first_imgArranmore IslandMinister for Health Leo Varadkar has visited Arranmore Island – the first time a Health Minister has visited the island in living memory.The reason for the visit was to assess its health facilities and see how island residents deal with health issues.Minister Varadkar said: “I wanted to see at first hand how island residents manage their health needs, and to assess the State’s ability to meet those demands. As Minister for Health I am trying to get direct experience of our health service, and this is a good opportunity to see how people are cared for in unique circumstances.” Arranmore has a population of 514, largely Irish speaking, which rises to 2,000 in the summer months when Gaeltacht students, migrant workers and tourists visit.The visit coincides with an HSE review into island health services, which involves residents and professionals living and working on Arranmore and other islands.Fifty per cent of the Island population is over 65 years of age, half of whom live alone.Health Minister Leo VaradkarMany of those in employment commute daily to work on the mainland. The main source of employment on the island is sheep farming, fishing, construction, and providing home care.There is a dedicated health centre with GP services three days a week. The island GP is resident and has practiced on the island for 30 years. The locum GP has also worked on the island long term. The Public Health Nurse works Monday to Friday and travels to the island daily. The primary care centre is located 15 km away on the mainland. Access to the multidisciplinary team is on a needs assessment basis and visits are made to the island when required.Out of hours emergency services on the island are provided through 999 and facilitated by the RNLI service located at the Arranmore lighthouse. Community groups organise sporting, recreational and entertainment services for all residents which includes meals on wheels and services to promote mental health.HEALTH MINISTER TRAVELS TO ARRANMORE TO GET ‘DIRECT EXPERIENCE’ OF HEALTH SYSTEM was last modified: October 2nd, 2015 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Biomimetics for Your Christmas Wish List

first_imgBiomimetics (the imitation of nature) continues to promise cool gadgets and useful materials that will someday yield prized gifts under the tree.  Some of them might even save your life. Combo Plate:  We begin with an article on the BBC News that listed a smorgasbord of treats coming from biomimetic research.  In “Biomimicry: Beaks on trains and flipper-like turbines,” technology reporter Katia Moskvitch writes, “Since the dawn of time, nature has been working hard, engineering everyone and everything to the highest standards on Earth.”  The opening eye-catching photo shows caterpillars hatching out of their cathedral-like eggs, reminiscent of scenes from the documentary Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies.  Here’s a short list from her article of natural designs representing “just a drop in the ocean of amazing nature-designed solutions” that are finding their way into engineering labs: Dragonflies, able to propel in any direction, inspiring hovercraft Shark skin that eliminates friction Termites that build air-conditioned mounds Birds that inspired the Wright Brothers and Leonardo da Vinci Weed burrs that inspired Velcro Tree leaves that inspire solar cells Butterfly wings that are leading to better gadget displays Whale flippers that are helping model better turbine blades Lotus leaves as models for waterproof surfaces Bird beak shapes that help reduce drag on high-speed trains Spider web reflective secrets that can warn birds of glass Lisa Welch, who is working on the reflective glass, commented, “I’m sure all of the answers to what we are wanting to solve exist in some form or another, in nature.” Glass sponges for bone:  Biominerals such as the glass houses in diatoms, and the bones and teeth in our bodies, are being studied for materials surgeons can use to repair bone.  In “Glass sponges inspire: Hybrid material made of collagen fibers and silica as possible substrate for bone tissue culture,” PhysOrg reported on work at Georgia Health Sciences University to build substances the way diatoms, sponges and vertebrates do it.  “Biomineralization is a very complicated process that is not so easy to mimic,” the article began.  “The researchers once again turned to nature for inspiration,” modeling the process used by glass sponges. Bats and dolphins for sonar and ultrasound:  Another PhysOrg article discussed how “biosonar” still exceeds human navigational machinery.  Researchers at Tel Aviv University would like to gain ground.  “Intrigued by the quality of the natural world’s biosonar over its man-made equivalents, Profs. Intrator and Simmons set out to study how biosonar animals perform echo location so quickly and accurately.”  