Tagged: Australia

I wouldn’t care to be the guy setting a record for the biggest insect removed from inside a human ear

Hendrik Helmer has taken out the unofficial title of having the largest cockroach removed from a human ear in Darwin.

He says dislodging the 2cm giant at Royal Darwin Hospital caused him agonising pain.

The cockroach took about 10 minutes to die after it was removed from his ear.

Mr Helmer, from the Darwin suburb of Karama, said his ordeal began early on Wednesday morning when he was woken up at about 2:30am by a sharp pain in his right ear.

He immediately thought some type of insect may have crawled into it while he slept…He said the pain was intense and despite a few bouts of relief began to get worse.

“I was hoping it was not a poisonous spider … I was hoping it didn’t bite me,” he said.

After trying to suck the insect out with a vacuum cleaner, he tried squirting water from a tap into his ear to flush it out…

“Whatever was in my ear didn’t like it at all,” he said.

As his pain increased, Mr Helmer, who works as a supervisor at a warehouse, roused his flatmate to take him to Royal Darwin Hospital, where he was quickly seen by a doctor.

Mr Helmer said the doctor put oil down the ear canal, which forced the still-unidentified insect to crawl in deeper but eventually it began to die.

“Near the 10 minute mark … somewhere about there, he started to stop burrowing but he was still in the throes of death twitching,” he said.

At that point the doctor put forceps into his ear and pulled out the cockroach…

“She said they had never pulled an insect this large out of someone’s ear,” Mr Helmer said.

Helmer says he’s not changing anything in his lifestyle – or sleepstyle; but, when some of his friends were asked for an opinion, they said they’ve started sleeping with headphones on or earbuds in their ears.

Eeoouugh!

Coppers in Oz free naked man stuck in washing machine


Some washing machines are more dangerous than others

Police in Australia have rescued a naked man who got stuck inside a washing machine while playing a game of hide-and-seek.

The man reportedly hid inside the top-loading machine so he could surprise his partner.

But he became stuck and it took 20 minutes for rescuers to dislodge him using olive oil as a lubricant…

The incident took place on Saturday in Mooroopna town, north of Melbourne, in Victoria state.

Few details were revealed about the man, with some reports saying he was 20 years old.

Sergeant Michelle De Araugo said “it was just a game gone wrong”, according to Agence-France Presse news agency…

Another officer cautioned against misusing household equipment…”My advice would be for people not to climb into appliances – obviously that [can] cause a number of issues, as we’ve seen on the weekend,” said First Constable Luke Ingram.

I emailed a mate of mine in Melbourne just to be certain it wasn’t him. After all, the coppers didn’t give out the lad’s name. He replied that he “has too much respect for appliances to do anything like this.”

I thought about teasing him about being a Spurs fan and that being sufficient reason to suspect his sanity. But, we all know it takes a proper Gooner to try a stunt like this.

More than 300 Australian sharks are now on Twitter

Government researchers have tagged 338 sharks with acoustic transmitters that monitor where the animals are. When a tagged shark is about half a mile away from a beach, it triggers a computer alert, which tweets out a message on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia Twitter feed. The tweet notes the shark’s size, breed and approximate location…

The tagging system alerts beachgoers far quicker than traditional warnings, says Chris Peck, operations manager of Surf Life Saving Western Australia. “Now it’s instant information,” he tells Sky News, “and really people don’t have an excuse to say we’re not getting the information. It’s about whether you are searching for it and finding it.”

The tags will also be monitored by scientists studying the sharks. Researchers have tagged great whites, whaler sharks and tiger sharks.

“This kind of innovative thinking is exactly what we need more of when it comes to finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict,” says Alison Kock, research manager of the Shark Spotters program in South Africa. Kock tells NPR that the project is a good idea — but that people should know that not all sharks are tagged…

Kock and Kim Holland, a marine biologist who leads shark research at the University of Hawaii, agree that the tweets won’t be enough to protect swimmers.

