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Rip Van Winkle Revives

first_imgA man in a coma 19 years has regained some brain function, surprising scientists.  Terry Wallis is relearning how to count and speak, and thinks Ronald Reagan is still president.  The story of his remarkable recovery has been reported widely in the news (see Fox News) and was featured on both [email protected] and Science Now.  What was surprising was that “his brain slowly regrew the nerve connections that were devastated as a result of his accident,” said Michael Hopkin for [email protected], forcing neurologists to reconsider the dogma that hopes for recovery decrease over time.    Although scientists caution against raising hopes for other patients, the case of Terry Wallis shows that the idea that there are hopeless cases may need to be reconsidered.  Most of the reports claimed that patients in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), such as that alleged in the highly-publicized case of Terry Schiavo, are in a different category than that of Wallis.  [email protected] ended, however, with a surprise finding even for PVS patients:Neurologists are reluctant to declare that PVS, the condition at the centre of the controversial debate over US sufferer Terri Schiavo, can ever be truly permanent.  Earlier this year, researchers made the bizarre discovery that some PVS patients could be roused with a simple sleeping pill (see ‘Sleeping pills offer wake-up call to vegetative patients’).A report on World Net Daily says that Terry Wallis is able to tell jokes and, according to his father, “seems almost exactly like his old self.”The brain’s capacity to repair itself may be more remarkable than realized.  The ScienceNow article stated, “the brain regions that survived Wallis’s accident forged new connections, perhaps in an attempt to re-establish contact with regions that were damaged.”  It’s remarkable how much of his memory remained intact during nearly two decades out of touch with reality.  This should give medical care professionals and family members pause when tempted to think a comatose patient is beyond hope.  It also raises questions why a brain would try to repair itself, if reproductive success is the be-all and end-all of natural selection.(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Evolutionists Answer ‘Why’ Questions With ‘Stuff Happens’

first_imgWhy do ants walk single file?  Why are goldfish gold?  Why do worms come up on the sidewalk in the rain?  Exasperated parents sometimes answer the incessant questions of their young children with “It’s just the way things are!”  Presumably science does a better job of explanation, but one might wonder if the following evolutionary explanations improve on the exasperated parent response.Diatom distribution:  A paper in Science last week tried to explain the distribution of diatom species in the ocean.1  They found no evolutionary pattern of certain species inhabiting certain oceans but not others.  Perhaps mixing of ocean waters swamps the expected evolutionary radiation or environmental selection.  “To the extent that marine diatoms are a model microbial taxonomic group,” they said, “our results imply that the biodiversity and macroevolutionary patterns at the microbial level fundamentally differ from those of macroscopic animals and plants, negating the idea that all living things follow similar ecological and evolutionary rules.”  Apparently evolutionary laws are not disconfirmed by opposite outcomes.Autumn leaves:  “Why fall colors are different in U.S. and Europe” is the title of an article in Live Science.  European deciduous trees lack the rich reds of the Americas.  Why is that?  Once upon a time, 35 million years ago, “large areas of the globe were covered with evergreen jungles or forests composed of tropical trees,” but then “many tree species evolved to become deciduous, dropping their leaves for winter.”  The article did not say whether the spirits of the trees convened to work out this strategy.But then, pesky insects must have made the trees get the itch for protection: “Many of these trees also began an evolutionary process of producing red deciduous leaves in order to ward off insects.”  How the trees strategized to initiate the evolutionary process was not explained.  Nevertheless, this set off an evolutionary arms race as species migrated north and south.  In Europe, though, the mountains got in the way.  The red trees and their insects died from exposure to ice age temperatures – except for “the exception that proves the rule,” dwarf shrubs that still retain their red autumn leaves.  They survived because they (and their insect pests) were able to live through winter under the snow.  At least according to reporter Andrea Thompson, that’s how “the thinking goes.”Mister T Junior:  A small version of T. rex has been discovered in China.  It has the big head and puny arms of its famous star of stage and screen, but was only about 100th the body weight – about the size of a man.  A boxer might have a fighting chance against one of these.  He could pound the jaws of Raptorex left and right without fear, because the monster would not have the reach to grab him.  The short arms are an evolutionary puzzle, though.  National Geographic said, “The find runs counter to previous theories, which had said that T. rex’s stumpy arms were a relatively recent evolutionary development.  As tyrannosaurs got larger, their arms simply didn’t scale up fast enough, and the limbs eventually became small in relation to the dinosaurs’ oversized bodies, the older theories say.”  So much for that idea.  