Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Your gadgets are crawling with germs, but experts say don't worry -

Your gadgets are crawling with germs, but experts say don't worry - 
Legionella bacteria

There's good news and bad news about what lies on the surfaces of your computer keyboard, mouse, smartphone or tablet.
The bad news: in all likelihood they're absolutely covered in tiny bugs, which could potentially include bacteria and viruses such as parainfluenza, E. coli, C. difficile and drug-resistant MRSA. If you share the device, or commonly let others use it, the danger of it harbouring some scary germs is even higher.
The good news: there's no real reason for concern, especially if you've developed good hand-washing habits. The odds of getting sick from the bacteria and viruses that linger on computers and gadgets -- even those stationed in the public and used by many grubby-handed people -- are about as miniscule as the tiny organisms themselves, says Dr. Alison McGeer, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.
When asked about the chances of getting sick from using a computer keyboard in a public library, she said: "Zero. Very close to non-existent."
Still, learning about what lingers on our digital toys and tools can be plenty unnerving.
According to a 2008 study co-authored by Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona, viruses and bacteria on computer equipment typically thrive in high numbers, even though people have been conditioned to regularly use sanitizing wipes and sprays.
Computers at home were found to be far germier than the equipment at offices.
"Particularly the keyboard keys you touch the most -- the E, S, T -- are the heavily most contaminated, and of course the return and space bar," Gerba says.
Last year, the London School of Hygiene reported that 92 per cent of the phones they tested in an experiment were contaminated with bacteria, and 18 per cent came back positive for fecal bacteria.
Gerba has done similar research on digital touchscreens in hospitals and supermarket self-service checkout lanes. Despite the presence of so many sick people, hospitals fared relatively well, largely because of rigorous infection control policies. But the supermarket screens were found to be filthy.
"I don't think anyone really ever disinfects a touchscreen in supermarkets because you might as well stick your hand in a toilet, you'd probably get fewer bacteria on it," says Gerba.
Still, there's no need to completely avoid the self-checkout section, says McGeer. There's nothing to fear about touching those dirty surfaces -- as long as you wash your hands diligently.
Bacteria and viruses are omnipresent, always within reach, so avoiding them entirely is impossible. Getting germs on your hands isn't necessarily a problem, as long as they don't find their way in your body.
"The bacteria or viruses on your fingers don't do any harm at all, it's only if they get into your mouth or around your eyes or through cuts that they pose a risk. So when you kind of multiply that out, the risk of transmission from the environment around you is really low, the big risk of transmission is other people," says McGeer, adding that you're better off trying to avoid running into someone's sneeze or cough.
"Pretty much all infection, any pathogenic bacteria or virus comes from somebody."
McGeer's advice even applies to the dirty surfaces people have long feared touching, including elevator buttons.
"If I had a nickel for everybody who said to me that we could fix infections in hospitals if we cleaned elevator buttons I would be a rich woman -- the elevator buttons are not the problem," McGeer explained.
"It's not touching the elevator button, or the keyboard, or the subway poles. If you wash your hands regularly, if you don't touch your mouth with your hands, that's much more important than worrying about cleaning the environment."
Even if those germs aren't inherently hazardous to your health, it still makes sense to clean the surfaces you frequently touch. Keyboards and mice can be cleaned with a disinfecting wipe, while smartphone and tablet manufacturers recommend using a damp lint-free cloth on the glass surfaces.
And give your keyboard a good shake.
"Turn your keyboard over sometime, you'll be amazed at what comes out of it," Gerba says.
"If you turn a keyboard over in New York City you get a bagel flake snowstorm."

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/your-gadgets-are-crawling-with-germs-but-experts-say-don-t-worry-1.1038217

'Rogue planet' found wandering through space -

'Rogue planet' found wandering through space - 

An artist’s impression of the free-floating planet, CFBDSIR.

A rogue planet wandering through the cosmos apparently without a star to orbit has been identified by an international team using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.

It's the first time astronomers have been able to look closely at planets of its kind without getting interference from intense nearby light.

"These objects are important, as they can either help us understand more about how planets may be ejected from planetary systems, or how very light objects can arise from the star formation process," Philippe Delorme, a University of Grenoble, France, astronomer who was lead writer on the project

"If this little object is a planet that has been ejected from its native system, it conjures up the striking image of orphaned worlds, drifting in the emptiness of space."