They’re trying to analyze echoes the way animals do, looking for all the information bats and dolphins glean from sound.  “Animals explore pings with multiple filters or receptive fields, and we have demonstrated that exploring each ping in multiple ways can lead to higher accuracy,” Intrator said.  “By understanding sonar animals, we can create a new family of ultrasound systems that will be able to explore our bodies with more accurate medical imaging.” Pitcher plant for slippery slopes:  MSNBC Technology News reported on work at Harvard to imitate the slippery inner surfaces of pitcher plants, that give bugs no foothold for escaping the trap at the bottom.  Just think if they succeed and put this kind of surface on the inside of the ketchup bottle. Oysters for protection:  Want better bullet-proof material?  Xiaodong Li (U of South Carolina) is coming closer to it, thanks to his study of mother-of-pearl (nacre) made by oysters.  Nacre is able to absorb energy better than man-made surfaces.  PhysOrg described how imitating the manufacture of nacre in oysters is giving Li success in his experiments.  “Given the elaborate nanoscale structures that biology naturally incorporates in mother-of-pearl, the research team believes the findings could serve as a blueprint for engineering tough new materials in the laboratory,” the article said. The intricate patterns of calcium carbonate layers bound together with biopolymers is a secret that may lead to body armor that will someday save soldiers’ lives. Leaves for fuel:  Robert Service (not the poet) wrote in Science (8 November 2011: vol. 334 no. 6058 pp. 925-927, doi: 10.1126/science.334.6058.925)  about the attempts to mimic photosynthesis.  “Artificial-photosynthesis researchers dream of using sunlight’s energy to generate chemical fuels,” his article began.  “Despite progress, the approach must become more efficient and cheaper to make an impact on where the world gets its fuel.”  Why does nature make difficult engineering problems look so easy?  The article begins with praise for your lawn that says it all: The next time you groan when it’s time to mow your lawn, take a second first to marvel at a blade of grass. Plants are so commonplace that it’s easy to take their wizardry for granted. When they absorb sunlight, they immediately squirrel away almost all of that energy by using it to knit together a chemical fuel they use later to grow and multiply. It sounds so simple. Yet it’s anything but. Modern society runs on fossil fuels precisely because researchers have never managed to duplicate the chemical mastery of a fescue. Nano like cells do it:  Although an article in the BBC News doesn’t mention biomimetics, it’s all about building tiny molecular structures for which cells are famous.  “Nanoparticle hollowing method promises medical advances” is the headline.  A look at the images, though, looks like kid’s alphabet blocks compared to the machinery of the cell.  For a good look at that, see a stunning new animation by Vuk Nikolic on Vimeo. Bacteria for just-in-time delivery:  One subcategory of biomimetics is looking at a human solution to a problem, only to find out nature had it all along.  That’s what PhysOrg reported about a finding with bacteria.  “In the human world of manufacturing, many companies are now applying an on-demand, just-in-time strategy to conserve resources, reduce costs and promote production of goods precisely when and where they are most needed,” the article began.  “A recent study from Indiana University Bloomington scientists reveals that bacteria have evolved a similar just-in-time strategy to constrain production of an extremely sticky cement to exactly the appropriate time and place, avoiding wasteful and problematic production of the material.” Spiders for strength:  British researchers couldn’t offer any success stories with manufacture to match spider webs, but they did up the ante about the difficulty.  “Scientists at Oxford University and The University of Sheffield have demonstrated that natural silks are a thousand times more efficient than common plastics when it comes to forming fibres,” reported PhysOrg.  How can a tiny spider beat out our best materials scientists?  “Silk produced by spiders and silk moths demonstrates combinations of strength and toughness that still outperform their synthetic counterparts,” one Oxford scientist noted.  As if to rub it in, he added, “Not only are silks superior to man-made fibres, they are produced at room temperature with just water as a by-product.”  Try that as an experiment in chem lab. Spiders for partnership:  Another spidey story on Medical Xpress revealed that researchers at Kansas State and U of Nebraska have succeeded in taking a protein from spider silk and combining it with human muscle calcium channel to produce a self-assembling peptide. The resulting hydrogels “have potential as injectable materials for medical applications, e.g., liquid injection agents that become gelatinous in the human body to keep drugs around cancerous tumors.” Spiders for music:  One of the most unusual recent stories related to biomimetics is this one on PhysOrg:  “Researchers link patterns seen in spider silk, melodies.”  