Mobile phones then, Fracking now

As the ridiculous hysterical protests against fracking in the UK intensify toward an inconceivable hyperbole, I found this article from The Telegraph,  from 15 years ago:

It’s worth noting that the same scaremongering Luddites who were pulling down phone masts in 2003, are likely contentedly using their cellphones to arrange anti-fracking protests in 2018.

Who knows what they’ll be ill-advisedly protesting against in 2031…?

More micro in the news

I had literally an email about yesterday’s post, in which I lamented the frankly appalling image of microbiology in the news. And it turned out that the email was sent regarding a speling errer in the post, which I thought I had, and have now, corrected.

Still, despite the lack of support from the 6000 miles…  reading public, I set out with renewed vigour yesterday in an effort to find and document a better side of my favourite branch of science in the media.

I failed.

The most recent stories I could find which involved Microbiology were this one:

which included this line:

Staphylococcus aureus, which causes a range of conditions including MRSA, was found three times more often on the surfaces of air dryers compared to paper towel dispensers during an international study.

Well, MRSA is Staphylococcus aureus, it’s not ‘a condition caused by’ Staphylococcus aureus. It’s almost as if the S and the A in MRSA stand for… ag… you get my drift.

Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect anyone?

Anyway – the upshot of this whole thing is that there are fewer bacteria that are going to kill you while you’re in hospital if people use paper towels than if they use jet air dryers.

We found multiple examples of greater bacterial contamination on surfaces, including by faecal and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, when jet air dryers rather than paper towels were in use.

Nice. [dry heave]

And remember, folks: Hand dryers also terrorise the vulnerable.

… And this one:

No issues here though, because the chances of anyone picking up a virus and transmitting it to anywhere around the world in this scenario is… oh… is actually really high. Could there be a worse place for nasty viruses to be found? This is literally how pandemics start. Or at the very least, it’s how they become pandemics.

Not great.

The image that Sky News chose to illustrate this story is interesting.

Now, I’m not someone who travels an awful lot, but I’ve done my fair share of flying, and that looks highly illegal. I’m pretty sure that whoever’s plastic security tray that is, isn’t getting their stuff back.

But then, considering that it’s now all – from their Old Spice stick deodorant to their Maybelline foundation (mmm) – covered in nasty viruses from the tray anyway, maybe not getting it back is actually quite a good thing.

Perhaps the best professional advice I can give is for you to pick your hand luggage up from the plastic security tray, and then go and immediately wash your hands in the first public loo that you can find.

Unless there’s an air dryer in there, of course.
In which case, you’re already as good as dead.

Microbiology is bad news

Except it’s obviously really not.

Microbiology is great.

But when microbiology gets into the news, it’s rarely for happy happy joy joy reasons. Even the mention of words like Ebola, Listeriosis or Bacteroides melaninogenica twist the tongues and instill fear into the hearts – and horrendous infection into other major organs – of the population.

This isn’t how it should be, so to balance the bias, I went searching for some good news microbiology stories.

Rookie error. It’s all terrible.

A tiny beetle is is killing South Africa’s trees. But only because it’s introducing a tinier fungus into those trees.

According to Professor Marcus Byrne, an Ig Nobel prize winner and entomologist at the University of the Witwatersrand, the beetle bores tunnels into tree trunks where it spreads the fungus Fusarium euwallaceae, which effectively cuts off the trees’ vascular system, causing them to die.

So, it’s the fungus that is actually killing the trees. Not the beetle.
Entomology is only very slightly to blame here. Microbiology loses again.

_____

Aside: Ig Nobel prize details here:

Byrne, an entomology lecturer, and his colleagues from Lund University in Sweden, designed caps and boots for dung beetles and dressed the beetles in their new apparel to prove, firstly, that dung beetles use the Milky Way to orientate.

The caps blocked light from reaching their eyes in order to experiment with how they use starlight to navigate. The boots, in a fashionable luminous green, blocked heat from reaching the dung beetles’ feet.

_____

Next up: Virus kills pigs. Millions of pigs.

It’s African Swine Fever caused by… er… the African Swine Fever Virus.

Otto Saareväli lost his entire herd of 7000 pigs because of a case of ASF was diagnosed on his farm in Estonia.

“We have the strictest biosecurity measures here, and still no one is quite sure how the disease got in – it may have been a truck that wasn’t washed properly after visiting an infected farm,” says Saareväli. “But if you find just one pig, then everything has to go.”

Estonia is just the tip of the iceberg though. China is home to half the pigs in the world, so it’s vital that the virus doesn’t get a trotterhold there… oh… too late:

“The key thing that makes us very conscious of the threat that ASF poses is that China represents half the pigs in the world,” says Dr Matthew Stone, deputy director general of science at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which coordinates international monitoring of diseases. “It’s extremely important for food security and the economy of China and in the absence of a vaccine, stamping-out policies are crucial.”

And it’s not under control.

“At the moment because it’s on the move and undergoing a period of pandemic spread it’s very important.”

Still – at least that’s just a virus of pigs. There’s worse news when it comes to (very human) Measles Virus.

The annoying… no… the INFURIATING! thing about hearing about cases of, and deaths from, measles is that we have a very, very effective vaccine for measles. It’s entirely preventable.

Simply: there is no need for any child, any human, to suffer from, let alone die of, measles. So why is it happening?

Well, in Western Europe because “Dr” Andrew Wakefield is a corrupt twat, and because people chose – and continue to choose – to believe his lies.

Result?

