Tag Archives: science

Our beaches are disappearing as we are running short of…sand!!

sand

Have you heard of the new ecological time bomb? Everybody knows of the diminishing reserves of drinking water that we are heading for but have you heard that we are also running out of sand? It’s not a joke..and not many people seem to care. I’ve never heard of it before I’ve seen this incredibly breathtaking documentary realised by award-winning documentary filmmaker Denis Delestrac.

Our beaches are about to vanish -9 out of 10 beaches in the world are concerned and the impact on our environment is enormous.
The reasons are many. Sand is the third most used resource after water and air. The construction of streets and buildings:  2/3 of our constructions are made out of concrete (concrete consists 2/3 out of sand: a house means about 200 tons of sand!)
Somebody had the great idea -and others are following- to create artificial islands which on the other hand caused the disappearance of over 15 islands in the indian ocean already.
It gets to the point that Sand is even STOLEN clandestinely from the beaches today! There is something like a veritable ‘sand mafia‘ nowadays that is doing a lot of damage, strikes terror and doesn’t even flinch back from killing. With their connections to high positioned politicians they are very often left alone.

If sand is taken from the beaches or from the grounds of rivers or seas so massively like it is at the moment, it has an enormous effect on the whole ecosystem. A demonstrative example was the cyclone Sandy last year. Beaches serve as natural barriers. If they’re diminished to a high point or disappear completely the results can be flooding of cities that are close to the sea like New York. The diminishing of beaches and dunes aggravates the impact of every storm in coastal urbanised area.

Our construction habits have to change. On the highway you’re literally rolling over some of the most beautiful beaches without even knowing it. It’s crazy!
Another reason is the inconsiderate way of how and where we construct – way too close to the water. Which doesn’t leave the beaches the space they ‘need’.
Needless to think all the sand in the Sahara will release us – it’s useless, its consistence is unfit, too fine – at least for construction.

There is a big problem of collective non-awareness of the emergency as sand is still not regarded as a resource in danger. No alternatives to sand are sought (and alternatives exist) as nothing is as cheap as sand – which is basically for free – only labor has to be paid.  But just like water and air it is regarded as unlimited and everyone’s property.

So basically if we don’t watch out our grand children might not know beaches anymore like we did. This only talking about beaches, but the effects on our entire ecosystem will be disastrous.

See the movie on arte (german version)
see also sand mining

… suddenly The day after tomorrow doesn’t seem so surreal anymore

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Jack Andraka

Jack-Andraka1

Have you heard of Jack Andraka? He is an amateur scientist who discovered a testing strip that detects early signs of pancreatic cancer. But first of all he is a 16 years old school boy from Maryland! And while other teenagers his age pass their time playing video games he’s searching for a cure for cancer that might save millions of lives.

The test is still in the preliminary stages but if it works, it will be 168 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive (costing around three cents) and over 400 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic tests.

“Have you ever experienced a moment in your life that was so painful and confusing, you just want to learn everything you can to make sense of it all?” Andraka sais when asked about what motivated him to do his research.
For him, that moment came when a family friend, passed away from pancreatic cancer.

After his first research he wrote to 200 scientists asking for space in their lab and he received 199 rejections.
In 2012 he was awarded the Gordon E. Moore Award for his work, which is $75,000 by the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Pancreatic cancer is a very malicious kind of cancer because of the symptoms it’s discovered at a very late stage when the chances of a cure a very low. In 85% of cases pancreatic cancer is diagnosed when a person only has a 2% chance of survival. Andrakas test could enable a much faster and earlier detection.

On this picture you see Jack Andraka on his way to receive his award 🙂 Amazing!

Jack-Andraka

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Know thyself. Would you have your genetic code cracked.. your genome sequenced..?

.. and know ‘everything’ about you?

DNA

The other night I watched this really fascinating but also kind of scary documentary about our genetic code and how easily it can be deciphered nowadays. You can contact one of the numerous companies that offer this service today for an affordable price. They don’t sequence your whole DNA (6 000 000 000 chemical letters) which would really be expensive but some 1 000 000 letters out of the six billion. It’s called genotyping.
But the decoding of your whole DNA could be affordable for every one in a couple of years for less than 1000 $! Just for the record: The first decoding of a DNA took about 13 years and 3 billion$ – crazy how fast science advances, isn’t it?!)

On the basis of this decoding you can get plenty information, amongst others about the diseases you carry, the diseases that you might pass on to your children, the chances to suffer from this diseases.. How weird would it be to know all that?! And then knowing without really knowing because it’s still a probability, even if it says 90%, there is still a 10% chance that you might not get it. It would drive me crazy.
But it can also help and give the explanation for health issues somebody suffers already and whose causes are difficult to be found and thus indicate a treatment. They call this personalised medicine which is based on your own genetic code. They decipher your genetic code looking for something ‘foul’, something that diverges from the usual ‘writing’, (as 99% of human genomes are identical) an error that causes a mutation of a gene. But even if the error can be found, there is not always a solution, a remedy.
You could find out about your predospositions, your biggest risks and prevent the illness from even breaking out -if possible. But what if you can’t? What if you find out that there is a 80% chance for you to get x (or your partner, or somebody else in your family..) – your whole life might change -and what if there’s no remedy for x? Would you want to know?

I’m not sure we are ready yet to bear all those information. Some of us might be but a lot of us are certainly not – in a scientific and psychological matter spoken. It’s difficult to exploit those information in the right way. It is quite heavy material and I think it can really lead to an ethic dilemma – and I’m not even talking about all the dangers for your privacy vis-à-vis your employer, your insurance company, society..

I think it’s ok to use this method for the sick or those who are exposed to a high risk of heredity transmission of a severe illness but doing it out of pure curiosity….

for those who speak germanthe documentary
and a related article The burden of knowing

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