Sure enough, someone at MIT came up with a mathematical model that found analogies between spider webs and music.  From sound wave to chord to riff, “The study explains that structural patterns are directly related to the functional properties of lightweight strength in the spider silk and, in the riff, sonic tension that creates an emotional response in the listener.”  Finding this relationship involved modeling the “ontology logs” (ologs) between the two phenomena, a process in a field known as category theory.  “This work is very exciting because it brings forth an approach founded on category theory to bridge music (and potentially other aspects of the fine arts) to a new field of materiomics,” the MIT gurus said.  Tying two completely different fields together helps scientists think outside the box.  “What is particularly exciting is the opportunity to reveal new relationships between seemingly disparate fields with the aim of improving materials engineering and design.”  Whistle while you work, perhaps? Whether this is a category theory or category error, philosophers may want to weigh in on, but David Spivak is unabashed: “The seemingly incredible gap between spider silk and music is no wider than the gap between the two disparate mathematical fields of geometry — think of triangles and spheres — and algebra, which uses variables and equations,” he said.  For example, a spider web is robust enough to avoid failure even when defects are present, and music can sound OK even when the player misses some chords in a riff.  Category Theory has had success in the past with analogies between disparate concepts, Spivak explains.  “It remains to be seen whether our olog will yield such striking results; however, the foundation for such an inquiry is now in place.”  Note: he did not say this while strumming a spider web like a harp. Exercise: Compose “Ode to a Spider Web” and put it to music. Well, again, more wonderful ideas are pouring forth from the world of biomimetics.  The evolutionists haven’t given up trying to milk it for Darwin sacrificial offerings, but they are really outsiders on this bonanza.  They still try to say that Nature (personified) has had billions of years to practice and hone her engineering skills, but logical readers will slough off that useless narrative gloss like the sexy teaser ads in the sidebars of websites.  In biomimetics literature, you’re more likely to hear of revolution than evolution.(Visited 22 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

The Tour de Kruger: a wild ride

first_imgThe Tour de Kruger takes bikers on a70-kilometre ride every day for five days,through pristine African bushveld. A close encounter with elephants.(Image: Children in the Wilderness)Fiona McIntosh“You’re going to cycle for five days through wild game reserves?” exclaimed my friends when I told them of the bush adventure that I’d just discovered. “Are you crazy? What about the elephants? And the lions? You’ve clearly got a death wish.”But I could think of nothing more exciting than getting up close and personal with the big herds of elephant, buck and other game of the southern African bush. As for seeing lion … we’d be lucky.I’d signed up for the annual mountain-bike tour that supports the Children in the Wilderness programme. Our route would take us from northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana, through the World Heritage Site of Mapungubwe, finishing up in the Pafuri concession of the Kruger National Park.It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – where else in the world can you ride for five days through wilderness, knowing that at any moment you might encounter one of the big five? This was to be a real immersion in Africa yet, outside South Africa, the tour seemed to be a well-kept secret. I suspected a conspiracy – the locals didn’t want foreigners snapping up the limited places!Previous tours had been held in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, through western Mozambique and the Pafuri concession of northern Kruger, but this route from the Tuli block approached Pafuri from the west, so was entirely new ground even for tour veterans.Most riders took advantage of the transfers laid on from Johannesburg, hopping on their bikes at the reserve gate to stretch their legs on the final few kilometres to camp. We spent our first night under canvas next to the airstrip and were treated to the impressive sight of a classic aircraft, a shiny DC-3, swooping in to collect some of the reserve’s guests. Our kit bags, numbers and detailed race manifest were waiting on arrival and, once we’d labelled and parked our bikes, we were guided to our tents, all neatly numbered into respective groups.Then it was time for the pre-race briefing. We were out to have fun, but there were ground rules designed to ensure our safety. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous as we rode to camp, but now my fears about riding through elephant country the next day were allayed.Each group of 15 or so riders would stick together as a tight unit behind an experienced, rifle-toting front guide. The back guide was also trained in the ways of the bush and was in constant radio contact with the front guide, the other groups and HQ. They carried satellite phones just in case there was no radio contact. I slept well that night. This was one well-organised operation.Close encountersThe importance of the tight drill was soon evident. After a long, 70-kilometre day in the saddle we were less than five kilometres from the South African border and our camp. The thought of a cold beer was putting new life into my weary legs. Suddenly our lead guide stopped in his tracks.“Over there,” he whispered. Just about to cross the track we were following was a big breeding herd of elephant – females with tiny calves that looked as if they were going to be stomped upon any minute. It was not a happy group. They’d clearly sensed our presence, and were becoming increasingly anxious.“There’s another group in the trees to our right,” whispered the guide. “We’ll back off.” Suddenly loud trumpeting and the crashing of branches broke the silence of the bush and we mounted our bikes and fled back to the nearest group of big trees. So close, and yet so far: the herd was between us and camp, so we retraced our route until we found a safe place to cross the sandy riverbed.Some of the guides from an earlier group were sitting out in a hide on the South African bank as we took off our shoes and carried our bikes across the narrow channel of the Limpopo.“Was that you the elephant were revving?” they laughed. “We heard all the commotion then saw a load of riders retreating at speed.” I’d been praying for some intimate bush encounters, but that was a trifle too exciting for my liking.Mountain-bike countryThat was our third encounter with elephant that day. We’d also been treated to sightings of giraffe, impala, scuttling warthog and a ridiculously raucous display of snorting and histrionics from the clowns of the bush, a big herd of galloping wildebeest, as we followed the game trails through the mopane forest.It’s classic mountain-bike country, with wide open spaces and a seemingly endless network of single track – the work of elephant matriarchs carving out paths for their young to follow down to the water sources.The paths weaved through dense sections of bush, forcing us to bunny-hop over fallen branches and dodge thorn trees. There were a few technical sections – the odd rocky downhill, stretch of sand or loose gravel climb, but on the whole it was easy flowing riding past towering baobabs and over dry, stony riverbeds.This part of southern Africa is not only famous for its elephant, but is rich in history and home to important paleontological remains such as the dinosaur footprints of Vhembe in South Africa and the dinosaur skeletons of Sentinel in Zimbabwe. Our second night was spent at Mapungubwe – a place as seeped in history as it is prolific in game.The camp was in an incredible spot high up on an escarpment, and the dramatic rock formations of the park glowed in the late sun as we walked to the viewpoint where a bar had been set up.We toasted surviving the first day and our unscheduled detour from the route. It was an atmospheric place. Below us was the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers and the point where Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa meet. Now that the day visitors had left we had the park to ourselves, and I began to appreciate the privilege of being part of the tour.Bush cuisineAlthough you ride hard by day, Tour de Kruger is a charity ride to raise funds for Children in the Wilderness, not a race. Groups are arranged according to rider ability and fitness with the speed freaks and the odd professional cyclist breaking the trail and social riders like myself bring up the rear. The emphasis is on enjoying the bush, game sightings and the bush cuisine – a legendary feature of the tour.You can easily gain weight over the five days despite cycling around 75 kilometres a day in the hot sun. After the first 25 to 35 kilometres of each day there’s a morning tea stop where encouraging Wilderness Safaris staff hand out copious quantities of fruitcake, muffins, hot-cross buns, biltong and sweets, as well as wetwipes, sunscreen, lube and tender loving care.Lunch is a proper cooked meal, and then there’s another tea stop before you reach camp, where, if you’re still hungry, another cooked lunch awaits. And the spoiling continues