Connect with us

Planet Earth

African sorcerers prey on albinos

June 13 will mark International Albinism Awareness Day. This memorable date was established at the UN only a few years ago after it became known about the atrocities that albinos in Africa are subjected to.

Who are albinos?

These are people with unusually fair skin and hair, and sometimes with reddish eyes. Their appearance is due to a lack of pigments called melanin (do not confuse with melatonin, which regulates sleep-wake cycles and is sold in pharmacies). Depends on the number and ratio of melanins, blond man, brunette or red, pale or dark, what color he has an iris. There is special melanin even in the brain. True, why is he really incomprehensible .

Melanin deficiency occurs in albinos due to mutations in the genes that regulate the production and distribution of these substances in the body. Since breakdowns occur in different places of DNA, there are several types of albinism, more than a dozen of them are described in the scientific literature, but the classification has not been fully established. Some albinos have completely white skin and hair, while others are simply paler than usual and with yellow hair. Someone’s eyes are affected only, but there are also forms that can be recognized only when examined with special equipment.

Is it dangerous?

Usually albinism does not shorten life expectancy, but albinos more often burn out in the sun and suffer from skin cancer ( presumably , melanin protects against ultraviolet rays and acts as an antioxidant), their eyes are more sensitive to light than other people. Because of this, albinos have to close their skin, use special creams, wear dark glasses. Often they have poor eyesight, sometimes they have strabismus, the eyes move involuntarily – the look seems to run.

With proper care, these are surmountable difficulties, but even penniless glasses are not available everywhere and not to everyone. For example , in Tanzania, only 10% of albino children go to high school (in 2017, the national average was 58%). When there is nothing to close your skin and eyes, even playing with friends on the street is not so simple, but if you do go out, you will find a wise guy who will tease you.

There are more dangerous forms of albinism, for example,Germanic-Pudlak syndrome. In people with this syndrome, blood coagulates worse, which makes bruises easy, and bleeding difficult to stop. In addition, in some young people lungs healed. After it becomes difficult for them to breathe, life remains for no more than ten years. And sometimes with the Germanic-Pudlak syndrome, the intestines become inflamed and the kidneys fail.

Is albinism being treated?

No, so far, doctors are only able to help with related problems like visual impairment. Someone will say that albinism – at least some forms – is not a disease at all in order to treat it. Be that as it may, a genetic test during pregnancy reveals this feature. But many do not even suspect that they may have such a baby – albinos appear in people with ordinary pigmentation.

Albinism is a fairly common phenomenon. On average, one out of 17–20 thousand people is albino. But in some places they are much more common. For example, among the Panamanian Indians, kuna albino is one hundred and fifty. Kuna consider this a blessing. True, when the Spaniards colonized those territories, the kuna began to kill white-skinned children due to associations with the invaders.

By the way, what atrocities were mentioned at the beginning of the article?

In Africa, between lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, it is believed that albinos and parts of their body bring good luck. Children are especially valued because of their innocence. Albinos are attacked by warlocks and maimed, and sometimes killed to make talismans. The report of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, published in 2009, said that in the largest city of Tanzania Dar es Salaam, four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose of an albino in the amount cost $ 75 thousand. Also in those parts it is believed that having sex with an albino girl can save you from HIV / AIDS.

The attacks began in the mid-2000s. Political analyst Benson Bana explained to The Guardian that fishing regulation was tightened on Lake Victoria. Catches were reduced, and if someone came across large prey, then this was explained by superstition. It was then that the sorcerers took notice, and soon amulets from albinos became popular with local miners. However, killings for “medical” purposes (not necessarily albinos) have been carried out in Africa since time immemorial.

More than a hundred victims of sorcerers and their mercenaries are known, but probably more albinos died. Relatives are often involved in crimes, so they are not made public. The authorities of East African countries and non-profit organizations have achieved some success, but the problem has not been fully resolved.

Who else has albinism?

On the Internet it is easy to find photos of a wide variety of albinos: kangaroos, pandas, moose, even crocodiles. But in some creatures, melanin is not the only substance that gives color, so without it, not everyone becomes albino. By the way, there is melanin even in bacteria, because they also need protection from sunlight.

There are even plants as albinos , but in their case it is due to the absence of the green pigment chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is needed for the production of nutrients, so these plants usually die young.

