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January 17, 2015

Scientist predicts more river floods in the Netherlands

Filed under: Nature,Science by Branko Collin @ 7:33 pm

maas-near-steyl-martin-collin

University of Twente writes:

In the future, due to climate change and corresponding extremely high water levels, rivers in the Netherlands will be more likely to break their banks. This was the conclusion reached by Dutch researcher Suleyman Naqshband [...]. River dunes in the major rivers of the Netherlands tend to persist and not flatten out, thereby increasing the risk of flooding.

River dunes in this case is the somewhat unfortunate name for sand structures at the bottom of the river. Apparently they are quite common in Dutch rivers. The university adds:

These river dunes can reach large sizes, growing to as much as one third of the total water depth. This restricts the flow of water, causing water levels in the area of river dunes to be much higher than in sections of the river in which they are absent. River dunes are also dynamic, growing rapidly in just a few days then flattening out or even disappearing completely at extremely high flow rates.

(Photo of the river Meuse overflowing in 1980: Martin Collin)

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January 9, 2015

2014 a record year for Dutch organ donation

Filed under: Science by Orangemaster @ 3:45 pm

Last year was a record year for the number of organ donations from the deceased in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch Transplantation Foundation. The count was 271 people, 11 percent more than in 2013. The number of people who donated part of their liver or a kidney for transplantation while alive was 533 in 2014 as compared to 522 in 2013. Since 2007 the number of donors has risen by 20 percent.

Over the past year, organ donation has made headlines a few times, particularly in 2007 when hoax reality television show
The Big Donor Show fooled people around the world into believing that a terminally ill woman was prepared to donate a kidney to one of 25 people who needed one. Although shocking to many, the goal to achieve greater awareness about the urgent need for organ donors obviously had some effect, as did, I’m sure, many other regular campaigns.

Recently, a man from Almere with kidney disease found a kidney donor after an appeal on Facebook about a year ago. The transplantation apparently has a 90% chance of succeeding.

(Link: nos.nl)

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December 27, 2014

Volendam: hereditary diseases and smoked eel music

Filed under: Health,Music,Science by Orangemaster @ 2:06 pm

Volendam

Traditional fishing village Volendam is the butt of jokes for many things including hard drugs and ‘palingsound’ (‘eel sound’), a type of pop music from Volendam, referring to their smoked eel speciality. Then there’s the New Year’s Eve fire of 2000 where fresh pine trees branches (yup, illegal) were used as decoration on the ceiling of a cafe overflowing with people that caught fire because of a sparkler and caused deaths and serious injuries.

Nevertheless, the jokes about inbred villagers aren’t jokes. Three quarters of locals who want to have children get themselves checked out for a total of four hereditary diseases. One out of three villagers is a carrier, and if two carriers get together, that’s a 25% chance of hitting the jackpot. The 22,000 villagers all come from the same seven to twenty original families that settled the village, which explains many of the health issues, but not their ‘eel sound’.

‘Palingpop’ as the music is also called, started in the mid 1960s with easy listening tunes that resembled the American and British bands of the era. The term was coined by a radio station (video in Dutch) that would receive smoked eel as a present every time someone from Volendam would visit them. Acts such as The Cats and BZN as well as more contemporary singers such as Jan Smit and Nick & Simon are quite famous throughout the country and beyond.

(Link: www.parool.nl, Photo of Volendam by quantz, some rights reserved)

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December 5, 2014

Dutch-American company to make marijuana gum

Filed under: Health,Science by Orangemaster @ 10:53 am

Dutch-American company Axim is working on the world’s first medicinal marijuana chewing gum, which will be produced in Almere, Flevoland. It should be on the market in two years and it is currently being tested on Dutch patients who have chronic pain due to multiple sclerosis. This special chewing gum will work like nicotine gum, with the cannabis being absorbed slowly by the body in some 20 minutes.

You can easily buy ‘nutraceutical’ chewing gum that contains cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of pot, but Axim plans to make chewing gum with THC in it, the psychoactive ingredient of pot for patients who suffer chronic pain from many different medical conditions.

(Links: www.foodlog.nl, www.in-pharmatechnologist.com)

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November 24, 2014

The art and science of locked letters on video

Filed under: History,Science by Orangemaster @ 5:57 pm

The Historical Museum of The Hague is currently holding an exhibition entitled ‘Courtly Rivals: Elizabeth Stuart and Amalia van Solms’ that features locked letters of the 17th century. The letters have been brought to life thanks to some videos made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT Libraries’ conservator, Jana Dambrogio and others helped film six videos on the science of 17th century letterlocking.

‘Courtly Rivals’ is based on Dutch professor Nadine Akkerman’s publication by the same name, exploring the tense relationship between two of the most influential women in the Dutch Republic during the 17th century – Elizabeth Stuart, sometime Queen of Bohemia and her former lady-in-waiting Amalia von Solms, who became Princess of Orange in 1625. Elizabeth’s corpus of over 2,000 letters shows she was an astute politician, with a vast network of kings, queens, generals, ministers, church leaders, courtiers, and spies. Amalia’s correspondence has just come to light, but it appears she was no different. Both ladies, their secretaries, and their correspondents resorted to intricate methods to lock their letters shut.

(Links: www.haagshistorischmuseum.nl, libraries.mit.edu)

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November 4, 2014

Ambulance drone could drastically reduce response times

Filed under: Health,Science by Orangemaster @ 11:29 am

Belgian engineering student Alec Momont, a graduate at the Delft University of Technology, has developed an ‘ambulance drone’, a defibrillator which can fly at 100 km/h able to reach heart attack victims very quickly. It uses the GPS of emergency calls to navigate.

