QPR v Huddersfield line-ups: Redknapp opts for change

first_imgQPR boss Harry Redknapp has opted to play with a second striker against Huddersfield, with Andy Johnson handed a starting place. QPR: Green, Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto, O’Neil, Henry, Carroll, Kranjcar, Austin, Johnson.Subs: Murphy; Onuoha, Traore, Diakite, Phillips, Zamora, Wright-Phillips.Huddersfield:Smithies; Clayton, Hammill, Smith, Dixon, Norwood, Wells, Wallace, Hogg, Ward, Gerard.Subs: Bennett, Woods, Gobern, Lolley, Scannell, Vaughan, Holmes.Follow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebooklast_img read more

Big medicine from a little plant

first_imgThe flower of Pelargonium sidoides ispretty, but so small the plant is quiteinsignificant in the wild. Planting out the seedlings is a laboriousand time-consuming process. Low-growing Pelargonium sidoides plantsunder cultivation in the field. The fleshy tuber is the economicallyimportant part of the plant.Jennifer SternSouth Africa is known for its rich diversity of plant life – the Cape Floral Region, for example, is a Unesco World Heritage site, taking up only 0.04% of the world’s land area, yet containing an astonishing 3% percent of its plant species.Among this wealth of plants are many with unique curative properties, used in a range of alternative medicines. One of these is Pelargonium sidoides, which has been used in remedies for respiratory ailments for over 100 years – perhaps longer.Today this flowering plant is cultivated on a farm near Cape Town to supply international pharmaceutical companies with raw material. But the story of its introduction to the western world goes back to the 19th century.In 1897 Henry Charles Stevens, a 19-year-old consumptive from Birmingham, came to South Africa in the hope that the fresh air and sunshine would alleviate his tuberculosis (TB). The air and climate did help, but what made the real difference was a visit to a sangoma, or traditional healer, high up in the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho. (Or possibly Zululand – the records are sketchy, and there are conflicting stories.)Wherever he or she was found, the healer fed a concoction of bright red roots to Stevens, who immediately felt much better. So much better that, on his return to England, his doctor declared him free of TB.Stevens Consumption CureRejoicing in his escape from the grim reaper – and seeing a lucrative opportunity – Stevens imported the raw ingredients of the medicine from South Africa and began to produce a remedy called Stevens Consumption Cure. While there was some anecdotal evidence of successful treatments, the British Medical Association all but drummed him out of town, and he spent a fortune on legal actions.But word of the cure got out, and soon a Dr Adrien Sechehaye of Geneva acquired a supply from Stevens, and tentatively started to use it. After his first patient recovered well he went on to prescribe the remedy to about 800 TB sufferers between 1920 and 1929. The best part was that his results were – by the standards of the day – particularly well documented, and included 64 detailed case studies.In fact, a 21st-century analysis of his records indicates better remission rates than those obtained in today’s South Africa using WHO-approved antibiotic regimens.Stevens Consumption Cure, which also went by the strange name of Umckaloabo, continued to be produced in Europe, with a break during the Second World War when it was difficult to obtain the raw materials from South Africa. The origins of the name are unknown. It’s likely that Stevens simply dreamed up “Umckaloabo” as sounding both African and esoteric, and sufficiently obscure to conceal the source and main ingredient of the remedy – ensuring his continued monopoly.Erratic supplyOnly in the 1970s was that main ingredient identified: a decoction of the roots of Pelargonium sidoides, a small and unobtrusive little shrubby plant that grows in the cold, dry and stony areas of South Africa.In the 1990s German natural-medicine company Schwabe acquired the rights to manufacture Umckaloabo when it bought a small company called ISO Arzneimittel. It was an unimportant part of the portfolio and, while it seemed interesting and obviously had some potential, was not a priority because the supply of raw materials was potentially erratic.Umckaloabo production relied on plants harvested from the wild in the mountains of Lesotho. While sustainable, the yield was small and variable. To properly develop a market for the remedy Schwabe had to guarantee sufficient volumes to make it profitable.Then in 1995 Ulrich Feiter, a German-born horticulturist living in South Africa, visited Schwabe hoping to sell the herbal extracts he manufactured from plants cultivated on his