Tag Archives: Kristine l Ming Blog

‘Floating on air’ after surgeons remove 19kg tumour

Watch surgeons in the operating theatre as they remove a tumour weighing 19.5kg (three stone) from Jasmine’s body.

The operation was carried out at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Viewers in the UK can watch Jasmine’s story in full on Surgeons: At the Edge of Life at 21:00 on Monday 15 January on BBC Two, or on iPlayer.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-42663918

Huge oil spill left after burning tanker sinks off China

Media captionFootage said to be filmed on Sunday 14 January showed huge plumes of smoke

Chinese ships are racing to clean up a giant oil spill after an Iranian tanker sank in the East China Sea.

The 120 sq km (46 sq mile) oil slick is thought to be made up of heavy fuel that was used to power the vessel.

The Sanchi oil tanker sank on Sunday and officials say all its crew members are dead.

It was carrying 136,000 tonnes of ultra-light crude oil from Iran which generates a toxic underwater slick that would be invisible from the surface.

Both the fuel and the ultra-light oil could cause devastating damage to marine life.

The Sanchi and a cargo ship collided 260km (160 miles) off Shanghai on 6 January, with the tanker then drifting south-east towards Japan.

It caught fire after the collision and burnt for more than a week before sinking off China’s east coast.

Iranian officials now say all 32 crew members – 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis – on the tanker were killed.

On Monday, China Central Television said a search and rescue operation had been cancelled and a clean-up operation had begun after a fire on the surface was extinguished.

They said two ships were spraying the water with chemical agents designed to dissolve the oil.

Media captionBodies were airlifted off the tanker on Saturday

The BBC’s China correspondent Robin Brant says the oil slick has more than doubled in size since Sunday.

The big concern now is for the environmental impact, he said. There could also be a very tall plume of condensate, this ultra-refined form of oil, underneath the surface.

Condensate, which creates products such as jet fuel, is very different from the black crude that is often seen in oil spills.

It is toxic, low in density and considerably more explosive than regular crude.

The cause of the collision is still not known.

Some 13 vessels and an Iranian commando unit took part in the salvage operation, amid bad weather.

On Saturday, salvage workers boarded the vessel and found the bodies of two crew members in a lifeboat.

Only one other body had been found during the week of salvage operations.

The rescue workers also retrieved the ship’s black box but had to leave quickly because of the toxic smoke and high temperatures.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-42690247

Black Death ‘spread by humans not rats’

Black rat (Rattus rattus) (c) SPLImage copyright
Science Photo Library

Image caption

The bite of rat-borne fleas infected with the bubonic plague has been blamed for disease transmission during the medieval pandemic

Rats were not to blame for the spread of plague during the Black Death, according to a study.

The rodents and their fleas were thought to have spread a series of outbreaks in 14th-19th Century Europe.

But a team from the universities of Oslo and Ferrara now says the first, the Black Death, can be “largely ascribed to human fleas and body lice”.

The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, uses records of its pattern and scale.

The Black Death claimed an estimated 25 million lives, more than a third of Europe’s population, between 1347 and 1351.

Image copyright
Science Photo Library

Image caption

Has the black rat (Rattus rattus) been falsely blamed for spreading plague during the Black Death?

“We have good mortality data from outbreaks in nine cities in Europe,” Prof Nils Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, told BBC News.

“So we could construct models of the disease dynamics [there].”

He and his colleagues then simulated disease outbreaks in each of these cities, creating three models where the disease was spread by:

  • rats
  • airborne transmission
  • fleas and lice that live on humans and their clothes

In seven out of the nine cities studied, the “human parasite model” was a much better match for the pattern of the outbreak.

It mirrored how quickly it spread and how many people it affected.

“The conclusion was very clear,” said Prof Stenseth. “The lice model fits best.”

“It would be unlikely to spread as fast as it did if it was transmitted by rats.

“It would have to go through this extra loop of the rats, rather than being spread from person to person.”

‘Stay at home’

Prof Stenseth said the study was primarily of historical interest – using modern understanding of disease to unpick what had happened during one of the most devastating pandemics in human history.

But, he pointed out, “understanding as much as possible about what goes on during an epidemic is always good if you are to reduce mortality [in the future]“.

Plague is still endemic in some countries of Asia, Africa and the Americas, where it persists in “reservoirs” of infected rodents.

According to the World Health Organization, from 2010 to 2015 there were 3,248 cases reported worldwide, including 584 deaths.

And, in 2001, a study that decoded the plague genome used a bacterium that had come from a vet in the US who had died in 1992 after a plague-infested cat sneezed on him as he had been trying to rescue it from underneath a house.

“Our study suggests that to prevent future spread hygiene is most important,” said Prof Stenseth.

“It also suggests that if you’re ill, you shouldn’t come into contact with too many people. So if you’re sick, stay at home.”

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42690577

The Birmingham high street that cut air pollution

People living near a busy high street have taken part in an experiment to cut air pollution.

Kings Heath high street, in Birmingham, was the centre of a clean air day which involved closing parking bays, changes to traffic light sequencing and reductions to bus fares.

Pollution levels were monitored by experts and the results showed a substantial drop in nitrogen oxide levels.

The experiment was for a documentary Fighting For Air, presented by Dr Xand van Tulleken, which is available on BBC iPlayer.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-42641439

How flowering plants conquered the world

PlantsImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Angiosperms produce flowers and fruits, which contain their seeds.

Scientists think they have the answer to a puzzle that baffled even Charles Darwin: How flowers evolved and spread to become the dominant plants on Earth.

Flowering plants, or angiosperms, make up about 90% of all living plant species, including most food crops.

In the distant past, they outpaced plants such as conifers and ferns, which predate them, but how they did this has has been a mystery.

New research suggests it is down to genome size – and small is better.

“It really comes down to a question of cell size and how you can build a small cell and still retain all the attributes that are necessary for life,” says Kevin Simonin from San Francisco State University in California, US.

‘Abominable mystery’

Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Earth was dominated by ferns and conifers. Then, about 150 million years ago, the first flowering plants appeared on the scene.

They quickly spread to all parts of the world, changing the landscape from muted green to a riot of vibrant colour.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Angiosperms are the most diverse group of land plants, with hundreds of thousands of known species

The reasons behind the incredible success and diversity of flowering plants have been debated for centuries.

Charles Darwin himself called it an “abominable mystery”, fearing this apparent sudden leap might challenge his theory of evolution.

Simonin and co-researcher Adam Roddy, of Yale University, wondered if the size of the plant’s genetic material – or genome – might be important.

The biologists analysed data held by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on the genome size of hundreds of plants, including flowering plants, gymnosperms (a group of plants, which include conifers and Ginkgo) and ferns.

‘Strong evidence’

They then compared genome size with anatomical features such as the abundance of pores on leaves.

This provides “strong evidence”, they say, that the success and rapid spread of flowering plants around the world is down to “genome downsizing”.

By shrinking the size of the genome, which is contained within the nucleus of the cell, plants can build smaller cells.

In turn, this allows greater carbon dioxide uptake and carbon gain from photosynthesis, the process by which plants use light energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen.

Angiosperms can pack more veins and pores into their leaves, maximising their productivity.

The researchers say genome-downsizing happened only in the angiosperms, and this was ”a necessary prerequisite for rapid growth rates among land plants”.

“The flowering plants are the most important group of plants on Earth and now we finally know why they have been so successful,” they say.

The research published in the journal PLOS Biology raises more questions about plants.

For instance, why were flowering plants able to shrink their genomes more than others? And why do ferns and conifers still exist, despite their large genomes and cells?

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42656306