Category Archives: Science

Ethical Ocean: X-mas vs. the environment: What is Santa’s Carbon Footprint

The mid-winter holidays are a difficult time for a lot of people. Some years a lot of religious traditions come together to celebrate what is deemed to be a joyous occasion. At other times the mid-winter holidays becomes a lonely time for a great many. For me the reason X-mas is a difficult time of year for me is because of all of the people I have to deal with and the change from daily routine. After all these years, I have found a way to deal with that. One thing that is in fact becoming increasingly difficult for me to figure out the purpose and sense of is gifts.

When I was little, my parents struggled to make ends meet. At that point in history here in Norway I imagine this was probably more the rule than the exception. X-mas was a welcome time when we children would get things we needed. We children might not appreciate all of our gifts equally, but new things weren’t an everyday occurrence. My parents were happy. It was also a time of plenty food-wise.

Our little family has not had to struggle financially. We aren’t rich by a long stretch but we have always had enough and more. Our children have never really wanted for anything. To me it makes no sense that we should receive gifts that are to us personally. What does make sense is the kind of gift that helps those who need it more in some way.

At the same time I admit to loving book gifts or the gift I got from one of my sisters-in-law this year (a building-set lamp). I cannot help feeling bad about it all though. Which is why posting the below infographic from Ethical Ocean makes sense to me:

Santa's Carbon Footprint Infographic

via Ethical Ocean – eco friendly products, fair trade and vegan shopping.

Miniaturized accelerometers can change the brutality of by-pass-surgery

I am a layperson about to embark on a journey of interpretation. My family subscribes to a magazine called Teknisk Ukeblad. Every once in a while they have articles that really exite me.

  • The Interventional Centre, Oslo University Hospital (Espen W. Remme, Per Steinar Halvorsen, Edvard Nærum, Ole Jakob Elle and Erik Fosse)
  • Vestfold University College (Marc Desmulliez, Lars Hoff, Christopher Grinde, Lars Fleischer, Kristin Imenes, Henrik Jakobsen, Per Øhlckers, Hans-Jørgen Alcker, Morten Grimnes, Einar Halvorsen, Oddvin Arne, and Thomas Halvorsen.)
  • Department of Cardiology, Oslo University Hospital, Rikshospitalet (Helge Skulstad)
  • MIcroSystems Engineering Centre (MISEC) at Heriot-Watt University (Craig Lowrie)

have collaborated in the making of an accelerometer that measures heart motion and is small enough and resistant enough to be stitched on to the heart and remain there post-surgery.

WARNING: Pictures below are of heart surgery on a pig. It is what it is.

Medical science is a field that has changed quite a bit over the past century or so. We now have equipment that makes it possible to make tiny incisions and operate through them. I remember getting my appendix taken out when I was thirteen. That left me with ten stitches and a 5-8 cm scar. Last time I went in for an operation the surgeons cut two 1 cm holes in my stomach (one in my navel) and used one stitch and I was released the same day. Wow! All because of technical doodads that make the impossible possible.

One such doodad is being developed in a cooperative effort between The Interventional Centre, Oslo University Hospital, Norway; Vestfold University College, Tønsberg, Norway; Department of Cardiology, Oslo University Hospital, Rikshospitalet, Oslo, Norway. Thus far (2013) the team has been using pigs to test how well their accelerometers work. These accelorometers are used to measure heart motion during surgery.

An accelerometer is an instrument that measures acceleration. In this instance the accelerometer has moved into the medical realm and in this case to the heart.

In 2004 L. Hoff from Vestfold Univ. Coll., Horten, Norway; O.J. Elle; M. Grimnes; S. Halvorsen; H.J. Alker; and E. Fosse presented their paper called Measurements of heart motion using accelerometers [surgical applications]  at the Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.

Placed on heart: The accelerometor is stitched on the heart’s surface. It has curved tip that helps hold it in place. The sensor itself is mounted on a flexible substrate that also works as a link to the computer. The cabel is encapsulated in medical silicon to give it electrical isolation and because body tissues and the heart can only be in contact with biocompatible materials.
Photo credit: Jørgen Skjelsbæk
Measures heart motion: The sensor’s shape is so it can be placed on the heart. The next generation sensors will be a great deal smaller.
Photo credit: Jørgen Skjelsbæk

From the first joining of two  commercially available two-axis sensors into a three-axis accelerometer work has continued on the development of the three-axis accelerometer. I am not going to go into detail on that development because I am simply utterly unqualified to do so, but I would recommend that you check out this article: Piezoresistive three-axis accelerometer for monitoring heart by Craig Lowrie, Christopher Grinde, Lars Hoff and Marc Desmulliez. Section 3 presents the design of the accelerometer and its operating principle while section 4 presents the sensor fabrication. Today three-axis accelerometers are common, fairly cheap and reliable.