farm in Wellington, near Cape Town. The company wasn’t interest in his product, but did ask if he could, instead, propagate the rather useful pelargonium.He agreed, thinking it would be easy. Pelargonium is a close relative of the red geranium, the ubiquitous flowering plant found edging neat lawns in suburban gardens and growing in window boxes to brighten up the drab exteriors of apartment blocks of cities across the world. Germaniums grow with little trouble, so Feiter assumed pelargoniums would too.Assured that the farmer would supply them with the necessary raw materials, Schwabe invested €30 million into clinical trials, patents and registration to ensure Umckaloabo complied with regulations in Germany and other potential markets.Wild harvestingFeiter returned to South Africa with a two-fold mission – to supply Schwabe with plants harvested from the wild, and to start growing them on his farm in Wellington.The problem of harvesting from the wild is that it threatens the plant’s survival – harvest too much, and it may go extinct. Luckily, pelargonium has some built-in constraints.The root of P sidoides starts off a pale pink and, as the plant matures, turns deep red. As it is only at this stage that it has any commercial value, there’s no incentive to harvest immature plants.Also, the part of the root that is harvested is a tuber and, when it is pulled up with the rest of the plant, a number of side roots break off, allowing it to grow back.And because P sidoides does not have any specific growing season and lies dormant most of the time, less than half the plants in any one community would be harvested in any one collecting trip. When the yield from a particular area gets low, it is time to leave it for a few years to recover.Dogs and wolvesBut the problem was the low yields of wild harvesting, making commercial growing essential. But Feiter soon discovered that pelargoniums are not geraniums – they are far more difficult to grow.While the plants are related, geraniums are soft and domestic, and pelargoniums more suited to the wild. Think dogs and wolves.Geraniums flourish under the loving (or even neglectful) care of people, happy to be confined to a pretty pot. Pelargoniums in general, and P sidoides in particular, need wide open spaces. They like to live on the edge – in the cold, dry, rocky areas of southern Africa where they lie semi-dormant for a year or two if conditions are bad and then, with a little rain, flourish briefly.Feiter found it was not a simple matter of taking a few cuttings and planting out rows and rows of pretty little flowers. Unlike the easily domesticated geraniums and some more amenable species of pelargonium, P sidoides has almost no stem, so it can’t be grown from stem cuttings.So in 1996, when Feiter planted out his first hectare of plants, he did so from root stock. This is not an economically sustainable method of propagation because it destroys the only part of the plant with commercial value. But this gave him his first plantings, from which he proceeded to collect seeds. He now propagates almost exclusively from seedlings that he grows in his nursery.Preserving pelargoniumsFeiter has one hectare under cultivation in Wellington, mainly for research and seed purposes, and some 20 hectares in the Free State, which were planted in 2003 and should soon be ready for the first harvest. He also supports a cultivation project in the Eastern Cape near Alice, working with the community that previously harvested in the wild.In 2007 he was instrumental in starting the Pelargonium Working Group, set up to further the preservation, harvesting, propagation and utilisation of the plant. Members include South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, and Traffic, the execution organ of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or Cites.Schwabe buys about 98% of Feiter’s output, and the farmer uses the rest in his Wellington factory to manufacture a cough remedy called Linctagon, which is sufficiently different to Umckaloabo to be exempt from Schwabe’s patents. So while most of the root is being exported, there is also an affordable locally manufactured product.Both Umckaloabo and Linctagon are currently used for general chest and respiratory complaints and coughs, but there is a possibility that their key ingredient may be revived as a cure for TB, particularly after the rise of drug-resistant strains of the disease.This makes the rather scrubby little plant is yet another lesson in the importance of preserving biodiversity. You never know what magic may be found in those pretty little flowers growing in the mountains.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at [email protected] linksSchwabe GroupPelargonium sidoides on Plantz Africalast_img read more

