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Samples of Louise's work
"Put it to them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.” - Joseph Pulitzer.
I'm up for writing just about anything. Having written over a thousand published articles in the last 20 years, mostly about science, the following is a brief snapshot of recent work that is available online. If you would like to hire me, but would like to see a portfolio of work aimed at a particular age group or area of science first please let me know. I am not afraid of diversity and am currently writing a novel and a craft book, both to be finished in 2016.
Gamma Series PDFs for science in New Zealand secondary schools
New Zealand’s role in the International Space Programme: March 2008 was an exciting time for the international space community with the launch of Jules Verne, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which will rendezvous with the International Space Station, and because New Zealand is strategically located it has a vital role to play in the success of the mission.
For whom the bell tolls (and doesn’t stop): Tinnitus, a ringing or other noise in the ears not caused by an external source, is a condition which affects a large number of people. The exact number of those affected is not known as many with a minor form of the condition never seek attention.
Adversity’s Sweet Milk: (82K) A1/A2 Milk debate: It would seem that all milk is not created equal, and that’s even before humans start “adding value” by reducing fat content or adding vitamins, minerals or flavourings. A genetic variation among cattle could be affecting the milk we drink and causing health problems for a few people with particular types of health predisposition. In September 2007, Professor Keith Woodford from Lincoln University released his book, “Devil in the milk: Illness, health and politics, A1 and A2 milk”, claiming that a particular type of milk protein is causing some people health problems and that the dairy industry is doing little to change the situation or to alert consumers of the potential problems. This issue is one that has existed in scientific circles for decades, but Professor Woodford’s book has finally thrust the issue into the public arena. The subsequent media attention has many consumers concerned about the milk they drink. But what are the scientific facts surrounding Professor Woodford’s claims.
"Yucky dirty hands" (433K) It would seem that we New Zealanders, both young and old, are not as good about washing our hands as we would like to believe. A recent survey in a primary school by the NZ Foodsafe Partnership Pilot School Hand Hygiene Campaign (Simmons et al, 2006) revealed that over a third of students did not wash their hands after visiting the toilet.
Shaking hands and kissing babies (130K) Unbeknown to many of you, during election campaigning many politicians engage deliberate psychological techniques to get you to vote for them. They engage in these techniques because, most elections, whether it is for a class captain, the leader of a political party, or a seat on council, are based on how persuasive and charismatic the candidate is rather than on any policies they would like to implement, or their abilities if elected to a position of power.
In the Blood: New born Screening (147K): In developed countries around the world, a baby, usually between 48 and 72 hours after birth, is pricked in the heel. The welling drop of blood is dripped onto an absorbent piece of card. In New Zealand we collect the blood onto four circles on the card. The small droplets of blood soak right through the card within each of the circles so that the laboratory the sample is sent to has plenty of material to work with. Below the circles the card contains the baby's name, time of birth, gender, birth weight, gestation age, breast-feeding, and parent details.
Coal - New Zealand's Black Gold (187K) Thousands of years ago, prehistoric man discovered an amazing quality in a black rock - it could burn. This provided them with warmth and a fuel source for cooking. As human society developed, this black gold called coal was also used to fuel kilns for baking clay pottery. Fast forward a few thousand years to the mid 1700s, the Industrial Revolution was fuelled on the back of coal. Ironworks required coal, coal gas was used to power street lamps, and some of the most famous inventions in history were coal fuelled.
The Scientific War on Terror (275K): The events of 11 September 2001 took the world by surprise when two civilian aircraft were deliberately flown into New York’s Twin Towers. Terrorists also attempted to fly a third plane into the Pentagon. The shocking images of the impact, of falling bodies, and the subsequent collapse of the towers were beamed around the world as the event unfolded. The death toll was over 3000. In the years following this act of terrorism, there have been others such as the Bali bombings on 12 October 2002, where 202 people were killed, including 88 Australians, and three New Zealanders; and the London Underground suicide Bombings on 7 July 2005 where 37 people were killed and over 700 injured. This Gamma examines how, in response to these new threats, the technologies needed to prevent, investigate and analyse acts of terrorism and strengthen homeland security has burgeoned in the last five years.
