[Music] Gunship – Gunship

I just discovered the indie band Gunship this evening. You would ask “What? It is not metal?”. It is not. Another genre I like to listen is the new wave that marked the 80s. It was a blessed decade and oh man I wished I was able to have a time machine just to travel back then.

There are a couple of excellent videoclips from Gunship including “Tech Noir” that is a love song to the 80’s piece of technology: the VHS tape and the 80’s movies!

The other videoclip is “Revel in Your Time” that have this nice feeling of an 80’s videogame arcade, a time where mind-blowing videogames technologies were in the arcades, costing us a quarter at the time and in which text-based adventures was enough to send you to fantasy realms.

If you like the songs, Gunship has a Bandcamp page hosting his album, that have this wave-synth feeling, staple of the 80s. If you are a kid from the 80s and wished to be an adult in that decade, this album surely worth the try.


[Videogames] Mass Effect (Xbox360) – 95%

There are sometimes you buy some games in a clearance bin at your nearby video game store, simply because it is cheap and feel “well if it is bad, I would not have spend much money on it”. But sometimes its end up like a book. You picked up because of the cover, start to read it……and BANG you are stuck with it for a few days!
Mass Effect is exactly this kind of game. It went completely under my radar for various reasons and thought it was an “Halo-like” FPS, brainless game. See, target, shoot neural circuit loop. Indeed with this one I was plain wrong. Man, this game was a complete delight to play. Knowing Bioware from Baldur’s Gate and from Star Wars: Knight of the old Republic (KOTOR) if you were in the PC gaming back in the end 1990s, you know the staple of this studio: pieces of well-crafted engaging RPGs.
I will not talk too much about the plot but you are Jack Shepard from the Alliance, a distant future (2138, I would rather say 5138 because I don’t see how we will get into this level of technology in a bit more than 100 years). You start the game with a first mission to investigate the loss of communication with a Earth colony base in a planet. Of course, things get quickly sour and you face the threat of a enemy thought dead, the Geths. You quickly realize that these Geth are under the control of Saron, a renegade Spectre (something equivalent to Navy Seals, when you want to solve discrete international crisis without having to deal with the diplomatic channel) that capture an ancient technology from the Prothean, a ET race disappeared 50’000 years ago in an apocalyptic manner. You can imagine having a doomsday technology in the hand of a renegade.
You start the story pursuing Saron but you also discover the great depth of this game. This is not a game, this is an interactive movie in which you have to make decision that will affect the storytelling. After your arrival at the Citadel, the central headquarters hosting the Council, a honorary council made of aliens seeing humans a “second-class citizens”, you have to face the challenges of politics, the revolving backdoors and intrigues linked to such governance. You have to accomplish quests that further deploy some dirty games of politics including corruption, conflict of interests, influence. You also have to deal with the underworld of such system made scoundrels, spies, hackers.
It is very captivating as you read the story slowly unfolding that I feel very similar to those who like “Star Trek” or have been watching “Babylon 5”. Decisions and verbal tones in dialogues (through an ingenious wheel of dialogue) really affect the outcomes.
In addition to this aspect and the action of the game (a well designed team-based FPS), you have also a whole universe open to explore. You can travel to galaxies, systems and planets. In some aspects in you ever played “Starflight” before, you have the same feeling of exploration, planet survey, mineral harvesting, artifacts discovering.
I played this game for a good two weeks, spending my nights and weekends on it. It was truly a great experience. This game came during the early days of the Xbox360 (it came somewhere in 2008) and in 2015 it felt still very fresh and modern, although you can feel the Xbox struggling to keep on frame rates for certain scenes.
If you love science-fiction with extraterrestrial exploration, complicated storyline plots and never played this game, you should. I would even recommend to directly invest in the trilogy package if you have ever have a chance to put your hands on. I have to take some break for the next few weeks (teaching and grant writing season kicked in) but I already eye on “Mass Effect 2” to continue the story plot, as “Mass Effect” ending only opened up a new story to read.

[Metal/Videogames] Iron Maiden – Speed Of Light

[UPDATE]: Iron Maiden published a playable version of the 8-bit video game “Speed of Light”, directly playable through your browser: http://speedoflight.ironmaiden.com

After five years, Iron Maiden released “Speed of Light” from their upcoming album “The Book of Souls”. Forty years after the creation (1975), the behemoth of the British heavy-metal is still alive and kicking hell! If you are looking for new artistic directions, you will be disappointed. It is Iron Maiden and feels like being in a time machine, being back in the 80’s, the glorious age of the heavy-metal scene :).
Iron Maiden still keeping it classy, bold and metal after all these years. Hail for the elders!

