Blogging — It’s Good for You

In response to Blogging — It’s Good for You from Scientific American:

I have been writing blogs since 2004, both in Chinese and English. I maintain multiple blogs to share different aspects of my many interests with the world, including music, movie, literature, science, and most importantly, life. I always find writing to be very therapeutic. When I feel disheartened, I write something, anything, to lift it off my chest. I always feel better soon after. Unlike a personal journal, a blog is an open medium. When I get feedback from my friends or even random visitors from the web, I feel excited and enoucraged to keep on writing. I never doubt the emotional and psychological benefit of blogging.

But now apparently blogging is good for you physically as well. (more…)


June 4, 2008 at 12:42 am Leave a comment

Unleash Your Creativity

We used to think that creativity is a gift that some of us are born with. But apparently it can be trained and developed. We can capture and cultivate inspirations from our surroundings, but the environment could also have a negative impact on creativity. (more…)

May 30, 2008 at 4:10 pm 1 comment

China bans plastic bags to fight “white pollution”

In response to Scientific American News – China Sacks Plastic Bags

The Chinese government is set to ban the manufacture and force shopkeepers to charge for the distribution of bags thinner than 0.025 millimeters thick as of June 1. People have been using plastic bags for everything — even to contain hot food for which plastic bags are not suitable. I’m glad to see that the Chinese government is taking the steps to recognize the importance of environmental issues such as this and educate its people. Everything China does will have a huge impact just because of the big population, so this is significant.

However, it remains to be seen whether this policy will hold up in the face of opposition. Manufacturers of the bags and citizens who are used to them already showed some displeasure. Also, people may end up putting more plastic in the landfill, because they just use the thicker plastic bags for convenience. This is what happened when a similar policy was adopted in Taiwan.

As I’ve written in Biodegradable Plastics, the idea of switching to biodegradable plastics may not be the best option because these polymers do not break down quickly as expected, because the conditions in the landfill is not ideal for degradation. I strongly recommend everyone, whereever you live, to reduce the use of plastic bags and get into the habit of bringing your own shopping bag.

Saving the Earth and fighting global warming is all about changing our lifestyle and everyday habits. We can do it!

May 28, 2008 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

Bacteria: Energy Source of the Future

With the price of oil skyrocketing and the world facing a serious energy crisis, alternative sources of energy are in high demand. In the wake of the global warming issue, renewable energy is even a more desirable power source. Microbial fuel cells use bacteria to generate electricity and clean wastewater at the same time. Although microbial fuel cells did not receive much attention because the amount of energy they generate is too low to be of use, improvements over the years make this potential energy source a valuable research topic in the field of biotechnology.

What is a Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC)?

Microbial fuel cells, or biological fuel cells, use bacteria to convert chemical energy in biodegradable materials such as wastewater pollutants into electricity. The bacteria consume the pollutants, releasing electrons which flow through a circuit and generate electricity. In this process of power generation, pollutants are broken down, and clean water is produced.

How does it work?


May 7, 2008 at 11:27 am 5 comments

Mole And Melanoma

Given the same genetic mutation, what causes melanocytes to develop into harmless moles or deadly melanoma?

Melanoma is a cancer that develops from pigment-producing cells in the skin called melanocytes. Moles, or nevi, and melanoma often result from the same genetic mutation, but the difference between the two on the molecular level has been a mystery. Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have identified a protein that stops the growth of the skin tumour cells by making them enter a state of programmed hibernation or cell death.

April 12, 2008 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Fungi can tell us about the origin of sex chromosomes

Instead of sexes, fungi have mating types, which are distinguished by different variants of a few genes. However, some parts of plant or animal DNA that determine sex are similar to the parts of DNA in fungi that determine mating types. This makes fungi a useful  model to study the evolutionary development of sex chromosomes.

Sex determination in the animal and plant kingdoms is believed to develop from the simpler system of mating types in fungi. In human, sex is determined by sex chromosomes, which the scientists think originated from a common “proto-sex chromosome” over 300 million years. This happened with inhibition of a step during the process of DNA replication, leading to two separate chromosomes. These two chromosomes then develop further over a long period of time.

A research group at Uppsala University identified the great similarities between the sex-determining parts of animal and plant genomes and the parts of fungi genome that determine mating types for the first time. Studying evolutionary development of sex chromosomes is difficult because there are many different sex-specific characters tied to them. This can now be overcome by using fungi as a simple organism model to study the origin of sex chromosomes.