Osteoporosis (863K) Imagine opening a jar of jam as you wrestle with the top, you hear and feel the bones in your wrist fracture - or reaching into the cupboard for a glass as you stretch out you experience the excruciating agony of one of the vertebrae in your spine bursting and collapsing on itself. As a young person, you’re probably not worried about osteoporosis. Most think of the condition as only affecting old ladies, giving some a stooped posture. However, elderly women are not the only ones at risk. For some sufferers it means a life of debilitating pain, where bone mass degradation has reached the point where simple movements like bending, walking or stretching can cause brittle bones to break and spinal vertebrae to collapse. Opening a jar of jam is suddenly fraught with danger. There are many risk factors that are commonly associated with the gradual onset of osteoporosis. Some of them can’t be helped (such as being female). However, there are many lifestyle choices which are known to trigger or worsen osteoporosis, and how you live your life when you are young can directly affect whether you develop the condition at all! As yet, osteoporosis cannot be cured; however, it can be partially reversed and can also be prevented.
Lead and you (905K) People have had a troubled relationship with lead since the dawn of human history . It is abundant, easily mined, very malleable, corrosion resistant, and it seems to suit many of the jobs it has been put to unfortunately, if you get too much of it in your body it can literally drive you mad, blind, or deaf, or even shut down your kidneys, and cause death. It has been used in Roman plumbing and cooking pots, in the solder on cans of food, to make toys, as a paint additive, in toothpaste tubes, in bullets and shot, and in batteries. It has been a common ingredient in glass, crystal, ceramics, pewter, radiation shields, as an alloy in type used in printing presses and, perhaps the most environmentally damaging of all, as an anti-knocking agent in petrol. Many of these uses were thought of in the industrial age, centuries after it was known that lead was poisonous.
Birdflu (PDF, 290k). Dangerous Chickens The (Asian) bird flu pandemic.In 2004, bird flu, also known as avian influenza, has become a major health scare in Asia, causing several human deaths and the culling of millions of chickens. In some countries, i.e. Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, in an effort to halt the rapid spread of bird flu in domestic poultry flocks, it has been reported that chickens have been burnt or buried alive in sacks. This has outraged animal rights groups around the world. However, the threat to human health and to Asia’s poultry products market is very serious. In January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that bird flu has the potential to be a more serious problem than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Bird flu is caused by an influenza virus and is not related to SARS (which is caused by a corovavirus). However, both viruses originally occur in animals and can spread to humans.
Drinking water (213K) + resource sheet (7K) Essential to life, water is everywhere it even comes in bottles. People in cars and on bikes, students in class rooms, office workers and posties are sucking on sipper bottles to get their eight glasses a day. Homeowners are installing water filters, and an office or gym without a water cooler is almost non-existent. The bottled water industry alone has seen New Zealanders consuming about 40 million litres in 2003 at a cost of over $20 million. Consumers are paying more for a litre of water than they pay for petrol but are they pouring their money down the drain? People see bottled water as being ‘healthier’ and the good old kitchen tap is getting a bad rap. However some common practices with sipper bottles and home water filters may actually be causing health problems.
Meningitis (PDF, 220k). Meningococcal Disease - It's a killer. New Zealand is in the grip of an epidemic, and has been since 1991. The epidemic is caused by a bacterium (a kind of germ) called Neisseria meningitidis or meningococcus. In the last two years just over 1100 mostly young people in New Zealand have contracted the meningococcal disease and more than 40 have died that’s an average of one person dying every two weeks. Since the beginning of the epidemic over 4750 people have fallen ill and over 200 have died. A vaccine to stop the bacterium causing illness has recently been developed and it is undergoing trials to ensure it is safe and effective.
Anthrax.(828 KB) Description of the bacterium and effects of infection. The range of forms of anthrax that can affect humans and animals and the visible symptoms.
