[Sciences] Chernobyl Catastrophe – Anatomy from a 30 year-old nuclear disaster

Today we marked the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe. I was seven when that catastrophic event happened. A lot of speculation, discussion, fears and also completely botched public relations mired the catastrophe. But also some of the most unexpected things happened.
As I am now 37 years old, I thought it would be a great time to go back to this, discussing about what exactly happened that night, the next days that saw a huge rush to reduce the impact of the catastrophe, the dreaded nuclear cloud that swayed through Europe and the disastrous PR of the French government, the closure of Pripyat and the unexpected rebound of the wildlife, but also the kind of impact the term of “radiation” had on my inner psyche that maybe raised my interest about the “post-nuke” genre in science-fiction.
First, I would say, the best would be to read this blog with the track “Radioactivity” by Kraftwerk, the German pioneers in electronic music that were capable to transform binary electronic sound into some nice of porto-electronic music.

1. The Chernobyl Central:
The nuclear site of Chernobyl is located at the vicinity of Pripyat, a small town that was primarily set for the engineers and staff working at the nuclear station. Pripyat is located near the Belarussian border and about 100 miles north from Kiev (Ukraine).

nuclear-power-plant
Nuclear central generate electricity using the energy produced by plutonium-239 decay into uranium-235 and by emitting an alpha particle (helium) with the release of an important thermal energy. This thermal energy allows the conversion of water from a liquid form into a gas (vapor) form that will allow the propelling of turbines that will transform this chemical energy into electrical energy. The process of nuclear fission is perpetuated by the decay of plutonium until the fuel rods have been completely burned up. Such fission process is perpetuated by the presence of neutrons generated that can bombard nearby uranium-238 and enrich them to become plutonium-239. However, such reaction can be modulated by the insertion of graphite rods that can absorb neutrons produced and reduce the reaction.
In the case of Chernobyl, the reactor in use was the RBMK type (more can be found about on the respective Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RBMK). RBMK nuclear reactors were cheap, efficient but suffered from several technical flaws in particular in its high propensity to become unstable if used in the level exceeding the nominal utilization.

2. The events that lead to Chernobyl catastrophe:
A series of events with little consequences by themselves indeed lead to the most catastrophic event in civil nuclear.
Chernobyl plant had a series design flaw that was fatal that day: a cooling system based on light (regular) water and the lag time between the time of an emergency shutdown and the activation of diesel engines (60-120 seconds) to allow the flow of water cooling inside the reactor to cool down the core).  This testing was planned to be done overnight, at the time the average consumption would be low enough to not generate a shortage in electricity supply. However, an unexpected failure in a regional power plant forced Chernobyl to produce more energy than its nominal usage and had the day team postponing the testing to the evening team.
As the evening team came to the central around midnight, they started the procedure by reducing the reactor power to 700MW (the minimum considered safe to avoid a shutdown of the central). However, an unexpected event happened as the reactor started to build-up Xenon-135, a byproduct that is normally disintegrated during a normal functioning of the central. Xenon-135 is also an excellent neutron absorber and can further decrease the amount of energy produced in a reaction named “reactor poisoning”. However, none of the operators were aware that the energy levels were already below the safety levels and inserted the graphite rods too deep, brining the energy production below 5% of the safety level. The reactor was running on unstable conditions, safety alarms went between 00:30-00:45 on but the operator decided to keep on with the procedure and delayed their maneuver to restore power to higher level. At 01:05, the operator were around 30% of the safety level but already doomed the reactor, as the coolant was not fast enough to contain the neutron production and the subsequent overheating.  At 01:19, the operators bypassed safety protocol and removed fail-safe rods below the minimum number required.
At 01:23, the emergency shutdown procedure was initiated and as a matter of series of poor design and decision-making triggered the reactor to unstoppable chain reaction. This procedure resulted in the insertion of all graphite rods that should have reduced the activity. However due to the flawed design of the rods, the poor neutron buffer properties of light water and the overheating of the coolant, it resulted in a positive feedback loop that further pushed the reactor to overheat (reaching a energy production from 200MW to 30’000MW in few minutes), pushing the coolant to vaporize and explode the roof of the reactor to a massive vapor pressure. A second explosion occurred after the explosion of the rooftop, estimated about the equivalent of ten tons of TNT the ejection of highly radioactive material from the reactor core to the surroundings, especially to reactor 3, as bitumen (a flammable material) was used in the conception of the roofings of the different reactors.

