We were listening to the radio early on Tuesday morning and the BBC News played a tribute to the recent death of Dave Greenfield. Here’s a little bit of that BBC News piece:
The Stranglers keyboard player Dave Greenfield has died at the age of 71 after testing positive for Covid-19.
Greenfield died on Sunday having contracted the virus after a prolonged stay in hospital for heart problems.
He penned the band’s biggest hit, Golden Brown, a song about heroin, which went to number two on the UK singles chart in 1982.
The Stranglers bass player Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel paid tribute to Greenfield as a “musical genius”.
He said: “On the evening of Sunday May 3rd, my great friend and longstanding colleague of 45 years, the musical genius that was Dave Greenfield, passed away as one of the victims of the Great Pandemic of 2020.
“All of us in the worldwide Stranglers’ family grieve and send our sincerest condolences to [Greenfield’s wife] Pam.”
Drummer Jet Black added: “We have just lost a dear friend and music genius, and so has the whole world.
“Dave was a complete natural in music. Together, we toured the globe endlessly and it was clear he was adored by millions. A huge talent, a great loss, he is dearly missed.”
There’s more to read but I wanted to republish one of the photographs taken:
Then to close my tribute to Dave here’s a beautiful rendition of that most famous song – Golden Brown.
Parkinson’s is a progressive condition affecting the brain, for which there is currently no cure.
Existing Parkinson’s treatments can help with some of the symptoms but can’t slow or reverse the loss of neurons that occurs with the disease.
Terazosin may help by activating an enzyme called PGK1 to prevent this brain cell death, the researchers, from the University of Iowa, in the US and the Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, China, say.
When they tested the drug in rodents it appeared to slow or stop the loss of nerve cells.
To begin assessing if the drug might have the same effect in people, they searched the medical records of millions of US patients to identify men with BPH and Parkinson’s.
They studied 2,880 Parkinson’s patients taking terazosin or similar drugs that target PGK1 and a comparison group of 15,409 Parkinson’s patients taking a different treatment for BPH that had no action on PGK1.
Patients on the drugs targeting PGK1 appeared to fare better in terms of Parkinson’s disease symptoms and progression, which the researchers say warrants more study in clinical trials, which they plan to begin this year.
Lead researcher Dr Michael Welsh says while it is premature to talk about a cure, the findings have the potential to change the lives of people with Parkinson’s.
“Today, we have zero treatments that change the progressive course of this neurodegenerative disease,” she says.
“That’s a terrible state, because as our population ages Parkinson’s disease is going to become increasingly common.
“So, this is really an exciting area of research.”
Given that terazosin has a proven track record for treating BPH, he says, getting it approved and “repurposed” as a Parkinson’s drug should be achievable if the clinical trials go well.
The trials, which will take a few years, will compare the drug with a placebo to make sure it is safe and effective in Parkinson’s.
Co-researcher Dr Nandakumar Narayanan, who treats patients with Parkinson’s disease said: “We need these randomised controlled trials to prove that these drugs really are disease modifying.
“If they are, that would be a great thing.”
Prof David Dexter from Parkinson’s UK said: “These exciting results show that terazosin may have hidden potential for slowing the progression of Parkinson’s, something that is desperately needed to help people live well for longer.
“While it is early days, both animal models and studies looking at people who already take the drug show promising signs that need to be investigated further.”
“The patients are quite lucky not to have been more seriously injured given that goannas can be quite savage,” another ambulance worker told ABC, adding: “It doesn’t happen every day, that’s for sure.”
The dog was earlier reported to have died, but ABC later reported that it had survived the attack.
Now I wasn’t sure what a goanna was but thanks to Wikipedia (and not the only source), we find:
Goanna refers to some species of the genus Varanus found in Australia and Southeast Asia.
Being predatory lizards, goannas are often quite large, or at least bulky, with sharp teeth and claws. The largest is the perentie (V. giganteus), which can grow over 2.5 m (8.2 ft) in length.
Not all goannas are gargantuan. Pygmy goannas may be smaller than the arm of an adult human. The smallest of these, the short-tailed monitor (Varanus brevicuda) reaches only 20 cm (8 inches) in length. They survive on smaller prey, such as insects and mice.
