favourite: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

2. New Science in the City App:

  • Map with show time schedules and age appropriateness.
  • Listed Transport arrangements, to avoid parking hassles.
  • Interactive Map of all the restaurants offering a Science in the City discount, great for drinkers and foodies.

Words of Osiris Note: After installing the App myself I could only see two fast food chains advertised around the main show area. The only true restaurant is out-of-the-way, at the Valletta Waterfront. Hope they won’t be the only ones. #moreandhealthieroptions

3. Not for Kids only:

  • Talking Science at Palazzo Ferriera (Facebook event) features topics such as blockchain, biohacking, gender assignment and terrorism amongst others.
  • Honourable mention: Ro-Botanicals: mixing plant tech with delicious cocktails + talks about the future of food.

4. Theatrical and Musical spectacles:

Theatrical

Musical:


Once again the full Question and Answer can be found by hitting this link


This blog post is in no way sponsored and has no affiliation with the Malta’s Science and Arts Festival organisers.


Featured Image: European Science Engagement Association

Run, the Clock is Ticking

It has been around for millennia and is still being practiced today. The sport of the classical era, athletics. Truth be told, running as a sport is as simple as it gets. Nothing to it really, just putting one foot in front of the other. Piece of cake. or is it?

Running might well be the only sport where you have to be active through the whole event. A true endurance sport which, in my opinion, is under-appreciated. There’s no need of cumbersome equipment, no dependence on enormous and expensive stadiums, just you and the road. As pure as it gets.

For me, running off into the distance is the best feeling ever. It frees the mind and keeps your heart healthy. Some say its as good as having chocolate. Scientifically speaking there is some truth to that. Good old endorphins are released into your blood stream, and chemicals called anandamides gush to your brain to give you the famous runner’s high.

Competitive or not, running will always have a special place in my heart as a sport. While beating down the track, trying to improve your time, you harbour that determination and spirit that fuels you through life. Seconds turn to minutes, shredded from your personal best. It may not be flamboyant as football or other team sports or as action packed as a video game, but few are the sports which are completely about you and what you’re capable of.

You fight your demons, while persuing your goals. It’s you against the tick of the clock.

Just run.


Feautured photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard

The Beast from the East – Explained

A massive cold spur hit Europe and here’s why


We’ve all shivered and made snowmen this past days. And when I say ‘we’ I mean mainland Europe. Malta was only hit by some cold winds for a couple of days. Sad thing is that I had to go to work unlike most Europeans.

Anyhow, why did sudden Siberian cold hit mainland Europe?

To answer this, one has to look at the arctic region (north pole) specifically between 10km and 60km up in the atmosphere or what it is known as the stratosphere.

Due to the inclination of the earth (the same reason why we have seasons), the northern pole doesn’t receive sunlight and the temperature differences creates a vortex. This massive stratospheric storm called the stratospheric polar vortex spans as wide as the north pole itself.

 

Since it is so high up we don’t usually feel its effects, but there are instances where this vortex destabilises causing its doughnut shape to morph into two or more doughnuts.

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So, who’s complaining? (Credit: L0nd0ner -Pexel)

Actually Europe’s complaining since this splitting compresses air, heating up the stratosphere violently. So violent, that it pushes the cold arctic troposphere, or basically our weather portion of the atmosphere, disrupting our usually weather patterns.

Then we end up with something like this:

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Credit: Paul Townsend – Flikr

If you want to know more please take a look at Simon Clark‘s video which has explained it much better than I ever could.

It’s all thanks to Simon Clark (twitter: @simonoxyphys) that I came to know of this so please do support him

Simon is one of the coolest and newest science communicators found on Youtube.

Do subscribe or give him a cheeky thumbs up.


If you love Science and want to read on more science-y things, click here 


Featured photo credits: Snapwire – Pexels.

The Silent Killer – The Stephen Fry Story

Just yesterday I watched a video post that really shocked me on how silent disease can be.


