Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flying car one step closer to reality

The Terrafugia, a small airplane that can drive on roads and has been billed as the first "flying car," is now one step closer to becoming street- and sky-legal.

The vehicle has cleared a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulatory hurdle for craft classification by weight. A full-fledged production prototype might be just around the corner, according to multiple reports.

At issue was Mass.-based company Terrafugia wanting its Transition vehicle to be classified as a "Light Sport Aircraft" by the FAA so people eager to fly it would need only 20 hours of flying time.

Yet the two-seater vehicle came in 110 pounds (50 kilograms) overweight in accommodating roadworthy-assuring safety items such as crumple zones. The FAA said that so long as customers are advised about this extra weight, the car-plane hybrid can be sold.

The Terrafugia completed its maiden voyage last March in upstate New York. According to its maker, the Terrafugia can transform from a roadable vehicle that can hit a highway speed of 65 mph to a winged aircraft in 30 seconds.

The plane version can cruise at about 115 mph (185 kph) and cover about 400 miles (644 kilometers) worth of turf before needing a refill of regular unleaded gas.

The price of a Terrafugia is expected to be around $200,000 and deliveries could start next year, assuming the vehicle passes crash tests. The company has envisioned its vehicle as finding a home with amateur pilots who live near air fields, but as any Jetsons' fan knows, flying cars might well be the wave of the future.

by Adam Hadhazy (TechNewsDaily)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Genetic counseling leads to father’s death and son's life long guilt

As soon as genetics solves one problem, others appear. You might think that the application of science to medicine is an undisputed boon. Petty has provided a compelling counter-example.

A man with Adult Polycystic Kidney disease due to an APKD1 mutation is in end-stage renal failure. A transplant from a matched, living, related, unaffected donor is highly desired. There is a 50:50 chance of passing on the APCD gene to his children. There are problems in his family, but he somehow persuades his adult children to have genetic testing to see if there are eligible donors. Each is apparently happy to donate a kidney to his/her father.

A can of worms is opened when 1 son realizes that he is the only child who can offer a good match. His brother is carrying the same mutation as his estranged father. The eligible son would rather save his kidney to help his brother than his father. Old animosities resurface and the family is in turmoil.

How will you feel if the father dies of a complication of dialysis, and both his sons feel guilty forever? We should not be too surprised at all this. Often in medicine bad comes out of our good intentions.

How can you good outcome out of bad?

By remembering this example and not doing tests lightly and by making genetic counseling as professional as possible. So that the complications can be foreseen and disasters can be pre-empted. Furthermore, don’t have unreasonable expectations about what genetic counseling can do. The number of diseases being found to have a significant genetic component is increasing faster than geneticists can formulate rational guidelines for screening.

Source: Oxford handbook of clinical medicine

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Can the success be a failure?

It’s amazing how you chase after dreams. Every day wake up and say, I want this, I want that. I want more of this and more of that. There is no end for it. It’s okey to want more. The more you have it the happier you are, they say.

Until one day, you realized you have what you worked for. After 5 long years of hardship you get to enjoy the success. Wait a minute, are you really enjoying the success or you are weeping over it? Why so? Did u suddenly realize that you have been neglecting everything else around you for the hunger of this? Now you realize you no longer have what you already had 5yrs ago? Love and respect of people around you-must savor it my friend.

Now, let me ask you how do u measure success my friend? Gold medal? Certificates? Two fantastic thumbs up? I used to measure it similar way. But then I realized sometimes success is not so obvious to differ from failure. Let’s say, North Korea played in the world cup for the first time in such a long time. They are 105th in world soccer ranking. They played against Brazil which is the top. Now, Brazil won the game by 2-1. Or should I say, North Korea lost by 1-2? Either way, same thing right? North Korea still lost right? Some argue otherwise.

That is why, my friend, I say success is a subjective thing. For instance, a lot of people view the game I just mentioned as a success to North Korea and a shameful loss to Brazil. Ironic isn’t it. Similarly, if your family, friends and loved ones are not with you when you achieve a Gold it doesn’t really feels like Gold, bronze or even silver. Sometimes it just feels empty and useless. Needless to go on bragging about this, I believe I made my point here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Knysna seahorse - a curious, legendary African fish

Seahorses are thought to have evolved at least 40 million years ago and have survived from ancient times with only very small changes in body structure or organ function.

They are unusual fish that have captured the imagination of artists, writers and poets, being found in the mythology, legends, folklore and superstitions. In fact some people still believe that these endearing creatures exist only in fables and children's stories- This time, they are wrong.

Given their unusual appearance and extraordinary biology, it is not surprising that Asians have credited seahorses with magical powers- like they always do. Seahorses are therefore exploited as traditional medicines. This use has led to concerns that the natural seahorse stocks are being depleted at a rapid and unsustainable rate.