Goannas combine predatory and scavenging behaviours. A goanna will prey on any animal it can catch and is small enough to eat whole. Goannas have been blamed for the death of sheep by farmers, though most likely erroneously, as goannas are also eaters of carrion and are attracted to rotting meat.
Most goannas are dark-coloured, with greys, browns, blacks and greens featuring prominently; however, white is also common. Many desert-dwelling species also feature yellow-red tones. Camouflageranges from bands and stripes to splotches, speckles, and circles, and can change as the creature matures, with juveniles sometimes being brighter than adults.
Like most lizards, goannas lay eggs. Most lay eggs in a nest or burrow, but some species lay their eggs inside termite mounds. This offers protection and incubation; additionally, the termites may provide a meal for the young as they hatch. Unlike some other species of lizards, goannas do not have the ability to regrow limbs or tails.
Seafaring dog Boonrod is heading to a new life in Khon Kaen with his new owner — one of the oil rig workers who rescued him from the ocean in a story that captured international attention.
“We’re leaving,” owner Vitisak Payalaw posted in a message on the Boonrod Facebook page on Saturday evening.
Mr Vitisak, an planner of Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production, met Boonrod — in Thai — on Saturday for the first time since the team found him to an oil platform in the Gulf of Thailand about 220km from the shore in Songkhla on April 12.
How Boonrod got there remains a mystery, but it is believed that he must have fallen off a trawler. After helping rescue the deepwater dog, Mr Vitisak offered to be his new owner.
The exhausted animal was brought ashore on April 15 and lodged at Dog Smile House, a shelter in Hat Yai district of the southern province, with financial support from the US oil firm and Watchdog Thailand, a non-profit group.
Boonrod appeared delighted to see Mr Vitisak and the other members of the oil rig team who rescued him.
Mr Vitisak said he was taking annual leave from his work at the oil platform to transport the dog to his home in Khon Kaen, almost 1,500km from Hat Yai. The house in the northeastern province has been prepared to accomodate a new resident, the Chevron employee added.
Mr Vitisak asked for privacy and requested that well-wishers not visit his new pet at his parents’ home in Khon Kaen. But fans are welcome to greet Boonrod when he walks the dog, he added.
He also encouraged other animal lovers to adopt pets if they can.
The story of Boonrod was carried by global news agencies, including CNN. He can be followed on his Facebook page.
For someone born on May 8th, 1926 he, perhaps, should be slowing down. But none of it. He is passionate about how we are endangering our planet. And having a public profile he is the right position to do something about it, albeit a warning statement.
Sir David’s new programme lays out the science behind climate change, the impact it is having right now and the steps that can be taken to fight it.
“In the 20 years since I first started talking about the impact of climate change on our world, conditions have changed far faster than I ever imagined,” Sir David states in the film.
“It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies.”
Speaking to a range of scientists, the programme highlights that temperatures are rising quickly, with the world now around 1C warmer than before the industrial revolution.
“There are dips and troughs and there are some years that are not as warm as other years,” says Dr Peter Stott from the Met Office.
“But what we have seen is the steady and unremitting temperature trend. Twenty of the warmest years on record have all occurred in the last 22 years.”
The programme shows dramatic scenes of people escaping from wildfires in the US, as a father and son narrowly escape with their lives when they drive into an inferno.
Scientists say that the dry conditions that make wildfires so deadly are increasing as the planet heats up.
Some of the other impacts highlighted by scientists are irreversible.
“In the last year we’ve had a global assessment of ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland and they tell us that things are worse than we’d expected,” says Prof Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds.
“The Greenland ice sheet is melting, it’s lost four trillion tonnes of ice and it’s losing five times as much ice today as it was 25 years ago.”
These losses are driving up sea levels around the world. The programme highlights the threat posed by rising waters to people living on the Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, forcing them from their homes.
“In the US, Louisiana is on the front line of this climate crisis. It’s losing land at one of the fastest rates on the planet – at the rate of of a football field every 45 minutes,” says Colette Pichon Battle, a director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy.
“The impact on families is going to be something I don’t think we could ever prepare for.”
Sir David’s concern over the impacts of climate change has become a major focus for the naturalist in recent years.