Oh, and because misinformation and fake news is a big deal these days:

A new study showing that Russian-linked trolls and social media bots have been heavily promoting misinformation on vaccines shows just how far Putin’s government is prepared to go in its worldwide effort to sow mistrust and division. The study follows rapidly on the heels of earlier reports that Russian-owned media sites had been among the most prominent proponents of anti-GMO stories and memes, again aiming to undermine scientific consensus and public trust in academic institutions.

Both anti-vaccine and anti-GMO groups appeal to prejudices against modern science and conspiracy thinking to spread fear and misinformation. Like the tobacco lobby of old, doubt itself is their product.

We live in a truly sick (no pun intended), truly bizarre world.

And, as if it couldn’t get any worse, this:

In which, the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) declared the vaccine haram – religiously forbidden, despite also commenting that:

…the religious organisation understood the dangers associated with not getting children immunised.

So they do understand that the vaccine works, they do understand the need for it and they do understand the implications of children not being vaccinated, but they’re still going ahead and railing against it anyway.

Fantastic.

And why would you do that?

It’s entirely possible Amin is using this fatwa and the MUI in general as political tools to impact the election. The group receives funding from the government of Indonesia, and Amin has used it to impact politics in the past.

Ah – personal gain at the expense of others. Pretty sure that’s unlikely to be top of the list at the Things I Learnt From the Quran Symposium later this year.

To be fair to Microbiology, it might be Fusarium spp. killing the trees and not the beetle, but it’s Ma’ruf Amin killing Indonesian kids and not the measles virus.

Science is doing everything it can, but in Indonesia, it’s Religion 1-0 Microbiology.

Microbiology will still get the blame, though.

I will go on looking for good news Microbiology stories, but I’m not going to waste too much time over it, because I don’t think that there are any of them out there.

The UEFA Nations League

I tried to understand what a UEFA Nations League is and how it worked.

Firstly, I went to the UEFA website: horse’s mouth and all that. And then, when my brain exploded thanks to lines like this:

Due to excessive travel restrictions, any group could not contain a maximum of one of these pairs: Andorra & Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands & Kazakhstan, Gibraltar & Kazakhstan, Gibraltar & Azerbaijan

I asked online for assistance, which came in the form of a link from The Guru. Thanks, The Guru.

Because yes, Football365 seem to have done a good job in attempting to simplify a rather complex format. And am I alone in thinking that UEFA might actually be onto something here? It actually looks quite good.

And there’s more great news for me too: Supersport – who failed to secure the rights for the English League Cup or the Championship – have managed to scrape some cash together to buy some UEFA Nations League goodness.

Tonight kicks off (quite literally) with the following fixtures:

Kazakhstan v Georgia
SS3 HD (4pm)

Armenia v Liechtenstein
SS3 HD (6pm)

Wales v Rep. Ireland
SS6 HD (8.45pm)

Germany v France
SS3 HD (8.45pm)

Slovenia v Bulgaria
SS11 HD (8.45pm)

Czech Republic v Ukraine
SS7 HD (8.45pm)

I know what I’ll be doing at 1800.

Sweary tourist guide fined

Incoming from the Isle of Man…

[The TT being the annual motorcycle races there and Senior Race being (arguably) the biggest race for the week.] [Hoorah for context.]

Indeed.

I was a little confused by this story. Shouting at people isn’t a nice thing to do, and shouting at TT visitors is both rude and foolish, especially when the tourist trade on the island relies so heavily on their attendance at the Races. But despite her shouting and swearing at the visitors, she did seem to be attempting to assist them with enriching their stay:

Shelley Eileen Wardally, of Demesne Road, in Douglas, was seen by plain-clothed police officers shouting and swearing at visitors calling them ‘come-overs’ and telling them where to go.

The Isle of Man is a truly beautiful place. My spiritual home.
There are many wonderful places to visit there, many of them sequestered away from the prying eyes of the tourists. Some locals might prefer it kept that way, but Shelley is clearly all about sharing the wealth with her useful advice in “telling them where to go”.

I’m obviously not party to exactly where she suggested, but Colby Glen is an underrated hidden gem in the south of the island. Bluebells, wild garlic, a little brook running through it. I’ll bet that was included.
But then it all gets a bit weird:

…officers approached and spoke to her about her behaviour.

She then turned her abuse to the police as she swore at them telling them where to go.

Er… Shelley. These guys are from the Isle of Man. It’s likely that they are aware of all the incredible experiences it has to offer. You’re wasting your time in telling them where to go. They already know where to go.

They are fully cognisant of the local attractions, Shelley.

Why would Shelley be telling police officers where to go, then?

Wardally was said to be holding a can of Strongbow as officers approached

Ah. The Strongbow “defence”. It’s basically more of an admission of guilt.

Defence advocate Paul Glover said: “Ms Wardally informs me she had too much to drink that day and emotions got the better of her.”

I do understand, Shelley. Sometimes the sheer beauty of the Gem of God’s Earth gets to us all, and we simply can’t hold back. It’s completely overwhelming and you need to get it out of your system before you just… explode and start drunkenly shouting at tourists in Douglas.

“But for Senior Race Day this offence wouldn’t have taken place.”

As The Jacksons infamously told us: Don’t blame it on the sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, don’t blame it on the good time, blame it on… er… Senior Race Day.

Which happens every year.

No, Shelley – I think we need to blame it on the Strongbow.

The 46-year-old has been fined £275 after admitting being drunk and disorderly. She was also ordered to pay £125 prosecution costs.

Ja. See? The offence was ‘drunk and disorderly’, not ‘simply existing on Senior Race Day’.

This is clearly a message to anyone blurting out he location of secret sites to tourists. It seems that the Manx justice system will do anything to stop their private spots from being revealed.

Keep it to yourself next year, Shelley.