Thursday, June 8, 2017

Keep calm and pass the exam

It's exams period almost everywhere, a very intense period for all the parties involved.

The British Physiological Society has created an animation entitled "Conquering exam stress: lessons from our bodies", showing a bit about how stress works in the body, and giving a few tips for how to take control and make stress work for us.

So keep calm, exercise, socialize and pass the exam :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

And the award goes to...

As a scientist, you are expected, to work long hours, in a quite uninspiring environment, usually on your own and with not much interaction with your colleagues or the outside world. Usually, very few people understand what are you doing and your family and friends remain pretty uninterested in your work struggles. So, receiving a lucrative prize from Benedict's Cumberbatch hands can only be a part of your daydreaming between lengthy experiments..or maybe not?

The Breakthrough Prizes is a relatively new constitution, with only two years of life, that have as a goal to celebrate scientific achievements and create excitement about science, focusing on the fields of life sciences, physics and mathematics. Founded by technology and Internet entrepreneurs Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Jack Ma and Cathy Zhang, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, the prizes are funded by grants from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation; Mark Zuckerberg's fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation; the Jack Ma Foundation; and the Milner Foundation. What I think is really interesting is that the committee that selects the winners is comprised by prior recipients of the prizes.

The 2nd Awards ceremony was equivalent of the Oscars (almost); produced and directed by Emmy Award-winning Don Mischer with several first-class actors presenting the awards and Christina Aguilera performing  "Beautiful"(!) .

This whole endeavour contradicts, of course, the away-of-the-spotlight attitude that the majority of the scientists traditionally have but I think any attempt to make the public aware of important scientific accomplishments should be mentioned in this blog.

Alim Louis Benabid, Joseph Fourier University, for the discovery and pioneering work on the development of high-frequency deep brain stimulation (DBS), which has revolutionized the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
C David Allis, The Rockefeller University, for the discovery of covalent modifications of histone proteins and their critical roles in the regulation of gene expression and chromatin organization, advancing the understanding of diseases ranging from birth defects to cancer.
Victor Ambros, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Gary Ruvkun, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, for the discovery of a new world of genetic regulation by microRNAs, a class of tiny RNA molecules that inhibit translation or destabilize complementary mRNA targets.
Jennifer Doudna, University of California, Berkeley, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research and Umeå University, for harnessing an ancient mechanism of bacterial immunity into a powerful and general technology for editing genomes, with wide-ranging implications across biology and medicine.
Simon Donaldson, Stony Brook University and Imperial College London, for the new revolutionary invariants of 4-dimensional manifolds.
Maxim Kontsevich, Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, for work making a deep impact in a vast variety of mathematical disciplines, including algebraic geometry, deformat.
Jacob Lurie, Harvard University, for his work on the foundations of higher category theory and derived algebraic geometry; for the classification of fully extended topological quantum field theories; and for providing a moduli-theoretic interpretation of elliptic cohomology.
Terence Tao, University of California, Los Angeles, for numerous breakthrough contributions to harmonic analysis, combinatorics, partial differential equations and analytic number theory.
Richard Taylor, Institute for Advanced Study, for numerous breakthrough results in the theory of automorphic forms, including the Taniyama-Weil conjecture, the local Langlands conjecture for general linear groups, and the Sato-Tate conjecture.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

On cartography

Sometimes I learn about something that shakes my view of the world. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense and I feel a bit idiotic that I didn't think of that before but at that particular moment I get all flabbergasted. Last time I had such a moment was when I heard that there are a lot of areas of the world that remain unmapped. And I don't talk about the sub-lakes of Antartica or the Mount Mabu in Mozambique. I am talking about slums and rural areas where people live in.

Tomorrow a project called missing maps is being launched. It is a collaboration of  the Red Cross and Medecins sans Frontiers with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and it's vision is "to put the world's vulnerable people on the map". Data will be collected by volunteers, local and remote, and all maps will be open and free to all, and most importantly open sourced.

Project #699, mapping Ebola Treatment Centers by the Humanitarian OSM team.
It is a simple and ingenious idea and was created by the need of these humanitarian groups to be able to reach the areas where they are needed. Having detailed maps of an area will help with defining the epidemiological characteristics of a disease (like Ebola outbreak in West Africa the last few months or cholera outbreak in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010) but they are expected to find more applications such as transit planning, waste removal or housing strategy. And they will definitely help the humanitarian help to reach faster the people in need.

The Open Street Map platform has been running since 2004 and thanks to the edits from volunteers a lot of communities acquired detailed maps such as Gueckedou, a town in southern Guinea with an estimated population of 221,715, which initially had 9 roads outlined on a map. Now a much more detailed map with hundreds of roads, buildings and streams is available to all.

A free digital map of  Liberia , thanks to the Humanitarian OSM Team

This map could then be used by different organizations like the global Red Cross network and MSF to create maps specific to their specialty in the treatment of Ebola. For example, the Red Cross volunteers use such maps to find communities where they are providing education on prevention, while MSF uses the maps to create data visualization of the spread of the disease and coordinate field teams.

This is a collective effort to put everyone on the map and, most importantly, with the maps remaining accessible to all!