the world beyond four walls


Singapore must be prepared to handle nuclear developments: Experts

By Monica Kotwani/CNA/27 Sept 2015

SINGAPORE: As the region increasingly looks to nuclear power plants to solve its energy woes, experts say it is critical for Singapore to be adequately prepared.

While Singapore has kept its own nuclear plans on the back-burner, authorities need to engage the public and educate them on nuclear developments in the region.

For decades more than 30 countries have been generating power in some 400 nuclear plants. In 2012, about 10 per cent of the world’s electricity was generated from nuclear energy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute website.

But the shock of the Fukushima disaster in 2011 reverberated across the world and prompted countries with nuclear power to take stock of the safety of their plants.

Some European countries like Germany are taking their plants off the grid, instead importing nuclear-powered electricity from France. In Asia, plans have been delayed but not derailed. China and India, between them, have almost 50 nuclear plants in operation and are building even more.

In Southeast Asia, Vietnam could have its first power reactors by 2020. Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have also made plans.

“Southeast Asia is quasi-completely dependent on fossil fuels,” said Professor Arnoud De Meyer, President of Singapore Management University. “There are a few exceptions of windmill-generated or other forms of energy but practically all electricity generation is based on fossil fuels, which makes this part of the world very dependent on supply from elsewhere.”

Nuclear-based energy can add security and stability to the region’s source of energy. For Singapore, 95 per cent of its electricity comes from natural gas powered plants. Its cost is tied to oil prices. Read More


All about food security

This is for those who have been researching on the issue of food security:


How worried should you be about artificial intelligence?

Check out this interesting feature by BBC at:


Protests against GMO crops and pesticides target Monsanto, international agribusiness giant

From Paris to Ouagadougou, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against the American biotechnology giant Monsanto and its genetically modified crops and pesticides.

The third annual March Against Monsanto was being held in upwards of 400 cities in more than 40 countries.

About 2,500 people staged anti-Monsanto protests in the Swiss cities of Basel and Morgues, where the company has its headquarters for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Up to 3,000 protesters rallied by environmental organisations including Greenpeace and anti-capitalist group Stop Tafta gathered in Paris, with Monsanto’s market-leading herbicide Roundup the main targets of protesters’ anger.

The controversial product’s main ingredient was recently classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organisation.

Organisers said ahead of the marches the multinational biotech giant had claimed that genetically modified crops would actually lead to a decrease in Roundup use.

Coloured powders are thrown during a protest in Mexico City

But they pointed to US Geological Survey data that revealed the use of Roundup’s key component glyphosate had increased 16-fold since the mid-1990s when genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were first introduced.

“Looking for mass suicide? Go for Roundup,” read one placard at a French protest in the western city of Rennes.

In a march in another French city, Toulouse, protesters called for more protection for bees, amid international alarm at recent population declines of the vital pollinator.

Halfway around the planet in Burkina Faso, about 500 people marched against the US giant, which introduced GM cotton into the west African country in 2003.

Demonstrators demanded a 10-year moratorium on the planting of Monsanto seeds so “independent research can be conducted” into the effects of the technology.

Up to 1,000 anti-Monsanto activists gathered in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg as the sun was setting for a minute’s silence “in homage to the existing and future victims poisoned by pesticides”, according to the organisers.

The worldwide March Against Monsanto was begun in 2013 by the Occupy movement and has become an annual event.


Silicon Valley attracting women to technology

Silicon Valley attracting women to technology
21 May 2015 Last updated at 05:18 BST
For years women have been a minority in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley. Geeky, laddish culture has come to dominate.
But the voice provided by social media, books by high-powered women in tech, and the realisation that it is bad business to discriminate against half of the world’s biggest brains is forcing change.
Traditionally in both the tech boardroom and on the coding floor there have been far more men, but all-women projects to help support and mentor entrepreneurs are having an impact.
BlackBox Connect brings together company founders from all over the world to introduce them to the energy, the ethos, and hopefully the money of Silicon Valley.
They’ve held their first all-female course as part of the growing momentum for equality in the world of tech.


