photos by colincameron from his home in the isle of lewis, in the outer hebrides. the island is home to the callanish standing stones, seen in several of the photos, which were erected about five thousand years ago.
I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’
Some blame witchcraft. Others think it’s a bad batch of moonshine.
But Esther Okaya, who lives in Korogocho, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, says even teetotalers are falling victim. One minute quarreling with a neighbor; the next minute, dead.
And it’s happened to her.
Okaya’s husband left her. He took the money for her children’s school fees. A few mornings later, her 9-year-old son shuffled home after being turned away by the teacher.
And then she felt it. It was as if her heart seized up. She could not breathe.
At the health clinic the next day, a nurse did something to Okaya that she hadn’t seen before: wrapped a rubber cuff around her arm that squeezed and beeped and spit out a number.
The number was 148.
148 over 90, her blood pressure. Esther Okaya, age 39, had hypertension, which made her more susceptible to heart attack or stroke.
While hypertension is a condition we might more readily associate with a 55-year-old office worker in an American city, it’s actually more prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, affecting nearly 1 in 2 residents over the age of 25. Genetic proclivity to salt-retention may play a role. Another factor is economic good news. As Africans earn more and move to cities and spend more on food, their risk factors start to look more Western.
The New World Shopping Mall has been abandoned since 1999. It shut its doors after being condemned by local regulators. A few years later a massive fire destroyed the structure’s roof. Not long after that monsoon rains flooded the lower floors.
As a way to combat the spread of mosquitoes and other insects breeding in the stagnant water, locals introduced koi and catfish to the former mall. Not only did the fish take care of the pest problem, they’ve thrived. It is now one of the world’s largest urban ponds.
Photo: Thierry N’Doufou’s education “tablet” is being introduced into schools this month
Two years ago, he came up with Qelasy, Africa’s first educational tablet. “We thought about how to build a digital backpack; a tablet that will replace books, textbooks, notepads.”
The idea is simple; transfer a country’s entire education curriculum onto a digital format, along with sounds, animations and interactivity, and you no longer need a satchel crammed with school books.
The 36-year-old teamed up with a designer and then managed to find an investor to build a prototype. This month his Qelasy tablet is going into schools for the first time.
“This is a day I’ve been waiting for,” Mr N’Doufou says.
The Ivorian government will be introducing the tablets to 5,000 students in public schools, while some private schools in both Ivory Coast and Morocco will be running pilot projects. They have also had interest from Ukraine, Macedonia, Senegal, Nigeria and France.
“My dream is to reach all the schools in the world for a better education,” he says.
The tablets will also be available in shops at a cost of $232 (£143), before tax.
'The brightest brains'
Qelasy’s headquarters in an upmarket area of Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, are not quite Google but they are certainly impressive. There is a built in sound studio along with a 3D animation design suite, complete with the latest technology.
Can you imagine living in a bubble for two years? Well, these people did it. Back in the 90s, Jane Poynter wanted to understand the delicate balance of the Earth’s ecosystem. So she and seven others moved into a sealed biosphere for 2 years and 20 minutes. (That last twenty minutes matters when you’re stuck in a giant bubble.) The challenges they faced — from spending 4 months making a single pizza to being short on oxygen — make for a pretty incredible story.
If you’ve ever eaten a chili pepper— either because of a dare or by your own volition— you have no doubt come across the painful burning sensation that comes soon after. But what causes this pain? And why does it exist in the first place? Before we look at chemistry, we have to look at biology— specifically, evolution.
Capsaicin is found naturally in chili peppers, in varying quantities. To truly understand its purpose, we have to look at where it’s located. The amounts of capsaicin vary throughout the plant, but the highest concentrations are found in the placental tissues surrounding the seeds of the plant. This makes sense evolutionarily, as the seeds are the future generations of these peppers. It makes sense that the plant would use whatever means are most effective to protect its progeny. Capsaicin, with its burning, itching, stinging side effects, acts as a perfect deterrent to possible predators looking for a tasty meal.
Now that we know why capsaicin exists - why does it burn? This is where the chemistry comes in. The burning, painful sensation attributed to capsaicin results from chemical interactions with sensory neurons. When introduced to the body, capsaicin binds to a specific receptor called the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TrpV1) or, more simply, the vanilloid receptor subtype 1. This receptor is a subtype of receptors that are present in peripheral sensory neurons. The vanilloid receptor 1 is usually reserved for detecting heat or physical abrasion. When heat is applied to the surface of the skin this TRPV1 ion channel opens, allowing cations (positively charged ions) into the cell. This inflow of cations activates the sensory neuron, which sends signals to the brain that there is a painful stimulus present. Capsaicin has a binding site on the receptor, and opens the cation channel just like if heat were applied. This results in a signal to be brain to alert you of a potential threat and produces a burning sensation where the capsaicin was introduced, but without an actual burn.
Interestingly, while the receptor works this way in most mammals, it is not activated by capsaicin in birds; therefore, birds are the largest distributors of capsaicin seeds in the natural environment.
This has just been a brief overview of some of the chemistry of capsaicin, but hopefully next time you bite into a jalapeno, you’ll take a moment to appreciate the science that’s occurring before you gulp down your milk!
Pingle SC, et al. Capsaicin receptor: TRPV1 a promuscious TRP channel. Handbook of experimental pharmacology. 2007.(179):155-71.
Tewksbury JJ. et al. Ecology of a spice: Capsaicin in wild chilies mediates seed retention, dispersal and germination. Ecology. 2008. (89):107-117.
Scientists visualise the scars left by heart attacks
These images show (A) a healthy heart and (B) a heart damaged due to a lack of oxygen during a heart attack.
As you can see, the microstructure of a heart changes after a heart attack (B). The scar (outlined area), is formed because of the tissue death caused by a local lack of oxygen, and the consistency of muscle cell arrangement compared to the healthy heart (A) is lost. This will affect how much blood the heart can pump into the body within one heartbeat.
The images taken by BBSRC-funded researchers at the British Heart Foundation Experimental Magnetic Resonance Unit (BMRU), University of Oxford, were generated by a special type of imaging technique that measures the motion and movement of water molecules in the heart tissue.
This new technology, that Dr Jurgen Schneider and his team have developed, could eventually allow doctors to be able to look at a 3D+T representation of the patient’s heart, zoom-in on any relevant detail (a coronary vessel blockage or a damaged part of tissue), assess treatment options, and predict outcomes for the specific individual before the patient even enters the operating theatre. Much of this vision is still far ahead. Nonetheless, this research is vital to its development.
Image credit: BHF Experimental MR Unit, Radcliffe Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Oxford.