Saturday, 28 March 2009

My Most Recent Book Purchase

Michio Kaku, the author is a renowned Theoretical Physicist who frequently appears in the Discovery science channel. 

Friday, 27 March 2009

Debate: Stem-Cell Research Should Be Banned

The 27th of March 2009 will go down in history as the day in which Ipoh International School flattened STAR school in a debate on the topic: Stem Cell Research should be banned. 

Here is an interesting article you might want to read:

Stem Cells Heal a Broken Heart

Sixteen-year-old Dimitri Bonnville had already been accidentally shot in the heart with a nail gun while doing home repair, undergone open-heart surgery and suffered a massive heart attack, when doctors told his parents he needed a heart transplant.

The doctors did offer an alternative: Bonnville could become the first human to receive experimental stem-cell therapy to revive his damaged heart tissue. They went ahead with the procedure, the results of which could turn the stem-cell debate on its head.

Doctors at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, used a procedure that, if successful, could eliminate some of the controversy surrounding the medical use of embryonic stem cells, as well as the practice of therapeutic cloning.

"We're very excited because we think that there's already been substantial recovery of cardiac function," said William O'Neill, Beaumont's chief of cardiology, regarding Bonnville's progress.

The teenager's therapy began Feb. 17 with a four-day regimen of a drug that stimulated the production of stem cells in his blood. On Feb. 21, doctors harvested Bonnville's stem cells. Using a heart catheter, they transplanted the stem cells into the artery that supplies blood to the front of the heart.

He was discharged about a week later and is now recuperating at home. His doctors say they have never seen a recovery like his.

"We did cardiac MRI studies and we found that basically the entire front wall of his heart was dead (before the procedure)," O'Neill said. "Many other patients we have observed like this have never seen any improvement."

The stem cells -- master cells that can grow into almost any type of tissue in the body -- used to treat Bonnville were taken from his own blood, which eliminated the possibility of rejection by his immune system.

Many scientists believe that embryonic stem cells -- usually taken from 4-day-old embryos that are often obtained from leftover stores at in-vitro fertilization clinics -- are the most powerful and flexible of all the cells.

On Aug. 9, 2001, President Bush declared that scientists who receive federal research funds could work only with the 60 or so embryonic stem-cell lines that had been created before that day. In reality, however, the number of usable lines turned out to be fewer than 10.

However, the Beaumont procedure doesn't require embryonic stem cells at all, because the necessary cells were taken from Bonnville's own blood. The experimental therapy also eliminates the need for another intensely debated technique: therapeutic cloning.

The assumption that therapeutic cloning is key to the success of embryonic stem-cell therapies (none of which has yet been shown to work) has permeated both the stem-cell and cloning debates.

By creating a cloned embryo of a patient and extracting stem cells from it, scientists believe they might get around the body's tendency to reject new cells as an immune response.

Since Bonnville's own cells were used in the procedure, rejection isn't a concern, O'Neill said.

"They're his own cells, highly concentrated, and we put them into the damaged area," he said. "We wouldn't anticipate anything different than we would normally."

Other studies have suggested that simply injecting stem cells into a damaged area might be enough to instigate tissue repair. But most of the work has been done with younger stem cells taken from embryos or aborted fetuses.

This appears to be the first piece of evidence that stem cells taken from someone as old as 16 have differentiated so effectively. Still, O'Neill says he's not sure the results could be duplicated in older people.

"We know that based on age, older people have less recovery of heart function," he said. "It's very possible this is age-dependent."

Other researchers said the results look promising, but that it will take time to determine whether the treatment is a success.

"I think it's extremely hopeful," said Dr. Neil Theise, a stem-cell researcher at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Dr. Sam Dudley, a cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta who is also involved in stem-cell research, said that even if Bonnville continues to improve, it may be hard to know whether it was thanks to the therapy, and, if so, how it worked.

"I think this is a wonderful thing that they did," Dudley said. "We have to (proceed) judiciously because we need to know a little bit more what we're doing."

The fact that Dimitri Bonnville didn't have any appealing alternatives to the stem-cell therapy made the decision to go with an experimental treatment easy, his father said.

"We felt that he just had really limited options," Craig Bonnville said. "We heard the doctors talk about it, and they offered a chance as long as it was approved through their hospital to have it done. And we felt that was a very low-risk, high-reward scenario for Dimitri, especially being 16 years old."

Beaumont doctors said they hope soon to begin clinical trials of their stem-cell technique. 