This whole time the researchers and technicians have worked to make the three-axis accelerometer smaller, more reliable, biocompatible, noise resistant and able to withstand the electrical impulses that heart starters give off. So the researchers have really had their work cut out for them.

When the accelerometer is stitched on to the heart it measures the heart’s motion. While anesthesized a pig is cut open, the accelerometer stitched to its heart and motion data recorded.  Motion abnormalities, e.g. arrhythmias and fibrillation, are then identified in the motion curves, and confirmed by comparison with synchronously recorded ECG data.

The truly amazing part of the miniaturized accelerometers is that they allow the medical personell to keep a watch on the patient’s heart after the chest cavity has been closed up because the accelerometer still gives off information. That way the chance of discovering a heart-attack at its beginning increases and the survival rate of open heart surgery patients increases.

Not only do the researchers aim to improve the surveillance of post surgery patients, they also wish to make heart transplants in and of themselves redundant. A heart transplant is a brutal affair  (see proceedure here).

Sometimes a person’s heart is too weak to pump blood on its own – this can happen while you are waiting for a new heart. When this happens, surgeon goes in and attaches something called a “Left Ventricular Assist Device” (LVAD) to your heart and it assists in or takes over the pumping function of your left ventricle.

By fastening the accelerometer to the heart and having it remain there the LVAD’s effectivity might increase to an extent that the patient is able to continue living a long time without having to struggle with the side-effects of a heart transplant. This is because the accelerometer measures individual heart motion and the doctors are able to adjust the LVAD to the individual and keep their left and right heart ventricles in balance. It would also enable the LVAD to adjust so that increased activity also gives increased blood flow. By connecting the accelerometer to some external source (cell phone) the doctors will have the ability to adjust the LVAD long distance making life a whole lot simpler for the patient. Although the researchers have not quite gotten to that point yet, they are well on their way.

I have to say again that I am a layperson. Whatever mistakes you might find in my article are due to my incompetence and not the work of the researchers behind the miniaturized accelerator for measuring heart motion.

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Sources:

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This Norwegian method has been patented and the Company Cardiaccs AS and HiVe owns the rights to the method.

Inven2 (owned by Oslo University and Oslo University Hospital) is responsible for patenting and future lisence agreements regarding the Norwegian Technology.

 

Heinrich, Joe/Heine, Steven/Norenzayan, Ari: The weirdest people in the world (2010)

Reading as much as I do, creates a problem of abundance when it comes to writing a book-blog. Which book am I going to choose to write about. There are sooooo many that I have loved, that I love and that I will probably come to love. Authors and books are my favorite thing on this earth – next to my family and dog (OK and maybe friends). I’ll admit there are quite a few sucky authors, but there is an abundance of fun, excitement and learning out there.

Because I am such an addict I read quite a variety of literature. Scientific articles, jokes, curio and scholarly works. But my favorite is fantasy and science fiction. I have to admit that I consider most of the fiction out there as some kind of science fiction or fantasy as well.

Recently a friend of mine posted a link to an article called We Aren’t the World by Ethan Watters who writes for Pacific Standard. The article We Aren’t the World is about the research performed by the researchers Joe Heinrich, Steven Heine and Ara Norenzayan. They look at some of the assumptions anthropological researchers have made based on research on a selection that might just be a bit biased. I remember asking some of the same questions (to myself) at the time of my own psych classes.

Once I read through the article I thought “Yup, sounds about right” and that was that – until it settled in. Then I got really exited about what this could mean to the world of research and just had to write about the article and the three brilliant researchers on my blog.

Prisoner’s dilemma as presented in various psych texts

Heinrich, Heine And Norenzayan ended up publishing an article called The weirdest people in the world in The Cambridge Journals in 2010. What they claim is that behavior depends on your background. In their case they used a version of the prisoner’s dilemma to see if the West had the answers to how to predict behavior. What they found was that there were grounds to question a theory of genetics determining this type of behavior. It turned out that how people ended up dividing the offered money (which was what was used in the experiment) depended on background (in form of society, religion and class). Sooooooo, in order to predict something about human behavior one would need a wider selection – representation had been too poor thus far.