once you’ve finished for the day, with abundant quantities of energy drinks, massage and bike repair services, hot showers, a bar and a slap-up dinner.MapungubweDay two took us through the impressive koppies of Mapungubwe National Park. The archaeological site of Mapungubwe was discovered in 1932, unearthing a long history of human habitation in the region including the earliest recorded archaeological gold in southern Africa.Among the human remains were golden ornaments, gold beads and wire jewellery. The most famous find was that of a single-horned golden rhinoceros. All southern African rhinos have two horns, so this find has intrigued archaeologists – some of whom suggest that it’s a representation of a rhino from Asia, where one-horned species exist. As you ride through the park you can’t help being somewhat overawed by this incredible place.For the second half of the day we cruised the sandy tracks of a privately owned section of the park, the Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve, a De Beers property which is well stocked with big game and an integral component of the World Heritage Site.Our camp that night was on the Limpopo River, a truly glorious setting right on the sandy cliff. We sat listening to the soothing sound of running water as we sipped our sundowners then ate out under the stars. The handful of foreign riders couldn’t believe the beauty of the African bush – the tour had exceeded all their expectations.The next day started with a rollercoaster ride along the river cliff – some of the most demanding riding of the event with steep down- and uphills. The rising sun created a dappled effect in the trees and we flew along, happy, if a trifle saddle-sore. That afternoon we rode into Kruger National Park, through a back gate and into an area that visitors to the park do not see.We were now in serious big five country. The briefing had been fierce – stick together at all costs and keep moving. The final day through the Pafuri Concession was magnificent. We left our bikes at the tea-stop and climbed up to Lanner Gorge for a view out over the gorge cut in the Luvuvu River. The sight of the great chasm was worth every ounce of energy expended on the 6.4-kilometre sandy trail.We rode through great forests of glowing fever trees, enjoyed the antics of baboons and saw kudu, impala, warthog as well as some great sightings of tuskers in Elephant Alley.Our final detour was to Crooks Corner – the point where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meet. We watched a breeding herd of elephant come down to the water to drink then, once they’d left, scrambled down onto the sand bank for a team photo keeping a wary eye open for crocs.Early in the afternoon we arrived at Pafuri Camp where, in the usual slick manner to which we’d been accustomed, our bikes were taken off to be loaded onto the appropriate transfer vehicles – back to the start in Tuli, the Wilderness offices in Joburg or, for those with flights the following evening, onto the coaches that were taking us back the next day.Taking leaveClean and refreshed, we lounged around the camp watching buck graze next to the raised platforms of the tented rooms and elephant drinking in the river. The event ended with a slide show and presentation and we relived the thrills and spills.It had been a magnificent ride that had brought together people from all walks of life, united in their wish to intimately experience the African bush, to rise to the challenge of the ride and to support Children in the Wilderness. It was hard to leave – after five days together the members of each cycling group and the support staff had become a close-knit family.So was I mad to sign up? Well, it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park, but anyone who’s reasonably fit and with a bit of mountain-biking experience would enjoy the ride. The distances are manageable for recreational bikers, and the presence of guides and technicians means that you can seek assistance in the event of bike problems, or hop in a back-up vehicle if you’ve had enough for the day.The organisers go out of their way to make your life as easy and as much fun as possible. But for all that it’s a challenging ride, largely along fairly straightforward single track or dirt road with a few more tricky sections to amuse the downhill addicts – most of which I walked, and felt no shame.What makes the ride really special is the opportunity to journey through bits of the reserves that most visitors never see. You can help but feel privileged that these areas have been opened up for the tour to come through. Makes me want to get on my bike again.Related articlesSouth Africa’s national parksThe adventure starts hereThe biggest nature park in the world Holidays that save the worldTracking elephants across AfricaUseful linksChildren in the WildernessWilderness SafarisKruger National Parklast_img read more