Uppsala University (2008, March 18). Fungi Can Tell Us About The Origin Of Sex Chromosomes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 4, 2008, from­ /releases/2008/03/080317094851.htm

April 4, 2008 at 8:29 am Leave a comment

Earth Hour

from Yahoo!Canada News:

Backers hope Saturday evening gloom will be due to bright idea of Earth Hour

Fri Mar 28, 9:11 AM
By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Millions of people across Canada and around the globe are expected to turn out their lights Saturday evening to raise awareness about pollution and global warming in an initiative known as Earth Hour.

The World Wildlife Fund effort that began in Sydney, Australia last March 29 now appears to have caught the imagination of people in dozens of countries, nowhere more so than in this country.

“This has really just blown up across Canada,” said Tara Wood, spokeswoman for the fund in Canada.

“Canada is really going to be the shining star in this global effort.”

Initially, the fund’s idea was to test the Canadian waters in one city – Toronto – to see how the effort should be rolled out in future years. That proved impossible.

“There was no way to control it once people got wind of this really cool lights-out event,” Wood said.

“It’s been truly phenomenal.”

What began as a simple attempt at bringing climate change down to the living-room level has snowballed, burying those who argue Earth Hour is mere tokenism that will do little to cut greenhouse gas emissions or that participating businesses are only interested in their cash registers.

More than 240,000 people and almost 18,000 businesses in countries as far-flung as Botswana, Vietnam and Denmark have all signed up as participants this year via a website groaning under the strain.

But the number of people marking the event that runs from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time is expected to be far higher.

About 55,000 Canadians have registered, just behind the United States and ahead of Australia. But 70 per cent of Canadians polled recently said they planned to mark the hour.

Municipalities from Charlottetown and Ottawa to Toronto and Vancouver, from Corner Brook, Nfld., and Melfort, Sask., to Lasalle, Que., and Terrace, B.C., are all recognizing Earth Hour.

In all, about 150 communities across Canada have signed on.

In Hanover, Ont., Zoe Soper, 18, who has challenged fellow students to participate, said she planned to pull the power breaker to her home.

“It’s a pretty small thing to just get people to turn off their lights for an hour,” Soper said. “Hopefully it will make people more aware of the issues surrounding energy waste.”

Cafe Koi in Calgary will attempt to operate without electricity for the entire evening.

Owner Philip Wong said a special menu is in the works that will include food that can be prepared beforehand or without electricity and served by candlelight.

“We’ll try to operate as normally as possible,” Wong said.

In Toronto, the lights will go out at City Hall and the focus will be on an acoustic concert outside featuring Nellie Furtado.

Ontario, which would usually use between 16,000 and 17,000 megawatts of power on Saturday evening, is forecasting a drop of about 800 megawatts – almost five per cent – during Earth Hour.

That’s more than the dip that occurs during the moments of silence each Remembrance Day, said Terry Young, spokesman for the Independent Electricity System Operator in Ontario.

More important than just saving power for an hour, Wood said, is getting people to think about what they can do to help fight climate change – whether it’s by turning off lights, washing clothes in cold water or taking public transit.

“Turning off your lights doesn’t have the huge energy savings with it, but what it does do is show how individual acts add up to make a big difference.”

Last year, about two million people and businesses in Sydney took part, pushing down demand for power in the city by 10 per cent – the equivalent of turning off 50,000 cars for an hour, World Wildlife Fund said.

Some facts:
What: Earth Hour 2008
When: March 29, 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time.
How: Turn out the lights.
Who: About 30 major cities around the world, 150 communities in Canada.
Why: Cut greenhouse gas emissions, raise awareness of conservation and climate change.
Registered participants: 240,000 people worldwide have signed up online, 55,000 in Canada (many more expected to take part)
Planned events: Candlelight dinners, smooching, sleepovers, acoustic concerts, lantern walks, star gazing.

Source: World Wildlife Fund

Our household was part of Earh Hour last Saturday. I was glad that my sister happily agreed to co-operate in this meaningful event. We had to spend half an hour eating dinner by a candle light (No, it’s not romatic if you can hardly see). When I looked out the window to see if our neighbours participated as well, I saw several other families watching TV in the dark just like us. So I came to a conclusion: We can live without light for a while, but we can’t live without TV!

By turning off the lights for just one hour, Toronto save 8.7% in electricity! (see the news report here) Earth Hour is also meant to remind everyone of the importance of energy saving and the concern about climate change. Missed it? Plan your own Earth Hour every now and then to help save the Earth! And it’s fun to stay in the dark once in a while, too.

April 2, 2008 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

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