Sydney Scientist Sorts SIDS

pollinator

Thanks to the tireless efforts of a scientist in Sydney we now know a key factor that causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The worst thing that can happen to parents is an unexplained passing of their baby, as a result parents are constantly concerned that their child may fall victim to SIDS. Knowing what works to prevent SIDS will bring relief to parents and save infants.

The butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) enzyme is lower in babies who suffered SIDS than other babies. Knowing this connection means infants can be screened for now and a solution will be easier to find in the future.

“Now that we know that BChE is involved, we can begin to change the outcome for these babies and make SIDS a thing of the past.”

It is hoped the finding could lead to the development of a screening test in a few years’ time.

Hailed as a “game-changer” to “every parent’s worst nightmare”, the discovery of BChE also provides answers to parents, like Dr Harrington, whose healthy babies died “on their watch”.

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Save Forests by Removing Just One Item From Your Diet

We are what we eat, and right now many of us need to change who we are. Changing one’s diet can be one of the biggest things one does for the environment since we must eat everyday. Researchers have yet again shown that just removing red meat from your diet can make a big difference for the environment.

If removing meat from your diet is too much of a challenge then just reduce your consumption of it. Fighting climate change requires big groups of people making tiny changes so even doing a little can add up to a lot.

The team used a mathematical model that considered increases in population growth, income and livestock demand between 2020 and 2050. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the global increase in beef consumption would require the expansion of pasture areas for grazing and of cropland for feed production, which would double the annual rate of deforestation globally. Methane emissions and agricultural water use would also increase.

Replacing 20% of the world’s per-capita beef consumption with mycoprotein by 2050 would reduce methane emissions by 11% and halve the annual deforestation and associated emissions, compared with the business-as-usual scenario (see ‘Meat substitution’). The mitigating effects on deforestation are so great because, under this scenario, global demand for beef does not increase, so there is no need to expand pasture areas or cropland for feeding cattle, Humpenöder says.

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How Drones Logistics Redefined Blood Delivery in Rwanda

Delivering good is always a challenge, and it’s a particularly hard challenge in a mountainous country like Rwanda. An ambitious company known as Zipline noticed that drones could solve this geographic challenge by just going over the terrain. And if it works, they should deliver one of the most time sensitive cargo that exists: blood. Now when a rural health clinic needs new blood they call Zipline who dispatch a drone.

Their system is efficient, safe, and is a good model for other countries with similar logistic challenges.

“It’s so good. And it’s not just good for Rwanda,” says Timothy Amukele, a pathologist who is not involved with the research team or Zipline, but who previously ran a medical drone group with projects in Namibia and Uganda. (Amukele is currently the global medical director for ICON Laboratory Services, which helps run clinical trials.) Drone applications for global medicine have been touted for years, but researchers have lacked concrete data to back up that promise, says Amukule: “This is more than just guys playing with toys.”

“Drones are not easy,” he continues. “To actually make this a success, where they’re getting blood and packing it safely and releasing the drones and monitoring the flight and bringing them back—and for five years covering 80 percent of that country—it’s just really impressive.”

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Volunteering Increases Happiness

person studying

People who volunteer tend to be happier than those that don’t. Is that because happier people volunteering or that volunteering can make you happy? It turns out that volunteering does increase your happiness. Researchers found that the average volunteer gets a happiness equivalent to a salary boost of $1,100 USD.

So volunteering helps the world and it helps you too. So what are you waiting for? Go volunteer!

Evidence of the correlation between volunteering and wellbeing has been gradually accumulating, but to date this research has had limited success in accounting for the factors that are likely to drive self-selection into volunteering by ‘happier’ people. To better isolate the impact that volunteering has on people’s wellbeing, we explore nationally representative UK household datasets with an extensive longitudinal component, to run panel analysis which controls for the previous higher or lower levels of SWB that volunteers report. Using first-difference estimation within the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society longitudinal panel datasets (10 waves spanning about 20 years), we are able to control for higher prior levels of wellbeing of those who volunteer, and to produce the most robust quasi-causal estimates to date by ensuring that volunteering is associated not just with a higher wellbeing a priori, but with a positive change in wellbeing. Comparison of equivalent wellbeing values from previous studies shows that our analysis is the most realistic and conservative estimate to date of the association between volunteering and subjective wellbeing, and its equivalent wellbeing value of £911 per volunteer per year on average to compensate for the wellbeing increase associated with volunteering. It is our hope that these values can be incorporated into decision-making at the policy and practitioner level, to ensure that the societal benefits provided by volunteering are better understood and internalised into decisions.

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Reminder: Occasionally Pop You Filter Bubble

Argument analysis flowchart
Figure 1 from Cook, Ellerton, and Kinkead 2018. CC BY 3.0

When Russia recently expanded their invasion into Ukraine they clamped down on what they called “fake news”, meaning that the increased their censorship. Many western-owned media companies were banned from operating within Russia while other companies continued to operate but with high levels of censorship. The popular app TikTok kept running in the country and now serves vastly different content to Russians than it does to others. The Ukrainian city of Kharkiv is not that far from the Russian city of Belgorod yet what they see about the war couldn’t be further apart.

NRK recently looked into TikTok filter bubbles and it’s a good reminder for all of us to alway check our filter bubbles so we don’t fall prey to manipulation. Check other country’s news and thoughts on matters for a variety of perspectives. As always, use reason.

In Kharkiv, the war is raging. In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of videos like this have been uploaded to TikTok.
The social medium has become a place where an increasing number of people are looking for the latest news about the Ukraine war – although it can be difficult to know what’s real.

In Belgorod, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are blocked. Chinese-owned TikTok still operates as one of the few global, non-Russian platforms.
But will a TikTok user who lives here get to see any of what’s going on in the Ukrainian neighbouring city?

Check out NRK’s filter research.

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