SKA ‘will be an astronomy game-changer’

first_img24 February 2014 The who’s who of global radio astronomy gathered in Stellenbosch, South Africa last week to discuss the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the impact it is expected to have on the future of science. According the SKA South Africa, the meeting was characterised by “electrifying expectations” and “impatient excitement” on the part of scientists who are keen to see the long-awaited SKA and its precursors, South Africa’s MeerKAT and Australia’s ASKAP, become a reality. The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, which is to be co-hosted by South Africa and Australia. The 64-dish MeerKAT is due to come online in 2016 as one of the most powerful telescopes in the world in its own right. The more than 160 delegates at last week’s conference included high-level delegations from China, South Korea, the UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Argentina, Australia and the US. ‘Global buzz’ around the SKA’ “There is a global buzz about doing cutting-edge science with the SKA, and the project is already attracting some of the world’s foremost scientific talent to South Africa,” SKA South Africa project director Dr Bernie Fanaroff said in a statement on Friday. At the opening session of the conference, Professor Philip Diamond, the director-general of the international SKA Organisation, emphasised the fact that the SKA would be a global observatory and not an experiment. Astrophysicist Professor Katherine Blundell from the University of Oxford in the UK described the SKA as “an amazing science discovery machine … With the SKA we will be able to see fuller, reach deeper and understand better. It will literally expand our horizons and give us a much clearer picture of how the Universe came to be what it is today.” Professor Michael Kramer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, was thrilled about the future possibilities of the SKA. “I can’t wait to get my hands on SKA data,” he said.‘Before and after the SKA’ “There will be a clear distinction in radio astronomy research between before and after the SKA,” Kramer added. “All the radio astronomy research done up to now will be a prelude compared to what will be possible in future.” When asked about why the SKA is seen as an instrument that will transform radio astronomy, scientists talk about its sheer size, exceptional sensitivity, wide frequency range and unique flexibility. It is described as a “one of a kind” instrument that has the power to unite the global radio astronomy community to work towards common science goals for several decades. “The SKA will also achieve lots of synergies with other telescopes across all electromagnetic frequencies, ranging from optical telescopes to new, high-energy telescopes on Earth and in space, as well as with gravitational wave predictors,” Kramer said. “We are lucky to live in a time when all these instruments will be working together to give us new windows on the universe.” Among those at the meeting was Professor Pierre Cox, director of the ALMA radio telescope in Chile. ALMA operates at very high radio frequencies and will have important synergies with South Africa’s MeerKAT telescope and the SKA.Huge opportunities for young scientists Experts at the meeting agreed that the SKA presents huge opportunities for young men and women in Africa to be the engineers, computer scientists and astrophysicists that will make the technology happen and produce the transformational science outcomes that will only be possible with the SKA. A special session at the conference focused on making the science of radio astronomy accessible to learners, including a group of children from the primary and secondary school in Carnarvon. Top scientists took on the challenge to present their research to these young people in small groups and to answer all their questions about astronomy and the Universe. Another highlight of the week was a public talk by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, famous for her role in the discovery of the first radio pulsars. She launched the audience into a world of unimaginable extremes with her talk about pulsars and fast radio bursts. “The SKA will not only enable astronomers to see ten times as many pulsars as is currently possible, but will also bring about new and unexpected discoveries,” Burnell said. “South Africa is going to be a very special place in the near future of radio.” The meeting concluded on Friday with a summary of the week’s discussions by Professor Roger Blandford from Stanford University, who convened the United States’ 2010 Decadal Review of priority astronomy projects. Square Kilometre Array South Africa and SAinfo reporterlast_img read more

A List of Things Artificial Intelligence Will Not Replace

first_img Essential Reading! Get my 3rd book: Eat Their Lunch “The first ever playbook for B2B salespeople on how to win clients and customers who are already being serviced by your competition.” Buy Now Artificial intelligence has made an enormous impact on our lives, including behavioral algorithms, smart home technology, and self-driving cars. There is no doubt that AI will continue to advance and alter our world, but there is also no doubt that there are things it cannot and will not replace.Relationships: You don’t have a relationship with Siri. Or Alexa. These two ladies don’t have any idea who you are. The possibility that humans will go from tribes that live, survive, and thrive together to helmets that live alone and shun other human beings is exceedingly small.Caring: It will be a long time before artificial intelligence becomes conscious, if it ever makes the monumental, evolutionary leap that, so far, has occurred only in sentient beings, and mostly the human variety. Automation, when used as a substitute for human interaction, is the complete elimination of caring. It is an outsourcing of what should not be outsourced.Inspiration: Human beings are inspiring and inspired. Artificial intelligence doesn’t make us feel anything. We are moved by human beings that exercise their compassion. We are inspired by those who achieve great feats, great works of art, and who sacrifice.Wisdom: Artificial intelligence can beat world champions in the game of Chess and the infinitely complex Chinese game called Go. But it can’t tell you how to live a good life, how to discover your purpose, or what is the source of happiness. There is a difference between information and insight. Wisdom is not intelligence; it’s something more than that.A Sense of Belonging: You are not among “your people” when you are surrounded by automatons and computers. You are among your people when you are around “your” people. You can’t replace the sense of being with the people with whom you belong. Friendship is going to be more valuable and more important in the future.Shared Experiences: You are not going to take your artificial intelligence to dinner or on vacation to the south for France. You may let it assist in doing some of the planning.Curiosity, Imagination, and Resourcefulness: These things are infinitely human. Artificial intelligence provides information. It will not replace human curiosity, imagination, or resourcefulness, something that the mind developed as a method of survival. Artificial intelligence doesn’t dream, but you do.Desire: Artificial intelligence may help satisfy some desires, but it isn’t going to create it. That burning feeling in the pit of your stomach when you really want something—and the ability to create that desire—isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.last_img read more