3. The Chernobyl catastrophe and the rapid response:
The radioactivity on site was disastrous with reports of 30’000 roentgens (R)/hour at the vicinity of the reactor core and 1’000 R/hour near the unit. A dose of 100R/hour is considered lethal to human beings. The two operators died on May 10 and 14 following the explosion. Although the report of the accident, staff in the reactor 3 were mentioned to continue their work, after ingestion of potassium iodine and gas mask. At 5:00, Yuri Bagdasarov (chief of the nightshift team) decided to go against the order and shutdown the reactor 3.
The radiation were so high that dosimeters designed to a maximal threshold value of 3.6R/h were literally outpaced within seconds of exposure, leaving workers with no realistic estimate of their exposure to radiation and obviously a blatant lack of personal protective equipment. The first emergency team was trying to tame the fire with no PPEs and for an exposure way beyond the safety level, leading these first responders to a certain death by radiation poisoning.
In the morning of the 26th and the following days, the emergency plan is set with one goal: to tame the fire inside the reactor and bring the reaction into control by dropping boron, lead and sand over the crater. 5000 tons will be dropped. The town of Pripyat was evacuated as well as the surroundings only by the beginning of the afternoon. Declassified KGB documents later indicated that the Soviet politburo in Moscow maintained the Ukrainian governor in the black during the first day of the accident, downsizing the gravity of the situation by pretexting that a fire occurred in the Chernobyl reactor 4 but it was under control and was extinguished. Pripyat residents started to develop some signs of radiation sickness as they described a metallic taste in their mouth, headaches and nausea. One witness of the event, Yuri Andreyev recalled his experience of that day to a recent BBC report:

Hundreds of reservists came to the site to help control the fire with a bare equipment against a lethal radiation. Some nicknamed them “liquidators”, some nicknamed them “bio-robots”. We estimate about 4’000 of the 200’000 workers were exposed to lethal levels of radiation.
Yet another danger was lurking that would have razed half of Europe. A danger that was equivalent to 10 times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb. The RBMK reactor design has two pools of coolant underneath the reactor. With the excessive heat, the melting of the concrete basement would have exposed the water that in contact would have further damaged the reactor (as light water is very poor neutron absorbent) and set the reaction further into a global catastrophe. The only way for avoiding such catastrophe was by manually opening the purging valves that would empty these coolant reservoirs. The only access was by swimming across the pool with a certain death by very high radiation exposure. Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov and Boris Baranov, acclaimed as heroes as they exited the reactor after the valve opening, died from intense radiation sickness days after the exposure.
The combination of combustible fuel still burning, blended with molten graphite and concrete created a particular state of matter called corium that shows similarities with lava. As such corium started to pour into the pools, an emergency taskforce designed to dig a mine tunnel to pour an additional concrete slab was set, with miners digging 24/7 against the clock. In december 1986, a scientific team with the help of robots entered the reactor area and discovered that some of this corium has formed a particular feature in the pool that is referred as the “elephant foot”. Such matter was so radioactive that it was enough to sublime the camera and created inadvertently the first case of “selfie”.

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Days after the explosion, radioactive particles carried by a nuclear cloud moved over West towards Europe. By the detection of higher atmospheric radiation levels recorded by Finland, Sweden and Austria, USSR could not anymore cover up the disaster and had to publicly announce after the inquiry of the IAEA of the catastrophe.
Another disaster was just started to fester, this time a PR disaster. Germany rapidly informed his citizens from Southern Germany (including Baden-Wurttemberg and Bayern) to not each any fresh fruits and vegetables from homegrown gardens and from hunting catch.
In France, on April 30th 1986, the French government tried to downplay the exposure to the radioactive cloud by using weather forecast that was comforting that anti-cyclone coming from the Azura Islands would bounce the cloud from the Eastern side of France as depicted in this archive footages:
http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/monde/20160426.OBS9235/video-tchernobyl-revoyez-ce-bulletin-meteo-ou-le-nuage-radioactif-contourne-la-france.html/
http://www.ina.fr/video/CAB03006932

However, in the following days after the passing of the radioactive cloud, journalists manually detect an increased radiation from fresh fruits and vegetables in Alsace (my birth region), labelling the region as the one hit the hardest by the radiation.

