Lack of Education: The Real Reason for the Spread of Ebola

Since the latest Ebola outbreak began in March, there have been more than 2,100 reported cases and 1,145 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

This is already by far the most serious Ebola outbreak in recorded history.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge (Courtesy of the New York Times)

But the disease isn’t some super-virus that is spreading through the air and infecting anyone who comes close. The only way it can be spread is through bodily fluids- getting the blood or vomit of a sick person in your eyes, nose, or mouth, or in an open wound.

So it’s actually relatively difficult to contract the disease, if you understand how it spreads. But the problem is that almost everyone who’s becoming infected now does not know how Ebola spreads.

That’s one of the reasons it has spread so fast. You see, an Ebola victim is most infectious right after they die. This is because they have very high-levels of the virus in their blood at that point.

Also, the total destruction of their immune system causes them to start leaking blood from every pore in their body (this is why Ebola is called “hemorrhagic fever”). These secretions cover the skin of the deceased with a thin film containing high concentrations of the virus.

The stages of Ebola. Click to enlarge

So when the families of victims preform their traditional burial practices, which include kissing and touching the body of the deceased, they give Ebola by far its best opportunity to spread.

This lack of knowledge about how the disease spreads has also caused people to become distrusting of the medical facilities that treat Ebola patients.

“People have no idea how infectious diseases work. They see people go into the hospital sick and come out dead—or never come out at all… They think if they can avoid the hospital they can survive,”

says Dr. Terry O’Sullivan, director of the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy Research (an American agency that has been aiding in the battle against Ebola).

Dr. O’Sullivan recently made an appearance on ABC News to discuss the outbreak (via Youtube)

When Uganda tried to stop the spread of the virus by preventing relatives from seeing their dead family members, it sparked a great deal of hostility and fear.

A rumor spread that the bodies were being kept for nefarious purposes, making the public even more distrusting of foreign health workers (some people believe the foreign health workers were actually the ones who brought the disease to Africa).

When Uganda tried to alleviate the problem by creating a mass graveyard where relatives could see (but not touch) their deceased loved ones, pandemonium broke out.

Villagers ran from the ambulances that transported them there, attacking humanitarian workers and attempting to burn down the hospital. As the Daily Beast’s Abby Haglage put it,

“They feared the disease—but they feared the medicine even more, as well as the people delivering it.”

Many people avoid going to clinics like this one even when they start showing symptoms of Ebola because of their belief that checking in to a treatment facility is an almost certain death sentence

Yesterday evening, this ignorance manifested itself again when a quarantine center for suspected Ebola patients in West Point, a slum in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia, was attacked and looted by protesters.

The protesters were unhappy that patients were being brought into their community from other parts of the capital, and some even believed that the whole Ebola outbreak was a hoax used to take advantage of them.

20 suspected Ebola patients who were being monitored for symptoms left the center during the attacks, but the real danger comes from the blood-stained sheets and mattresses that were looted by the protesters.

Warning shots from police weren’t enough to disperse the crowd of several hundred local residents who gathered near the clinic before it was stormed and looted. Click to enlarge (Getty Images)

A senior police official in the area expressed worry that the looting spree could spread the virus all over West Point, an area that is home to about 50,000 people, almost all of which live in serious poverty and lack basic health resources.

He called the attack,

“…one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in my life.”

I understand his frustration, but his comment should make us ask ourselves the following question: where did this stupidity come from?

Stupidity is simply a lack of knowledge.

Consider this: in the three countries that have been hit the hardest by this outbreak (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia), literacy rates are between 35% and 45%.

Also, keep in mind that the vast majority of these literate people live in the major cities. In the rural areas, where the disease has really been spreading, literacy rates can be as low as 10%.

The extent of the outbreak as of August 11. Click to enlarge

What we need to understand about this outbreak is that if we would have invested in educating these people 20 years ago, we would not be spending exorbitant amounts of money now in an attempt to stop a disease whose primary victims don’t even understand how it spreads.

Also, the increased education levels would have probably led to a lot more local people becoming health workers.

Not only would there have been more health workers to deal with the outbreak, but a much larger portion of them would’ve been natives with the trust of the locals, rather than foreign workers who most locals are suspicious of.

The bottom line is that education is the answer to almost every problem in the world. Why? Because it gives people the ability to solve their own problems.

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The Next Rover NASA Is Sending to Mars Will Produce Oxygen and Search for Farmland

Back in June, Chief NASA Scientist Ellen Stofan did an interview in which she announced NASA’s plans to colonize Mars.