Now if you watch the video, I found it was a great homage for one thing that also stretch back from the 80’s: videogames! Iron Maiden giving homage using Eddie covering the 8-bits era with its iteration of Donkey Kong, the 16-bits era with the classic action platform “jump’n’run” (reminiding me somehow the Robocop versus Terminator) and its own iteration of Mortal Kombat II, to morph into an FPS straight from an Xbox360 game and finally bugging at the end to reveal it was an arcade room.

How more 80’s it can be? Man, I wish I can jump right now into a time machine to end up into the early 80’s, attend a live concert of Iron Maiden during their prime age and spend my stash of quarters into coin-op games.

Ghosts and Cityscapes: A Vision of Syria in Present-Day Hiroshima

Saroujah - ساروجة

barefootgen A scene from the Japanese comic ‘Barefoot Gen’ by Keiji Nakazawa. Set in the aftermath of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima in August 1945, the series is loosely based on Nakazawa’s own experiences as a survivor of the bombing.

Three days ago marked the 70th Anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan by US forces. Today, 9th August 2015, marks 70 years since the city of Nagasaki suffered the same fate. When you write it down, it seems like such a nice big number denoting that a lot of time has passed since then, and that the world’s citizens are no longer under the sway of such grave threats to their livelihood. For many world citizens, viewing grainy, decades-old images of whole scale destruction and civilians suffering from the most unthinkable of wounds would understandably leave an indelible imprint. They would surely be silently humbled after…

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[Junk Sciences] Debunking the alkaline water and pH-changing food fad with high school basic chemistry

It seems the latest fad that pops up on Facebook recently seems the whole “alkaline water” fad and its cousin “pH changing food diet” that claims it will change your body pH.

I even seen some “alkalinizing” food processor selling at a promotional price of $599 like this one:



For a biologist or healthcare practitioner, such claim makes you laugh or makes you jump off your chair. Why? Because our body is way more of a water barrel that will have its pH fluctuating that easily. Our body pH, as defined by blood and resting tissue pH is around 7.4. Blood pH is an important parameter in healthcare and a slight acidosis (pH<7.4) or alkalosis (pH>7.4) have severe consequences. There are of course a series of physiological mechanisms and a complex systems of buffers that are here to compensate and re-equilibrate the pH.

But you may still be skeptic on my claims and think that such thing may have scientific relevance. I call that scientific relevance quack.

To support my claim and debunk such fallacious fad, we will go back to high school chemistry class and basic maths. But first, let’s do the science behind.

Firstly, let’s define what is the pH. The pH is a value defining the relative acidity of an aqueous solution in a defined temperature and pressure setting. It is driven by the relative concentration of protons (H+) inside this solution.

In solution, H+ transiently exists as themselves and rapidly undergo a chemical reaction with water molecules around (because an aqeous solution is by definition full of water molecules) through the following reaction:

H+ + H2O -> H3O+ (hydronium ions).

The pH is calculated by the following formula: pH= -log [H3O+] with [H3O+] representing a molar concentration (mol/L or M). We can also obtain [H3O+] as [H3O+]=10-pH

One mole is defined according to Avogadro by the number of carbon atoms present in 12g of pure carbon. This number is: 6.22 x 1023 atoms (that’s a bit more than one billion of trillion atoms). So one mole of an element is equal to 6.22 x 1023 atoms. Carbon element (C) has a molecular weight of 12 g.mol-1, so 12g of pure carbon will contain one mole, in other means 6.22 x 10e22 atoms of pure carbon elements.

Let’s get back to our pH. As we now pH range from 1 (most acid) to 14 (most basic) for aqueous solutions. In other means, [H3O+] ranging from 10-1mol/L to 10-14 mol/L. That’s roughly a trillion mole difference.

Water is indeed a transitory form as made by by an equilibrium between H3O+ (giving the acidity) and OH (giving the basicity) as the following

H2O <-> H3O+ + OH

Pure water has a pH=7, that means [H3O+] and [OH] are in equal concentrations of 10-7mol/L.

That’s bring another concept, the concept of equilibrium constant Kw:

Kw=[H3O+][OH]=10-7*10-7=10-14 mol-2 L-2 (at 25ºC/1atm)

This constant never changes, the only parameters that changes are more you will introduce acid H3O+ in it, less OH ions will be in solution.

