Saturday, July 26, 2008

Who first taught a deaf boy to speak?

Find could end 350-year science dispute

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Who first taught a boy born deaf to speak?

The chance discovery of an antique notebook could have solved the 350-year-old British scientific mystery.

Alexander Popham was born deaf in around 1650 but his mother, determined to communicate with her son, hired two eminent scientists, John Wallis and William Holder, to teach him to speak.

Both claimed success in what became a celebrated scientific controversy.

Exciting discovery

The story was lent additional interest because the boy was the grandson of the notorious Judge Popham, who sentenced both Mary Queen of Scots and Guy Fawkes to death.

Now a yellowing, leather-bound notebook, found in a butler's cupboard in Littlecote House, Berkshire, a former home of the Pophams, appears to some experts to indicate that the methods of Mr Wallis were the key.

He was a renowned mathematician, deciphered enemy codes for Cromwell during the English Civil War and was also an expert linguist.

Up until now we have not been in a position to assess the validity of either claim
Philip Beeley

Philip Beeley, researcher in the faculty of linguistics and philology at the University of Oxford, and a world expert on John Wallis, said he had been fascinated by the book, which shows how Mr Wallis taught his charge.

"William Holder claimed to have been successful, but when you go into the method that he used, it was quite outlandish.

"He investigated the structure of the ear and worked on the hypothesis that the problem was the ear drum itself that had become relaxed.

"He felt that only when it was tight could it facilitate hearing and he set about an experiment beating a loud drum.

"Holder found that when he beat a loud drum near Alexander, he could hear other sounds, including people calling his name.

"He convinced a lot of people that he was successful."


When Mr Holder was called away to take up another post, Mr Wallis took over.

"We have not known an awful lot about the approach John Wallis took," said Mr Beeley.

"All we do know is that he wrote a little bit about it and later on it became the topic of a grand dispute within the Royal Society, with claim and counter-claim.

"Up until now we have not been in a position to assess the validity of either claim.

"This find is potentially able to do this for us."

Mr Wallis's approach was to start by looking at how the tongue, palate and lips looked when certain vowel sounds were made.

He drew diagrams and used them to show Alexander how to form sounds.

From there, Mr Wallis used the same method to help him form words.

Mr Beeley said: "He starts out with a modern technique showing him how to produce sounds, and then he moves on from that to basic language constructions, with nouns and conjunctions.

"Having looked at the notebook, I am fairly sure this is a book that would have been on the desk while John Wallis and Alexander Popham were sitting together.

"We have evidence from his descendants that this instruction was successful.

"It helps solve one of the grand disputes of the Royal Society, and is quite unique."

'Strong stuff'

Sentences learnt by Alexander and detailed in the notebook include "I have a knife in my hand" and "I have mony (sic) in my pocket" as well as "I have a hat, on my head" and "I have a band about my neck".

Dr Beeley said he had no doubts that the notebook was genuine.

"I have to admit that before I had the notebook in my hands I had my doubts," he said.

"There have of course been occasions when people have been deceived, but I was very happy to see the notebook.

It is about applying scientific method and whether you think Wallis was first or Holden was first doesn't really matter
Keith Moore Royal Society
"And now I have no doubt. I know John Wallis's hand and style and can say without any doubt that I am certain it is genuine."

Keith Moore, head of library and archives at the Royal Society, said the notebook was a fantastic find.

"It adds historical detail and any manuscript of this period is interesting," he said.

"This is dated 1662 and right at the beginning of what we would call modern science.

"The Royal Society was founded in 1660 and this is an early example of the practical applications of scientific methods."

But he said it was unlikely to settle the dispute about who taught Alexander to speak, adding that the most important detail was the science itself.

"Holden virtually accused Wallis of stealing his ideas and that smacks of plagiarism in science. It is pretty strong stuff," he said.

"It does not matter whether it solves it - the Popham case was the beginning of a more scientific approach to therapy.

"They were thinking about language and grammar, about the physiology of how people spoke and that is the important thing really.

"It is about applying scientific method and whether you think Wallis was first or Holden was first doesn't really matter."

Dr Beeley hopes that the book is stored in a library like the Bodleian, but the hotel chain, Warner, which now owns Littlecote, is deciding whether to keep it on display in the house.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A pat on the back

Finally got myself a free copy of Therapeutic Guidelines-Endocrinology from my PCL tutor! I was nominated twice in a a row for best PCL task presentation. We had a mini quiz to determine the 'winner'.

Me vs Akshay (week 1)
Me vs Scoot (week 2)

Scoot said the creature on the cover is a 'tadfrog'
I love my PCL!

Not that I want to flatter myself or anything like that, just really uplifted to get recognition for my research ^^ The book has concise info about all the endocrinological pathologies ^^

And I am going to the Winter Concert at Roberts Blackwood Hall. My last concert was ages ago. It's time to brush up my cultural 'literacy'. lol...

The evidence of me trying to get some cultural sense--the ticket and the brochure!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

As busy as a bee

Today was full with action! I went to my community placement as usual. We had to help out with claywork. It was really enjoying at first but my hands got so sore afterwards since I had to keep on smoothing the clay. I felt as if I was the small kid playing with mud all over again. This time I managed to click with the participants finally. We sat around at the same table, having lunch and sharing experiences.

And we finally kicked start our health promotion project! Melody and Bek did the story board whereas Victor and me were busy with the consent forms, interview questions and explanatory statement. After the first meeting with our field educator, we were all a bit intimidated by her strictness. However, she seemed to become more approachable today ^^ Bek also took some videos and photos when the group was singing karaoke to their heart's content. She also followed them to Dandenong market.

