Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Deep sea tailings halted

I recently blogged about the Papua New Guinea government approving a Chinese company's bid to dump its mining wastes in the Basamuk area of the Astrolobe bay in PNG. When the deep sea tailings was approved, the PNG government allegedly authorized dynamiting an area through coral reefs spanning some 500 m long by 20 m wide. It was sad to see a beautiful structure that had taken so long to be built to be dynamited away just like that.

Fortunately for the coral reefs, the local people of the area have successfully taken out a court order to stop dumping of wastes in the bay. Hooray for the locals....

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ancient Corals hold new hope for Reefs

Fossil corals, up to half a million years old are providing fresh hope that coral reefs may be able to withstand the huge stresses imposed on them by today's human Activity.

Why Meat and Beer is better

Every now and then we look ourselves in the mirror and compare ourselves to other people always haunted by the thought of weather we are in shape or not and for those of us who love our food and beer, there already is a fine line drawn between us and the so called health conscious people who always make us look and feel bad. Well here are a few justifications on the main points those health conscious always attack us on.

Cardio-vascular exercises do not prolong life. See it this way, the heart, like everything else wears out eventually so it is only good for so many beats. Speeding it up will not make you live longer, its like extending the life of your car battery by speeding up the car. If you want to live longer, I say take a nap.

Many people are choosing a high vegetable diet arguing that it is healthier and better for the heart. Well, try to understand this, what do cows eat? Grass, hay and corn, these are all vegetables and so meat is just a more efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to the system. And if you want more grains in your diet, chicken is the best alternative while pork chops can provide 100% of recommended allowance of vegetable product.

If you think reducing your alcohol intake or quitting alcohol altogether is a healthy alternative, you do not know what you are missing out on. Wine is made from fruit and Brandy is distilled wine, which means they take water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made of grains and hops so my take on this question is that the more the better.

Being healthy is always about having the correct body/fat balance. Wanna know how to calculate your body/fat ratio? this is the simplest way to understand it. If you have one body and are fat, then your ratio is one to one, if you have two bodies, its two to one, etc. The next thing to knowing your body/fat ratio is to exercise to get into the ratio you want. Now comes the question of weather regular exercise is good? To be simple, there are no advantages in participating in regular exercise programs simply because no pain......good. Furthermore, exercises makes muscles bigger so if you thought exercises like sit ups will keep you getting soft in the middle, it might, but then it is only going to make it bigger.

By now the only thing I haven't touched on is fried foods, well fried foods are cooked in vegetable oil, how could getting more vegetables be bad for you? I will leave this one for you to decide and if you are still worried about your body shape, hey 'ROUND' is also a shape.

Remember, life is NOT a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO-HOO, what a ride!!"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Walking, Biting Mosquitoes

In the quest to combat the spread of dengue fever, scientists from the University of Oxford in England have developed a method to genetically alter male mosquitoes so that when they mate with a female mosquito, the offspring's they produce will have wings that prevent the female from flying. By preventing the female mosquitoes from flying they also reduce the chances of them spreading the infection.

The fight against dengue has gone from swatting, to poison, even sterilizing males and now its genetic engineering to ground females. Is it also possible that evolution would result in a new breed of mosquitoes walking around and biting people from the ground?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Deep Sea Tailings Approved

At a time when terrestrial mineral and petroleum deposits all over the world are becoming more scarce, many companies are slowly moving into marine based mining. This is usually associated with offshore drilling for oil and gas, however in recent years, the likelihood of having a marine based mine for minerals has increased so much that we already have a proposed schedule for the start of deep sea mining in early 2011.

The main question in everyones minds is how successful will the deep sea mining company be at keeping its tailings at a minimum and what environmental impacts the mining practice will have on the environment. While scientists and environmentalists all over the world are still looking for safer techniques and alternatives to this method of mining, this is fast becoming a race against time and with the current state of the worlds economy, this is shaping up to be a losing battle for the scientists.

Having said that, it is even more frustrating to see that the PNG government has recently approved Deep Sea Tailings at the Basamuk bay for its new US$1 billion Ramu Nickel project Pipe. According to a news paper article from PNG, tailings disposal from the mine which are said to be already neutralized, would be piped along the sea floor to a depth of 150m below sea level where they would be released. To construct the Deep Sea Tailings Pipeline (DSTP), mine operator, Chinese Metallic Company Corporation (CMCC) has suggested blasting a pathway 500 meters long by 5 meters wide through coral beds in the region.

