Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Scientist: Telltale Chemistry Betrays ET

Looks like I'm on a New Scientist rampage right now. Well it is required to be read on a weekly basis by many medical universities. Fortunately enough I love paging through their articles and finding out new things about science in general. For example this week, researchers have discovered a new way of finding new lifeforms on other planets through the LEGO theorem.

As we know from reading and watching many Science Fiction adventures aliens do look quite similar to us. Most of them have bipedal bodies, are able to walk and talk just like us. Forget about the green or other rainbow colours for once. The reality is that they may not be even made of the same base molecules as we are.
How do we know that each ET lifeform actually contains one or more of the 20 amino acids that sustain life on Earth? We don't. We do however know one very important aspect that life causes. I'm talking about, of course, changes in the environment or setting. On Earth the levels of oxygen soared when life arose. Such changes must be investigated on other planets. Different minerals, temperatures, pressures and so on must be accounted for.

Of course this is all a very big challenge. A planet must be studied carefully for some time so that the environment can be analyzed properly. And how do we know that there are changes due to life? So many questions that are unanswered by this article. A good start could be employing the SOLID2, a robot that has the ability to detect life anywhere on Earth whether it may be in the hottest desert or in the coldest glacier. However this machine must be adapted for alien environments before being flown anywhere in the galaxy.

On the other hand, another device has spawned a possibility unlike any other. The Avida, a computer system which mimics natural evolution and survival of the fittest of many smaller softwares called avidians. Although this could prove useful we still face insurmountable odds in this investigation. Our hope lies, as it always does with the brilliant scientific minds that have been educated and have the ability to see beyond the box.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Scientist: The Rise and Fall of Swine Flu

Did you get your shot yet? Hopefully not because the backlash of the pandemic started in early 2010 is finally upon us. H1N1 is a type of influenza virus which most typically occurs as seasonal flu although some natural mutation caused this particular outbreak to be more deadly than expected. Some amount of pig influenza managed to combine with ordinary human influenza to cause a disease that was unexpected to say the least.

As soon as the first deaths were recorded the media went into a frenzy. Reports of inadequate preparation and the incompetence of health organizations and governments were widely spread. Panic overtook the general public as vaccines and treatments were rapidly formulated in order to tackle the upcoming pandemic.
The response was quite swift but the vaccines provided by pharmaceutical companies were extraordinarily expensive.
"On June 11, 2009, the WHO declared an H1N1 pandemic, moving the alert level to phase 6, marking the first global pandemic since the 1968 Hong Kong flu."

After a few months of this propaganda and many increased national alert levels the pandemic suddenly ceased. After 18,000 deaths worldwide, only 2,000 more than regular seasonal flu, the media stopped all their reports and the public were made to believe that the pandemic was over. I owe this fact to the reduced amount of deaths in developed countries. Most likely most the deceased that were recorded were from developing countries but WHO does not want us to know that. Millions of dollars, euros, pounds and many other currencies were spent on the vaccines to what end? According to many governments only 10% of the total vaccines produced were actually used. As a result huge amounts of money were lost to fuel the corporations behind the pharmaceuticals themselves.

And the result is a full-scale judicial attack on WHO for issuing a false alarm and the pharmaceutical companies for their expensive prices and collaboration. Another such example of a false epidemic was the bird flu which in 2007 accounted for 2,000 deaths most of them in underdeveloped countries. This is the source of the problem. How can the World Health Organization warns us from pandemic threats if they make these rookie mistakes? Why do governments and the public continue to be influenced by the media with such ease? These are the questions that must be answered before we are able to proceed into our evolutionary future.