4. Aftermath of Chernobyl on the local fauna and flora:
Chernobyl accident had direct fallout on the Ukrainian and Belarussian population with increased cases of thyroid cancer among the population and increased congenital deformities during the first five years following the accident. In the vicinity of the central, a pine forest got a amount of radiation high enough to see changes in the colors of the trees from a emerald green into a red color, indicative of a major stress and death process. Such forest is classically referred as the “Red Forest”.
The area is now a ghost town with an important security exclusion zone of around 20 miles around the central. Surprisingly enough the reactors 1,2 and 3 were maintained operational and were still in function up to 15 years after the accident and only closed in 2001. Wildlife has kicked back and have been surprisingly capable to adapt to the irradiated environment. There are no blatant sign of mutations but in an uncanny outcome, Chernobyl site has become an interesting biological experiment to study the effect of accelerated evolution within an ecosystem.
Mutations are the key element of evolution. Under normal condition, mutations occur at very low frequency. However, due to the presence of alpha and gamma particles that are also known as ionizing agents, these particles can damage the DNA present in living organism of the ecosystem. Under normal circumstance, we have a DNA repair toolkit that can fix DNA damage in a fairly high fidelity level. However, the extent of DNA damage can significantly impairs a proper repair mechanism and increase mutation rates.
Some surprising reports are the ability of the ecosystem to have repopulated the whole area within 30 years of absence of human activity in the area. Another recent study also highlighted the persistence of falling leaves that are not undergoing any degradation, suggesting the presence of a high radioactivity on the soil surface. There are even reports of a particular fungi growing in the Unit 4 of the central that may have developed some evolutionary traits to sustain radiation damage by presence of melanin pigments. The area though remains highly radioactive.
Currently, there is an active project ongoing to build an extra sarcophagi layer over the existing but decaying first sarcophagi.  A current concern is the constant monitoring of the “elephant foot” that is still highly radioactive and that will take centuries to decay if not millennia.
A recent BBC footage went inside the reactor 4 few years ago:

For more information:
The BBC has done a remarkable work on reporting on Chernobyl disaster and even produced a docudrama retracing the catastrophe that can be watched here below.

Among different academic institutions that have a dedicated page on the effects of Chernobyl on wildlife, the department of Biology at Texas Tech University has an interesting website that worth being visited.
http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/chornobyl/
http://chernobyl.ttu.edu

 

 


 

 

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[Gothic Metal] Evig Natt – Evig Natt (90%)

