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March 22, 2011 / globalglue

CFS / ME / PVFS / CFIDS – A Guide to the Controversy

Ok. So, first up a caveat – I’m not employed in the medical profession. The following are my opinions, they are not established fact! This post is exclusively aimed at providing a concise, accurate summary of the current consensus on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) and to clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding the illness.

This is not intended as a guide for symptoms / treatment / diagnosis etc. There are a plethora of websites which cover this information – see links in Section 3.

The topics covered here are:

Section 1. CFS / ME / PVFS / CFIDS – Do they mean the same thing?
Section 2. XMRV – Unsung Panacea or Global Conspiracy?
Section 3. Burning Down the Rumour Mill – Dispelling the misconceptions about CFS.

So, without further ado, we start with the first point of contention:

1. CFS / ME / PVFS / CFIDS – Do they mean the same thing?

As of the date of this post, the answer is unequivocally YES: ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’, ‘Myalgic Encephalomyelitis’, ‘Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome’, ‘Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome’ are all the exact same condition.

Now, before some of you jump down my throat, let me explain:

Firstly, to date there is no clinically proven, internationally recognised diagnostic test that can prove or disprove that an individual has any one of the above named conditions. There are no physical biomarkers that will identify the presence of CFS in a patient, let alone distinguish CFS from ME (although this could be on the cards in the near future – see Section 2).

Secondly, the definitions for each condition vary from institution to institution, from country to country. What qualifies a patient to be diagnosed with CFS for one establishment may not be sufficient to meet the criteria for another. In addition, a patient labelled with CFS by one practitioner could equally as well have been labelled with ME by another – there is a large overlap of the differing definitions.

Currently a diagnosis is given on the basis of a combination of anecdotal description and exclusion of any other detectable disorders/diseases.

Taking the above factors into account it becomes clear that the best we can hope for is a generic bucket term equivalent to ‘Unknown Chronic Illness’ that covers all patients suffering from similar symptoms and which have no identifiable origin. It doesn’t matter much what the bucket term is called as we don’t know whether all the people are suffering from the same thing – it could be that it covers several illnesses that display the same or very similar symptoms.

To this end, the majority of the medical community reached a consensus and termed this unknown bucket term ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ (CFS). The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers exclusively to it as CFS. The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) opts for the slightly more diplomatic CFS/ME.

Now what this doesn’t mean is that those in medical community are happy to just hand you a nondescript label and write you off, to be forgotten for all time. Nothing could be further from the truth! It’s enormously frustrating for a doctor to be unable to clearly identify a cause for a problem and to be unable to provide a quick cure for the patient. It’s merely the most convenient way to try to get everyone singing off the same hymn sheet and pulling in the same direction.

And the situation isn’t static! Researchers are finding out more and more every day, but it’s crucial to recognise that it takes time.

In the next section we look at some of the current lines of research.

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March 5, 2011 / globalglue

Meteorite or Hematite-encrusted Rock?

Well, the title is a perhaps a little misleading as I’ve already convinced myself that this isn’t a meteorite. More’s the pity!

Anyhow, my father found this unusual stone at the base of a chalk cliff. It looked so odd that my initial reaction was that perhaps it could be a meteorite. It’s metallic, weakly magnetic, has a thin outer crust and is irregular. It’s also heavy – I calculated its specific gravity to be 3.5 g/cm2.

Unfortunately it failed several other tests – primarily the streak test – leaving a vivid orange mark and indicating that it’s hematite. The crust also appears too thick to be a fusion crust. Additionally, whilst it would be heavy enough to be a stony meteorite, the fact that it appears metallic means it falls far short of the density required for an iron meteorite (7-8 g/cm2). I’m sure there are a host of other reasons why it’s not a meteorite, but I still think it’s pretty nifty. A couple more pics here.

Of course, if someone contacts me and states their intention to purchase this incredibly rare, unique, hematite-meteorite for a considerable sum, then I’m all ears.

P.s. I forgot to add an object for scale but it’s around 10cm at its widest point and weighs 950g.

February 17, 2011 / globalglue

Global Energy Consumption Per Capita ¦ 1965-2009

The following graph shows global energy consumption per capita per year for the primary energy sources (Oil, Coal, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Hydro and Renewables) from 1965 to 2009.

Global Energy Consumption Per Capita 1965-2009

Note:
1. – The units are in Barrels of Oil Equivalent (BOE).
2. – ‘Renewables’ includes Solar Photovoltaic, Wind, Geothermal power generation and Ethanol.
3. – I have somewhat generously assumed that renewables are operating at maximum capacity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
4. – I cannot lay my hands on accurate data for Biomass. However I have taken start and end points from the orange bar in the IEA graph* and extrapolated backwards assuming its growth is a constant. If anyone has an reliable source of data for Biomass, I would be very grateful. Likewise for Solar Thermal and Geothermal heating.
5. – The graph does not show Energy Returned On Energy Invested (EROEI). Perhaps I will investigate whether it is possible to source data for this.

Sources:
BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2010
U.S. Census Bureau International Database

*IEA Biomass data

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Edit: I’ve been looking at a similar graph prepared by The World Bank. I cannot understand why they have the anomalous huge leap from 1989 to 1990. Unless the world population took a huge nosedive around that time I can only assume they’ve made an error. Can anyone clarify?

28/02/2011 Update: Correspondence with the World Bank confirms an oversight on their part: “The problem is with exclusion of the former Soviet Union countries in calculating the aggregates. Although, we have gap-filled for those countries, the gap-filled data has been removed and aggregates have been over written. We will fix this in the database and remove the data pre-1990 to avoid this inadvertent inconsistency.”