I admit it. I’m a great Britophile and love everything quintessentially British. Apart from heaving a great admiration to the country itself, I love their way of living and watch one too many tv show of theirs.

Doing so, it made me familiar with the British celebrities, one of which I was fond of. A declared atheist, a lover of the classical and having a general knowledge as big as the Internet itself, Mr. Stephen Fry.

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This gentleman, starred in many movies and was for many years the host of the tv show QI. Recently he left Britain to live in the US of A, and there is where all this happened.

This year’s flu was predicted to pretty bad, so Stephen decided to take a flu shot as prevention. His trusty GP (General Practioner or Doctor) suggested a general checkup, and Stephen agreed. Blood, urine and stool samples were taken, and Mr. Fry left unconcerned.

After a couple of days his doctor phoned back, sharing his concerned about Steven’s PGA or Prostate Gland Antigen levels. It was slightly higher than normal and that is where it all began.

I won’t go onto details, he’s an amazing storyteller so I’ll leave it to him to tell you the rest…

 

Being a man of science himself, who believes in the medical system, a resounding message can be taken from all of this.

Take care of yourself and get a regular check-up

Do you even moisturise? Learn the Science of Moisturisers. Tips included!

Moisturisers are a go to for many men and women, especially at this time of year. Slap on some cream, lotion or spread and you’re ready to go. BUT only if you understand how it works will you get the most out of it.


 

Since beauty and lifestyle bloggers are the most abundant, I though why not do a scientific blog with them in mind. So here we go…

There are basically three main types of moisturising ingredients:

  • Occlusives
  • Humectants
  • Emollients
Let’s go in a bit deeper:
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stock.tookapic.com

Occlusives:

Basically these have a ‘fatty’ side to them. Like oils and waxes, fat repels water. In moisturisers, it blocks the passage of water out of your skin. An everyday ingredient which can be defined as ‘fatty’ is petroleum jelly.

The ingredient petrolatum is best at holding water in, followed closely by lanolin and mineral oil.

Humectants:

These act like water sponges. They usually suck up water from deep into your skin to the upper-most surface. They do absorb water from the air but  to a much lesser extent, especially if the air is dry.

The most common examples are glycerin, honey, panthenol (a Vitamin B5 varient), sorbitol (also used an artificial sweetner), pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA) and urea.

These ingredients while beneficial can cause water to escape from the surrounding non-creamed areas. Look out for these ingredients and be sure you cover a much wider area than just the dry spot!

Emollients:

These are simply there to fool you in thinking the moisturiser is effective. After the drying of the skin, certain proteins are broken down leaving you with crackled skin. Ingredients like dimethicone  fill these gaps of broken protein us making your skin feel smooth.

Even though urban legends says alcohols dry up your skin and have little place in moisturisers, ingredients like octyldodecanol are excellent emollients.

Honourable Mentions:

Vitamins:

A morphed Vitamin A (Retionic acid) is used in anti-wrinkle creams – In moisturisers as retinyl palmitate is good but less effective than the former.

Vitamins C (absorbic acid) – most probably is rendered useless in contact with the air.

Vitamin E – if the vitamin is mentioned as tocopheryl acetate, the body doesn’t make use of it. So it doesn’t do anything other than its use as a preservative.

Lactic Acid: 

Heavy Duty Humectant – to handle with care, usually used for skin over heel or calluses. Most products containing this ingredient gives you a stinging feeling after application.

Final note:

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The best way to moisturise is not to buy the most expensive product, but to keep up with your recommended daily water intake. In other words, DRINK WATER.

Remember, the products you buy don’t create water from thin air but helps the body cope with instances of dryness.

Second on the list, is to try to stay away from dehumidifiers and air conditioners. They both dry up the air around you and consequently your skin.

 


 

Hope you enjoyed this post!

If you want to see more please leave a comment telling me what you think! 😀

 

References:
Dobos, K. (n.d.) ‘How Do Skin Moisturizers Work? – Chemists Corner’, [Online]. Available at http://chemistscorner.com/how-do-skin-moisturizers-work/ (Accessed 17 February 2018).
Harvard Health Publishing (n.d.) Moisturizers: Do they work? [Online]. Available at https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/moisturizers-do-they-work (Accessed 17 February 2018).
Featured PictureH Matthew Howarth

Human Cloning

As usual I was scrolling through my WordPress reader, and bumped into this:

With ethical dilemmas, developing technology, and practicality issues, it is no wonder people’s opinions on the subject are so divided.

via Thoughts on Thursday: The Possibility of Human Cloning — Megan Roylee

Then I just felt like writing some thoughts of mine, so here we are.


Megan thinks of cloning as creating a foreign or even some sort of creature. While ethically, human cloning is considered wrong for religious or spiritual reasons, cloning other animals is not.

South Korea has been on the cutting edge of this replication process for the past decade, if not more. Certain companies actually offer a service of cloning your beloved pet for a hefty price tag.

 

As it says in the video, genetically the pet will be identical but you won’t have the exact same dog. Environmental factors will influence the character/characteristics of the new born puppy. No two drops in a river are exactly the same.

Anyway, hopping back to humans, cloning ‘John’ won’t bring him magically back to life. Think about the clone as ‘John v.2’ and if you call him ‘Andrew’, he will be like a much younger twin to ‘John’.

Yes, some twin have the same genetic material, and yet end up to be quite different. These are called ‘true twins’ and factors like nutrition, exercise and exposure to different psychological events will help you tell them apart. Hopefully they’ll reply to a different name as well.

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Therefore, you can’t bring back anyone from death and therefore a second element of people’s perception comes into play.

Some think of clones as a possible gateway to organ donation. My ethical standards forebid me to think of another human being as an organ stepnee. Imagine coming to this world, and once you grow up you’ve been told that you’re just a spare wheel for another guy. Clones for human testing, or clones being treated differently in any other way, would make no sense.

As time goes by, the organ donor debate through a clone is dying down. New technologies are making it able to grow an organ in the laboratory.

You can read more about laboratory cultivated organs…here.

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Clearly, at this point in time, I see no point in cloning humans. A clone would be just a
person who happens to have the same genetic material like someone else. Might as well have kids the old fashioned way, instead of going through the hassle of creating an exact copy of someone. Plus, the old fashioned way is way more fun.

 


What do you think after reading this?

Comment down below or re-blog your thoughts, share them with the world.

 

Why calling it Global Warming is Wrong!

Why the phrase can do more harm that good.

Since the 80s and 90s the media has used the phrase ‘Global Warming’ liberally. There is nothing wrong with the phrase per se, but calling it as such can lead to a number of misconceptions which people who deny climate change feed on.

It is true, records are showing that the average temperature around the world is rising. Due to this our oceans are being effected especially the fauna found in our coral reefs. Huge amounts of sea and land ice are melting. We can all see it and it’s pretty clear, and is  especially touching in this video

Yet, the effects of climate change are far beyond a rise in our thermometers.

The increase in temperature affects the winds and how they rotate around the blue and green ball we call home. Winds are also effected by ocean temperature, temperatures that are also on the rise. With that comes change in ocean currents too.

All the wind and current changes can effect our seasons. Wind pattern changes tend to bring cyclones or anti-cyclones more often into an area, making it experience either droughts or heavy rainfall.

Droughts can even lead to desertification, where arable soil turns to dust, or as we know it, desert.

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Credit: arbyreed/Flickr

Heavy rainfall, a disaster we call flooding, doesn’t only happen because of changes in weather patterns but also since warm air can hold more humidity. More humidity means more water in the air that can turn into clouds.

Oceans are also part of the change, warm currents in the northern part of the world tend to make our winters somewhat warmer. If these patterns are disrupted, it will effect our winter temperatures too.

Warm seas fuel the storms as they pass over water. Hence, storms are becoming more and more violent even though you never thought heat has anything to do with it.

Just like storms, Tornadoes also become stronger as they pass over the warmth in our ocean. Therefore, the higher sea temperatures rise, the stronger these acts of nature become.

This is why in the last few years science communicators have turned to phrase ‘Climate change’. It’s not just a re-branding. It’s a phrase which clearly encompasses all the changes that we will face.

Well you know what, Mr. President. I call check-mate.


References

My perspective on Healthcare

Healthcare. A modern-day first world complaint?


Round the dinner table at christmas, we got through a lot of topics, but chatting with my relative made me realise something that I always thought was true.

“I still have an aching shoulder even though I visited several doctors. Some of them even have the audacity of saying that ‘it’s nothing’.”

People are losing trust in doctors and the whole system because in this day and age, a correct diagnosis either takes time or different doctors.

Even in the 21st century, a doctor’s job is pretty much guess-work. You tell your GP or specialist the symptoms you’re suffering from and the professional tries to piece it up into a diagnosis. He might refer you for addition scans or checks from where a better diagnosis can be resolved.

Nonetheless, scans and checks are only as good as the person interpreting them. Luckily in the age of AI, we can make that do it for us.

In China right now, doctors are using AI to interpret CT scans to look for possible signs of Cancer. This function called Computer Topography, not only is capable to perceive even the smallest of lesions but also does faster and is more accurate than any doctor. (Kite-Powell, J., 2017)

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Even ‘everyday’ influenza can be confused with a common cold were one is given the wrong treatment and recovers slower.

Another complaint of my relative was that the different doctors rarely read all the patient’s history and he ends up being given pills and remedies which either he had tried before or else doesn’t really address his concern.

In my opinion, this is where a trusted family GP comes in. He’s the middleman to all the stressed professionals that you have to visit and keeps everything in check.

In general, the healthcare system is not only expensive but rash and apathetic. Even though there are long queues and days ahead of our doctors/nurses, not all of them are like that. Sadly, there are a few who ruin the whole facade.

All the general public wants, is that their aches and worries are gone without any hassle.

In the growing age of technology, I think that we definitely should push towards a better and quicker diagnosis, and not only focus on new medicinal treatments.

I dream of a world, where a doctor relies on data and not recalled symptoms to make a diagnosis. My dream is to understand what is the problem first, before we treat/cure it.

 

References:


Kite-Powell, J. (May 16, 2017) See How Artificial Intelligence Can Improve Medical Diagnosis And Healthcare [Online]. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferhicks/2017/05/16/see-how-artificial-intelligence-can-improve-medical-diagnosis-and-healthcare/ (Accessed 27 December 2017).

 

Raw Water

Another product deemed to be natural, gives you what nature is all about in one cup.

TL;DR: There are no studies showing the health benefits of ‘raw water’. What we do have are studies the dangers of raw or untreated water.Background.For thousands of years, water was deemed a necessity for the human species. We build cities around it, used it for cooking and drank it.

Today we’re going back thousands of years and drinking ‘raw water’. What we really don’t understand is that at those times drinking water was deemed dangerous. That is why the inventions of beer and the production of wine was a crucial step for all of man-kind.

Raw water is water which is not pasteurised or filtered. 

Disease:Background

Water in itself is a harmless liquid. Found in nature, it can be riddled with heavy metals and in some cases parasites and diseases. I don’t know if water-borne diseases ring any bells to you, rings a couple for me:

Turning water in beer and wine made water safe for drinking. Now we think that untreated water is better for our health, but is it worth the risk? Click on the above links and judge for yourselves.

One might say that they are tested bacteriological. While companies claim as such, the process of treatment makes sure that all the water sold gets the scientifically proven treatment to be safe.

Testing is always done on a very small sample size and is only indicative of the whole batch. Treatment is there to ensure a quality product anytime and every time. In addition to that, testing on all known water-borne diseases should be carried out, which, is highly unlikely that this is happening.