How do we justify the decisions made at the cost of the environment?

Monday, February 8, 2010

BomaiCruz taking on big changes

My good readers, I am very excited to tell you all that BomaiCruz is taking on a new face-change. But hey, this does not mean you will not have access to your favorite column ( anymore, you can still enjoy it only, to make things more interesting to you I have decided to let the post be incorporated into Southern Fried Science.

Not only does this allow an entirely new look to the blog, it also allows you to be part of a larger community of bloggers from all over the world. You can now enjoy first hand feeds from various scientists on various expeditions all over the world and follow their progress. You can also be part of discussions about many different issues in science and get to witness for yourself what other people think of the issues in debate.

It is a great way to network and learn from others and also to share your piece of mind on many different issues. So please do make time to visit the new look BomaiCruz blog at

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The ethics of eating an endangered species, an analysis of sea turtles in PNG

My good friend Mr David 'Sharkman' Shiffman recently had a turtle burger somewhere in the Cayman Islands of Central America and blogged about it and all of a sudden somebody's food became the debate of the day with people arguing their cases on many different grounds, from sustainability, to the possibility of turtle meat becoming a new menu of choice and even animal rights. While I try to keep an open mind when reading the comments other readers of that blog had, I could not help going past the point where a reader made a comment about "the ethics of eating an endangered species" and specifically chose PNG to elaborate on her comment by stating "For example, in communities in PNG the following needs to be taken into account:
  1. Often the capture and slaughter methods are extremely cruel
  2. Reduction in calorific expenditure - if you go fishing and come across a turtle you might only spend an hour fishing
  3. Differing perceptions of what a turtle is and why it is important
  4. Who can and does catch turtles (sometimes only certain males in certain families)
  5. Variety in diet...."

I do not want to bore you by stating my arguments for each of the 5 points the reader raised, however, I will comment on the methods and let you decide whether it is cruel or not. 15 of Papua New Guinea's 20 provinces are either surrounded by the sea or have the sea included in their Provinical boundaries. This means about 70% of PNGs population is made up of people who live off the sea. Like many developing countries and other small island nations in the world today, our culture and tradation are still highly respected today. Having said that, the sea turtle like many other marine/aquatic animals is highly respected in the PNG society. For example, the people of the Sepik respect crocodiles so much they carve images of the animal into their canoes and bodies as a mark of respect to the animal, the people of Kontu in the West New Britain Province of PNG believe the sharks are a reincarnation of thier ancestors and they call the sharks to them and slaughter them instead of going out shark fishing and finally there are the people of Manus who like many others believe there is a special connection with their past in sea turtles. Because of the special respect and association these people have with these animals, the slaughtering of these animals is only limited to special occassions and when the need arises, the hunters do their best to use the most effective means available to minimise suffering to the animals.

Sea turtles in PNG are hunted in two main ways, first is through the use of a harpoon where the hunter uses a spear with a hooked tip. The hunter aims for the shell or part of the animal that will not cause it much pain and spears it. Upon impact, the tip breaks off and and the spear falls away. The hooked tip is connected to a buoy on the surface by a line so people on the surface can follow the turtle around and then pull it up to the surface. If the hunters are not satisfied, the turtle is set free. The second way is to dive into the water with the turtle and grab it by its front flippers and then press down on the lower part of the back shell so the turtle swims to the surface instead of diving down.

Now it can be argued that the slaughtering method is cruel but quite frankly, sea turtles are very hard to kill, they can not be srtangled and many societies forbid bleeding the animal. So, the best way is to throw it into a fire, turtles die easily when the temperature rises above a certain limit. When a turtle is slaughtered, every single part of it is put to use and only the contents of the alimentary canal are thrown away.

These methods may be very primitive but the hunters do have the choice of deciding whether to keep the animal or release it and if they release it, the animal is healthy enough to recover and survive. In both cases the animal is not hurt much and has a greater chance of surviving compared to modern fishing methods that require large drift nets covering a large expanse of the sea causing many turtles to become entangled in them. Most of these animals die by drownung and the few that make it through eventually die of exhaustion. The dead animals are often classified as bycatch and thrown overboard, a total waste of a beautiful animal, unlike in PNG where every single part of a caught turtle is put to use with the only waste being the contents of the digestive tract.

