Seals Under Attack

Baltic Seal

Baltic Seal

Less than two months after an MP from ruling Lae and Justice (PiS) declared the seal a pest, dead seals started to appear across the Polish coast. Five have been found to date and all brutally killed, most likely by humans. The case is under police investigation and foundations for animal rights are offering a prize for anyone able to pinpoint the culprit. Some suspect the acts may have been committed by fishermen, although Jacek Wittbrodt, head of the Sea Fishermen Association, firmly denies such allegations. At the same time he explains that seals could indeed be considered pests, as they destroy fishing nets in order to get to their prey. Michał Krause from the WWF agrees that seals compete with fishermen for fish, but it is natural competition. He also points out that the population of seals in Polish seas is rather scarce. Although there is no proof that it is fishermen that are responsible for the killings, it is a possibility, especially considering the comments made by the fishermen themselves. Krause also states that the greatest predator in the Baltic Sea is man. Against a threat like that, seals simply have no means of defending themselves.
Gazeta Wyborcza

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Is Nuclear Safe?

Disaster Awaits?

Disaster Awaits?

Carbon (coal) is the most commonly used resource in the Polish energy industry (with approximately 90% of all energy coming from it) but it is becoming a serious danger to the environment. Taking this into consideration, it would be wise for Poland to continue seeking for alternatives that would limit its use. Poland is currently focusing on using more renewable sources of energy, mainly wind farms and biomass power plants. According to the government programme of 2009, nuclear energy could join them soon. The first plant with power of 3000 MW could appear in Pomerania before 2030. According to the government, the nuclear programme would cost between PLN 40,000 and PLN 60,000. The Green Party already claims that government estimations are not correct.
energetyka.pb.pl

Śląsk Coal Gone in 25 Years

Shape of Things to Come

Shape of Things to Come

The coal deposits in the Upper Silesia region in Poland will be depleted in 25 years. “The cities located in the Katowice region should prepare themselves for the depletion of coal deposits in 25 years,” according to participants of the “Metropolitan Association of Upper Silesia” conference in Katowice. According to the conference participants, in terms of employment perspectives for the region, local cities and towns should begin moving over to services and technologies provided for and developed by local scientists and regional enterprises. What is more, they should avoid global companies. “You should prepare for what has already occurred in the Ruhr valley in Germany. The coal will practically disappear in Upper Silesia in 25 years. You will have to prepare for it in economic terms,” said Christoph Zoepel, a lecturer at TU Dortmund University. He noted that currently renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly more significant in the field of energy production.
pb.pl

New ‘Polish’ Comet

Polish Discovery

Polish Discovery

Four Polish amateur astronomers discovered a new comet on 23 March this year. Although new comets are usually named after their discoverers, in this case the astronomers decided to name it after their observatory. Therefore, the comet has been designated C/2015 F2 (Polonia) and it is the fourth comet to be discovered by Polish astronomers since WWII. Marcin Gędek (an entrepreneur), Michał Kusiak (a student of astronomy), Rafał Reszelewski (a high-school student) and Michał Żołnowski (a doctor) made the discovery in the ‘Polonia’ Observatory in the Atacama desert in Chile. After the four observed the comet, an international group of astronomers performed follow-up measurements to confirm the discovery. Three days later, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) published the results in the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT). Michał Kusiak revealed that despite initial difficulties, everything went extremely well, whereas the moment of the discovery was amazing and hard to describe. Currently, the comet is observable only in the southern hemisphere. However, it has been speculated that within a few months it will be possible to see the object with the use of amateur telescopes in Poland also.
nauka.newsweek.pl

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Are We Dumbing Down?

Are We Dumbing Down?

Saving Maths in Poland

Every third student taking secondary school final exams in Poland failed in mathematics in 2014. Teachers say the test questions were not excessively difficult, so the high fail rate is alarming. Professor Edyta Gruszczyk-Kolczyńska denounces the low quality of maths education in Polish schools, especially in primary schools, which causes a knowledge deficit and an unwilling attitude to maths. She believes that fatal errors are made in the first three years of schooling. According to her research, the first eight months at primary school are enough for children to lose interest in mathematics, stop enjoying it, and even develop an outright dislike of the subject. Primary education is frequently underestimated and wrongly so, since it is then that children develop the intellectual schemata that they will later use in life. These schemata include abilities in classifying, cause-effect reasoning and predicting possible developments. Failure to help children develop such mental skills early on has serious implications. With integrated education in the first three years of school in Poland, teachers dedicate too little time and attention to activities that develop mathematical thinking. Ready-made teaching aids tend not to be stimulating or interesting enough for children. As a remedy, Professor Gruszczyk-Kolczyńska proposes that mathematics be taught as a separate subject rather than part of integrated education from the first grade of primary school. However, the Polish public education system is slow to change. The market, on the other hand, is more flexible and quicker to act and has already responded to the evident shortcomings of school mathematical education with various types of maths activities for children offered by private centres and some universities. Gazeta Wyborcza has just launched its third “Mathematics Counts” campaign designed to show that maths is universal, omnipresent and fascinating. The project will comprise the publication of articles on various aspects of mathematics, a contest for schools and a Maths Festival on 20 June with workshops and activities for various age groups.
Gazeta Wyborcza