This has also been a theme of his One Planet series on Netflix.
His new BBC programme has a strong emphasis on hope.
Sir David argues that if dramatic action is taken over the next decade then the world can keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5C this century. This would limit the scale of the damage.
“We are running out of time, but there is still hope,” says Sir David.
“I believe that if we better understand the threat we face the more likely it is we can avoid such a catastrophic future.”
But then I saw another version of the same story on the BBC News site, from which I republish it in its entirety.
First ever black hole image released
By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News
Astronomers have taken the first ever image of a black hole, which is located in a distant galaxy.
It measures 40 billion km across – three million times the size of the Earth – and has been described by scientists as “a monster”.
The black hole is 500 million trillion km away and was photographed by a network of eight telescopes across the world.
Details have been published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the experiment, told BBC News that the black hole was found in a galaxy called M87.
“What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System,” he said.
“It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe.”
The image shows an intensely bright “ring of fire”, as Prof Falcke describes it, surrounding a perfectly circular dark hole. The bright halo is caused by superheated gas falling into the hole. The light is brighter than all the billions of other stars in the galaxy combined – which is why it can be seen at such distance from Earth.
The edge of the dark circle at the centre is the point at which the gas enters the black hole, which is an object that has such a large gravitational pull, not even light can escape.
The image matches what theoretical physicists and indeed, Hollywood directors, imagined black holes would look like, according to Dr Ziri Younsi, of University College London – who is part of the collaboration.
“Although they are relatively simple objects, black holes raise some of the most complex questions about the nature of space and time, and ultimately of our existence,” he said.
“It is remarkable that the image we observe is so similar to that which we obtain from our theoretical calculations. So far, it looks like Einstein is correct once again.”
But having the first image will enable researchers to learn more about these mysterious objects. They will be keen to look out for ways in which the black hole departs from what’s expected in physics. No-one really knows how the bright ring around the hole is created. Even more intriguing is the question of what happens when an object falls into a black hole.
What is a black hole?
A black hole is a region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape
Despite the name, they are not empty but instead consist of a huge amount of matter packed densely into a small area, giving it an immense gravitational pull
There is a region of space beyond the black hole called the event horizon. This is a “point of no return”, beyond which it is impossible to escape the gravitational effects of the black hole
Prof Falcke had the idea for the project when he was a PhD student in 1993. At the time, no-one thought it was possible. But he was the first to realise that a certain type of radio emission would be generated close to and all around the black hole, which would be powerful enough to be detected by telescopes on Earth.
He also recalled reading a scientific paper from 1973 that suggested that because of their enormous gravity, black holes appear 2.5 times larger than they actually are.
These two previously unknown factors suddenly made the seemingly impossible, possible. After arguing his case for 20 years, Prof Falcke persuaded the European Research Council to fund the project. The National Science Foundation and agencies in East Asia then joined in to bankroll the project to the tune of more than £40m.
It is an investment that has been vindicated with the publication of the image. Prof Falcke told me that he felt that “it’s mission accomplished”.
He said: “It has been a long journey, but this is what I wanted to see with my own eyes. I wanted to know is this real?”
No single telescope is powerful enough to image the black hole. So, in the biggest experiment of its kind, Prof Sheperd Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, led a project to set up a network of eight linked telescopes. Together, they form the Event Horizon Telescope and can be thought of as a planet-sized array of dishes.
Each is located high up at a variety of exotic sites, including on volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, in the Atacama Desert of Chile, and in Antarctica.
A team of 200 scientists pointed the networked telescopes towards M87 and scanned its heart over a period of 10 days.
The information they gathered was too much to be sent across the internet. Instead, the data was stored on hundreds of hard drives that were flown to a central processing centres in Boston, US, and Bonn, Germany, to assemble the information. Prof Doeleman described the achievement as “an extraordinary scientific feat”.
“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,” he said.
“Breakthroughs in technology, connections between the world’s best radio observatories, and innovative algorithms all came together to open an entirely new window on black holes.”
The team is also imaging the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Odd though it may sound, that is harder than getting an image from a distant galaxy 55 million light-years away. This is because, for some unknown reason, the “ring of fire” around the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is smaller and dimmer.