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Evig Natt……a band name that I never heard about a month ago. Evig Natt is a gothic-metal/doom-metal band from Karmoy, Norway. If you came to me a month ago, I would have said “Who are they?”. Then I heard about the band by honorably ranking in the Female Metal Voices Winter 2016 organized by Geo (geotheoneandonly.wordpress.com) #5 behind some big shots in the FFM scene such as Floor Jansen (After Forever, ReVamp, Nightwish) or Simone Simons (Epica).
However, I got a lot on my plate during this month and my interest felt out of the scope due to some distraction. Then Kirsten, the lead singer nicely contacted me on my blog and I gave a try to their last album named “Evig Natt” (that translates into Eternal Night) recently released and available through Bandcamp and iTunes.
I got their album and put it into my iPhone for my commute test. What I can tell, that was a shocker for me, I was “how come I missed that one?”. Imagine a parallel universe in which Within Temptation did not deviate from their artistic choice with their freshman album “Enter”. Remember when Within Temptation was releasing that milestone in doom metal 20 years ago? How magic it was and still is? Remember that heavy, loud tunes and bass shreds, mixing the growls from Robert with the pristine voice of Sharon?
This was the first thing I felt when the sound into the speakers. It is loud, fast tempo drums that you would expect from a death band, yet with the lyrics and the bass shreds from a doom metal band. Scandinavian bands have “je ne sais quoi”, this ability to translate the most melancholic and darkest thoughts of the human psyche. Dimmu Borgir, Tristiana, Sirenia, Amorphis, Dark Tranquility………..
Tracks like “Bringer of Ice”, “Weathered Emotion”, “Silence Falls” brings you back to what Nordic mythology can evokate through Ragnarok: Cold, frostbiting, heavy and dark.
It is heavy, loud, majestic and despite some Norwegian tracks such as “Stille for Stormen”, they remain highly enjoyable and don’t need to know the meanings to understand the sadness and melancholic lyrics carried by. Kirsten voice is nice and highly reminds me Sharon Den Adel’s debut. If you want some clues, listen “Wildfire”, a very acoustic and intimate piano session in which Kirsten takes the front row of everything. Simply majestic. I don’t know why but this is what caught me in getting in love with this album. Part of me that was in love with “Enter”. There are so many FFM that are in the Symphonic Metal that sometimes you feel oversaturated and looking for something much more heavier and gloomy, yet without to face the constant growls. There are times you are just looking for an introspection in your darkest and most depressing side of yourself and looking for that doom metal album that will help you in the catharsis.
This is my March album of the month. You should give a try if you are into Gothic and Doom Metal. This is not for the fainted of the heart but this is why I love about it, that sometimes you are reminded of some of the most melancholic events of your life that the dust of time will just hide until undusted.
To give you a sneak peek of the album, the band has officially posted the “How I bleed” track on Youtube. If you like them, please support them and buy their album.

[Junk Sciences] Homeopathy Awareness Week – Modern quackery?

As this week ends, so does the “Homeopathy Awareness Week”.
As a professional scientist and pharmacologist by training and skeptical thinker, I have to say that the tenets of homeopathy are puzzling me.
Recently, the Swiss government applied laws to allow reimbursement of homeopathic products following a popular referendum. What does it tell? It tells that in the mind of public opinion homeopathy appears as a safe, efficient and natural alternative to conventional medicines. But does homeopathy is indeed supported by its claim or do we have indeed some marketing ploys in action that are just working as a smoke screen?
In this post, we will revisit the homeopathy and of course why science refutes most of the claims of homeopathy.

1) What is homeopathy?

The term homeopathy (from the Greek homeos = same,equal and pathos = suffering) was coined by  Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician from Meissen, Saxony.

hahnemann

In Hahnemann’s mind, diseases could be treated by treating the patients with natural extract known to induce similar effects than the disease when administered in high doses, an analogy of “battling fire with fire”.

The tenet of homeopathy is defined by extracting compounds from a natural source, either from animal, plant or mineral product into a solution called “tincta mater”. This tincta mater undergo a series of dilutions and agitations steps that are believed to increase the potency of the remedy. The dilution are referred as “Cs”, with a 1/100 dilution step between each Cs. At 1C, the tinctura mater is diluted at 1/100, at 2C is has a dilution factor of 1:10’000 (100*100=10’000) and so until you achieve the desired dilution. Some preparation harbor a 12C (in other means 1 molecule of active ingredient surrounded by 10e12 molecules of water or one trillion molecules of water) or higher. “Oscillococcinum (R)”, a homeopathic product obtained from liver duck extract by Boiron laboratories, boast a 200C dilution or 10e200 dilution factor.
2) The mass-action laws of pharmacology and the concept of ligand-receptor

In pharmacology and modern medicine, the tenet of all medication is resumed by the “ligand-receptor” dogma. Ligand (from the Latin “ligare”: that bound, attach, unify) is a chemical compound that can bind to a receptor. Such ligand can be as small as an elemental atom as small as a proton (H+) and as big as a macromolecule made of thousands of atoms, that can be a protein, a sugar, a lipid or a nucleic acid.

A ligand and receptor interaction occurs following established physical and chemicals laws called action-mass laws that dictates how atoms and molecules can interact together. In practice, we can refer it as the “key and keylock” analogy:

L + R <=> LR

Such interactions follow a dynamic pattern in which the ligand and receptor can bind and separate equally, forming an equilibrium. Such equilibrium is dictated by different parameters including physical (temperature, pressure….) and chemical (Van der Waals interactions, hydrophobic, ionic interactions, hydrogen bonds, reagents concentrations…..) parameters that will dictate the amount of interactions ongoing. Indeed the association and dissociation are defined by two constants: ka and kd by the following equations:

ka= [LR]/([L]+[R]) and kd=([L]+[R]/[LR]).