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Breakthrough Cure for Diabetic Foot?

Hydrogel

Hydrogel

Scientists from Łódź have developed a new hydrogel dressing to treat diabetic wounds. It supplies a tetrapeptide capable triggering the reconstruction of damaged blood vessels and the formation of new ones. That, in turn, can decrease the number of amputations. Diabetic wound care poses a greater problem than treating any other type of sores, both in Poland and worldwide. The costs of therapy and social implications are huge. More than 10,000 diabetes-related lower limb amputations are performed in Poland annually. No currently available biomaterials can significantly increase the probability of diabetic foot healing, and its treatment effectiveness hovers typically around just 50%. This is due to the nature of diabetic wounds characterised by necrosis which results from blood vessel damage leading to nervous tissue destruction and the gradual decay of the wound area. The novelty of the solution proposed in Łódź consists in combining a long-known hydrogel dressing with a simple tetrapeptide which, when introduced into the affected body part, provokes angiogenesis, that is the generation and regeneration of blood vessels. The same compound is naturally produced in humans, but it breaks down rapidly, hence its concentration in the body is very low. The tetrapeptide, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, has until now been administered by injection into tissues surrounding the wound. That, however, made it impossible to control the exact area of the drug action, causing sudden high concentrations followed by an equally sudden breakdown of the compound, which cancelled out the therapeutic effect. Professor Janusz Rosiak from the Institute of Applied Radiation Chemistry at the Łódź University of Technology explains that cellular tests of the biomaterial developed by his team have been successful. The dressing is applied directly onto the wound. It allows access to oxygen, constitutes a barrier against infection from the outside, absorbs effusions, ensures a moist environment, alleviates pain and, when removed from the sore, takes away necrotic tissue. The dressing enables a steady dosage of the tetrapeptide, which may prove to be a breakthrough in diabetic wound treatment. The solution has been registered at the patent office, but unless funds for further pre-clinical and clinical trials are raised, the scientists might make the know-how of their idea public.
wyborcza.pl

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Maria for Radiopharmaceuticals

"Maria"

“Maria”

Maria is Poland’s only nuclear reactor. Its functions include the irradiation of uranium shields which are used to produce radiopharmaceuticals. And Maria’s production capacity is set to increase. This is vital since just eight such installations in the world provide the entire global output of the elements necessary in nuclear medicine for precise cancer diagnosis and certain types of therapy. Reactors in Canada and the Netherlands temporarily stopped operating on a few occasions in the past, always triggering a crisis in the market of isotopes indispensable to oncological hospitals. Each time pharmaceutical companies requested the Polish centre in Świerk, home to Maria, to increase its deliveries, the centre did. It now exports its products to 70 countries and has a share of over 20% in the global market of isotopes for nuclear medicine. At the end of January a tender was announced for the construction of a new technology line to produce technetium-99m, the element used in brain, kidney, heart and bone scintigraphy. The investment will entail the installation of measuring, testing and monitoring systems compliant with pharmaceutical industry requirements. As a result, the centre will be able to quintuple its production capacity and supply radiopharmaceuticals to approximately a thousand hospitals in the world. Scientists from Świerk have recently added yet another product to the centre’s range: Techimmuna. It is an isotope preparation in which a molecule of human immunoglobulin G, obtained from plasma proteins, was modified to easily bond with technetium-99m. When introduced into a patient’s body, Techimmuna accumulates where there is an inflammation. Thus inflammatory conditions can be easily localized. The pharmaceutical is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. This condition typically manifests itself in people aged between 30 and 50, three times more often in women than men. Medicine has yet to discover an effective cure, but an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment slow down the development of the disease and prevent complications. Much work, therefore, seems to lie ahead for Maria from Świerk.
wyborcza.pl