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World Schizophrenia Day

Schizophrenia is the most persistent and disabling of the major mental illnesses, often attacking people aged between 16 and 30.

Common symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, hallucinations, illusions and thought disturbances. Movement disorders may appear as agitated body movements including repetitive movement or, in the other extreme, catatonia.

While the causes of schizophrenia are not yet well understood, experts agree that it is most likely caused by a combination of several factors including genetic predisposition, environmental conditions and differences in brain chemistry and structure.

Because the causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease. Treatments include antipsychotic medications and various psychosocial treatments.

With early treatment and good medical care, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be reduced or even eliminated. Many people suffering from schizophrenia still lead regular lives, have jobs and maintain healthy relationships.

Support from family and friends is critical in the management of schizophrenia. Patients benefit enormously when their families, friends and colleagues understand the illness and are suitably educated about ways to provide help and support when needed.

(Source: National Institute of Mental Health,

Voices are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia. Many people with the disorder hear voices, either talking to the person or to each other. Other types of hallucinations include seeing people or objects that are not there, smelling imaginary odors, and experiencing sensations like invisible fingers touching their bodies when no one is near.
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Weaving magic

Today we celebrate the birth of Paul Moody, American inventor and mechanic of textile machinery, born in Massachusetts in 1779. At age sixteen Moody learned the weaver’s craft, and soon became a weaving expert.

After years perfecting his skills in the textile industry, he arrived at the Boston Manufacturing Company textile mill at Waltham, Massachusetts in 1814, where he oversaw the factory operations. Moody is often credited with developing and perfecting the first power loom in America. He was also responsible for other innovations in the weaving industry such as the “dead spindle” spinning apparatus. By contributing a substantial number of patented improvements in textile machinery, Moody played an important role in the advancement of the industry.

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At the CSIR in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, natural fibres like wild silk, spun from the cocoons from the African wild silk moth, are being used to create sustainable and technologically advanced new fabrics.
Processing of the cocoons into fabric involves a chain of modern processing equipment. The silk fibre, obtained from the cocoons through a long silk fibre staple spinning process, has to pass through a number of processes to be converted into finished fabric. The resulting fabric has a rich natural honey colour and is woven to produce a durable and luxuriously soft fabric.
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International Day for Biological Diversity

Marine Biodiversity is the theme for this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB).

Counting Life in the Sea

Between 2000 and 2010, scientists worldwide took part in a groundbreaking collaborative venture known as the “Census of Marine Life”, to quantify marine biodiversity.

More than 2500 scientists from 80 nations participated in activities ranging from surface seawater studies to deepwater probes, from the arctic waters to the tropics.  Around 1200 species were added to the known roster of sea life, and more species are still being investigated.

The estimate of the total number of known marine species has now reached about a quarter of a million.  However, in its final report the Census team suggested the actual number could in fact exceed a million, so there’s still a lot of discovery awaiting anyone venturing into the field of marine biology!

It’s not only marine biologists who are inspired by marine biodiversity. This marine-themed graffiti mural graces a wall in Rotorua.
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The father of brain waves and the EEG

Today we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of German psychiatrist Hans Berger, born on 21 May 1873.

In 1924, Berger succeeded in recording the first human electroencephalogram (EEG). He devised a system of electrodes which he attached to his son’s skull, and connected to an oscillograph. This produced a recording of brain waves – the rhythmic changes in electric potentials.

Doubting the significance of his achievement, it took him five years to publish his first paper.  This 1929 publication demonstrated the technique for “recording the electrical activity of the human brain from the surface of the head”.  Berger also discovered the alpha wave rhythm, known as “Berger’s wave”.

Berger’s EEG experiments involved a system of electrodes attached to his son’s skull, which enabled him to produce a recording of brain waves using an oscillograph.
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Weights and Measures Day

20 May is Weights and Measures Day, the anniversary of an international treaty, signed on 20 May 1875, providing for the establishment of an International Bureau of Weights and Measures.

3-D full body scanning is a technique used to produce digital models containing exact individual body measurements. The scanning process captures an array of digitized points in three-dimensional space to produce a true-to-scale 3D body model.
The application of this technology range from medical applications (posture analysis, health and fitness management) to fashion (clothing design and virtual garment fitting).
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Shoe appreciation day

It’s a good day to show some appreciation for our good old mass-produced shoes!
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On this day in 1885, Jan Matzeliger, an African-American inventor in the shoe industry, began the first U.S. mass production of shoes, in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Matzeliger was born in 1852 in Paramaribo (then Dutch Guyana, now Suriname) to a Dutch engineer father and a Surinamese slave mother. After moving to Massachusetts in 1877, he went to work in the Harney Brothers Shoes factory. At the time, there was no way to mechanically attach the upper part of a shoe to the sole – it had to be done manually by a “hand laster”.  A skilled hand laster could produce 50 pairs of shoes in a ten-hour day.

He began work on designing a shoe-lasting machine, and after five years, Matzeliger obtained a patent for his invention in Mar 1883 (U.S. No 274,207). His machine could produce between 150 to 700 pairs of shoes a day, cutting shoe prices across the nation in half.

Sadly, Matzeliger died from tuberculosis soon after, which meant  he never saw the full profit of his invention.

Fascination of Plants Day

So today, 18 May 2012, is the first ever official “Fascination of Plants Day”, launched under the umbrella of the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO).

In a way it is sad that there’s a need for an official day to get us humans to appreciate the many wonders of plants and the natural world around us. Expounding at length on the virtues of plants would fill volumes, so I’ll just touch on one aspect that leaves me forever fascinated.

Mathematical marvels

A feast of Fibonacci – this marguerite daisy flaunts its mathematical side by not only sporting 21 petals (a Fibonacci number), but also displaying some intricate Fibonacci spirals in the flower head.
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Plants are truly the physical embodiment of mathematical precision.  The more time we devote to the study of the mathematical structure of our flora, the more fascinating it becomes.  Ferns curve according to the golden section, fibonacci numbers appear all over the place, in the patterns of leaves, the number of petals on flowers, and the wonderfully intricate spirals appearing on flower heads. Then there’s the uncanny fractal structures created by veins of leaves, and beautifully displayed on the broccoflower.

So go on, spend some time in the garden – its good for you, not just physically, but mentally as well!

The lovely little Manuka flower. Not only does it provide another lesson in fibonacci numbers, with 1 stigma, 5 petals, 5 sepals and and 21 anthers, but its also a little medical miracle, source of an abundance of naturally-occuring antibacterial and anti-fungal constituents.
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Natural fractal patterns in the broccoflower.
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Even a garden thistle is a marvel of mathematical structure.
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Sciencelens’ first birthday!

Sciencelens is celebrating its first birthday today! What an incredible year it’s been.  My sincerest gratitude goes to all the individuals, companies and organisations I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with over the past 12 months. Thanks to everyone for your continued support and encouragement!