However, the leafless chin (Epipogium aphyllum) also survives without chlorophyll: this is an entire albino species, it receives food by fungal hyphae that entangle its roots. The chin, or ghostly orchid, is found in Russia, but is extremely rare (so it’s better not to pluck it!). Maybe you are lucky and you will see this beautiful flower.


Planet Earth

Alvin Toffler: Rural bioconverters as an alternative to urbanism

The great American futurologist Alvin Toffler gives a chance to the countryside. His prediction is that the countryside will be covered by a network of “bioconverters” where biomass waste is converted into food, feed, fiber, bioplastics and other goods.

The US domestic bioeconomy will be able to meet 90% of the country’s need for organic chemical fertilizers and 50% – the need for liquid fuel. Every million liters of bioethanol produced creates 38 direct jobs. Therefore, jobs are formed not “at the oil pipe”, but in agricultural regions.

American philosopher and futurologist Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi Toffler published the book “Revolutionary Wealth” in 2006. There was no Internet power yet, the heyday of alternative energy and robots, but Toffler was already looking beyond the horizon of our time. For example, he not only draws attention to the fact that “time has become denser” (the same processes a hundred years ago and today are proceeding at different speeds), but that traditional institutions – family and education, bureaucracy and political parties – are increasingly lagging behind the growth rate production, from new values, communications and from the process of globalization. And in this discrepancy between the old institutions and processes of the new time lies the source of the impending crisis.

In the preface to the Toffler’s book, he writes:

“Wealth does not arise only in fields, factories, and offices. Revolutionary wealth is associated not only with money. Currently, even the most stupid observers cannot help but see that the economy of the United States and several other countries is transforming, turning into an intelligent economy controlled by the mind. The full impact of this transformation on the fate of an individual, as well as on the fate of all countries and even continents, has yet to be felt. The past half century has been only a prologue to this transformation.”

Nevertheless, Tofflers in their book also pay attention to the transformation of old institutions – for example, rural production, assuming that, having transformed, it will give people an alternative way of life from the city. We provide an excerpt from the book “Revolutionary wealth” about the new life of the countryside.

“In a stunning document that was not given due attention, the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at the University of Washington National Defense paints a picture of the world where” agricultural fields will have the same meaning as oil fields.”

Even oil company managers have spoken about the “last days of the oil century.” Dr. Robert Armstrong, author of a report by the University of National Defense, develops this idea by claiming that we are moving towards a biology-based economy, where “gas will be replaced by genes” as a key source of not only various raw materials, but also energy.

At the beginning of the XXI century, American farmers produced 280 million tons of unnecessary leaves, stems and other plant waste per year. Some of this material is already being used, turning into chemicals, electricity, lubricants, plastic, adhesives and, most importantly, into fuel. This, however, is only the beginning. Armstrong anticipates that the countryside will be covered by a network of “bioconverters,” where biomass waste is converted into food, feed, fiber, bioplastics, and other products. He quotes from the 1999 report of the National Research Committee, which states that the US domestic bio-economy “will be able to satisfy 90% of the country’s need for organic chemical fertilizers and 50% of the need for liquid fuel.”

And this applies not only to America. In such an economy, Armstrong continues, “genes will be the basic raw materials, and they can be found everywhere, unlike oil.” Thus, he predicts a gigantic geopolitical shift in power from desert oil powers to tropical regions characterized by a rich and diverse biosphere.

“In the world of biotechnology,” Armstrong writes, “our relationship with Ecuador (a representative country) will become more significant than our relationship with Saudi Arabia.” Reason: Ecuador has a much greater diversity of the biosphere, and therefore – a variety of genes that have potential value for the whole world. If this is true in the case of Ecuador, what about Brazil? Or Central Africa?

The Eden project in Cornwall, England, launched by Tim Smith, is the largest greenhouse in the world. Smith believes that “we are on the eve of the greatest revolution. From plant materials we can produce composite materials that are more durable than steel and Kevlar. The possibilities for its use are phenomenal. Every country in the world can possess modern materials derived from its own plants.”

Eden Project in Cornwall

Moreover, Smith continues, “bioconverters should be built close to sources of raw materials. It is likely that regional agricultural crops will be actively developed, and special crops will be grown in certain regions to supply local bioconverters. The result of this process will be the creation of non-agricultural jobs in agricultural areas.”