Science being what it is, theories have to be tested and tested and tested before a degree of certainty can be reached. But, thankfully, the wonderful thing about science is that once some person questions a theory and goes out and finds a different answer, and others find the same different answers scientific knowledge grows and more questions get to be asked. I LOVE science.

Radvansky, Professor Gabriel: Walking through doorways causes forgetting: further explorations

Post image for “The PurposePusher’s Process” Season 1 Ep.3 Are You A Thinker Or Feeler?
Photo credit to The Purpose Pusher’s Process
I love science. So many of our questions are explored, and this one is one that I have wondered about many times. How is it that I manage to forget something just because I walked through a door-way???? It is incredibly annoying to stand there wondering what on earth I am doing there.

Professor Gabriel Radvansky from the University of Notre Dame has performed research on the subject and published an article called “Walking through doorways causes forgetting: further explorations.”

This article was published in “The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.”

The filing systems of humans are truly wonderful and complex. It is amazing for a lay-person to get sort of an answer to something that has been bothering her time and again. I have no idea how many times I have walked into another room and immediately forgotten what I was supposed to do there. Phew. Knowing won’t change all of the slips, but it does help to know that there is a kind of a reason for being such an air-head – and not just the fact that I am an air-head.

Aldo Leopold’s soundscape

Aldo Leopold’s soundscape

Check out University of Wisconsin – Madison’s article on how researchers have taken Leopold’s field notes and reconstructed a “soundscape” of how the chorus of birds must have sounded before all of our modern sound-intrusions.

Reinertsen, Maria: Ligningen for lykke (2010)

Vi vet jo alle er lykke er noe man kan regne seg til. Statistikerne prøver jo hele tiden med sine mange undersøkelser. Lett definerbart er det også. For lykke er jo … Der måtte jeg visst gi opp.

Maria Reinertsens Ligningen for Lykke er en ironisk tekst om fenomener fra samfunnsdebatten som vanskelig lar seg regne ut. For hvordan er det nå man har kommet fram til at det er nettopp fire prosent som skal utgjøre handlingsregelen?

Reinertsen harselerer med pengepolitikken, ikke bare Norges, og måten tallene brukes for å få fram et budskap om virkemidler og nødvendige reduksjoner og vekst.

Men Reinertsen er ikke ute etter å gi svar på de problemene hun belyser. Hennes mål er først og fremst å la oss få en titt på samfunnøkonomiske fenomener som de fleste av oss tar for gitt og ikke stiller spørsmål ved. Og dette klarer hun meget godt.

Bryson, Bill: A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003)

I’m no scientist, but I love science. There’s so much weird stuff in the universe that’s confusing, and confusion is fun. Confusion makes it possible for me to look for answers. Bill Bryson is no scientist either. He’s just a regular person (well kind of) who tries to make the universe comprehensible to a regular person like myself. I guess that’s what has made A Short History of Nearly Everything a popular science book about popular science.

Bill Bryson’s usual job is as an author who writes travel books. I’ve listened to a couple of them and they are presented with talent. He seems to be a curious person who does loads of research in his chosen field.

Usually, when Bill explains why he chose to write his book about nearly everything, his says that he was bored to sleep in his youth by the scientific presentations by teachers and authors. He wanted to see if he could do better.

In A Short History Bill takes us on a journey from the start of the universe up to today, and he questions what tomorrow will be like. On the road we learn bits and pieces about theories and their creators. The bits and pieces we learn about are astronomy, physics, biology, chemistry and paleontology. For the most part Bryson uses words that are accessible. Rather than present the reader with incomprehensible equations, he uses analogies that illustrate the question being asked.

To get to the point where he felt he could write something about the subject, Bill has gone through a large and varied reading list. He has also used a large group of people to help him with his project, experts within the various fields of interest.

I find this kind of “science” interesting, so I guess I’m the target group. For anyone wanting to learn a little about “nearly everything”, this is a book to read. While little kids wouldn’t get much out of it, young adults should be just fine with Bill’s writing.

If you want to learn more about the various fields presented in A Short History, use the bibliography at the end of the book at a guide.

An illustrated edition of the book was released in November 2005. Abridged and unabridged audio versions should also be available.

  • Aventis Prize for best general science book – 2004
  • Descartes Prize for science communication – 2005
  • Nominated for the Samuel Johnson Prize – 2005