Antibiotics crisis could kill 300m people prematurely in the next 35 years

And read this article for a full understanding of what this crisis is all about



‘A Moratorium on Human Gene Editing to Treat Disease Is Critical’

Rudolf Jaenisch, MD, is a Founding Member, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and President, the International Society for Stem Cell Research. In this Time article, he calls for caution on a promising new technology:

It has been just over a half-century since scientists solved the structure of DNA, and since that time, we have been fascinated by what the DNA encodes, how it is passed on from one generation to the next and what makes each of us unique. Technologies to introduce DNA changes have been used to study the function of genes and the proteins they encode, to identify genetic causes of disease and to develop better ways to treat them. Now, new research describes the editing of genes in human embryos—CRISPR-cas9—raising questions about the science, the implications and the ethics.

The research utilizes recent technologies that allow us to make precise, targeted changes to a DNA sequence. These technologies have proved remarkable in their ease-of-use and have become quickly adopted by researchers around the world to introduce or correct changes in gene sequences in a wide range of cell types.

These recent developments have piqued the imagination of scientists and the public alike, and there is much speculation about what comes next. Some have suggested the new technology will allow researchers to “fix” defective genes, so inheritable diseases are not passed to the next generation, while others have raised worries about the creation of “designer” babies. Read More


Scientists urge moratorium after Chinese ‘edit’ human embryos

Global scientists on Thursday (Apr 23) renewed calls to halt controversial research to genetically edit human embryos after a Chinese team published details of a stunted but breakthrough attempt in this new frontier in science.

First reported by Nature News on Wednesday, the paper by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, and colleagues appears in a little known online journal called Protein and Cell.

In it, researchers describe how they edited the genomes of embryos obtained from a fertility clinic.

The embryos were non-viable, and could not have resulted in a live birth because they had an extra set of chromosomes after being fertilised by two sperm.

Researchers “attempted to modify the gene responsible for beta-thalassemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9,” said the report in Nature News.

The researchers injected 86 embryos and waited 48 hours for the molecules that replace the missing DNA to act.

Seventy-one embryos survived, and 54 of those were tested. Researchers found that only 28 were “successfully spliced, and that only a fraction of those contained the replacement genetic material,” said the report.

“If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100 per cent,” Huang was quoted as saying. “That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature.” Read More


First human head transplant could happen in two years

By Helen Thomson/25th Feb 2015/The New Scientist

A radical plan for transplanting a head onto someone else’s body is set to be announced. But is such ethically sensitive surgery even feasible?

IT’S heady stuff. The world’s first attempt to transplant a human head will be launched this year at a surgical conference in the US. The move is a call to arms to get interested parties together to work towards the surgery.

The idea was first proposed in 2013 by Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy. He wants to use the surgery to extend the lives of people whose muscles and nerves have degenerated or whose organs are riddled with cancer. Now he claims the major hurdles, such as fusing the spinal cord and preventing the body’s immune system from rejecting the head, are surmountable, and the surgery could be ready as early as 2017.

Canavero plans to announce the project at the annual conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) in Annapolis, Maryland, in June. Is society ready for such momentous surgery? And does the science even stand up?

The first attempt at a head transplant was carried out on a dog by Soviet surgeon Vladimir Demikhov in 1954. A puppy’s head and forelegs were transplanted onto the back of a larger dog. Demikhov conducted several further attempts but the dogs only survived between two and six days.

The first successful head transplant, in which one head was replaced by another, was carried out in 1970. A team led by Robert White at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, transplanted the head of one monkey onto the body of another. They didn’t attempt to join the spinal cords, though, so the monkey couldn’t move its body, but it was able to breathe with artificial assistance. The monkey lived for nine days until its immune system rejected the head. Although few head transplants have been carried out since, many of the surgical procedures involved have progressed. “I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible,” says Canavero.

This month, he published a summary of the technique he believes will allow doctors to transplant a head onto a new body (Surgical Neurology International, It involves cooling the recipient’s head and the donor body to extend the time their cells can survive without oxygen. The tissue around the neck is dissected and the major blood vessels are linked using tiny tubes, before the spinal cords of each person are cut. Cleanly severing the cords is key, says Canavero. Read More


Youngest ever to be cryogenically preserved?

Matheryn Naovaratpong, from Thailand, is thought to be the youngest person ever cryogenically preserved

This little girl passed away recently from a rare condition, however, her parents still hold hopes that one day, science will bring her back to life again. Find out how exactly in this article: