Tag Archives: Research

When a fudge comes back to haunt you, or how to rappelle using the Dulfersitz

Not so long ago, I complained about the timeline in Vokhtah being out by three days. After a LOT of time and effort, which included combing through book 1 to see exactly what I happened when, I discovered that the timeline was actually out by 17 days. -pulls hair and screams-

The problem with the timeline goes all the way back to the very start of the book in which I guestimated that the journey to and from Deepwater gather would take about 50 days. As guestimates go, that fudge would not have been catastrophic had I gone back at the end of the book and worked out exact times spent. But I didn’t. 😦

I solved my timeline problem, but it’s left me very wary of any and all fudges, so when I went back to book 2 and came across a scene that involved a bad iVokh rappelling down into a ravine to chase a good iVokh, my fudge-alarm went off straight away.

Why? Because everything I know about mountaineering comes from a couple of old Hollywood movies. I think one of them starred Sylvestre Stallone:

Clearly, I could not allow the fudge to stand, so I’ve spent most of today doing research on mountaineering. To my utter surprise, the scene I wrote is actually possible using a method invented way back at the start of the 20th century by a climber called Hans Dulfer.

To use the Dulfersitz, [I think that translates as Dulfer-sit] you secure one end of the rope at the top of the cliff or wherever you happen to be, wrap it around your body a certain way, and then ‘walk down’ the near vertical face of the cliff suspended only by the friction of the rope against your body:

You can see exactly how to do the wrapping in the short video from which the still shot was taken: https://youtu.be/CLQ0IltdYd0 While revolutionary for its time, the Dulfersitz was not exactly painfree:

‘For quite a long time the Dülfersitz was the most common way of abseiling and it’s still remembered today, mainly with nostalgic memories of those gorgeous burns on the right side of your neck and shoulder along with some far less pleasant ones right next to your genitalia.’

http://stara.emontana.cz/dulfersitz-emergency-rappel/

As I don’t particularly care if the bad iVokh gets highly painful rope burn, I’m more than happy to use the Dulfersitz method. One fudge down, yay! 🙂

cheers
Meeks


“You are NOT a visual learner”

The take home message from this video is that there is no…noNO research that backs up the claims made for ‘learning styles’. Most people learn best when they are provided with a kind of multi-media presentation – visual, auditory, and reading. And, of course, in some subjects, kinetic [doing] is vital.

I’ve long been critical of education theories in general because they’re airy fairy at best and actually harmful at worst. Pigeon holing students as this type of learner or that, denies them the full range of information which might make something ‘click’.

As teachers, we are performers whose task it is to engage the audience. And students are that audience. Yes, it’s exhausting, but without that engagement there will be no learning.

I qualified as a secondary school teacher back in the 70’s so I have no idea what teacher training is like now, but if I had my way, I’d recruit teachers from amongst the acting community. From that base, I’d then teach them the other skills teachers need. And I’d recognize their unique skills and dedication by paying them what they’re worth. Only then will the best and brightest teach the movers and shakers of the future.

Not-so-humble
Meeks


WHY AstraZeneca vaccine can have fatal side-effects

My thanks to Mel for sending me the link to this video by Dr John Campbell. In it, Dr John explains new research that shows how and why AstraZeneca, and other adenovirus vaccines, can cause blood clotting in unlucky people. And it starts with how the vaccine is injected.

What should happen, according to Dr John, is that after the needle is pushed into your arm – but before the vaccine is injected! – the plunger is pulled back a little. The term for this is ‘aspirated’. If the needle has accidentally hit a blood vessel, a tiny bit of blood will be pulled back into the syringe.

If that happens, you pull the needle out and try a different spot!

Why? Because the research shows that if AZ is injected directly into the blood, it can trigger an immunological response that ends up with blood clots and low platelet count that kills people.

‘Hence, safe intramuscular injection, with aspiration prior to injection, could be a potential preventive measure when administering adenovirus-based vaccines.’

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.29.450356v1.abstract?%3Fcollection

And here is the whole video. The demonstration about how aspiration works starts at minute 9:43. If you keep watching you’ll see diagrams showing the deltoid muscle and the location of blood vessels. Most injections miss those blood vessels entirely, but they are there, and if you don’t aspirate you’ll never know if you’ve hit one.