In practice, kd is the most often parameter used for defining a drug interaction with its drug target. It is named as the dissociation parameter and usually is referred as the affinity for a ligand to its receptor. The lower this kd value is, the higher the ligand has affinity to its receptor. This dictates another tenet of pharmacology: the selectivity of a ligand to its receptor. A ligand will bind to one or several receptors at a defined concentration but can develop an affinity to other receptors when the concentration of the ligand increase. Such non-desired interactions are the same ones that are involved in medications side and averse effects.

As we mentioned, concentrations are key to a drug biological activity. These concentrations by convention are expressed as molar concentration (M or moles/L). A molar concentration is the amount of moles of a defined molecules dissolved in one liter of  water or body fluid (usually we will discuss about drug plasma concentration).

A mole of a chemical is defined as the amount of a chemical atom or molecule that equals to the Avogadro Number N. N is  to the number of carbon atoms contained in 12g (the mass element of carbon) of pure carbon. By convention this number referred as N is equal to 6.022 x 10e23 atoms/mol. Thus one mole of carbon contains 6.022 x 10e23 carbons, one mole of eggs will contain 6.022 x 10e23 eggs.

As we have discussed, concentration are referred as a molar concentration. In 1M (or 1 mole/L), we have one mole of a chemical dissolved in 1L (liter) of water. 1L of water weights 1000 grams. As the molecular weight of water (H2O) is 18 grams/mole, we can calculated that the amount of moles of water molecules in 1L is 1000/18=55 moles.
As 1 mole of water contains 6.022 x 10e23 molecules of water, 1L of water contains about 335 x 10e23 molecules of water per liter.

In pharmacology, a drug with a good affinity for its receptor is usually in the nM range. As 1nM= 10e-9M/L, the number of drug molecules in one liter of water will be 6.022 x 10e14 atoms per 335 x 10e23 molecules of water. If we make a ratio of this number, we would have less than 0.02 particle per billion (ppb) or 20 particles per trillion (ppt).

If we go back to numbers advanced by homeopathy preparation, a 12C preparation already is below our nM range, as this dilution translates into 1 ppt that is already twenty times below the standard level. I dont even mention oscillococcinum that has 200C dilution, you can do the math. But you can see that there is already an issue with the homeopathic dilution. Either compounds in homeopathy are super-selective and hit affinities in the order of the picoM range (10-12M) or we deal with virtually an absence of molecules in the solution.

3. Drug concentration, dose and pharmacokinetics

In practice, we have to consider a concentration as dose, expressed usually as mg/kg and refer to the plasma concentration (mg/L) as a circulating concentration to define the drug biological activity.

DrugPlasmaConcentration

To give a practical example, we will discuss  the case of acetaminophen (Tylenol (R)), an OTC painkiller that everyone can buy in any pharmacy. Acetaminophen common dose is 50mg/kg. For a adult weighing 70kgs, thats brings us about 1000mg dose.

To ease the understanding, we assume we inject the acetaminophen using the oral route. The average plasma concentration at maximal absorption is about 18 ug/mL (or 18mg/L) following the oral absorption of 1000mg at once (http://www.rxlist.com/tylenol-drug/clinical-pharmacology.htm).

To be effective, a drug has to achieve a concentration higher than the minimum efficacy concentration (MEC) but also stay below the minimum toxicity concentration (MTC), as concentrations above this level are known to induce side effects and even toxic effects.