The pregnant male!

Seahorses are the only fish species where the male experiences a true pregnancy. The pregnancy is considered true, as fertilization is internal and the eggs are held in a pouch consisting of tissues, which contain a capillary network which provides oxygen and placental fluid to the embryos.

The pregnancy of the Knysna seahorse lasts up to two or three weeks. The male will then give birth to between 5 and 200 young from one pregnancy and during the male's pregnancy the female will be busy producing more eggs. This means that just a few hours after the male giving birth, the female will once again pass her now ripe eggs into the male's pouch. The male will therefore be pregnant throughout the entire breeding season.

Flirting seahorses?

The seahorses mate monogamously for the entire breeding season. Every day the pair will come together in a ritualistic flirtatious dance to reinforce their connection. This ritual helps keep the pair synchronized reproductively. While the male is pregnant he will move very little, which for a seahorse means not more than a few centimeters.

If a mate is removed or dies, it will take weeks to find a new mate, that is, if it is able to at all! This is because seahorses live in isolated groups and move very little. It is thus extremely difficult to find another seahorse in the same part of the reproductive cycle.

So female look for a mate?

Since it is the male that becomes pregnant it was previously believed that it would be the females that competed for the male partners. This however is simply not the case. Like in most species, it is the male that competes with other males to attract and defend his female seahorse. So, it would appear that the male actually wants to be pregnant. The seahorse male is sounding more and more like every woman's perfect mate! Muwahaha.

Source: Science Africa

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A solo mission to Kill Osama- By an apparently insane American.

An American man has been detained in the mountains of Pakistan after authorities found him carrying a sword, pistol and night-vision goggles on a solo mission to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden.

Friends and family say construction worker Gary Brooks Faulkner is a devout, good-humored Christian who was "on a mission" to kill or capture Osama.

Dying man?

Faulkner's sister, Deanna, said her brother suffers from kidney disease that has left him with only 9 percent kidney function. But she told The Associated Press that she did not think his illness was his motivation to go to Pakistan.

"I don't believe this was, 'I'm dying, and I'm going to do a hurrah thing,"' she said.

Scott Faulkner, the man’s brother, said Faulkner was very religious and carried a Bible with him at all times but wasn't planning to proselytize. "He talked about why he was so passionate" to find bin Laden, Scott Faulkner recalled, adding that his brother retained vivid memories of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. "He has not forgotten". Scott Faulkner dropped his brother off at Denver's airport May 30, and the two discussed the possibility Faulkner would not return alive from his search for bin Laden. But Scott Faulkner insisted his brother was on a rational mission.

"He's as normal as you I," Scott Faulkner said. "He's just very passionate, and, as a Christian, he felt, when Osama mocked this country after 9/11, and it didn't feel like the military was doing enough, it became his passion, his mission, to track down Osama, and kill him, or bring him back alive."

Scott Faulkner said his brother sold all his tools to finance his trip and was prepared to die in Pakistan. He also said his brother took no weapons and had a valid visa for Pakistan. Scott Faulkner hoped his brother wouldn't be charged with a crime.

The 50-year-old Faulkner was in and out of Colorado state prisons between 1981 and 1993, serving a total of about seven years in five separate stints for burglary, larceny and parole violations, state officials said.Nobel & devoted Christian indeed?

He arrived June 3 in the town of Bumburate and stayed in a hotel there. He was assigned a police guard, as is common for foreigners visiting remote parts of Pakistan.When he checked out without informing police, officers began looking for him, according to the top police officer in the Chitral region, Mumtaz Ahmad Khan. Faulkner was found late Sunday in a forest.

"We initially laughed when he told us that he wanted to kill Osama bin Laden," Khan said. But when officers seized the weapons and night-vision equipment, "our suspicion grew." He said the American was trying to cross into the nearby Afghan region of Nuristan.

Khan said Faulkner told investigators he was angry after the Sept. 11 attacks. "I think Osama is responsible for bloodshed in the world, and I want to kill him," Khan quoted him as saying.

Asked why he thought he had a chance of tracing bin Laden, Faulkner replied, "God is with me, and I am confident I will be successful in killing him," Khan said.He said police confiscated a small amount of hashish, enough for a single joint, from Faulkner.

Schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder??

Hugo Corral, who owns a barber shop in Greeley, recalled cutting Faulkner's hair a few months ago. He said Faulkner was quiet and wouldn't answer his questions. After the haircut, Corral said, he saw Faulkner acting strangely outside his shop.

"He would walk, then stop, then do something like he was saluting something. It was kind of weird," Corral said. Through the glass of his shop, he said he could hear Faulkner cursing at no one in particular.