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Music of Numbers

Something that I discovered a few days ago just proved that mathematics and nature are closely and inseparably entwined with each other. 
It all started when I developed an interest for a certain sequence called the Fibonacci Sequence. I'd been fiddling around with it for quite some time when on March the 7th one brilliant idea struck me as I was waking up in the morning. Why not relate the sequence to the musical notes  A B C D E F and G? I immediately grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the first few numbers of the Fibonacci sequence and started working out their corresponding musical notes. After working out the first 5 notes, I asked my brother to play them on the keyboard for me.  Astonishingly, the sequence did not create noise as I had expected but recognizable music! You can imagine my surprise; and I don't even know anything about music other than the 7 notes.  
I then proceeded to work out the rest of the sequence and six others as well, but in all of them the notes after the first five did not sound very much like music to me. 
A few days later, I told my good friend ECYL about the music sequence just to see if the music I created had any substance in it. I had yet another surprise when she told me that the whole sequence of notes represents an entire recognisable music sequence. In other words, I had made music with math. 
The very next day I ran a few searches on Google to see whether anybody had discovered the sequence before me. I felt quite elated after 1 hour of searching revealed nothing alike. I was beginning to think I had made a really big discovery, but I was wrong. After a few well worded searches in Google Scholar, I unearthed a long lost research paper on Fibonacci Pitch Sets written by someone called Casey Mongoven. 
I was a bit disappointed at first, but then I realized the implications of what had just happened. I had actually discovered something a university scholar had all by myself! It just proves that I have the right mindset for research. 
So I am now searching for another topic to research on.  

Saturday, 14 March 2009

I Repeat:

Recently a few students (Who are NOT from my class) expressed their surprise at my apparent lack of friends. Most of the students in the school have their own circle of friends and during recess; they divide themselves up into their ‘clicks.’ It seems to be the most popular way of socializing. These people asked me why I don’t have any friends yet as I usually walk around the school campus, do my Prefect’s duties and go to the library alone. They seemed to be even more surprised at the fact that it has been two years since I came to the school. Usually a new student takes no more than a few days to worm their way into one of these ‘clicks’. 

I have answered this question once, but I shall do so again for the benefit of certain people.

Everyone has a unique identity. If a person has a lot of friends, he needs to have the kind of personality that can please people with different personalities. These are the people with the so-called “Golden Formula” for friendship. But these kind of people are very rare because as we know, nature is very sparing with her gifts. Most of the people who have large circles of friends change their personality to make friends. I have seen people so desperate to make friends that they always hang around others like puppies on a leash trying to pick up a few pointers. Once they find out what kind of personality appeals to the general crowd, they put on a disguise complete with a mask. They channel their personalities through layers of mental filters only bringing out what is needed to ‘fit in’ and sometimes adding to their behaviour to get what they want.  

Dear readers, don’t you think that this is ridiculous? I’d prefer solitude to living under an eternal shroud for the sake of human companionship. You are blocking your true nature for the sake of socializing. To some people this may seem like nothing as I have heard people who claim “I thrive on socializing.” What these people have to remember is that the friends whom you gain through this behaviour ‘reformatting’ are definitely NOT true friends. They are in love with your clothes (figuratively speaking) and not your character. They don’t like you for what you really are. The moment you show your true colours, they are ready to sever all ties they had with you because there will be others waiting to replace you. Others who can wear their shroud and display social behaviour better than you can. Do you really need friends like those? And do you know how insulting it is for those friends of yours who really do respect you for who you are? Your real friends?

I on the other hand, am not interested in masquerading under a false identity. I want to preserve my original nature as far as possible. I only need friends who respect me for what I really am. They are people who I can call real friends (Namely: ECYL, LKS, LHZ and SSK). 

I know I have explained this before but I do so again, just to show you all how strongly I feel about this. Thank you all for reading.

Note: I hope this post was read by those people who asked me this question.

Friday, 13 March 2009

A Few Photographs I Took From My Apartment Building


A few days ago someone criticized me for reading "childish" books like the three I just displayed two posts previously. 
I think that reading is a person's personal choice and that there is no age restriction for it. As long as a person is not reading books that contain material meant for higher ages, he is at complete liberty to read any book he wants. And  Eoin Colfer's books are NOT shallow and childish. In fact they contain a lot of science. Especially the Artemis Fowl series. I have gained quite a bit of knowledge from Colfer's books. Maybe you think they are shallow because you do not understand them? Or maybe because of your prejudice against Science?
It is my personal opinion that Colfer's books are very interesting. And besides,  you have no right to be telling me what kind of books I read. You may like 'serious' books about politics and The Knights Templar but I don't. I am a man of science. And I don't limit myself against books below my age limit. I would read any of Enid Blyton's books if I had them. The notion that you should only read books of your own age is completely silly. 
You say that we should not be conformists, but it is you who is conforming now by reading 'mature' books that you say people of your age should read. Your peers may read such books. You look at them and think they look very 'serious' and 'mature' when they read "President Bush's Actions after 9/11" or "Post World war economy". Therefore you read the same kind of books to make yourself look mature. You are conforming with your peers. 
Anybody can read children's books. That does not make them any less mature. 

Monday, 9 March 2009