Here’s how the article displayed the flexibility of evolutionary explanations:Study leader [Paul] Sereno [U of Chicago] noted that it can be hard for people to appreciate the trade-offs that evolution inevitably entails.“It would seem to a human that forelimbs are so useful, that only when you got to the size of a tyrannosaur and you could frighten everybody with a growl could you get rid of [forearms],” he said.“But this common sense type of thinking almost never works with evolution,” Sereno said.  In the tyrannosaurs, for instance, “long, heavy forelimbs are a significant burden and would seriously curtail agility in the hunt.”Sereno did not explain if this means evolution should have produced short arms in all predators.  If this early tyrannosaurid had short arms, why did other subsequent tyrannosaurs have longer arms before T. rex showed up?  Perhaps that question falls into the trap of “common sense type of thinking.”  We’re not supposed to use that with evolution, Sereno said.  Live Science was confident, regardless, that “The new finding … suggests a T. rex blueprint for taking down prey evolved, and was successful, in the pint-size, well before the giant tyrannosaurs emerged.”Flamingo stance:  Here’s a question a young child would ask at a zoo: why do the flamingos stand on one leg?  Live Science tackled that with a smorgasbord of possibilities: keeping body temperature stable, avoiding parasites, preventing muscle fatigue.  Whatever the reason, “more research needs to be done….”Australian egg-layers:  Live Science tried to explain why egg-laying mammals called monotremes are found in Australia but not elsewhere.  The explanation for the evolution of the platypus and echidna includes numerous escape hatches: some of their ancestors became aquatic, or semi-aquatic, or terrestrial, or evolved between these habits; maybe they diverged a long time ago, or maybe recently; some stayed the same but some evolved rapidly; etc.  But we don’t know because the fossil record of these enigmatic creatures is poor.  Somehow, Charles Q. Choi found evolutionary confidence in all this puzzling.  “These oddballs are often considered primitive ‘living fossils’ that shed light on what our distant ancestors might have looked like.”Horny females:  If the male animals have horns for fighting other males over females, why do some female animals have horns?  New Scientist says this old evolutionary chestnut has been “solved.”  Two evolutionists plugged a bunch of variables into a computer (body size, openness of habitat, territorial behaviour, group size or conspicuousness) and ran a mathematical model.  Conspicuousness is the predictor of female horns, they concluded.  Another evolutionist said they forgot to consider competition for food.  That suggests that other variables might have also been neglected – or combinations of variables, or none of the above.Naked apes:  Why are humans naked?  Most mammals are covered in fur (exceptions include naked mole rats, hippos and elephants, but they are not close evolutionary kin).  Elaine Morgan tried to give an evolutionary explanation in New Scientist (caution: nude photo).  Since Darwin, the explanation for human nakedness has been controversial, she began.  Darwin’s idea that men selected for hairless females has not stood the test of time.  “Of all the thousands of mammal species, it is hard to believe that the males of just one species would develop an arbitrary preference for balder-bodied females, or that in just one species of primate it was the male’s preference that decided the issue.” she said.  “If a man of Darwin’s genius could not have come up a more [sic] convincing solution than that, some key factor must have been missing from the narrative.”So have evolutionists since Darwin improved on the explanation?  (Scientific explanations that are too flexible or convoluted amount to “stuff happens” – the failure of explanation.)  One explanation that held sway for decades was Raymond Dart’s 1924 theory that when our ape ancestors came out of the trees to hunt in the savannah, they shed their hair to prevent overheating.  “For most of the past century it was assumed that the problem had been solved,” Morgan remarked.  Well, then, why haven’t lions, cheetahs and other savannah predators followed that rule?  Russell Newman debunked Dart’s theory in 1970 by arguing humans would never have evolved in the savannah with their traits of too little hair, too much sweat and their need to drink too much water.  Now most evolutionists picture man evolving in a forest or woodland environment.Stephen Jay Gould suggested nakedness was a tradeoff for evolving a bigger brain.  Others suggested skin afforded better protection against ticks (but then, again, why didn’t other mammals use this strategy?).  Alister Hardy suggested humans got naked when they adapted to swimming – the “aquatic ape” (or skinnydipping) theory.  No one explanation has gained acceptance among evolutionary anthropologists.  Morgan said the focus has shifted away from why humans are naked to when they lost their hair.  Recent thinking says nakedness coincided with walking upright.  This, however, skirts the question of why those two traits would be correlated.  She concluded that Hardy’s aquatic ape theory remains the best contender (or the last one standing) so far, but not by much.Morgan ended her article with a statement that could apply to all the above.  “Only one thing is certain: the question is not going to go away,” she ended.  “Any scenario which fails to tie up this loose end will continue to be less than satisfying.  It will always be haunted by the suspicion that something in the story of our emergence is still missing.”1.  