Published: The Star, Wednesday June 16, 2010.

The guardian of the The Gap- A suicide point.

In those bleak moments when the lost souls stood atop the cliff, wondering whether to jump, the sound of the wind and the waves was broken by a soft voice. "Why don't you come and have a cup of tea?" the stranger would ask. And when they turned to him, his smile was often their salvation.

For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia's most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. And in that time, the man widely regarded as a guardian angel has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

What some consider grim, Ritchie considers a gift. How wonderful, the former life insurance salesman says, to save so many. How wonderful to sell them life.

"You can't just sit there and watch them," says Ritchie, now 84, perched on his beloved green leather chair, from which he keeps a watchful eye on the cliff outside. "You gotta try and save them. It's pretty simple."

Since the 1800s, Australians have flocked to The Gap to end their lives, with little more than a 3-foot (1 meter) fence separating them from the edge. Local officials say about one person a week commits suicide there, and in January, the Woollahra Council applied for 2.1 million Australian dollars ($1.7 million) in federal funding to build a higher fence and overhaul security.

In the meantime, Ritchie keeps up his voluntary watch. The council recently named Ritchie and Moya, his wife of 58 years, 2010's Citizens of the Year.
He's saved 160 people, according to the official tally, but that's only an estimate. Ritchie doesn't keep count. He just knows he's watched far more walk away from the edge than go over it.

Each morning, he climbs out of bed, pads over to the bedroom window of his modest, two-story home, and scans the cliff. If he spots anyone standing alone too close to the precipice, he hurries to their side.

Some he speaks with are fighting medical problems, others suffering mental illness. Sometimes, the ones who jump leave behind reminders of themselves on the edge — notes, wallets, shoes. Ritchie once rushed over to help a man on crutches. By the time he arrived, the crutches were all that remained.

In his younger years, he would occasionally climb the fence to hold people back while Moya called the police. He would help rescue crews haul up the bodies of those who couldn't be saved. And he would invite the rescuers back to his house afterward for a comforting drink.
It all nearly cost him his life once. A chilling picture captured decades ago by a local news photographer shows Ritchie struggling with a woman, inches from the edge. The woman is seen trying to launch herself over the side — with Ritchie the only thing between her and the abyss. Had she been successful, he would have gone over, too.

These days, he keeps a safer distance. The council installed security cameras this year and the invention of mobile phones means someone often calls for help before he crosses the street.

But he remains available to lend an ear, though he never tries to counsel, advise or pry. He just gives them a warm smile, asks if they'd like to talk and invites them back to his house for tea. Sometimes, they join him.

"I'm offering them an alternative, really," Ritchie says. "I always act in a friendly manner. I smile."

A smile cannot, of course, save everyone; the motivations behind suicide are too varied. But simple kindness can be surprisingly effective. Mental health professionals tell the story of a note left behind by a man who jumped off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way to the bridge, the man wrote, I will not jump.

"A smile can go a long way — caring can go even further. And the fact that he offers them tea and he just listens, he's really all they wanted," Hines says. "He's all a lot of suicidal people want."

In 2006, the government recognized Ritchie's efforts with a Medal of the Order of Australia, among the nation's highest civilian honors. It hangs on his living room wall above a painting of a sunshine someone left in his mailbox. On it is a message calling Ritchie "an angel that walks amongst us."

He smiles bashfully. "It makes you — oh, I don't know," he says, looking away. "I feel happy about it."

Despite all he has seen, he says he is not haunted by the ones who were lost. He cannot remember the first suicide he witnessed, and none have plagued his nightmares. He says he does his best with each person, and if he loses one, he accepts that there was nothing more he could have done.

Nor have he and Moya ever felt burdened by the location of their home.

"I think, 'Isn't it wonderful that we live here and we can help people?'" Moya says, her husband nodding in agreement.

Associated Press Writer (updated 12:07 p.m. ET June 13, 2010)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Epilogue: The man in a red canoe who saved a million lives

Mostly we commute to work each day driven by motives we would rather not look at too deeply. But one renal physician used a red canoe to commute each day from his house boat to the hospital. He could have been a very rich man, but instead Belding Scribner gave his invention away, and continued his modest existence.

He invented the Scribner shunt- a U of Teflon connecting an artery to a vein, and allowing haemodialysis to be something which could be repeated as often as needed. Before Scribner, a glass tube had to be painfully inserted into the blood vessels, which would be damaged by the procedure and haemodialysis could only be done for a few cycles.

Clyde Shields was his first patient with chronic renal failure to receive the shunt on 9 March 1960, and said that his first treatment “took so much of the waste I’d stored up out of me that it was just like turning on the light from darkness”.