Armstrong concludes:

“An economy based on biotechnology can ultimately stop the process of urbanization.”

North America plans to plant empty fields with Miscanthus, a giant elephant grass. Studies show that from one hectare it is possible to obtain by burning such an amount of fuel that is enough to replace 40 barrels of oil.

An example of Russia

In Russia, it is technically possible now every year to use about 800 million tons of wood biomass, which is not currently used in timber harvesting, and about 400 million tons of dry matter of organic waste, and 250 million tons of them of agricultural origin , 70 million tons of forestry and woodworking industry, 10 million tons of wood and hardwood waste (collected annually in cities), 60 million tons of municipal solid waste (mainly pulp and paper products and plastics) and 10 million tons other waste (for example, precipitation of municipal drains, etc.). Their processing potentially allows you to get 350-400 million tons of oil equivalent per year and open up to 500 thousand new jobs.

US example

Every million liters of bioethanol produced creates 38 direct jobs. Therefore, jobs are formed not “at the oil pipe”, but in agricultural regions. The raw materials for most bioeconomic products are sugar (glucose), starch (sugarcane) or cellulose (straw, sawdust). One of the most modern bio plants is the Dupont plant, which produces 100 thousand tons of corn bioplastics per year. This bioplastics surpasses nylon in cost price and consumer qualities.

Continue Reading

Planet Earth

Silvery clouds alerted scientists

In summer, in the night sky, you can see something truly magical, namely silver clouds or mesospheric clouds. This rare phenomenon got its name because of the flickering effect in the twilight sky. However, despite its beauty ,these clouds can be a wake-up call.

Silvery clouds form in the mesosphere – a rarefied upper atmosphere with a small amount of moisture and low temperatures at an average height of 82 kilometers. The nature of this phenomenon has not been fully studied, however, scientists suggest that clouds form due to scarce water vapor, which freezes, creating crystals. Since the mesosphere is the coldest in summer, such clouds are observed precisely in this season.

The reason this phenomenon is not well understood is that the history of these clouds is relatively young. For the first time they were reported in 1885, and immediately scientists began to talk about the fact that they could appear due to climatic changes.

Now experts are again considering this possible reason, since for many years these clouds were mainly found only in the polar regions. But lately they have been laid much further, and look much brighter. So, on June 21, residents of the UK watched this beautiful phenomenon, although it is quite unusual for these places.

Most of the moisture needed to form clouds comes from methane – a greenhouse gas – that produces water vapor when it is destroyed in the upper atmosphere. And as methane pollution increased, silvery clouds became brighter, and most importantly, noticeable in new places.

Silvery clouds are studied by scientists, both from the Earth and from space, since they are quite high. However, to understand the true cause of the phenomenon, specialists still have a lot of work to do.

Continue Reading

Planet Earth

A clear comparison of all the plastic in the world with New York

A modern person has a huge number of reasons for constant concern. And one of the most pressing concerns is plastic, which is about to evict us from our home planet.

Graphic craftsmen from the MetaBallStudios Youtube channel, specializing in visual comparisons of various things, decided to team up with the anti-plastic organization and create not just entertaining video, but entertaining and informative. It turned out, in our opinion, a real mini-horror movie.

Here’s what it took to create a horror movie: count all the volumes of plastic, put them together in black bags and compare with the city of New York. The video shares the following information with us:

  • on average, every inhabitant of Europe and America spends 100 kg of plastic annually (if you remember that plastic weighs almost nothing, it becomes uncomfortable);
  • daily in New York (substitute any city with a population of 9 million people) spent 2,300 tons of plastic;
  • 30 thousand tons of disposable coffee cups are thrown around the world every day;
  • 840 thousand tons of plastic are thrown out in New York annually;
  • in 1950, the global consumption of plastic was 1.5 million tons;
  • and today, up to 8 million tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean;
  • 58 million tons of plastic bottles are produced worldwide annually;
  • and plastic bags altogether 100 million tons;

Perhaps, we will stop at this terrible figure – watch the video and understand everything yourself. We urge you to be responsible for nature.

Try to go to the store with a reusable bag, start with a reusable mug if you buy take-away coffee and generally think about the planet. Alas, we have nothing for life better than the Earth. This is proven.

Continue Reading