Now if we go back to our active concentration, we need to have 18mg (=0.018g) of acetaminophen per liter of plasma. Acetaminophen has a molecular weight of 151 g/mol.  The molar concentration of acetaminophen is therefore equal to 0.018/151 = 0.000119 mol/L plasma or 1.19 x 10-4 mol/L plasma. Therefore, we need about 7 x 10e19 molecules per liter of plasma to achieve a therapeutical activity. If we approximate plasma to water, we have to have about 2 particles per million (ppm) to achieve an activity. Yet homeopathic products rely on an extract of a natural product. Because of the DHSE Act, homeopathic products are not falling within the Food and Drug Administration accountability and therefore the manufacturer have no need to provide any information sheet on the composition of their product, as well as any data related to their pharmacokinetic profile. 
If we assume, a 12C preparation (that titrates 1ppt) and a 1 ounce fluid (30mL) administered to an healthy adult (5L of blood) , with 100% bioavailability, we will have a dilution of 166 times of the active compound. We are now discussing about a compound that can exert its activity to a concentration of 0.006 ppt. We are discussing here a compound that carry its activity with one million lesser concentration that a common painkiller. I am not even discussing about the duck liver extract that makes homeopathic claim the most ridiculous ever.

Conventional Medicine = 2 – Homeopathic Medicine = 0.

  1. Clinical efficacy and placebo effect:

A tenet of modern and science-based medicine is the assessment of clinical efficacy of a compound. This is usually run through clinical trials, in which a drug candidate is tested in a small number of patients volunteering to participate (Phase II) and further extended to different locations with a higher number of patients enrolled (Phase III).

A common experimental setup for clinical trial is the “double-blind/placebo-controlled” study in which patients are divided into two groups: a treated group that receive the drug candidate prepared in a pill or solution, a placebo group that receive the same pill or solution except devoid of the drug candidate.

Neither the patient nor the doctor knows which group they have been assigned to until the end of the study period. By comparing the results between the two groups with the use of statistical analysis, clinical researchers can determine if a drug showed an activity.

If the treatment showed a therapeutical effect that was significantly different from the placebo, it is considered effective and further continue in the R&D pipeline until the FDA approval and its entrance in the market. If not, it is dismissed and its R&D is tossed.

Because homeopathy is considered natural, it does not have to follow the same pipeline than conventional medicine. However, because there are some proponents of homeopathy as a viable alternative medicine, there are some clinical studies that have been achieved. In the case of oscillococcinum, the outcome is fairly terrible.
In a recent meta-analysis (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23235586) done on six independent studies (two aimed as prophylactic treatment and four as ability to treat flu-like symptoms), patients treated with oscillococcinum failed to show a significant improvement compared to placebo-treated groups.
At best alternative medicine treatments (including acupuncture, chiropractic or hypnosis) failed to show a robust response in patient versus placebo in various meta-analysis investigating conditions such as nocturnal enuresis (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22161390), postpartum hemorrhage (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24277681), irritable bowel syndrome (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24222383) or psychiatric disorders (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21733480).
If homeopathy was effective as conventional medicine, it would be used to treat conditions that are qualified as serious or life-threatening. Yet, it failed because it is simply not working. 

Conventional medicine = 3 – Homeopathy medicine = 0. 

  1. If homeopathy is not working, so where is the harm?

When faced with evidence of lack of efficacy, homeopathic proponents usually will come with this statement “where is the harm?”.

The harm is coming in two folds: a waste of taxpayers money on useless treatment and the cases of fatalities due to lack of proper treatments. 

Homeopathic proponents boast the recent move of the Swiss government to include homeopathic treatment in the standard of care, claiming such decision was made on scientific basis (http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/complementary-therapies_swiss-to-recognise-homeopathy-as-legitimate-medicine/42053830).

In reality, such decision is solely based on political decisions. Switzerland applies a form of direct democracy that can be overstretched if not wisely used. The common cliche is the popular vote still conducted in tiny villages in Switzerland by which the population vote by referendum on any decisions proposed by the town hall.

In Switzerland, you can force the referendum on the federal stage if you gather enough signature to support your proposition. Usually, you will need to gather 100’000 signatures to force the Federal Chancellery to set a referendum. Such initiative is laudable but also can reach some unexpected consequences, in particular as some populist political parties have been spearheading to advance some of their political agenda. Homeopathy proponents knew this tactic and were capable to bring to the referendum. Once in the referendum, any proposal that achieve a majority of yes will have to get enacted into law. This is what happened in Switzerland, in which the 2009 referendum ended up with a majority of “JA” and passed into law recently in the Swiss legal code.