Cermeno and Falkowski, “Controls on Diatom Biogeography in the Ocean,” Science, 18 September 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5947, pp. 1539-1541, DOI: 10.1126/science.1174159.Does anyone still doubt that evolutionary biology is a giant storytelling contest?  You thought science was all about discovering the laws of nature, making predictions and understanding the world.  Evolution accomplishes none of these things.  The only “law” discovered by Darwin’s disciples is the Stuff Happens law (09/15/2008).  They like it that way, because it keeps their quest for a good “scenario” (i.e., story) open-ended.  Only their dupes would consider this scientific progress.Humans have been studying the natural world for thousands of years before Darwin came along.  Greeks and Romans had catalogs, and so did medieval scholars.  Most naturalists (meaning observers of the natural world) agreed that the form and complexity of animals and plants showcased design.  Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, was a creationist, and so was John Ray.  Sure, the early naturalists made mistakes, but guess what – so do we!  Modern naturalists have many advantages: better observational tools, more extensive collections, more observers, genomes, photographs, fossils, specimens, microscopes and state-of-the-art analysis.  None of this requires Darwin’s “one long argument” (translation: one grand myth) of common ancestry by means of unguided variation.  If anything, it is a rogue spirit of divination possessing the soul of science, clouding its vision with images of magical emergence.  Faith in the natural world’s Designer will cast out its demons and let science once again become clothed and in its right mind.(Visited 16 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

‘Miracle’ health train turns 10

first_img14 January 2004For the past 10 years, South Africa’s innovative “miracle” train, Phelophepa, has brought primary health care to rural areas where, according to government statistics, there is one doctor for every 4 000 to 5 000 patients.Phelophepa – a seSotho word for good, clean health – came into being in January 1994 when parastatal Transnet’s corporate social investment department and the optometry unit of the Rand Afrikaans University joined up to provide rural South Africans with primary eye care.The train initially had only three carriages and was solely financed by Transnet. Now Phelophepa has 16 carriages, and a host of companies have joined in the programme as sponsors.It is the first and only primary health care train in the world, and one of the most ambitious corporate projects ever undertaken in South Africa.Phelophepa travels around the country for 36 weeks of the year, stopping at least five times at each of 36 stations in the Free State, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.About 40 000 patients receive treatment at the train’s various clinics each year, and more than one million people have been reached to date.This year, Phelophepa will visit the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo and North West provinces. Gauteng, which is deemed urban, is excluded from the train’s itinerary.Lynne Coetzee, Transnet’s portfolio manager for health, suggested the idea of expanding the train’s facilities to turn it into an holistic travelling health care service that will reach thousands of rural communities.Student volunteers work alongside 15 full-time staff to provide basic health services – including general, dental and eyecare – in the rural areas. Public awareness about health issues, including HIV/Aids, is also promoted.Power sourceThe train has a unique power car which generates enough electricity to supply a small town for two weeks.Under normal operating conditions the drive wheels of the passenger coaches generate enough electricity for lights and hot water. But as the Phelophepa provides its services while stationary, another power source had to be found, and a dedicated power generator was essential.Old coaches were refurbished to accommodate an Edu-Clinic, which is equipped to teach groups of 25 local volunteers about basic health issues, with a medicine clinic which houses a pharmacy, the Roche health clinic with five examination clinics and an office, the Colgate dental clinic with five dental chairs, a psychology clinic with two consultation rooms, and two coaches that serve as an eye clinic.The train also has a dining car for 40 people and a kitchen where nearly 200 meals are prepared each day. Four carriages contain sleeping compartments and a laundry with five washing machines, tumble driers and ironing boards for use by the 56 people on board.The Transnet Foundation has announced that it will provide 48 percent of the train’s funding for the 2004 financial year. It said the train’s monthly expenditure – despite escalating costs – is estimated at R1.5-million, which translates to about R60 to R70 per patient. The remaining 52 percent will be covered by corporate sponsors.Roche, a research-oriented healthcare group which has partnered Transnet in the project since 1994, also announced a substantial financial injection for the train. Roche has paid the costs of the health clinic as well as the vehicle used by staff to visit surrounding villages and schools.The company said its additional sponsorship will be used to expand services on the train. These will include adding new clinics for diabetes care and oncology. The school health services project will also be extended, while additional funds will be spent to maintain the train and the communications infrastructure.Urgent needsThe inclusion of diabetes and oncology care will cover urgent needs. According to Pat Senne, head of corporate affairs and communication for Roche SA, Type II diabetes is becoming increasingly significant in rural South Africa – yet it is a problem that can be prevented.