Friday, 1 March 2013

Istanbul Earthquake Threat

It has been a very long time since I last posted, so sorry for that. Now lets get started....

The North Anatolian fault is an active seismic zone that runs right across Turkey, unlike some earthquakes which seem highly random, a pattern has emerged along this fault. This has led scientists and seismologists to propose a theory known as an 'earthquake storm.' This theory suggests that along a plate boundary, one earthquake can trigger another because the stress is transferred along the fault system.

The fault runs right across Turkey and since the 1939 earthquake in Erzincan which killed nearly 33,000 people (magnitude 7.9) there have been many earthquakes- all progressing further west. After that event there have been 11 additional events, all have been above magnitude 6.5. In the months after the last earthquake in 1999, seismologists have forecasted that the next place in danger close to the fault is Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey.

The fault does not go directly through Istanbul, as it runs under the Sea of Marmara but it runs close enough to pose a huge threat. The worrying part is that Istanbul is dangerously vulnerable to any earthquake, it is an ancient city with almost no buildings that would be classed as earthquake proof. So the combination of a high population density and poor structural could spell out disaster for Istanbul.

Istanbul faces a huge future crisis and it is not a matter of if but when it happens. The death toll could be in the region of 200,000 to 300,000, due to extensive building collapse and fires from burst piping. Geologists have allowed the city of Istanbul time to prepare but I fear that it is inevitable that most of the city will be unprepared. We cannot yet predict when it will occur, it could be tomorrow, or it could be 30 years, my guess would be just as good as anyone's.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Nocebo Or Placebo?

The Placebo effect is a largely known about phenomenon within society despite our little scientific understanding of it. (I wrote this piece a while ago about it.) Though its reversal the ‘Nocebo effect’ is not widely known about. Nocebo comes from the Latin of ‘I will harm,’ the general principle behind it is there can be undesirable or harmful effects when a patient takes a ‘placebo’ pill, one with no active ingredients.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Should Trees Have Rights?

Okay so this post is not like the normal posts about atheism, science or skepticism. I have an interest in Philosophy and this is my response to a Philosophical competition question entitled 'Should trees have rights?' in which the response had to be 180 words or less. Don't worry I am not saying trees have feelings! Here it is:

Trees do have rights to an extent, they have rights given by humans, legal rights protecting them. But these are not personal rights for the trees, they are rights that inhibit our actions towards the tree. Trees are vital for the existence of us humans and so we need to protect them in order to maintain our existence. These rights are man-made and artificial created and applied by humans to maintain society and the environment in what we believe to be a humane way. The ecological balance of nature requires no human rights to be implemented, it works prefect on its own from the subatomic level to the global scale. The very rights that protect trees allow for their destruction. But trees like everything in the world are protected by the fundamental laws of science and nature and these are the rights that are important to trees. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Beauty And Science Of Water

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With all the snow disruptions hitting the UK I thought I would look at the science behind water.

Water is the most important chemical compound on our planet, it covers 71% of our planet and is vital for all life. Water is a covalently bonded polar molecule, with the oxygen being slightly negative and the hydrogen being slightly positive with hydrogen bonding between molecules.

The properties of H2O make it perfect for providing life. Water has a high latent heat of vaporisation which put simply means that when water becomes a gas it removes energy from the source of where the water was. So when animals sweat energy is removed from the body and homoeostasis is maintained. Also, water has a high specific heat capacity which put simply again means it takes a lot of energy to raise a kg of water by 1 degrees Celsius. This means that water remains at a fairly constant temperature in large amounts which is vital for ensuring life continues by the little variation in oceans and seas.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Tolerance Within The Atheist Community

The atheist community is always busy fighting against the inequalities of religion across the world and I believe sometimes we need to step back and take a look at the whole picture. One of the readers of this blog suggested I write about tolerance within the atheist community for religion and this is my response.

Whilst there are of course horrifically disturbing religious discriminations happening right now, what about the ‘normal’ and peaceful religion that is being practised? As atheists how should we react to them? I enjoy a good old heated debate, but arguing at every moment possible is not the right thing to do. Sometimes leaving a religious person with their faith is fine, if they start preaching about their beliefs to you then please feel free to intervene and talk about your well backed up beliefs. After all, well backed up ideas are always better than preaching. Debating will probably not get you anywhere, as the religious person already has beliefs that are based on faith. And evidence only destroys faith. As long as the debaters respect each other’s views no harm can be done, debating correctly allows respect and critique of views.  

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Looking Back...Science Highlights of 2012

2012 was certainly a great year in terms of science, as per usual many amazing advances in the scientific community were made. Here are some of the highlights...

1.) Probably the most famous in 2012 was the discovery of the previously theoretical Higgs Boson. Its discovery gave particle physics a great leap in knowledge and positively raised its awareness and educated the general public. 

2.) Just above I said the discovery of the Higgs Boson was the most famous, I guess the next event is globally even more well-known about. In October, Felix Baumgartner skydived from the 'edge of space' and fell faster than the speed of sound. Despite some difficulty that he experienced he successfully completed the dive.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Blogging Skeptic's Atheist Christmas


Only 6 days till…well you know what. It’s Christmas! The awkward time of the year for atheists- the decision whether to celebrate it is a sensitive issue for many atheists. It is the balance between family, sentiment and personal objection to this religious holiday that many find difficult.  

Whilst some object altogether about celebrating this holiday there are others who celebrate what is becoming an increasingly secularised celebration. With atheist participation in Christmas it highlights and increases the awareness that this event is a somewhat secular holiday. Even if you don’t want to celebrate Christmas per se, why not celebrate the fact it is a public holiday. Or make up your own celebration- the birth of Richard Dawkins perhaps? Who cares if Dawkin’s was born in March it makes perfect sense to celebrate it in December, after all Jesus wasn't born in December!

Now onto Tim Minchin and his brilliantly crafted and intelligent exploration into a Christmas for non-believers. Although this song was released in 2009, it never ceases to fade in its magnificence and is still my number 1 Christmas song each year. The song portrays Tim’s feelings about how Christmas is still important to non-religious people and the sentient, along with sharing time with your family is important.

Whatever your views and whatever holiday you will be celebrating, Happy Holiday and Merry Chri...HOLIDAY!- From The Blogging Skeptic