Aug 30, 2015

2015: Still leaning…

Looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa will keep on leaning, stably, awhile longer. More than a dozen years after major foundation work, the imperfect edifice hasn't increased its lean. In fact, civil engineer John Burland of Imperial College London says his international team has succeeded in straightening the marble bell tower by 19 inches, reducing its angle of incline by about 10 percent, and slowing its once steady creep to nearly nothing. It wasn't easy. Built from 1173 to 1370 on silt and clay, the eight-story, 182- foot-tall tower resisted many efforts to stabilize it. What finally worked was a soil removal process called under-excavation and the addition of wells to regulate groundwater. The chief fear now? A big earthquake. "Absent that," says Burland," I'd be very surprised indeed if we see it lean significantly again." 
- Jeremy Berlin  (National Geographic magazine)

Aug 23, 2015

Modern Medicine

In the 19th century, sound scientific thinking and new medical technologies led to advances in every area of medicine, particularly the eradication of many of the world's worst diseases. Of fundamental importance was the discovery of a connection between filth and disease, and public acceptance of the theory led to improved sanitation and other public health measures. Independently established by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch in the 1870s, the germ theory of disease, which holds that bacteria and other microbes cause and spread infectious diseases, enabled scientists to isolate the causative agents of diphtheria, tuberculosis, and other scourges, leading to the development of vaccines. In 1879, Pasteur accidentally discovered that bacteria could be weakened, which prevents them from causing disease but still enables them to trigger immunity in infected individuals. Using weakened anthrax bacteria taken from the blood of diseased animals, Pasteur developed the first artificially produced vaccine in 1881. Vaccines for rabies (1885), cholera (1893), plague (1897), and typhoid (1897) soon followed.

Many new drugs were developed at this time, including acetylsalicylate, a derivative of the active ingredient in willow bark, a remedy used for combating fever for more than 2,000 years. Now known as "aspirin," it went on the market in 1899 after development by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. Other drugs to appear in the physician's medicine cabinet included digitalis for heart ailments, amyl nitrate for angina, quinine for malaria, and sedatives such as chloral hydrate and paraldehyde.

Aug 9, 2015

Oldest man - 2015

Japanese Yasutaro Koide , 112, receives the Guinness World Records certificate as he is formally recognized as the world's oldest man, at a nursing home in Nagoya, central Japan. (Reuters)

Aug 2, 2015

The largest oil field in the world

The Ghawar field, discovered in 1948 in Saudi Arabia, is the largest oil field in the world; it measures 174 by 19 miles and is located in the eastern area of Saudi Arabia near the Persian Gulf. It accounts for more than half of the cumulative oil production of Saudi Arabia. Ghawar is entirely owned and operated by Saudi Aramco, the state run Saudi oil company. Saudi Aramco's value has been estimated at anywhere between US$1.25 trillion and US$7 trillion, making it the world's most valuable company. Saudi Aramco has the world's largest proven crude oil reserves, at more than 260 billion barrels. Its 2013 crude oil production totaled 3.4 billion barrels from 100 oil fields. 
(Adapted from ‘The Handy Science Answer Book, compiled by the Science and Technology department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; and from Wikipedia encyclopedia)