This is the missing link that explains why some unlucky people end up dead.

It’s not an act of god, or one of those inexplicable bolts of lightning from a clear sky. People are dying because it’s faster and easier not to aspirate before injecting.

Getting the AZ vaccine seemed like Russian Roulette to me all along. Now I know I was right: the side-effects are preventable. All you have to do is take that one bullet out of the chamber…

I’m going to keep this post up for a while so it gets as much exposure as possible. Even if you’ve already been vaccinated, please tell your friends. If enough of us make a noise, the authorities may eventually take notice. And people will stop dying.

Meeks


Hydrogel for damaged joints

“Once it’s been injured, the protective cartilage in our knees and other joints heals very slowly – if at all. A new injectable gel, however, could both reinforce the tissue after it’s been damaged, and encourage new cartilage to grow over top of it.”

If you’re like me, and starting to find that your joints are not as young as the rest of you, the following article in New Atlas should be of interest: https://newatlas.com/medical/hyaluronic-acid-hydrogel-reinforce-regrow-cartilage/

If you’re young and have no idea what cartilage is, or how a joint works, or why it can cause pain, here’s a simple picture:

Image courtesy Wise Geek https://images.wisegeek.com/frontal-view-of-joint-with-cartilage.jpg labels by me

As you can see, the bone ends that meet in our joints, don’t actually meet. They’re held in place by ligaments [the blue bit] that act a bit like rubber bands. And to make sure the two bones don’t grind against each other, each end is capped by cartilage. Cartilage is a tough but flexible material that acts like the tyre on the wheel of a car – it stops you from driving on the metal rims.

And just like tyres, the cartilage protecting the ends of your bones wears down over time. How much time depends on how much wear and tear it is subjected to. The knee cartilage of runners tends to wear down faster than that of couch potatoes because it’s used more. Unlike tyres, however, joint cartilage can’t be replaced when the ‘treads go bald’, which is why this research is so important.

My tread isn’t bald yet, but it’s getting there, so I can hardly wait for the hydrogel to be commercialised. 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone,

cheers
Meeks


How to make a primitive torch

One of the things that distinguishes the iVokh Traders from the normal iVokh is that Traders aren’t afraid of fire. In fact, they light their underground cave system with burning torches. This means the colour of the light is different – yellow flame vs blue glowworm – and the smell is distinctive.

That all came from my imagination, but now I’m writing scenes that require a more factual approach, so how did primitive peoples make torches?

I was extremely lucky to find this fabulous article online: http://www.junglecraft.com.my/index.php/how-to-make-a-burning-torch/ Not only did it explain which, easy-to-find materials were used, it also included a video showing exactly how the torches were made:

The whole video is fascinating, but the highlight for me was around the 6 minute mark.

So, what are these primitive materials, and would the iVokh have access to them?

The main ingredient in primitive torches [in the Malaysia jungle] is rosin. If any of you have played the violin, you’ll know that rosin is vital for the bow [thanks Dad]:

Rosin is a solid form of resin, the sticky substance that comes from trees that is not unlike sap….Violin rosin is made by heating fresh liquid resin, until it becomes solid. It smells a bit like pine and has a glassy, orange look.

Quote taken from: https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/instruments/violin/what-is-rosin-why-violinists-need-it/

I underlined the bit about the smell of ‘pine’ because that too is a distinctive feature of the Traders’ caves.

But wait…there’s more. I did ballet as a kid and I remember putting rosin on the soles of my ballet shoes – for grip . In fact, as I went from link to link, I discovered that rosin has a million and one uses, even today. Not so primitive after all. 🙂

Anyway, rosin is only one of the ingredients used to make primitive torches; ‘punky wood’ [dried rotten wood] is the other. Crumbled together in a 50/50 ratio, this mixture will burn quite happily for a couple of hours.

In the Junglecraft video, the presenter used bamboo as the locally sourced ‘container’ for the torch, but I’m pretty sure most of the inhabitable parts of Vokhtah are savanah rather than jungle, so I think the iVokh would have used animal horns instead. I haven’t actually created a horned creature per se, but I’m sure there must be a few somewhere in Vokhtah. Maybe down south where where only the Traders have been… 😉

So there you have it, my latest bit of research. I had fun, and I hope you did too.

Before I finish though, I have a small rant to get off my chest: I HATE the new preview function in WordPress. With the old Preview function, I could preview my post in a new tab and can jump back and forth between the two tabs, fixing typos as I find them.

With the new Preview function, I get a floating [sic] pane that can’t be moved. As the ‘edit post’ screen is underneath the preview pane, I have to close the pane each time I find a typo. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit…

Grrrr! Do none of the ‘Happiness Engineers’ ever test run their ‘improvements’? Or do none of the testers bother to fix bloody typos? Ahem… Okay, end rant.

cheers
Meeks


Strange science

We’ve known for some time that certain animals can navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field, but how they did it was a mystery.

Well, a little bit of that mystery may now be solved via a rather interesting experiment conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Tokyo.

You can find a detailed description of the experiment here but basically what it showed was that waving a magnet over a bunch of cells every 4 seconds caused the fluorescence [light emitting] of those cells to dim, proof positive that it was the magnet – ie magnetism – causing the effect. The scientists think this dimming was caused by the ‘radical pair mechanism’ at work in the cells:

“Essentially, if certain molecules are excited by light, electrons can jump between them to their neighbors. That can create pairs of molecules with a single electron each, known as a radical pair. If the electrons in those molecules have matching spin states, they will undergo chemical reactions slowly, and if they’re opposites the reactions occur faster.” [Emphasis is mine]

https://newatlas.com/biology/live-cells-respond-magnetic-fields/

So why does this rather obscure discovery excite me so much? Because of that old quote from Hamlet:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quickquotes/quickquotehamletdreamt.html

Change the word ‘philosophy’ to ‘science’, and Shakespeare could have been describing how new discoveries are always expanding the boundaries of what we know about the real world.

For a science fiction writer like myself, this is manna from heaven because in one hundred years time, some bright spark may discover that telepathy is not so much supernatural as supranatural! [Don’t hit me! I’m using supranatural as a description of something that doesn’t fit into the physics of the normal world…like quantum mechanics. As I’m no physicist, however, I’ll submit to those who know better.]

Okay, I’ll stop there before I get too carried away, but you can see why I find these kinds of discoveries so exciting.

Take care and stay well,
-hugs-
Meeks


‘Pretties!’

Do I really need to spell out what this last pic is about? Mwahahahaha!

I bought all of these pretties from the little Vietnamese bakery in the Research shops [right down the end near the roundabout]. I was really impressed by the plastic screen installed in front of the cash register and the restraint of the two guys behind me. One was just inside the door – well over 2 metres from me. The second was outside the door, a safe distance from customer no. 1. And we were ALL wearing masks.

“Today is turning into a very good day,” says Meeks as she licks her chops.


New Knees, using 3D printing

I’m not at the point of needing to get my knees fixed yet, but they definitely ain’t what they used to be, so I was fascinated by the idea of using 3D printing to build the implants. More importantly, I was thrilled by the idea that the bioinks used in the 3D printing process could actually encourage the body to create new cells itself:

‘…the researchers used several bioinks together to print the entire fibrocartilage tissue layer by layer, in an interleaved crosshatch pattern. The first was a composite gellan gum and fibrinogen ink, which encourages the body’s own cells to repopulate. The second bioink is a silk fibroin methacrylate, which helps keep the structure strong and flexible.’

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM)

You can find the whole article on the New Atlas website. It’s quite short and not super technical, so if you’re like me and starting to creak, check it out.

I have to say I’m quite looking forward to becoming a ‘bionic’ woman in the years ahead. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


Oh my darlings… :(

Remember that post about info dumps? Well, I’ve just cut two, and it’s breaking my heart. One of them was a cute little scene that I really enjoyed writing, but even as I wrote it I knew what it’s ultimate fate would be.

The other though…the other was about how Kaati picked a primitive lock with the claw of its little finger. I spent well over a week refining the description, trimming it, massaging it, loving it. But this morning I finally admitted the truth: describing the lock and how it was picked had absolutely nothing to do with the story. It may have added a little unnecessary background to the story, but nothing substantial. Nothing necessary.

So I killed it with those bloody great shears. But as the pieces lay twitching on the cutting room floor, I realised that I could write a post about them. Just in case anyone ever needed to know how an ancient lock worked…mwahahahaha!

Okay, ahem, way back in the mists of time, the Egyptians invented a lock that looked something like this:

diagram by Willh26 at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Egyptian_Lock_Mechanism_Locked.png

The yellow bar is the locking bar. It goes through the door and into the doorframe. At the top of the locking bar are three holes and a long slot. When the locking bar is lined up correctly, the three pins inside the lock drop down into the holes in the locking bar and stop it from pulling out of the doorframe. Effectively this keeps the door ‘locked’.

As you can see from the diagram, the pins do not extend all the way down into the locking bar. This is so that a key can be pushed through the slot. The key has three teeth, each of which lines up with one of the ‘pins’.

When you want to unlock the door, you insert the key and push it up so the pins pop out of the locking bar, allowing it to move. You can then pull the locking bar out of the doorframe with the key:

diagram created by Willh26 at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/39/Egyptian_Lock_Mechanism_Unlocked.png/1024px-Egyptian_Lock_Mechanism_Unlocked.png

To make the lock work for Kaati, however, I had to simplify the design at bit. This is what the iVokh lock looks like:

Instead of three pins, the Vokh lock only has one. When Kaati sticks its small finger in the keyhole, the tip of its claw fits underneath the pin. When it pushes its claw up, the pin slips out of the locking bar and unlocks the door.

-grin- I feel better now.

cheers

Meeks


Covid-19 – micro droplets

With so many countries re-opening after lockdown, the risk of a second wave grows every day, especially as research now shows that the standard social distancing recommendations are…far too optimistic.

The research, conducted in Japan, uses lasers and special cameras to capture how the virus is spread, and how far it goes. The video below has some English dubbing and/or English sub-titles. Although the whole, hour+ video is interesting, the segment about the actual research begins at 29:10 and ends at approximately 35:18:

The research shows that even speaking can spread the virus via both large droplets and tiny micro droplets. The large droplets fall to the ground fairly quickly, even in an enclosed space with little air circulation, but the micro droplets remain in the air for over 20 minutes. Because they’re so small, they also spread a great deal further than the recommended 1.5 or 2 metres.

The take home message is that confined spaces – like public transport, office buildings, shopping malls, supermarkets and classrooms – are the perfect breeding grounds for micro droplet borne virus particles.

The good news is that masks do reduce the distance that both large and small droplets can travel. And /that/ is why countries that mandate the wearing of masks in public have less viral transmission than Western countries in which people are ‘self conscious’ about wearing masks. Apparently it’s okay to become infected and infect others, but heaven forbid that we should look silly

And now a word about the hypocrisy of my government in scolding protestors attending the Black Lives Matter demonstrations:

  • those protests ALL happened in the open air where normal air circulation [with or without wind] would have dispersed the droplets quickly,
  • this is in contrast to people returning to work – at the behest of this government – in confined spaces with air conditioning instead of natural ventilation. Does anyone else remember the legionnaire outbreaks caused by contaminated, commercial air conditioning units?
  • a great many of the protestors wore masks,
  • this compares to people travelling or working in confined spaces without masks.
  • the organisers of the protests, at least here in Australia, were handing out masks and hand sanitiser to help reduce the risk of infection,
  • I’m not aware of any public transport employee handing out masks or hand sanitiser to travellers. Ditto supermarkets. Office buildings etc etc etc.

It’s the height of hypocrisy to say that it’s okay to catch the virus from public transport, or offices, factories, shops, restaurants etc…to save jobs…and the economy…and the effing budget bottom line…but it’s not okay to catch it while protesting state sanctioned murder.

And we all nod wisely and say ‘tut tut’.

I find that more disturbing than I can say. When did we turn into such placid sheep?

Meeks

p.s. My thanks to Dr. John Campbell for talking about the Japanese research in his latest video update: https://youtu.be/kmo_1Tcdp30


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