24 November, 2009

Nano-technology: Hidden killer?

The Melbourne Age had a great example of uninformed, science fearing, luddism in the paper today. The revelation that that there are small things in make-up. If it sounds like science, it could be a killer!

The use of nanotechnology is common in some top-selling cosmetics - but don't expect to find anything about it on the label.

Those are the findings of a new Friends of the Earth report that claims Australian women are being used as guinea pigs by big cosmetic companies after independent testing showed that several high-end concealer and foundation brands contained nanoparticles in some form.

Describing the use of nanoparticles in cosmetics as the potential modern-day equivalent of arsenic creams popular in the Elizabethan court, Friends of the Earth's Georgia Miller called for greater transparency in the beauty sector.

While I certainly hold a very low opinion of the cosmetics industry, that is based on the fact that they exploit peoples' insecurities to sell them overpriced muck, advertised with claims of efficacy that are deliberately untestable and with science-like, self-invented gibberish of the "neutragenics" and "plasmonic anti-againg" variety.
The article in The Age, however, is equally uninformed. The implication is that nanoparticles are as dangerous as arsenic, are untested, and are being poured into face creams by lab-coat wearing, test-tube wielding mad-scientist types. Fear it because it's science seems to be the message in the article. There's no mention of what the nanoparticles actually are. Are we talking about 5nm clusters of gold atoms (used for catalysis), fluorescing quantum dots (100 nm and potentially useful for tracing transport of nutrients, etc, in plants)
carbon nanotubes (10-100 nm diameter and microns in length: potential uses are varied but include a possible delivery mechanisms for anti-cancer drugs),
Zinc oxide/Titanium oxide in sunscreen: ~50-100 nm? In fact, Why is the The Age running a headline about nanotechnology and sunscreen? It's harder to drum up some hype about products that have been used for years with no obvious negative effects and which are known to help prevent people dying slow painful deaths after getting skin cnacer!

There's much to be skeptical of about the current nanotech buzz: putting omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil inside nano-tubes to make what is essentially an ultra-fresh fish-oil pill*, rather than just suggesting people eat some fresh fish (where's the "value-added" profit in that?). There's also much to be excited about; cleaner/cheaper/more efficient/more powerful technologies to save lives/energy/resources and so on. The variety of applications is huge, because the types of science and technology that can be covered by the label nanotechnology is huge. For the typical reader of the article in The Age, the term "nano" could have been replaced by "very small" without any loss of accuracy or understanding. I know it appeared in the "Life & Style" section of the paper rather than the "Technology" section, but uninformed fear-mongering drivel like this article doesn't help anyone.

*It's true! I was at a conference where this was one suggested application of nanotechnology.

19 November, 2009

Training in the heat

I'm not sure exactly what the temperature was when I went out for some cross-fit yesterday evening. The overnight low was 30 degrees so I assume it was a few of degrees that since the sun was still out. I started straight after I cycled home from work so I'm going to include the bike ride as part of the work out. It certainly meant I was warmed up. Anyway, here's the workout:

13km bike ride (30mins)
3km run

5 reps of
10x pull-ups (I swapped between normal and jump-to-bar depending on the other people who wanted to use the bars)
10x burpee push-ups
10x sit-ups
20x walking lunge (10 per leg)

3km run.

13 November, 2009


Friday; the first day this week I've been able to walk properly. I did a short cross-fit workout last Sunday, and didn't think much of it at the time, but those 20 minutes of exercise were enough to leave me with aching legs four days later --- bad enough that I was limping about and clutching the hand rail on the stairs like and old me. The workout that did all the damage?

Five reps of:
100 squats (body weight only)
35 lunges
20 pushups

On a totally unrelated topic, go and vote for my photo on the Petzl win your weight in gear competition. I have 14 days starting from yesterday to get as many votes as possible. To vote you just click on the stars next to the image (preferably on the 5th star to indicate your high opinion of my photo). If you've got a nice photo or video that is something to do with light, you might want to think about entering too. Anyone's body weight equals a lot of Petzl gear!

09 November, 2009

Warmer Weather

Wellington and Melbourne aren't at very different latitudes, and both are near the coast but the difference in forecast temperatures is pushing 20 degrees at the moment.

Update: The latest temperatures on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website say that it's currently 35.2 degrees at the weather station nearest to my work. No wonder I have a headache.

06 November, 2009

Over qualified and under paid.

The NZ Herald reports that two thirds of Bachelor degrees award in NZ last year went to women.

Between 2006 and 2008 the number of male students completing a bachelor degree fell from 7600 to 6900.

In the same period the number of female students completing bachelor degrees increased by 100 to 12,900.

And that currently females make up a higher proportion at all levels of education from level one NCEA (the course you do at high school when you are 15) to doctorates.

Yet, NZ still has problems with pay equity/equality between men and women. (I'm too lazy to look up a good reference for that claim. Start with the article Nats Nix Pay Equity by Anne Else.)

It's enough to make one cringe to be a bloke.

05 November, 2009

More Arapiles Photos

A few more photos from climbing at Arapiles. The first gallery are photos from the first weekend there with Chris, Erich, Steve and N. The second gallery is from last weekend when I tagged along with some people from the Victorian Climbing Club.

09-10 Araps_Olympus

09-11 Araps2

03 November, 2009

Cup Day Quietness

Melbourne is nice and quite out near my work at the moment. Classes at the university finished last week, and today is Melbourne Cup Day, so most people in Victoria get a holiday. Cycling home yesterday evening there were so few cars since people mostly take the Monday off work and use Cup Day to make a four day weekend I got home in 25 minutes (instead of the usual 30) on account of not having to mess about with cars at lights (and the timing for the lights was just right). This morning I got to work in 28 minutes. Mostly because there were no cars about again. In fact there were so few cars that my ride took longer than it might have since the pressure sensors at the traffic lights didn't seem to notice me so a couple of times I had to wait a few minutes before a car pulled up behind me in order for the lights to change. I guess if I headed towards the city or Flemmington, where the races are, I'd find things different.