Field of Science

Crossed-eyed opossum

On a totally different note to my past few posts... We've all heard of 'Paul the octopus' and his world cup predicting skillz!

So here's a clip of the new animal sensation in germany! A cross-eyed opossum! (Cute isn't she?)
View clip at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12168191
 

Planck... not plank

Not only is 'Planck' the name of a famous physicist (Max Planck) who was one of the founders of 'Quantum theory'. He also has a constant named after him, the 'Planck constant (h)', which is used in the Planck-Einstein equation (E = hv) to show the relationship between energy and frequency.

Also, the name Planck is also given to the infra-red telescope that was launched in 2009 to look for evidence of how the universe first appeared after the 'big bang'. This is what I'm referring too and was purely using my knowledge of all things 'Planck' at the beginning to make my self 'look good'.

So why am I mentioning it? Yesterday it was reported by the BBC that it detected a 'previously invisible' population of galaxies 12 billion light years away! (So...pretty far away!). This means the picture of the universe has increased and we are seeing more and more 'stuff' in our universe. This however is only a hint at what this telescope can do.. and it's only been up there for just over a year and a half! So who knows what else it will discover in the new future!

The sky (mainly the milky way) as seen by Planck taken from http://bbc.co.uk
Also today, Sloan has shown a remarkable image of detail of some distant galaxies in the universe and has already discovered 1/2 billion stars and galaxies. The image is the largest ever coloured image of the whole sky to date, made out of 7 million images - each of125 million pixels. (This would require 500,000 HD televisions to view) Now that's a SUPER HD picture of the universe!!

References
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news 

Swine Flu and SUPER immunity?

Yesterday I came across a report by the BBC saying that;

"People who recover from swine flu may be left with an extraordinary natural ability to fight off flu viruses."

Perhaps 'super immunity' is the wrong phrase, as it's unlikely that this ability is going to make us all super human so we can all fly around the place like superman. However if these findings (Journal of experimental medicine) are true then it could mean, if you recover from swine flu then you could be less likely to get other flu viruses.
H1N1 (swine flu) taken from the 'health protection agency' http://www.hpa.org.uk
This is due to the body producing antibodies against the H1N1 strain (swine flu) that can also kill other flu strains. This is all good but does this all mean we should go and catch swine flu? No. It means this information could be used to create a universal vaccine in the future (what all flu scientists want!).

The study tested 5 antibodies produced in patients who had recovered from swine flu and they were found to have a brilliant fighting effect against all the seasonal H1N1 strains of the last decade, 'Spanish flu' and H5N1 (bird flu). This is great news as these antibodies can protect against seasonal flu strains, the next step for these researchers is to see whether those who got the 'swine flu vaccine' are also 'super immune'.


The number of deaths this winter from flu verified by the Health Protection Agency currently is 50, with 45 of these due to swine flu (the most common strain at present in the community)

References
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12152500
http://www.hpa.org.uk

Blame it on the a-a-alcohol

New Year
Well a new year has started and no doubt by now everyone's resolutions have been broken! After my New year's celebrations (mainly my granddad buying me drinks) I got the usual hangover symptoms at 2pm and felt awful, vowing never to drink alcohol again! This is of course a prime example of binge drinking, which we are told not to do, however being new year... most of us did it!
My main resolution is to do a half-marathon but giving up a bit of the boozey stuff doesn't sound like too bad of an idea as, according to the diagram below, giving up/reducing your alcohol consumption can help with many other resolutions, including being more active in my case.
Some of you students and part time alcoholics will probably start shouting all the benefits about alcohol and the risks are exaggerated. Well I'm going to explain the risks and benefits so you can make you're own decision... However with VAT rising his year and smoking already banned in public places how long will it be until our beloved pint becomes a thing of the past? 
So... Let's get the facts and the science!

Units
Apparently only 2 in 5 adults understand alcohol units and how many is recommended to be safe to drink per day (drinkaware research 4/1/11).
So.. just to clarify; 
  • Women should not exceed 2-3 units (a 175mL glass of 13% wine) per day
  • Men should not exceed 3-4 units (a pint and a half of 4% beer) per day

Costs?
In November 2010 the guardian reported that 'alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack' from a respected article published in the Lancet.
Looking at this title I'd be tempted to say it's a bit exaggerated. However if you read further the cost to society and health damage is quite worrying, particularly with the amount of alcohol drinkers in society compared to that of crack or heroin users.
The study examines the total harm a drug can do within 9 categories (death, mental problems and relationships) Alcohol scored the highest in this study, suggesting that the classification of drugs should be re-investigated.
The BBC also state that "almost 10 million adults drink too much, with potentially lethal health consequences, as well as costing the NHS around £2.7bn a year." This is larger than other drugs combined.
http://mark-lawton.com
With VAT rising, the cost of a pint has gone up by 6p, however when alcohol can be brought so readily and cheaply it's no wonder it costs the NHS a large deal more than other recreational drugs.


Health
The benefits and Risks? 
So let's start off with the benefits and all those 'red wine is good for the heart' sayings. Like with everything in life, in moderation there are benefits. We all seem to think it can help against heart disease, dementia, make us thin and happier according to some headlines (www.drinkaware.co.uk).


 Heart Disease 
Simply; alcohol can be good and bad for the heart, and not just red wine like the old sayings. However, this protection to the heart only works on people aged 45 and over. This is because alcohol increases the ‘good’ cholesterol in our blood; this reduces the amount of fatty deposits in our arteries and the risk of blood clots. This is because certain alcoholic drinks contain antioxidants (red wine) which are responsible for raising the ‘good’ cholesterol.
http://www.bhf.org.uk
Increasing your alcohol intake, above the recommended daily limits, causes the risks to outweigh the above benefits. It can cause high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. The anti-clotting abilities, as mentioned above, can also cause bleeds in the brain and haemorrhagic strokes.
180,000 people die of heart and circulatory disease per year in the UK so the media saying that ‘alcohol may reduce the risks’ is dangerous as in excess it can contribute to it. Antioxidants are found in most fruits and can be protective against clots, as well as a healthy diet and exercise.


Cancer
 20% of alcohol related deaths are caused by cancer. The most common being lung, however breast cancer is a close second. Not many women are aware of the link between alcohol and breast cancer and are unaware of the risks. The increased risk is almost certainly in part because alcohol breaks down into a substance called acetaldehyde, which can cause genetic mutations – a permanent change in the DNA sequence that makes up genes. This mutation can cause the cell to become cancerous. Also alcohol can increase oestrogen levels, which increases breast cell multiplication and therefore increasing the risk of developing breast cancer.


Liver
Most people think the liver ‘regenerates’ so it’s ok to have a drink.
However it takes a full 24 hours for your liver to recover from alcohol. Alcohol, once ingested and into the blood stream is firstly transported to the liver. This therefore means that the liver has an extremely high concentration of alcohol subjected to it when heavy drinking. Like most drugs is metabolised by the liver and when you drink excess alcohol this means other vital metabolic reactions are reduced.

Alcohol causes the build up of fat in your liver cells; this is usually reversible but can eventually lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is when your normal, healthy liver cells get damaged and die. They are then replaced by scar tissue (that cannot perform liver functions). This leads to end stage liver disease and can be fatal. 
Alcohol is one of the most common causes of liver disease from excessive drinking and has been known to be reported in people as young as 25.


Makes you Slim
“Women who drink wine less likely to gain weight” (BBC news online). Admit it? You'd be tempted to grab that bottle of chardonnay from the fridge? This was taken from an American study that suggests if you drink a 'moderate' amount of alcohol, especially red wine; you’re more likely to not become overweight compared to a non-drinker. 
Brilliant? Think again...This study would have just looked at alcohol as a factor and wouldn't have taken into account the diet and exercise of the individuals. This could make women substitute wine for food to decrease their calorie intake which can lead to a condition known as drunkorexic. This is when the body is not getting vital nutrients and causing serious damage. Also a bottle of wine contains 500 calories, not ideal for a healthy diet full of exercise!
Also men.. Worried about you’re man boobs and beer bellies? Well if you go down to the local pub and have 4 pints, that’s 716 calories! (even more if you have Guiness!)And a high content is fat. Not only that alcohol reduces you’re ability to burn off body fat, contributing to fat deposits in the most unflattering of places.
http//www.first-draft.com

Longer life 
Quite a few studies have shown that moderate drinkers live longer than teetotallers (up to 6 years in some cases). I have an 89 year old great grandmother who likes her red wine at night and I must say she's the healthiest 89 year old I know!
So is alcohol equivalent to anti-ageing moisturiser? These studies showed that benefits were only there when people drank low levels of alcohol (And most people after having one drink generally have at least another). Also if you drink more then your life expectancy will decrease due to you being at risk from other factors.

So alcohol is probably not the secret to living longer, other things like not smoking, exercise and eating healthy all contribute to living a longer healthier life. Other ‘secrets’ are having 8 hours sleep a night, owning a pet, laughing, being calm and optimistic and having regular sex. I don’t know about you, but these ‘secrets’ definitely sound better than forgetting half my night and being sick all morning!


Fertility
Alcohol stops you conceiving? This may be hard to believe when you watch ‘Jeremy Kyle’ and see all the alcohol-fuelled pregnancies. However there is good scientific evidence that proves that alcohol reduces fertility in men and women.
In men the increase in alcohol lowers testosterone; this causes the sperm levels to decrease and lower libido (not good at all if you’re trying to conceive).
http://www.giantmicrobes.com



Looks

Most women are concerned about their looks, particularly as they age. We all spend hundreds on anti-ageing moisturisers that are ‘guaranteed’ to make us look younger.

However, after a night drinking your skin looks pale, grey and tired. This is because alcohol causes dehydration. The skin, which is your body’s largest organ also suffers this dehydration, like the brain which gives you a horrendous headache to try and tell you to drink some water! This pale, grey and tired look is not what us women are generally going for, and it counters the effect of anti-ageing moisturisers. Also some men might not be comfortable looking like a zombie either, at least us women can hide the effects with make-up! (un-lucky guys!)

But that’s only for starters. Drinking more than you should over time can have other, much more permanent, detrimental effects on your skin. Rosacea, a skin disorder that starts with a tendency to blush and flush easily and can eventually lead to facial disfigurement, is linked to alcohol.

Alcohol can also cause your face to look bloated and puffy. You might find it bloats your stomach too. And then there's the cellulite; many believe the toxins in alcohol contribute to its build up (www.drinkaware.co.uk). 
Hungover people don't smell too good either; the liver metabolises most alcohol, but five to 10 percent leaves the body straight through your breath, sweat and urine. (Hence morning breath...yum?)
If you didn't manage to take your make-up off, you'll be more prone to spots too. Never mind your glassy, bloodshot eyes. (This is beginning to sound like Frankenstein’s monster!)
This is definitely NOT the look I’m going for! Who agrees?
http://www.disney-stationary.com

Makes you Happy
I think we can all say that alcohol makes us happy. It makes us more confident, able to relax and, when enjoying it with a group of friends, can be full of great memories.

However, we’ve probably all been on the receiving end of someone who is not happy (mainly one of us girls crying over a boy). This is because alcohol is a depressant, it suppresses our happy hormone serotonin making us tired and depressed. When drinking too much it can also cause stress, major depression and make us mentally ill (Doesn’t sound too happy now does it). However in moderation it can be great, in excess it can usually end up with someone crying or being argumentative.
The key here to all of the above benefits and risks is 'moderation' as drinking more than this can increase the risks of cancers, liver disease, strokes, depression and even sexual problems.
http://www.cartoonlogodesigns.com

Penalties
And no I’m not meaning the footballing kinds. Because; Alcohol makes you say and do things you don’t mean, it leaves you feeling not in control. This can cause dangers, particularly ‘drink driving’ as well as abusing loved ones and other anti-social behaviour.
·         Drink driving
– 6 months imprisonment
– £5000 fine
– Up to 11 points on license
·         Death by drink driving
– 14 years imprisonment
– unlimited fine
– Up to 11 points on license


Future
After looking at all the evidence there’s little to suggest that other than having a ‘good time’ there are few benefits to drinking alcohol.
The risks of excessive drinking, particularly in our ‘binge drinking’ culture are worrying and it’s likely that in the foreseeable future drinking alcohol will too be banned from public places, particularly with the health costs being greater than tobacco and the readily availableness and price of alcohol


References