“It can, in fact, provide a false sense of security — that is, if there is no tweet, then there is no danger — and that simply is not a reasonable interpretation,” Holland says, pointing out that the reverse is also true. “Just because there’s a shark nearby doesn’t mean to say that there’s any danger. In Hawaii, tiger sharks are all around our coastlines all the time, and yet we have very, very few attacks…”

The typical human response when something wild and natural kills something tame and unnatural that has invaded their evolutionary habitat – is to kill the wild beast. This is only exaggerated by governments who [of course] must consider additional aspects of the question. Like – how will these people vote in the next election if I’m not perceived as a father figure/protector.

Huge freshwater reserves discovered beneath the ocean floor

earth oceans

Scientists in Australia have reported the discovery of huge freshwater reserves preserved in aquifers under the world’s oceans. The water has remained shielded from seawater thanks to the accumulation of a protective layer of sediment and clay. And it’s not a local phenomenon. Such reserves are to be found under continental shelves off Australia, China, North America and South Africa.

The discovery was made by researchers at the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University. The scientists estimate there is around half a million cubic kilometers of what they describe as “low salinity” water, which means it could be processed into fresh, potable water economically.

The reserves formed when ocean levels were lower and rainwater made its way into the ground in land areas that were not covered until the ice caps melted 20,000 years ago, causing sea levels to rise…

To access these non-renewable water reserves, it would be necessary to drill into the seabed from man-made, offshore platforms or from the mainland or nearby islands. Despite the high costs involved, the water would require less energy to desalinate than it does to desalinate sea water, although a careful assessment of the economics, sustainability and environmental impact of the exploration of such water reserves would be necessary.

Our history as a species is characterized by the quest for scarce goods. When these are the stuff of life – rather than baubles for princes, pundits and priests – conflict often is the result. One must hope that when technology is sufficiently advanced for economic access to these reserves our politics and ethics are equal to humane distribution.

We can’t afford to get science education wrong

This is from one of my favorite sites in Australia

Science gives young people the tools to understand the world around us and the ability to engage with contemporary and future issues, such as medical advances and climate change. That is why science should be taught to students up until the age of 16. However, Ofsted’s recent report on the state of school science reports worrying trends in the way science is being taught.

A particular worry is the status of practical science in our schools. Studying science without experiments is like studying literature without books. Experiments are an inherent part of science and are vital for further study and employment. They bring theory to life, nurturing pupils’ natural curiosity, teaching them to ask questions and helping them to understand phenomena such as magnetism, acidity and cell division. Practical work gives them valuable skills and abilities, such as precise measurement and careful observation….there is a real danger that schools and colleges will give students even fewer practical experiences than they have now.

…According to the Wellcome Trust Monitor, an independent nationwide survey the most commonly selected factor that 14- to 18-year-olds identified as having encouraged them to learn science was “having a good teacher” (58%), and the most commonly selected factor for discouraging them from learning science was “having a bad teacher” (43%). That is why I fully support Ofsted’s recommendation that school leaders should ensure science-focused development of teachers….The future of science depends on the quality of science education today, and we cannot afford to get it wrong.

I feel the same about what is and what isn’t a well-rounded education in our public schools in the United States. Growing up in a New England factory town, I managed daily and weekly access to the basics + music and the arts + enough physical education to provide some guidance towards lifetime sports.

A lot of that could have been better – and should be with what we know nowadays. Paying teachers sufficiently to encourage the best students to become teachers is a given. So is spending enough hours in school to get this altogether.

Ancient DNA unravels Europe’s genetic diversity

Ancient DNA recovered from a time series of skeletons in Germany spanning 4,000 years of prehistory has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern-day Europeans.

The study…reveals dramatic population changes with waves of prehistoric migration, not only from the accepted path via the Near East, but also from Western and Eastern Europe.