Finally, the people of PNG do to some exetent practice a little sustainability in their practice of turtle hunting. Although, this may not be word for word a direct text-book copy of what western societiey defines as being humane and sustainable to these animals, that was, is and will always be simply how things are done in PNG.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Map of Highlands Highway out of date

Please note that the map of the highlands highway passing through the Township of Goroka is out dated. I am not saying it is wrong but just that the image shown here is that of the old highlands highway going through Seigu, formerly known as the "Old Bena Road."

The new highway turns left about a mile from the top left end of the air port and runs into the town running alongside the length of the air port all the way to its end before continuing on to the coast.

Also, if the road map was rotated 40 degrees to the south at Kifamu Mission then it would almost be consistent with the current road map. This would also see the feeder road branching from the main highway fall around where the Chuave back road is, running out from "Red Corner" in Goroka and running all the way around Ungai and back into the Highlands highway again at Chuave.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Contributions of the HeLa cell line to Science

Culturing of the HeLa cells led to the development of the Polio vaccine, our understanding of cancer and many viruses. Scientists even used them to understand the effects of the atomic bomb on human cells and also to study the effects of zero gravity on human cells.

In modern day science, the same cell line was involved in many research leading to cloning, gene mapping and invitro fertilization.

in reference to: Henrietta Lacks - Everything on Henrietta Lacks (information, latest news, articles,...) (view on Google Sidewiki)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cold Stunned Turtles

I just want to add that the recent cold weather experienced around coastal North Carolina has caused many turtles to be cold stunned. I found it so interesting to note that the cold weather could have such an impact on these animals. Last information I got was that these cold stunned turtles were being kept at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) building next to the Marine Lab. #scio10

in reference to: Atlantic Sea Turtles: Field Trip Earth (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

'Y' men

Are men as primitive as most women think? New research has shown otherwise. According to an online article form the journal Nature this may not be so. Research has shown that the Y chromosome - the thing that makes a man male - is evolving far faster than the rest of the human genetic code.

According to a study comparing the Y chromosomes from humans and chimpanzees, our nearest living relatives, there is about a 30 per cent difference between the two which began some 6 million years ago, which is fairly recent when evolution is concerned.

This makes the Y chromosome the most rapidly evolving of all human chromosomes as stated by the articles co-author, Dr David Page who is also the director of the prestigious Whitehead Institute in Cambridge and a professor of Biology at MIT.

So what exactly would be the reason for such a rapid evolution? According to Page, there are two possible reasons, the first being that since the Y chromosome does not belong to a pair, when there is a mutation, there is no matching chromosome to recombine and essentially cover up the change. This is not so for women because they have 2 - X chromosomes and X chromosomes do not have this situation.

Another reason has to do with mating although this was suggested after careful observation of female chimps on heat. Female chimps on heat tend to mate more frequently and with many partners. This places an evolutionary pressure on the male to produce the most and best sperm to propagate his genes.

There is no apparent reason for this evolution in the male specie as yet but research is going on to better understand the Y chromosome of the male specie.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Another Giant into the Pots

Speaking of disappearing ocean giants and the need to educate people in densely populated areas, this 233 kilogram tuna was just sold for as hefty 16.3 million yen at the worlds largest fish market in Japan. That's $177,000 American Dollar's for a single fish!

But that's not all, Japan is the worlds largest sea-food consumer, consuming 80 per cent of the Atlantic and Pacific bluefins caught, a whole lot of sushi indeed.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sad Ending to Rare Giant of the Deep

A big catch by mackerel fishermen off the city of Donsol, Philippines yet, a terrible end to another great of the ocean. One we might never get to fully appreciate before there is none left.

Pictured here is a rare mega-mouth shark. According to the WWF-Philippines, this is only the 41st one to be recorded since its discovery in 1976 off Oahu, Hawaii. Updated records as of July 9th, 2009 showed a total of 47 megamouth sharks either sighted or caught.

This is a creature so rare it has not been listed as an endangered species, however as simply 'data deficient' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

This 4 meter long, 500 kilogram beast met its fate in the fishing nets of local fishermen in March 2009. Whats interesting to note about the location where this beautiful but rare creature was caught is that it is part of the 'Coral Triangle' which spans Indonesia, Mayalsia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island and East Timor, this is said to be the home of the richest concentration of marine life in the world.
Sadly, the area this Coral Triangle spans covers some of the most densely populated and least developed places in the world today. The problem now is, how do we educate these people about the importance of these disappearing creatures? and for local fishermen like these, how do we compensate for the loss of their catch?......