“Diet and obesity can predispose people to Type II diabetes, so we hope to add value to Phelophepa by educating patients on how to eat properly and recognise symptoms of the disease,” Senne told The Star newspaper.In addition, the health clinic will screen patients for cancer, a disease which affects a frightening number of people with lumps on the body but who are unaware that something could be wrong. Although cancer cannot be treated on the train, if it is detected patients will be directed to the nearest hospital.Roche has has also undertaken to fund the school health screening and education service and the dispensary.Jorg-Michael Rupp, Roche SA’s chief executive officer, told The Star: “Phelophepa is one of Roche’s flagship global projects and it is a rewarding example of how we support socially responsible and sustainable projects.“The train is impressive not only as it is an effective service to the poorest of the rural poor, but because of its ability to uplift the whole community.”SouthAfrica.info reporter Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

2010 Fifa World Cup: success stories

first_imgSouth Africa’s 2010 Fifa World Cup™ put to rest, once and for all, the idea that Africa is incapable of hosting world-class events of this magnitude. Fifa gave the country a near-perfect 9 out of 10 for the show it put on – here are just some of the reasons why:Take a bow, South Africa!John Carlin, author of Playing the Enemy, says all the stories about the 2010 Fifa World Cup being the 1995 rugby World Cup all over again, about healing racial wounds, uniting the fractured nation and so forth, were off the mark. “It was much, much better than that.” SA’s World Cup ‘near-perfect’: FifaAs Fifa president Sepp Blatter gave South Africa a near-perfect 9 out of 10 for its hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, analysts said the spin-offs of improved perceptions abroad could have a long-lasting impact not only on South Africa and its development but on the continent as a whole. 2010 ‘one of our greatest achievements’The 2010 Fifa World Cup was one of the greatest achievements of post-apartheid South Africa, President Jacob Zuma said at the national Heritage Day celebrations at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium. World Cup surveys highlight successThe successful hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup has done wonders for South Africans’ national confidence and the country’s image abroad, according to pre- and post-tournament surveys commissioned by Fifa. International awards for SA stadiumSouth Africa’s FNB Stadium, previously known as Soccer City, was a major hit with the fans during the 2010 Fifa World Cup. It’s also been racking up the design and construction awards, most recently being named the overall winner at the prestigious international Leaf Awards. South African ‘can-do’ wins againA novel beer vessel introduced in South Africa during the 2010 Fifa World Cup has been named Can of the Year 2010 by The Canmaker magazine, which reports on innovations in the metal-packaging industry. Bafana, Tshabalala do SA proud2010 was a good year for Bafana Bafana, and it ended on a high, with news that South Africa was up to 50th in football’s latest world rankings, and that Siphiwe Tshabalala’s blistering opening goal of the 2010 World Cup was among 10 nominees for Fifa’s goal of the year. Pride for Africa as Spain strike goldOnly 12 kilometres separate Spain from Africa at their closest point, and they were united in celebration at the finish of a 19th Fifa World Cup that sent a fault line of happiness stretching all the way from Bloemfontein to Barcelona. South Africans the ‘true stars’: ZumaThe people of South Africa were the “true stars” of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, uniting to prove to the world that the country and the continent was capable of hosting a world-class event, says President Jacob Zuma. South Africa’s World Cup wins heartsThe aftermath of hosting what has been hailed by one and all as a successful 2010 Fifa World Cup will no doubt leave South Africans with a massive hangover. However, the tournament has given them a new sense of pride, confidence and optimism, and opened a new chapter not only for the hosts but for the African continent. World Cup: Cape Town takes a bowAs Cape Town played host to the semi-final clash between the Netherlands and Uruguay on Tuesday night, the city bid farewell to its 2010 Fifa World Cup journey. For the city residents, it has been a memorable month that will live with them long after the tournament. Durban a hit with World Cup fansSouth Africa’s “Surf City” was the place to be on Friday as fans streamed in by the thousands for one of the most anticipated matches of the 2010 Fifa World Cup group stages, Brazil versus Portugal. While the match itself did not live up to the hype, the city of Durban certainly did. SA the ‘plan B’ of future World Cups“There is not a single part of this World Cup where we have not been able to go beyond the level of past World Cups,” Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke said at the halfway mark of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. “South Africa will become the ‘plan B’ of any future World Cup.” South Africa’s 2010 tourism harvestSouth Africa is set to reap lasting tourism rewards from the 2010 Fifa World Cup, with visitors pouring into the