Now let’s get to the core of this topic: alkaline waters.

For this demonstration, I will stick to one common pH used in such water pH=8.8.

That’s give us a [H3O+]=10-8 mol/L. For reference, tap water ranges from pH 6.5 to pH 8.5. Let’s take the most acidic tap water (pH 6.5) for the demonstration.

The institute of medicine recommends 3.7L of water per day (http://iom.nationalacademies.org/reports/2004/dietary-reference-intakes-water-potassium-sodium-chloride-and-sulfate.aspx). But for this demonstration, let’s round it to 3.5L/day.

Having to drink such volume once is physically impossible and if you tried to push enough to will induce a massive electrolyte and pH imbalance that will harm your body and put you at risk of dying from hyper hydration. Thus let’s assume you will drink 1.5L of water three times a day.

Your stomach juice has an average pH=1, that makes a [H3O+]=10-1 mol/L. According to Silverthorn’s “Human Physiology” second edition textbook, it is estimated that your stomach secretes 1 to 3 L gastric juice/day. Let’s assume that your passive gastric volume is 1L.

Let’s drink 1.5L of alkaline water (pH 8.8) at once and see what’s happen to our stomach. First let’s consider the change in volume.

Our stomach (1L) contains: 1(L) *10-1(mol/L) = 10-1 mol of H3O+. By reciprocity, the amount of OH is equal to [OH]=10-14/10-1=10-13 mol/L of OH.

To summarize, our stomach contains 10-1 mol of H3O+ and 10-13mol of OH.          

Our bottle (1.5L) of alkaline water has a [H3O+] of 10-8.8 mol/L, so we have 1.5*10-8.8 mol of H3O+ a concentration of [OH]=10-14/10-8.8=10-5.2 mol of OH-.

To summarize, our alkaline water bottle contains 1.5*10-8.8 mol of H3O+ and 1.5*10-5.2 mol of OH.

By analogy the same volume of the most acidic water (pH 6.5) would contain 1.5*10-6.8 H3O+ and 1.5*10-7.2 mol of OH.

If we drink the whole water volume, the total volume now in our stomach would be: 1.5+1=2.5L.

If we drink the alkalinized water, the total H3O+ and OH amount now in your stomach would be now (1*10-1+1.5*10-8.8=1’000’000’000*10-9+1.5*10-8.8)=10-1 mol and (1*10-13+1.5*10-5.2=1*10-13+15’000’000*10-13.2)=1.5*10-5.2 mol respectively. H3O+ remains the ion present in the highest majority, almost 10’000 times higher amount than OH.

If we consumed entirely the OHin the reaction, the limiting reagent would be it:

H3O+ + OH -> H2O,

the amount of H3O+ ions remaining would be:

10-1 – 1.5*10-5.2 = 0.10000 – 0.00003 = 0.09997 mol.

The final [H3O+] would be 0.09997/2.5 = 0.039988 mol/L and the resulting pH in your stomach pH is now = -log 0.039988 = 1.398.

If you drank the same volume of the most acidic tap water, the amount of H3O+ and OH- would be (1.5*10-6.8 + 10-1 = 1.5*10-6.8 + 1’000’000*10-7)=10-1 mol and (1.5*10-7.2 + 10-13 = 1’500’000*10-13.2 + 10-13)=1.5*10-7.2 mol respectively.

the amount of H3O+ ions remaining would be:

10-1 – 1.5*10-7.2 = 0.10000 – 0.00000003 = 0.0999997 mol.

The final [H3O+] would be 0.0999997/2.5 = 0.04 mol/L and the resulting pH in your stomach pH is now = -log 0.04 = 1.397.

Before drinking water, the pH of your stomach is 1. After drinking alkaline water, the final pH is 1.398 (your stomach is 39.8% less acid). After drinking the most acidic tap water, the final pH is 1.397 (your stomach is 39.7% less acid).

Difference between alkaline and acidic pH? Less than 0.1%!

Conclusion? Alkaline water is as effective to change your stomach pH than the most acidic tap water. Worried about the 40% decrease? You should not, the body will accommodate it very well the decrease by a system of buffer and your gastric cells will automatically increase the production of protons to re-adjust the pH.

In conclusion, if you fell inside the alkaline water marketing ploy, you should get back to your high school chemistry textbook and work on your acid-base chemistry classes.