“We like to talk about pioneering Mars rather than just exploring Mars, because once we get to Mars we will set up some sort of permanent presence,”

she told the Guardian in the interview.

Now, NASA is taking the first steps towards that goal, officially announcing a groundbreaking rover mission planned for the summer 2020.

The 2020 rover will look a lot like the Curiosity rover launched in 2012. Like Curiosity, as well as Spirit and Opportunity (the other two most recent rovers), the 2020 rover will be searching for signs of life.

An overview of the planned rover. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of NASA)

But unlike any of its other predecessors, the 2020 rover will actively seek to create the conditions in which human colonization would be feasible.

“The 2020 rover will help answer questions about the Martian environment that astronauts will face and test technologies they need before landing on, exploring and returning from the Red Planet,”

said William Gerstenmaier, who has served as NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations since 2005.

This process will include experiments that turn carbon dioxide in the Martian air into oxygen, “for human respiration.” This oxygen would also make it possible for rocket fuel to be produced on Mars, giving spacecrafts an opportunity to refuel there.

The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), will produce oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of NASA)

The rover will also be equipped with the latest photography equipment. 3-D cameras will capture detailed panoramic images of the Red Planet.

Also, spectrometers will allow the rover to analyze the chemical make-up of the Martian soil. This will allow NASA to gauge their ability to establish and support farming efforts by astronauts in the future.

“An ability to live off the Martian land would transform future exploration of the planet,”

NASA said in a statement they released about the 2020 mission.

Check out the pictures below to see a timeline for the mission and explore more of the features to be included on the 2020 rover. Click an image to enlarge:

Read the original story from CNN here.

750,000 Begonias Bloom to Form Belgium’s Famous Flower Carpet (Photo Gallery)

Grand Place is the central square in Belgium’s capital city of Brussels.

Every two years, the plaza in front of Grand Place is planted with nearly a million flowers, creating a massive natural carpet.

This year’s carpet, assembled by 100 volunteers on August 14, contains about 750,000 flowers. It measures more than 250 feet in length and nearly 78 feet in width.

A photo of the carpet from Twitter user @cerenkenar. Click to enlarge

The carpet is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the  migration of Turkish workers to Belgium in 1964. That year, Belgium and Turkey approved an agreement allowing Turks to emigrate to Belgium as “guest workers”.

Today, nearly a quarter of a million Turks live in Belgium, and their culture has had a major effect on Belgian culture over the past 50 years.

The designers of this year’s carpet decided to celebrate their culture by modeling the carpet after the patterns found on traditional Turkish rugs, known as Kilims.

However, the flowers themselves are begonias in a direct nod to Belgium, who has been cultivating and exporting these flowers since they were brought over from the West Indies in the 1860s.

A closer picture shows the stunning detail of the carpet. Click to enlarge

Carpets from previous years have celebrated other traditions, including African and Oriental cultures among others.

Check out some of the most amazing flower carpets from past years in the pictures below. Click an image to enlarge:

(h/t Smithsonian)

Why Ultra-Pure Water Is Actually Bad for Your Health (Video)

We tend to imagine that purity is the ultimate indicator of the quality of water. So why is 100%, ultra-pure water not good for us?

Well the simple answer is that water (H20) purely comprised of hydrogen and oxygen doesn’t provide our body with the natural electrolytes and salts we need to survive.

There is no such thing as truly pure water in the natural world. Even water in the purest springs and lakes contains small amounts of dissolved minerals such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Oregon’s Crater Lake, which formed in the crater of a long-dead volcano, is thought to be one of the purest natural bodies of water. It is fed almost exclusively by snow and rain. Click to enlarge (Photo: Danita Delimont / Gallo / Getty)

When these minerals dissolve in water, they form the ions which we commonly refer to as electrolytes.

According to eatbalanced.com,

“Maintaining the correct concentrations of these ions in and outside cells in the body is essential for transmitting electrical impulses along nerves and for muscle contraction. They allow us to perform all the “bioelectrical” functions such as moving, heart-beating, thinking, and seeing.”

But not only does pure water fail to provide these essential electrolytes, it tries to rob your body of them when you drink it, potentially creating a fatal imbalance (if you drink enough of it).

This is a result of a process of diffusion, in which dissolved material tends to move from more concentrated solutions to less concentrated ones.