country in numbers, from new as well as traditional markets, and responding to the country’s offerings – and the energy and warmth of its people – with surprise and delight. Special courts key to World Cup successOne of the great successes of the 2010 World Cup – and there have been many – is how the special courts set up for the tournament have succeeded in dealing with the criminal activity that is part-and-parcel of hosting an event of this magnitude. World Cup so far ‘a success story’As the 2010 Fifa World Cup approaches the half-way mark, initial glitches have been ironed out and the competition is progressing magnificently, says Local Organising Committee CEO Danny Jordaan, adding that interest will only increase as the tournament progresses. Volunteers: World Cup’s unsung heroesWhile the on-field action draws the crowds, it is the thousands of hard-working volunteers busy in the background, making sure that each match runs with operational precision and professionalism, that should also be awarded a trophy. African welcome wins players’ heartsWhatever their fortunes on the pitch, players from the competing nations at the 2010 Fifa World Cup are enjoying the experience off it. The temperatures might be low, but the visiting teams are feeling the warmth of the African spirit. Huge crowds at World Cup fan festsFifa Fan Fests, organised at 16 venues around the world, played host to more than a million supporters during the first six days of the biggest sporting party in the world – with maximum capacity reached in almost every venue each time the respective national team played. Cup visitors enchanted by South AfricaThe world’s attention is focused on the southern tip of Africa as the greatest football showpiece plays itself out on the fields and in the streets of South Africa. But once the final whistle has blown on 11 July, it seems as though a lot of happy fans will be coming back to the country. Record SA audience for opening matchThe opening match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup between hosts South Africa and Mexico drew a record South African TV audience. The tournament is also getting good viewership ratings in North and South America, Europe and China. Soccer City one of world’s best: BlatterThe majestic Soccer City Stadium, venue for both the opening and final match of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, has won rave reviews from Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who described it as “a five-star stadium” and one of the most beautiful in the world. South Africa’s ‘quantum’ football stadiumThe Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban’s spectacular 2010 Fifa World Cup venue, has scored not only an engineering first for an African stadium with its majestic arch. It has also become the world’s first “quantum” stadium. 2010 stadiums: mission accomplishedAfter six years of sustained hard work and intense global scrutiny of their ability to deliver, South Africa’s nine host cities have produced 10 World Cup stadiums – matching and exceeding international standards – which will soon be known to television viewers the world over.last_img read more

SA, UN sign business incubator pact

first_img “Both the DTI and the UNDP would need to upscale existent incubators in the country, and we would need also to formulate a comprehensive strategy to guarantee the success of this initiative.” Source: SANews.gov.za 31 October 2012 South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a memorandum of understanding in Pretoria this week to promote the establishment of business incubators in the country. The DTI said the parties had also agreed to cooperate in women’s economic empowerment by promoting inclusive financing for women, a supplier development programme focusing on the promotion of cooperatives, special economic zones and other economic infrastructure. The department’s deputy director-general, Sipho Zikode, said the vast experience and knowledge that the UNDP brought in these areas would significantly assist South Africa. He added that South Africa has been in the process of strengthening its small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) sector. “We have a world-class incubation system that still needs to be improved,” Zikode said in a statement. “It delights me knowing that we will be drawing guidance and expertise from the experience of the UNDP’s global network of offices and experts to provide support in the areas of cooperation covered in this MOU.”‘A symbiotic relationship to boost growth’ Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said government was in the throes of implementing various interventions to ensure that small enterprises and big businesses have a symbiotic relationship that will boost the development and growth of the country’s SMME sector. In September this year, Davies launched the DTI’s Incubation Support Programme.center_img The programme aims to develop enterprises that will absorb and upgrade the vast unskilled labour force, develop new technologies and strengthen the country’s economy, the DTI said. This initiative is intended to encourage private sector partnerships and government to foster collaboration between small and big businesses, where big businesses assist SMMEs with skills and technology transfer, supplier development, and creating marketing opportunities for SMMEs. UNDP resident representative and United Nations resident coordinator, Agostinho Zacarias, thanked the department for its perseverance and persistence in pursuit of the MOU. “Hopefully sooner rather than later we will begin to reap the rewards of this union,” he said.last_img read more