Raw water doesn’t get boiled or treated with any chemicals which actually keep our water safe. Even nowadays beer is pasteurised to ensure nobody suffers any harm from water-borne diseases.

Heavy Metals:Background

Another problem with this craze is the possibility of water containing heavy metals which can seep in from industrial waste or leach naturally from minerals.

In my studies, I came across a case study of the problem India’s potable water supply
had. After turning  to tube wells due to their disease infested rivers, arsenic started leaching out of the rocks close to the aquifers.

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Arsenic poison killed thousands of people in India

Any contamination was denied by the government and millions of Indian people ended up suffering from the increasing levels of arsenic in their bodies.

The arsenic contamination was remedied only after government actions were put in place to regulate digging of wells, together with the installation of appropriate filters in village water pumps.

Found a recently published BBC article, that sadly confirms that the people of india are still suffering the consequences.

Final thoughts:Background

Many people live away from the above stories and disease. We are only shielded from them because we live in first world countries which have measures to ensure the safety of their people.

Trying to avoid these precautions, like pasteurisation and filtration, doesn’t make any sense. As I said in my ‘Shall we care for a bear?’ post, nature is anything but kind. If we’re thrown in the wilderness there are thousands of dangerous we would face, and our early demise is certain.

Claims that Fluoride is of any risk have been debunked in so many studies and yet, years old accusations still plague society. The latest reports of fluoride safety were made in Australia, read to believe. Here’s an excerpt from their final report:

The evidence shows that water fluoridation at current Australian levels reduces the occurrence and severity of tooth decay. Water fluoridation at current Australian levels is associated with dental fluorosis. In Australia, however, most dental fluorosis is very mild or mild, does not affect the function of teeth and is not of aesthetic concern to those who have it.

There is evidence that water fluoridation at current Australian levels is not associated with cognitive dysfunction, lowered IQ, cancer, hip fracture and Down syndrome. There is no reliable evidence (1) of an association between water fluoridation at current Australian levels and other human health outcomes.

(1) The phrase ‘there is no reliable evidence’ is deceitful.  Yet it is used since science is based on evidence searching studies. When no evidence is found, it means that any studies on fluoride showed that it is completely safe. Of course, science is always inquisitive and will keep an open mind towards any risks, and many studies keep trying to proof it is unsafe for the greater good. 

To conclude, we didn’t end up having a life expectancy of more than 60 years because we disregard scientifically proved practices. We’re here after thousands of people strived for a better and safer life to live. Don’t let them and yourself down.

 

 

 

Horoscopes – my view

Horoscopes and my view of them in our modern world.

For the longest time, my mum told me that my star sign is Cancer. I always took it as true, only as I grew older I found out that I’m an actually an Aries.

It’s funny because growing up I always thought that horoscopes always have something interesting to say about me. Once I got to know that I was wrong all along the way, it was clear to me that these are a scam.

To this day, my parents have fun watching the Horoscope on TV. The horoscope guy usually says “Don’t believe but verify.” Personally, I think it’s witty for them to do that.

Validation leads to fitting things that happen to suit the astrological prediction. We do it all the time with our point of views. It’s seeming rare to accept blame and very frequently blame others, for example, while driving.

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Self-fulfilling prophecy is another behaviour that would be happening to any sort of believer. If the horoscope predicts that you’ll gonna meet your love of your life over the weekend, you’ll probably shave, get all pretty/handsome and make sure that you won’t miss that chance.

What you’re in fact doing is getting influenced, and indirectly increasing the chances that the horoscope would be actually true.

What if they truly make my life better even though there is not science actually involved? That’s true, maybe dolling up will get you the love of your life and maybe you’ll do things that you would had never dared doing before.

My advice is to live everyday as if it was your last, chase your dreams and think big.

Personally, I always take these predictions with a pinch of salt. I prefer gazing at the stars than following their advice.