Saturday, 18 February 2017

Seeing the Changes 1136




In Loughor, Lesser celendine (Ranunculus ficaria) and Cherry (Prunus spp) were both in bloom.

Friday, 17 February 2017

D Day?


A recent meta-analysis (where a collection of studies are combined for analysis) has confirmed that daily addition of a moderate dose of the 'sunshine vitamin D' provides some protection against cold and influenza infections (news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/02/study-confirms-vitamin-d-protects-against-cold-and-flu/). The evidence seems pretty convincing and people have speculated that it would be beneficial to add the vitamin to certain foods especially for folk who don't get much skin exposure to UV light (the radiation causes the vitamin to be manufactured by the skin). So people living near the poles, who have pigmented skin or who largely cover their skin are unlikely to get sufficient vitamin in their diet (especially if they don't eat much fish or certain mushrooms). Given the fuss initially caused by adding fluoride to water to provide protection from tooth decay, I suspect that people would want to be given a clearly-labelled choice (in spite of accepting the addition of iodine to table salt).

Monday, 13 February 2017

Seeing the Changes 1135



It must be Spring! Spring crocus (Crocus albiflorus) was in bloom in Loughor and Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) flowering in Bynea.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Do The Strand


The graphic pictures of the mass strandings of circa 300 Pilot whales on Farewell spit of Golden Bay on New Zealand's South Island is attracting a lot of attention (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/10/hundreds-whales-die-mass-stranding-new-zealand-beach) with volunteers working to try to re-float survivors (who often re-beach themselves at the next tide). As is usual, the reasons for the strandings are mysterious. The whales are highly social and try to stay with their pod and it could be the case that the topography of the bay confused their sonar systems, driving them into a location that was too shallow. Other strandings of cetaceans have been variously blamed on disease/parasitism, pursuit of prey and even sonar interference from human sources (e.g. submarines). The losses of this species do seem to be very considerable.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Slugging it Out!


There seems to be a sudden rush of apparently important fossils. Workers from Bristol University appear to have focused on a spiny, slug-like starter ancestor of the Mollusca (the group to which slugs, snails, octopus and squid belong) from Morocco (https://phys.org/news/2017-02-spiny-armored-slug-reveals-ancestry.html). In appearance, it was not unlike the existing marine Chiton (above) with its armoured plates. The surprise, was the presence of spines as these are not found in modern members of the group.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Weasling on Diesels?


The first thing to admit is that I have a relatively new diesel car. I have noted, however, the growing concern about the dangers of their emissions (notably nitrous oxides and particulates) to human health, especially at busy intersections in city centres (where levels of pollutants frequently exceed permitted levels), leading to  plans to ban diesel vehicles from these locations. It is interesting to consider the changing advice on motor transport and the effects on air quality (www.air-quality.org.uk/26.php). Diesels were initially viewed as superior to petrol vehicles, as they were more efficient users of fuel (more Km per litre) and generated less carbon dioxide (a major 'greenhouse' gas). They also never had to use lead (dangerous to neural health) in their fuel as an anti-knocking agent. One should also note that diesels vary in terms of the effectiveness the devices fitted to their exhausts to deal with emissions, suggesting that some diesels are worse polluters than others. There has been talk of a scrappage scheme for diesels and their replacement by hybrid or electric vehicles. I would merely note that scrappage and replacement building would generate a lot of emissions and that even electric cars would not be especially helpful to climate change if generation and distribution of the needed electricity did not carefully consider carbon dioxide release.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

More Than They Bargained For?


Many people are attracted to the idea of 'natural' herbal remedies even for complex issues like obesity and erectile dysfunction but a report suggests that some of these preparations are contaminated with pharmaceutical agents (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/03/herbal-supplements-illegal-ingredients-pose-health-risk-experts). Some of these banned drugs may have found their way into supplements accidentally but others appear to be deliberate introductions to enhance the preparation's properties. One of the most commonly found is Sibutramine, which was licenced as Reductil, until it was banned in Europe and the US in 2010, after being linked to a high incidence of heart attacks and strokes. It is difficult to know what you are likely to get in supplements especially if they are bought online. If the side-effects of regulated drugs can be problematic, those associated with supplements can be a nightmare! It also seems wrong to be using 'naturalness' as a sales point if the preparation is no such thing.