Possible examples of free-floating planets have been found and identified, but it hasn't been possible to determine much about them.

In this case, however, the object — dubbed CFBDSIR2149 — seems to be part of a nearby stream of young stars known as the AB Doradus Moving Group.

"Looking for planets around their stars is akin to studying a firefly sitting one centimetre away from a distant, powerful car headlight," said Delorme.

"This nearby free-floating object offered the opportunity to study the firefly in detail without the dazzling lights of the car messing everything up."

Able to make inferences
Researchers found it in observations from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and harnessed the power of European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to examine it more closely.

Because it's in motion with other planets, astronomers have been able to make inferences about its age and properties.

"We find that [the object] is probably a 4-7 Jupiter masses, free-floating planet with an effective temperature of ~700K and a log g of ~4.0, typical of the late T-type exoplanets that are targeted by direct imaging," Delorme wrote.

The Canadians on the project included study co-authors Etienne Artigau and Jonathan Gagné of the University of Montreal.

"We observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets, but we only found one homeless planet in our neighbourhood," Artigau told the BBC.

The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope is operated by the National Research Council of Canada, the Institut National des Science de l'Univers of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) of France, and the University of Hawaii.


Russia loses contact with satellites, space station - RIA -

Russia loses contact with satellites, space station - RIA - 

Russia has lost contact with most of its civilian satellites as well as the Russian part of the International Space Station after a communications cable broke in Moscow, state-run RIA news agency reported on Wednesday, citing an unnamed source.

RIA cited the source as saying it would take at least 48 hours to fix the cable.


Man swallowed 220 diamonds in smuggling attempt -

Man swallowed 220 diamonds in smuggling attempt - 

Police in South Africa say they’ve arrested a 25-year-old man who swallowed 220 polished diamonds in an attempt to smuggle them out of the country.

Capt. Paul Ramaloko of the South African Police Service said investigators arrested the man Tuesday night as he waited in line at security at O.R. Tambo International Airport just outside of Johannesburg. Ramaloko said a scan of the man’s body showed the diamonds, which later were recovered. He said the man had been on his way to Dubai.

Ramaloko said the diamonds are worth about $2.3 million. Authorities believe the man belongs to a smuggling ring, as another man was arrested in March attempting the same thing.

South Africa is one of the world’s top diamond producers.


Camera-toting bird spurs fish photo mystery -

Camera-toting bird spurs fish photo mystery - 

It sounds like a fish tale — a Saskatchewan woman comes to the aid of a water bird with a camera hanging around its neck ... only to discover numerous fish photos on the memory card.

But it happened to Saskatoon's Karen Gwillim in September, as she was driving through the village of Craven.

Approaching a bridge, she saw a young bird struggling with something, so she got out to investigate.

"It was a cormorant, a black water bird with kind of a long neck," she said. "It had this silver camera kind of dangling from its neck."

When she approached the bird, which weighed about two kilograms, it didn't try to flee or resist. She took the camera off, it flapped its wings and it was gone.

"I think he was relieved to have something that heavy removed," she said. "He seemed all right."

With the bird saved, Gwillim turned her attention to the camera, a point-and-shoot model that had obviously been in the water for a while.

She went home, took out the memory card, let it dry out and booted up her computer.

Fortunately, the pictures were intact. There were about 200 of them, many of them having been taken in October, 2011.

"Lots of fishing pictures, giant fish, guys with fish, mostly," she said.

There were also pictures from a wedding, some houses and other photos that seemed to be from the Shell Lake area.

She posted them on her Facebook page, hoping the camera-owner would find them, but for weeks heard nothing.

However, after Gwillim was interviewed by CBC Afternoon Edition host Craig Lederhouse on Tuesday, a Saskatoon man stepped forward to say he's in some of the pictures and knows whose camera it is.

Frank Resendes told CBC the camera owner dropped it while helping a friend haul in a fish near Craven about eight months ago.

"He's going to help his buddy land this fish so he's getting closer to the edge of the water, almost falls into the water and that jars the camera out of his pocket and it falls into the canal never to be seen again," Resendes said. "It just disappears."

Arrangements were being made today to reunite the man with his pictures.

Read more -