This drone or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ (UAV), can get a defibrillator to a patient within a 12 km2 zone within a minute, reducing the chance of survival from 8 percent to 80 percent. Momont explains that it is the relatively long response time of emergency services of around 10 minutes, while brain death and fatalities occur with four to six minutes, which makes the fatality rate so high.

I’m easily convinced. It reminds me of an evening in the pub recently chatting outdoors and watching an ambulance trying to find an address in Amsterdam West with their GPS but having to ask us for directions. The police was following them, got lost as well and asked us for those same directions. I’m sure that wasted at least 10 minutes.

One drone is expected to cost around 15,000 euro and could also carry other medical tools.

(Link: phys.org)

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September 23, 2014

Dutchman fought to keep amputated leg, made a lamp

Filed under: Science,Weird by Orangemaster @ 7:00 am

Needing an amputation, Leo Bonten wanted to keep his right leg after the operation because he wanted to make a lamp out of it, claiming it would help him deal with his loss. Ethical clinician Erwin Kompanje and pathologist Frank van de Goot have a discussion about it with Bonten in attendance (see video).

The hospital said ‘no’ to Bonten keeping his right leg, but the law actually has nothing to say about it, only what to do with corpses. Kompanje was surprised at the hospital’s answer, which was entirely baseless. “Your body is your property, unless you give it away,” he explains. The ethical clinician compares it to leaving the hair from your haircut on the floor at the salon: you give permission to have it sweeped up by leaving it there, while you could ask for it and bring it with you.

Van de Goot, who prepared the leg for amputation, says social safety issues must be taken into account like hygiene and infection, which Bonten agrees with as well, although not an issue in his case. Van de Goot agrees with Kompanje that Bonten could keep his leg. He tells of people keeping their baby teeth in a box or gallstones they have had removed, so why not a leg.

However, Bonten was told that he could only get his amputated leg back after it had been buried to follow the letter of the law, which was costly never mind a bit ridiculous. Bonten refused and was initially refused the amputation by the hospital. It was eventually sorted out, but Bonten had to fight for a right he already had to keep his own leg and make the lamp he wanted. “The hospital didn’t have a leg to stand on,” says Bonten jokingly.

The big unanswered question is, what constitutes a corpse, because this kind a situation could very well happen again and the law apparently has no clear answer.

(In Dutch)

(Link: www.improbable.com)

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August 6, 2014

Lab meat inspires futuristic cookbook

Filed under: Animals,Food & Drink,Science by Orangemaster @ 4:07 pm

Back in early 2012 we told you about lab produced meat being made, and in late 2013 about the meat finally hitting the grill. Now it’s time to level up with a test-tube cookbook called ‘The In Vitro Meat Cookbook” written by Dutch-based scientists, chefs and artists and recently presented in Amsterdam.

“While some dishes are innovative and delicious, others are uncanny and macabre,” such as roast raptor, dodo nuggets and oysters grown from meat stem cells.

The idea was not to get people cooking so much as letting people imagine future possibilities.

(Link: phys.org)

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July 11, 2014

Data storage speeds up by a factor of 1000

Filed under: Science,Technology by Orangemaster @ 11:23 am
Binary code

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology and the FOM Foundation have recently presented a new technology that potentially allows data to be stored 1,000 times faster with ‘spin current’ using ultra-short laser pulses.

Data is conventionally stored using magnetization, making bits 1 or 0, but the limits of this technology have been reached, and researcher Sjors Schellekens of the Technical University of Eindhoven says that it’s time for new data storage technology.

The ‘spin current’ is able to cause a change in magnetization, which is 1,000 faster than what is possible with today’s technology. The new method has also been hailed as step towards future optical computer chips, which Eindhoven University of Technology is now working on thanks to a Dutch grant of close to 20 million euro.

In 2009 The University of Twente was on to something in the same field with spin polarisation achieved at room temperature, which also sped up the reading of a hard disk.

(Link: phys.org)

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June 21, 2014

Store keeper prosecuted for selling ‘Mein Kampf’

Filed under: History,Science by Branko Collin @ 2:44 pm

mein-kampf-adam-jonesThe Totalitarian Art Gallery in Amsterdam lives up to its name and trades in ‘totalitarian memorabilia’.

As far as memorabilia go, things don’t get much more totalitarian than Adolf Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’ (‘My Struggle’). That book is said to be illegal in the Netherlands and if it is not, we will soon find out.

Last Friday at noon exactly a pair of detectives entered The Totalitarian Art Gallery at the Singel canal in Amsterdam and ascertained that, yes, store keeper Michiel van Eyk did indeed own a copy of Mein Kampf and yes, he did intend to sell it. The detectives proceeded to confiscate the book and to hand Van Eyk a summons, AT5 reports.

Last January Van Eyk was interrogated for “about an hour” at an unnamed police station about his motives for selling the controversial book. He told AT5 back then: “I don’t want to defend myself, I want this to go to court.” His wish is now granted, a first session has been planned for 26 August. Van Eyk will get to defend himself against charges of hate speech.

Mein Kampf’s legality is yet to be tested in the Netherlands, but hasn’t been much of an issue so far. The copyright to the book is held by the government of the state of Bavaria in Germany and will only run out in 2016. In 1997 Winnie Sorgdrager, then Minister of Justice, told parliament that the act of selling the book would expose a person to prosecution on the basis of article 137e of the Dutch criminal code, which forbids hate speech. She added that a publication was conceivably legal in a “scientifically responsible publication”, which she interpreted as “a publication in which the publisher or editor [...] distance themselves of the contents of the original text”. That must have been the dumbest take on science that I have seen in at least a week. (Yes, it’s been a slow week).

(Photo by Adam Jones, some rights reserved)

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