Scribner took that was something 100% fatal and overnight turned it into a condition with a 90% survival. In doing so, he founded a branch of bioethics because not everyone could have the treatment immediately. This is the branch of ethics that is to do with who gets what- ie distributive justice. In Scribner’s day, this was decided by the famous ‘life and death committee’ which had the unenviable job of choosing who would survive by placing people in order precedence.

Scribner said that his inventions sprang from his empathy for patients, including himself. ‘I was a sickly child’ he said, and at times he needed a heart-lung machine, a new hip, and donated corneas. He was the sort of man whose patients would inspire him to worry away at their problems during the day- and then to awake at night with a brilliant solution.

On 19 June 2003, his canoe was found afloat but empty- and like those ancient Indian burial canoes found at Wiskam which have been polished to an unimaginable lustre by the action of the shifting sand around the island of the dead, so we polish and cherish the image of this man who gave everything away.

source: Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

~Honey bee~ By Zee Avi.

I am a honey bee
Shunned off from the colony
And they won’t let me in
So I left the hive
They took away all my stripes
And broke off both my wings
So I’ll find another tree
And make the wind my friend
I’ll just sing with the birds
They’ll tell me secrets off the world

But my other honey bee
Stuck where he doesn’t wanna be
Oh my darling honey bee
I’ll come save you
Even if it means I’ll have to face the queen

So I’ll come prepared
My new friends say they would help me
Get my loved one back
They say it isn’t right
The bees have control of your mind
But I choose not to believe that
So we’ll meet in the darkness of the night
And I’ll promise I will be there on time
We’ll be guided by my new friends the butterflies
Bring us back to our own little hive

Oh my other honey bee
No longer stuck where he doesn’t wanna be
Oh my darling honey bee
I have saved you
And now that you’re with me
We can make our own honey

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Parting speech: meaningful words.

It’s the season finale~mbbs. Graduates are overwhelmed with joy with the result of their 7 yrs of hardship. A worthwhile celebration, I would say. A long waited and indeed a sweet fruit of asperity. I can’t say I’m quite as excited as the rest of 103. But still, I’m excited too-perhaps very excited, compared to my usual dysthymic mood.

Today we had the most important event of our life. “Today you got the key to unlock your future” said one of our shīfus.

I was kinda touched to undertake this Oath~Muslim physician’s oath. It made me feel like now I have a real deal of responsibility on my head- though what already stuffed on my head isn’t anything less. I have read this many more times. I have written it many times. But still, saying it aloud with the rest of us in front of handful of lecturers felt special- really awesome feeling it was.

Not long time ago, our ex-shīfu (actually still our shīfu), talked to us about the purpose of IIUM. He mentioned that there are many medical schools in Malaysia. “Yet we wanted one, because we wanted an Islamic medical school”. “But that doesn’t mean we are going to be any less than other medical schools in our medical teachings. You have to master medicine 1st, and then you will add on Islamic knowledge to perfect it”.

During today’s ceremony, we had the benefit of valuable parting speeches by our current shīfu and deputy shīfu as well. Initially, I thought it would be just another lecture on medical ethics, perfecting our clinical skills etc. I was quite a bit wrong. I was moved to know what their priorities were. To my surprise, they didn’t talk much about doing so great in terms of clinical skills. “I honestly believe we have given enough knowledge to become good doctors” said the deputy dean.

They rather focused on another issue which we thought is not that significant, but the fact that they brought it up today, the last day they see us before we depart from this institution, made it pretty clear that this is the real important stuffs.

Prof Fauzi, our Dean, emphasized on 3 simple, but crucial points as his last word of advice to us. First and foremost, he stressed on importance of taking care of our surrounding. Ofcz, he was talking about family, to be a good son/daughter, good father/mother and a good husband/wife. Next thing he stressed was about giving our full commitment to whatever we do. Do it wholeheartedly. And do your best in everything you do.

Thirdly, he spoke of doing things for others. It is clear that ultimate satisfaction for man comes from giving to the society. But often man is only able to see this, and do this when he is old; when he has seen all the shades of life- then it becomes natural for man to work hard to win societal approval. But the dean in this particular day, suggested to his newly graduated students to do it now. To serve the community, to serve for the people from now on- no need to wait till your old and become a politician to serve the community.

Today they didn’t talk about the medical stuffs, which they had been doing for past 5yrs. Now they stressed on more important aspect of life which actually makes us a valuable share of society. “Obviously, doctors are the worst of fathers-no! not bad fathers, but worst of husbands, worst of friends, and worst of neighbors’. That is why I want you all to be better in these aspects and becomes a better person a whole” one of them said. Which I believe is the most valuable words of advice one could give us the day we leave this place for good.