The research was a collaboration between the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA…researchers from the University of Mainz, the State Heritage Museum in Halle, Germany, and National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project. The teams used mitochondrial DNA extracted from bone and teeth samples from 364 prehistoric human skeletons ‒ ten times more than previous ancient DNA studies.

“This is the largest and most detailed genetic time series of Europe yet created, allowing us to establish a complete genetic chronology,” says joint-lead author Dr Wolfgang Haak of ACAD. “Focussing on this small but highly important geographic region meant we could generate a gapless record, and directly observe genetic changes in ‘real-time’ from 7,500 to 3,500 years ago, from the earliest farmers to the early Bronze Age.”

“Our study shows that a simple mix of indigenous hunter-gatherers and the incoming Near Eastern farmers cannot explain the modern-day diversity alone,” says joint-lead author Guido Brandt, PhD candidate at the University of Mainz. “The genetic results are much more complex than that. Instead, we found that two particular cultures at the brink of the Bronze Age 4,200 years ago had a marked role in the formation of Central Europe’s genetic makeup.”

Professor Kurt Alt (University of Mainz) says: “What is intriguing is that the genetic signals can be directly compared with the changes in material culture seen in the archaeological record. It is fascinating to see genetic changes when certain cultures expanded vastly, clearly revealing interactions across very large distances.” These included migrations from both Western and Eastern Europe towards the end of the Stone Age…

Dr Haak says: “None of the dynamic changes we observed could have been inferred from modern-day genetic data alone, highlighting the potential power of combining ancient DNA studies with archaeology to reconstruct human evolutionary history.”

Fascinating stuff. Work which wouldn’t have been at all practical a decade or so back in time.

My personal pleasure was taking part in an early National Geographic DNA track of my patriarchal DNA from Africa through the steppes of Central Asia to Scotland – perfectly in line with the research of Gerhard Herm and his anthropological history of “The Celts”.

Capabilities are advanced enough that I may try an updated go-round with NatGeo.

Six myths about vaccination – and why they’re wrong


Same myths stateside as in Oz – same silly anti-science culture

Recently released government figures show levels of childhood vaccination have fallen to dangerously low levels in some areas of Australia, resulting in some corners of the media claiming re-ignition of “the vaccine debate”…

Well, scientifically, there’s no debate. In combination with clean water and sanitation, vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures ever introduced, saving millions of lives every year.

1. Vaccines cause autism

Thiomersal or ethyl-mercury was removed from all scheduled childhood vaccines in 2000, so if it were contributing to rising cases of autism, you would expect a dramatic drop following its removal. Instead, like the MMR in Japan, the opposite happened, and autism continues to rise.

Further evidence comes from a recently published exhaustive review examining 12,000 research articles covering eight different vaccines which also concluded there was no link between vaccines and autism.

Yet the myth persists and probably for several reasons, one being that the time of diagnosis for autism coincides with kids receiving several vaccinations and also, we currently don’t know what causes autism. But we do know what doesn’t, and that’s vaccines.

2. Smallpox and polio have disappeared so there’s no need to vaccinate anymore

It’s precisely because of vaccines that diseases such as smallpox have disappeared…

The impact of vaccine complacency can be observed in the current measles epidemic in Wales where there are now over 800 cases and one death, and many people presenting are of the age who missed out on MMR vaccination following the Wakefield scare.

In many ways, vaccines are a victim of their own success, leading us to forget just how debilitating preventable diseases can be – not seeing kids in calipers or hospital wards full of iron lungs means we forget just how serious these diseases can be.

3. More vaccinated people get the disease than the unvaccinated

Although this sounds counter-intuitive, it’s actually true, but it doesn’t mean that vaccines don’t work as anti-vaxers will conflate. Remember that no vaccine is 100% effective and vaccines are not a force field. So while it’s still possible to get the disease you’ve been vaccinated against, disease severity and duration will be reduced…

So since the majority of the population is vaccinated, it follows that most people who get a particular disease will be vaccinated, but critically, they will suffer fewer complications and long-term effects than those who are completely unprotected.

