ICROSS and SODIS work to improve water quality

UNICEF and the WHO estimate that more than 1 billion people around the world are without year-round access to safe drinking water. Each year more than 1.5 million children under the age of 5 years die as a result of waterborne disease in Africa and Asia. Solar Disinfection (SODIS) is a technique for making contaminated drinking water safe where transparent bottles are filled with contaminated water and placed in direct sunlight. The water is safe to drink after 6 hours exposure to the sun.

70% of East African Hospital visits are caused by contaminated water. Over 40,000 deaths occur every week from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation, 90% are children under 5 years old. Over a Billion people do not have access to clean water, most live in the poor world. ICROSS has a long term programme to improve water quality, prevent water borne disease and protect water sources.

The Solar Disinfection of contaminated drinking water is a low cost method of purifying water. The early research in SODIS was done by the RCSI / ICROSS research team in the mid 1990s. This important way of improving water by making it safe to drink has been scaled up and the SODIS project has been extended to South Africa , Zimbabwe, Cambodia and other countries. The aim of the SODISWATER project is to demonstrate that solar disinfection of drinking water is an effective intervention against a range of waterborne diarrheal diseases at household level and as emergency relief in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters.

ICROSS programmes in Kenya are extending SODIS as part of a comprehensive community health strategy to reduce water borne disease. With your help we can do even more.

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Phoenix Probe Lands on Mars

NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft successfully landed on Mars’ frigid north pole region late Sunday in a risk-fraught mission to search for signs of habitability, the US space agency said.

“Phoenix has landed,” a NASA official said as the safe touchdown was confirmed.

The Mars Phoenix Lander successfully deployed a parachute and then thrusters to brake in a tense seven minutes from 20,400 kilometers per hour (12,700 miles per hour) to manage a soft landing on its three legs.

Mission officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, were seen on television cheering and giving each other hugs and high-fives after signals sent back from the craft confirmed the arrival of the first spacecraft ever to land on the Martian arctic.

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Is Indy Chasing a Fake?

As Indiana Jones races against time to find an ancient crystal skull in his new movie adventure, he should perhaps take a moment to check its authenticity.

New research suggests that two well-known crystal skulls, in the British Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, did not, after all, come from ancient Mexico. Academics now believe the British skull was made in 19th century Europe and the American one even more recently.

The British Museum bought its skull, a life-size carving from a single block of rock crystal from Tiffany and Company, New York in 1897. Its origins were unknown but there were suggestions it was of ancient Mexican origin. Human skulls worn as ornaments and displayed on racks were known to have featured in Aztec art.

The skull attracted a lot of public attention and speculation it was once thought to have healing powers. Crystal skulls have since featured in many books, articles and films, most recently in the new Steven Spielberg movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

However, there have been doubts about the authenticity of the skull since the 1930s. Now an international team has used the latest scientific techniques to examine the British Museum skull and a larger white quartz skull donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1992.

Electron microscope analysis for tool marks found both skulls were carved with rotary disc-shaped tool – a technology which the Ancient Mexicans did not have. Analysis of the quartz in the British Museum skull suggests it was quarried from Brazil or Madagascar – far outside the Ancient Mexicans’ trading links.

The team, made up of experts from Cardiff University, the British Museum, the Smithsonian and Kingston University, concluded that neither skull could have been made in Mexico before the time of Columbus. They believe the British skull was created in Europe in the 19th century, and the Smithsonian’s shortly before it was bought in Mexico City in 1960.

Professor Ian Freestone, of Cardiff University’s School of History and Archaeology, said: “It is always disappointing when an intriguing artefact like a crystal skull turns out not to be genuine. However, it is important to be precise about what is authentic and what is fake if we are properly to understand our past. Maybe Indiana Jones will have better luck in his hunt for a real crystal skull!”

Source: Cardiff University