Madcow: (290K) What is BSE ? Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), often referred to in the media as mad cow disease, is an infectious, incurable and fatal disease which slowly attacks the brain and nervous system of cattle. BSE, a novel disease which emerged only recently, is an example of the group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Some of these diseases have been known for centuries while others have been discovered only recently. They used to be known as “slow virus diseases” because of their extremely long incubation period, but it is now known they are caused by a totally novel type of disease agent.
The promise of stem cell research. (147KB) Imagine a world where Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s and epilepsy can be easily treated with little more than an injection of the appropriate stem cells. Imagine if spinal injuries, brain damage, rheumatoid arthritis or even juvenile diabetes could be repaired after a few days in hospital, or that any damaged organ could be repaired. It could be that within the next few decades certain organ transplants will become obsolete medical procedures.
Organic food. (320KB) Written by Louise Thomas and Alma Hromic. Organically grown food is produced without, or with a minimum amount of, artificial fertilisers and pesticide sprays. In the past decade, the popularity of organically grown food has grown enormously. Stores selling it have sprung up across the country, and supermarket shelf space given over to organic produce has increased. This surge in popularity of organically produced foods can be attributed to a number of causes. People are becoming more worried about the effects of spray residues on the soil habitat and on the food they eat. Some also cite the pollution of waterways by synthetic fertilisers as a reason to go organic. The United Kingdom’s Mad Cow, and Foot and Mouth epidemics, and the current world-wide swing against genetically modified (GM) foods can leave the consumer with the impression that there is something nasty happening down on the farm - and they are seeking alternatives. But are all the concerns about conventional agriculture based in fact, and is the organic alternative preferable or even that different?
Weight of the world: obesity declared a global obsession. (226KB) Trends in New Zealanders putting on fat reasons, both biological and environmental. Dangers and strategies for reducing waistlines. Fat, no longer a feminist issue, has become a global epidemic. Never in the history of the human race have so many people been so fat. Unfortunately, New Zealanders are amongst the fattest in the world, with more than half the adult population either overweight or obese. The problem appears simple we are becoming less active and taking on more calories than we need. However, the reasons for this are complex and the solutions not easy. Contrary to popular belief, obesity is not about being rich and well-fed. In adults, it is often related to poverty, low economic status and exclusion from the health system.
And tomorrow's earthquake forecast is . . . .
The A2 Difference
Exercise Taurus: Phase II
Big Brother is watching you
People in the deep south of New Zealand will have the chance to see a partial eclipse of the sun today. Assuming ...
Snakes and crocodiles could have inhabited New Zealand up to 18 million years ago. Geologists working in a fossil ...
Pressure is increasing for a network of marine reserves where fishing is banned.
... agricultural fumigant methyl bromide. LOUISE THOMAS talks to a New Zealander in the forefront of the battle. A New Zealander is ...
Two New Zealanders are helping introduce a new type of hard-wearing plastic which is being tested in hip-replacement ...
SYDNEY - New Zealand immigrants of a different kind are making their mark in Australia. At last week's Molluscs ...
Conserving New Zealand's fish stocks at sustainable levels could pay big dividends if world fishing trends continue. ...
New Zealand has the sixth-highest rate of prostate cancer in the world. It is the most common cancer among men ...
Chilly dinosaur bones start a fire FRONT PAGE
LOUISE THOMAS tells how a prehistoric 'eating machine' is giving scientists new clues on the world's early days. A geological expedition ...
Asthma is not giving up its secrets easily. A global study of childhood asthma and allergies involving more than ...
Today is a doomsayer's delight. They have predicted earthquakes, the Earth's poles shifting - even the end of the world. ...
New Zealand scientists have helped to confirm the potential for new oil reserves off Northland. ...
The Forest Research Institute has beaten overseas competitors to win a contract that will use genetic engineering to fight a moth that is ...
Researchers are seeking ways to stop sealions dying in squid nets in the subantarctic fishery. An unacceptable ...
Site last updated: 1 February, 2016.