Continue reading

Queensland researchers brew up a hydrating beer

Quenching a hard earned thirst with a big cold beer just got better for you – thanks to the work of some clever Queensland scientists.

Researchers from Griffith University’s health institute have discovered that it is possible to substantially improve the hydrating effects of the amber ale.

By adding electrolytes, an ingredient commonly found in sports drinks, and reducing the alcohol content researchers found that beer could become even more refreshing. And the best news for beer drinkers is that the taste of the modified brews didn’t change.

As part of the study, the researchers modified two commercial beers, one regular strength and one light beer. They then gave them to volunteers who had worked up a sweat after exercise to test fluid recovery.

Associate Professor Ben Desbrow said the light beer which had been combined with electrolytes provided the best level of hydration.

“Of the four different beers the subjects consumed, our augmented light beer was by far the most well retained by the body, meaning it was the most effective at re-hydrating the subjects,” he said.

Professor Desbrow said it was more effective to tell people how to minimise dehydration than telling them not to drink.

I believe it. Especially when it comes to beer drinking after exercise, whether it’s sport or straight-up physical labor.

Still, I wonder if our followers in Oz – or any other major beer drinking culture – would approve?

Panel calls for protecting world’s largest boreal forest


Click to enlarge

At least half of Canada’s 1.4 billion acre boreal forest, the largest remaining intact wilderness on Earth, must be protected to maintain the area’s current wildlife and ecological systems, according to a report by an international panel of 23 experts.

The report, published by the International Boreal Conservation Science Panel, was released July 22, the same day that panel members made recommendations to protect Canada’s vast wild lands at a symposium at the International Congress for Conservation Biology…

The goal is to protect these ecosystems before oil, gas, mining and lumber companies develop areas and extract natural resources, which often fragment and degrade previously pristine land, said Jeff Wells…associate scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and panel member.

“Elsewhere, [conservationists] are trying to stem the losses by protecting little pieces of land, or by restoring remnants to what they used to be,” by spending large amounts of money after development has already begun, said Wells, who is science adviser to Pew’s international boreal conservation campaign.

The new guidelines for conserving such large natural areas far exceed the previous science-based standard of protecting 10 percent to 12 percent of land to maintain wildlife. New science, including computer models that calculate the minimum amount of land necessary to support many species and their interactions, led to the revised guidelines, Wells said.

The report recommends that members of some 600 aboriginal communities in Canada should lead decisions and play major roles in planning where and how to conserve land. In this way, Canada can take their lead from Australia, where 58 Indigenous Protected Areas cover more than 120 million acres – an area larger than California – and employ close to 700 indigenous people in a ranger program. Such programs combine Western science while bringing in indigenous knowledge about hunting areas, sacred sites, key conservation areas and suggestions for economic development…

The hope is that conservation strategies in Canada and Australia’s outback will provide models for conservation in other parts of the world, said Wells. There have also been discussions of future conferences that might include strategies for conserving Siberian forests, the Amazon rainforest and the Congo basin, which account for other large pristine tracts of wilderness…

Bravo. I hadn’t realized that the Pew Foundation had established segments as specialized as the protection of boreal lands. Wow. Time for me to spend more time studying their mission in addition to the superb polling and research most political writers examine.

Bland Aussies want to link up with Dull and Boring

An Australian county called Bland hopes to link up with Dull in Perthshire and the tiny Scottish village’s official US twin, Boring in Oregon – in an attempt to create a triumvirate of tedium called Dull, Boring and Bland.

Even though residents of Bland in New South Wales are fed up with people ridiculing them, they want to cash in on humorous publicity by joining with the pair…

It was named after William Bland, whose life was anything but. The London-born son of an obstetrician was transported as a convict to Van Diemen’s Land in 1814 after killing a sailor in a duel in Bombay.

He was later pardoned, became a pillar of colonial life and founded the Australian Medical Association.

There must be a few extra jots of humor in a doctor’s association founded by someone convicted of manslaughter.