To conclude this first point, the recent move in Switzerland was driven by political movements, not by science-based evidence. It shows that a high GDP and education index is not indicative of a science literacy index. If you can adopt political tactics, you can spread the most insane pseudoscience as fact within the average Joe, regardless of their socio-economic or educational background.

The second harm is driven by the recent stories of toddlers death  in the news outlet due to parents neglectence to seek professional medical assistance for severe complications due to an infectious disease.  Two recent cases made the news outlet: Ezekiel, that died from meningitis after parents refused to seek medical assistance and to rely on naturopathy to cure their son (http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/alheli-picazo-when-naturopathy-kills) and the Dleozier case that relied on homeopathy to treat a streptococcus sore throat (http://www.rocket-courier.com/node/141065#.VX111HD3aK0). Both died of infectious diseases that could have been avoided if properly treated with conventional medicine.
Not even mentioning the 400 other cases in which the recourse of homeopathy had lead to severe complications (http://whatstheharm.net/homeopathy.html).

Conventional Medicine = 4 – Homeopathy Medicine =0. 

6. Concluding remarks:

Homeopathy medicine is perfect example of how irrational beliefs and lack of science literacy is allowing outdated and snake-oil quackery practice of medicine and pharmacy are maintained alive in the 21st century.
Do we still follow Galen’s four vital fluids to treat diseases? Do we still practice bleeding to adjust such fluids? Do we still ask barbers to perform surgery? Do we still ask the local shaman or sorcerer to prepare an herbal concoction? Of course not because as our knowledge has improved, we put these techniques in the archive of time because we understood these techniques did not work.
In less than 100 years, we have increased average life expectancy and population quality of life in a magnitude higher than 10’000 years of modern humankind (as I referred it considering modern humankind as set by the neolithic age). Yet, we maintain outdated practice of medicine and pharmacy that all fall either into the category of inefficient medicine  or into quackery.
As science-based medicine have advantages, it also has issues that need to be addressed in particular the progressive distance in the patient-physician relationship or conflict of interests in certain clinical trials. These issues will be only solved when public authorities will understand that healthcare is not a business that should be build on the same standard of any other business: productivity and profit-driven goals.
In the other hand, the practice of homeopathy in the age made of personalized medicine and -omics based methods (proteomics, genomics, metabolomics) is not only based on irrational and pseudoscientific assumptions but also based on a certain form of medical dishonesty as healthcare professionals relying on homeopathic products consciously know that such products have no proven efficacy and will certainly not cure the patient and ultimately increase significantly the risks over benefits. An important axiom of Hippocatres oath is “do not harm”. Homeopathy has proven over and over that it is doing more harm than good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Metal] Lacuna Coil – House of Shame (Lyric Video)

Lacuna Coil next album “Delirium” is a couple of weeks shy away from release and to tease on their latest release released the lyric video of one its track “”House of Shame”.
Lacuna Coil told in interviews that their next release will be heavier and bolder than their recent releases. I liked the gothic metal Lacuna Coil from their freshman and sophomore albums “In Reverie” and “Comalies” but disliked not their artistic direction taken with “Code Karma”.
After listening to their lyric video, is my mind changed? Well I can tell. They pledged a heavier album. It is damn heavy, almost lurking into the boundaries and style you would find in death and doom metal: growls, heavy and loud bass and drums. Some people found it was sounding like Lamb of God or Slipknot, I felt it was sounding like Kataclysm or like a typical American metal band: loud and aggressive.
Andrea set the tone, by starting it loud and aggressive. Followed by Cristina’s voice. This is what I found the magic of the track that have put some neural circuitry into a frenzied positive feedback loop. Andrea brings the loud and the darkness of a storm, something that you experience when your loosing sanity and slowly falling into a delirium tremens. Cristina comes in and contrast it, bringing a clean and purified sound, feeling like a ray of light breaking through the heavy clouds of mental darkness. It gives this euphoric feeling of free fall, nicely matching with the lyrics “sometimes, you will fly with me again”.
It has been over 10 years I did not add an album from Lacuna Coil. Is this album gonna be the deal-breaker? I don’t have an answer yet but it looks very promising. I will wait to preview the album before clicking on the purchase button. But with this one, Lacuna Coil played nicely a wild card. Well played Lacuna Coil, well played.