Click to enlarge

You can think of it this way: imagine a room with no gravity, split in half down the middle. You throw a couple hundred bouncy balls into the left side of the room. Since there’s no gravity, they bounce around everywhere.

But if you cut a bunch of holes in the barrier, they will slowly start to spread over to the right side. Some may cross back over to the left, but eventually, they will be evenly distributed across the entire room.

That’s how diffusion works inside you as well.

One of the reasons water is the main component of your body, from you lungs and skin to your blood and organs, is because it’s a universal solvent (ie. it can dissolve anything soluble and is neutral).

Click to enlarge

The water in your organs (the left side of the space room) maintains very specific levels of minerals (the bouncy balls).

When you drink ultra-purified water, it pulls the minerals out of your blood just like the right side of the space room pulled some of the bouncy balls over from the left. Ultra-pure water will even strip the copper off the inside of a pipe!

If you drank enough of it, the lack of minerals would eventually kill you.

These dissolved minerals, often referred to as “impurities”, are also what gives us the different flavors we taste when we consume different tap waters or brands of bottled water.

David Rees of National Geographic examined “Ultra-Pure” water. Check out the video below to see what he found.

How To See A Map of Every Location Where Google Has Tracked You

I’m not here to bash Google or Google Maps. I use both regularly and I definitely appreciate the convenience they’ve added to my life (the time before Google Search seems more and more like the dark ages these days).

But with added convenience often comes added cost. One of those costs is allowing Google to track your movements using GPS satellites.

This allows them to give you a very high level of accuracy during navigation, but it also allows them to store your movement history, just like they’ve stored every Google search since the website launched. We can only speculate on what they do with that data.

The good news is, there’s a way to see everywhere that Google knows you’ve been: an interactive map that allows you to see your tracking history.

The map includes a timeline (below it) that you can scroll over to see exactly where you were at certain times, as well as how far away you were from your home base at that time.

But the coolest feature: the map can be “played” as an animation, allowing you to go back in time and watch your movements as they unfolded.

Login to whichever Google account you use the most (or if you have a specific one for your phone, use that one), and then click on the picture below to try it out.

Tip: Use the calender to the left of the map to select a wider range of days and see a more complete picture of your movements:

For any of you that are familiar with Austin, Texas, I promise I don’t go to 6th as often as the map above makes it seem. Apparently, I just always seem to need my location services when I’m there for some reason…

What things will you learn about yourself when you check out your own tracking history?

BONUS: While doing research for this post, I tried to find the total number of Google searches since Google’s official first year in 1998.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that number, at least not from a credible source. But I did, however find some statistics about recent years.

In 2013, for example, there were nearly 6 billion Google searches every day, for a total of about 2.16 trillion searches for the year.

Source: Google Official History, Comscore. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of statisticsbrain.com)

(h/t Business Insider)

Using Abstract Shapes to Capture the Motion of Legendary Olympians (Video)

Felix Deimann, a young motion artist from Dortmund, Germany, has always been fascinated with the dynamics of motion.

So for his final college thesis project, he decided to use digital graphics and abstract shapes to capture some of the most iconic athletes from the history of the Olympic Games.

His subjects: Nadia Comăneci, the first gymnast to ever earn a perfect 10, Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, the legendary U.S. basketball Dream Team that dominated the ’92 games in Barcelona, and Usain Bolt, who still holds the title of the fastest man ever.

He named the project “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, after the ancient Olympic motto meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.

This isn’t Felix’s first time creating awesome motion art, however.

In 2013, while still in college, he did another student project called “In Vitro”, in which he captures the earliest phases of life creation within the human body:

Felix also does some static art. Check out some of his work in the images below (click an image to enlarge):

 

You can check out more of Felix’s work on his website here.

Did You Know… Muhammad Wrote A Letter Guaranteeing the Protection of Christians?

Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, lived from 570-632 AD. Muslims believe that he is the final prophet of the monotheistic Abrahamic tradition, which includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

So although it may come as a shock to many, it’s really not that surprising that Muhammad frequently visited the Christian monks of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt.

For those who aren’t aware, Mt. Sinai is the mountain that Moses climbed to retrieve the 10 Commandments in the Exodus chapter of the Bible.

St. Catherine’s Monastery and the Sinai peninsula. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of BBC)

Muhammad had a great relationship with the monks, engaging them in discussions about science, philosophy and spirituality, among other topics. Their teachings had a great influence on the Muslim prophet.

In the year 622, Muhammad fled his hometown of Mecca in Saudi Arabia after hearing of an assassination attempt on his life. He and his followers (who left the city with him) settled in the city of Medina, where they officially established the religion of Islam. This pilgrimage is known in Islamic tradition as the Hijra.

In 626 (according to the current copy in St. Catherine’s Monastery), Muhammad personally granted a charter to the monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery to protect the rights of Christians and other non-Muslims “far and near” who were living in predominantly-Muslim areas.

In the letter, Muhammad made it known to his followers that Christians had the right to freedom of religion and movement within Muslim communities.

He decreed that they had the freedom to appoint their own judges and handle their own property, as well as exempting them from any taxes mandated by Islam or an Islamic government:

“They [Christians] must not give anything of their income but that which pleases them—they must not be offended, or disturbed, or coerced or compelled. Their judges should not be changed or prevented from accomplishing their offices, nor the monks disturbed in exercising their religious order…

No taxes or tithes should be received from those who devote themselves to the worship of God in the mountains, or from those who cultivate the Holy Lands.”

A copy of the Achtiname from the 16th century. Click to enlarge (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

He also told his followers that Christians would be exempt from any mandatory military service in a Muslim community, adding that the Muslims in that community still had a duty to protect them and fight for them in times of war:

“They shall not be imposed upon by anyone to undertake a journey, or to be forced to go to wars or to carry arms; for the Islams have to fight for them,”

and he declared Christian churches to be sacred places that should never be desecrated:

“No one is allowed to plunder the pilgrims, or destroy or spoil any of their churches, or houses of worship, or take any of the things contained within these houses and bring it to the houses of Islam.

And he who takes away anything therefrom, will be one who has corrupted the oath of God, and, in truth, disobeyed His Messenger.”

St. Catherine’s Monastery, built in 565 AD, still stands today. Click to enlarge (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Muhammad prefaced the letter by saying that its message had been sent, “to all the people as a trust on the part of God to all His creatures,” though he added that its contents were, “directed to the embracers of Islam.”

Then, in no uncertain terms, Muhammad described what he believed was a sacred spiritual relationship between Islam and Christianity:

“This letter contains the oath given unto them [the people of Islam], and he who disobeys that which is therein will be considered a disobeyer and a transgressor to that whereunto he is commanded.

He will be regarded as one who has corrupted the oath of God, disbelieved His Testament, rejected His Authority, despised His Religion, and made himself deserving of His Curse, whether he is a Sultan or any other believer of Islam.

Whenever monks, devotees and pilgrims gather together, whether in a mountain or valley, or den, or frequented place, or plain, or church, or in houses of worship, verily we are [at the] back of them and shall protect them, and their properties and their morals, by Myself, by My Friends and by My Assistants, for they are of My Subjects and under My Protection.”

Two modern-day monks sit and talk inside St. Catherine’s Monastery. The man on the left is a Bedouin server. Click to enlarge (Photo: Matthew D. Moyer)

The Achtiname pictured earlier in this post is not the original, but actually a copy of an original from the 16th century, which was likely already a somewhat altered version of the original text written by Muhammad in 626.

Dr. Aziz Suryal Atiya was a professor of Medieval History at Farouk University when he took part in The Monastery of St. Catherine and the Mount Sinai Expedition, a research project that looked into the history of the monastery and the authenticity of the Achtiname.

Here’s what he had to say:

“After the Arab conquest of Egypt in AD 640 , it was said that the Prophet Muhammad granted the monks of Mount Sinai a covenant whereby their lives and property became secure under Muslim rule. The existing tradition is that the original charter was taken from the Monastery by Sultan Selim I after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. The Sultan, however, gave the monks a copy of it and sanctioned its terms.”

This timeline puts the emergence of Islam into some historical perspective. Click to enlarge

The copy now in the monastery is a copy of the certified copy given to them by the Sultan after he took the original in 1517 (supposedly for safe keeping at his palace in Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul), prompting some to question its authenticity entirely.

However, the basic premise of the letter seems to have been maintained over the years, despite any small changes that may have been made to it as it passed between different hands.

Either way, the fact that St. Catherine’s Monastery has lasted for nearly 1500 years, surviving through countless different rulers (both Christian and Muslim) and years of bitter religious conflicts in the Middle East, speaks volumes about the mutual respect of the faiths on this hallowed ground.

BONUS: St. Catherine’s actually includes a 12th-century mosque within its walls, but it has never been used because it wasn’t built to face the Muslim holy city of Mecca in accordance with Islamic tradition.

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