When I got back to the halls, Ryan suddenly suggested us to go grocery shopping. Since we have already used our bus tickets for the whole day, we decided to make full use of it! (That's what poor uni students do :P--save as much as we can!) We rushed to the bus stop just to realise that the bus approaching was 737, not 703. We then did some last minute shopping as most of the butchers are closed by 5pm. To our utter astonishment, we were done in less than an hour!

After dinner, I will be rehearsing for Student Case Project presentation!

Flaked out....

Monday, July 14, 2008

The first day of med2041

I was in shock after the introductory lecture given the amount of work that we have to do for the whole semester and I suppose this was not an ideal way to wake me up completely from my Project Case, Community Placement, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and a whole series of Knowledge Management lectures threatened to suffocate me :(

Ironically, I had a quite gleeful day afterwards. Afterall, I got to see a lot of my ol' tute mates and chit-chatted a bit ^^ and to eat the humongous bacon sandwich for lunch yet again...

On a final note, our lecturer 'fang fei ji' so we could head home earlier. That's why i am writing blog here ^^

All the best to my med2042 mates!

Don't really understand what does the cartoon means but just like the graphic...LOL...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Gold rush!!!!!!!

Jessica, Siaw Tze, Calvin, Ryan and I finally went to Ballarat as planned. It was quite an eventful start for the day as Ryan and I got a bit lost on the way to take the rented Hyundai Sonata. We spent 10 minutes more walking on the entirely opposite direction just to reach a housing estate…LOL…we also could not get a proper Melway but since we had google map, it was alright.

I was just enjoying the rural view when I noticed white specks on the grass.
“Snow!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I exclaimed.

It was so windy and I could barely open my eyes!

We got so excited that we even pulled over at the side of Western Freeway to take pictures of the snow. To add on to the excitement, we also had a small detour to Kryal Castle. It was a mere 3 degrees there but the view was awesome!

Afterwards, we finally reached Sovereign Hill. It is a town specifically designed for tourists. We had fun taking photos and watching various shows. There were horse carriages, bowling, bakery, gold digging site, diggers' residential areas etc...When Ryan got a speck of gold, he was so excited. Too bad we did not get to take a photo...

And there was a Snow Magic show when artificial snow was blown out by machines. We also watched how gold bars are moulded.

It was 'snowing' but you can't really see it in the picture :(
All the staff were dressed in those costumes.

We managed to rush to the Gold Museum too and were dazzled by GOLD!

We even stayed and watched the Blood on the Southern Cross show. I should say the show is worth $32.00 except it was kind of too long and we nearly fell asleep…LOL….the ‘stage’ is the actual-sized replica of Ballarat in the old times, depicting the carnage of gold diggers due to a clash with the government. It was a pity that we were not allowed to take photos, so those who are interested will have to experience for yourselves :p

If you are interested, have a look at this website: Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

The last stop was Eureka Center. We expected it to be closed (this is Australia anyway), but to our utter disbelief, Calvin blurted,"It's opened 24 hours!" just to find out in time that it actually said," 24 HOURS touch screen...."

The famous Southern Cross flag.

I was struggling to stay awake on the way back by chatting with Ryan. And HE was the driver, not me! Thanks Ryan for driving us around :)

However, all the fun will soon end with yet another semester with information overload...

Thursday, July 3, 2008









Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Margarine vs butter

These articles may well answer some concerns about margarine and butter posted by Ryan's Blog.

For your information, I did a serious search on Medline ^^

Guess which is the winner? Butter or margarine?

1)Kluger J.

[Comparative Study. News] Time. 154(1):63, 1999 Jul 5.

A once wholesome food sets off new health alarms

Not long ago, ordering margarine with your toast seemed like a downright virtuous thing to do. Without all the saturated fats that plump up butter, margarine was said to be the perfect way to get flavor without endangering your heart. In recent years, however, evidence has mounted that this supposedly healthier spread poses cardiac risks of its own. And last week a study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that those risks are so great that it may be time to consider modifying food labels so consumers can tell which butter substitutes are good for them and which are not so good.

The problem with margarine comes from substances known as trans-fatty acids. At room temperature, the vegetable oil used to make margarine and shortenings stays in a liquid state, not the most spreadable consistency. When the oil is treated with heat and chemicals, the fatty-acid molecules straighten out, allowing the liquid to solidify. But this trans-fatty configuration also converts beneficial polyunsaturates into less healthy fatty acids, and this can cause blood fats to rise.

Just how high they rise was made clearer than ever last week. In a study conducted at Boston's Tufts University, researchers fed subjects randomly selected diets that included soybean oil, semiliquid margarine, soft margarine, shortening and stick margarine, and then compared their blood fats to levels measured in high-butter diets. The more trans-fatty acids in a spread, scientists found, the more fats in the blood. Although all the butter substitutes reduced the level of LDL (the "bad" cholesterol), the trans-fatty acids sometimes drove down the concentration of HDL ("good" cholesterol), changing the critical ratio of total blood cholesterol to HDL. In the case of stick margarine, this ratio actually climbed above the butter baseline. Says Tufts professor of nutrition Alice Lichtenstein, who headed the study: "It's the stick margarine, with its high trans-fatty-acid content, that is the worst offender."

Any other food that failed so conspicuously to live up to its good-for-you hype would be required to admit that fact, and the Journal argued that margarine should be treated no differently. In an editorial accompanying the study, researchers insisted that not only should margarine products be required to disclose their trans-fatty-acid content but so too should fried fast foods like French fries, which account for up to 75% of the trans-fatty acids consumed--often unknowingly--in the U.S. each year.

None of this argues for a return to an all-butter diet. Margarines may not lower LDL levels much, but lower them they do. What's more, food scientists in Europe have developed margarines free of trans-fatty acids, and these are slowly making their way to grocery shelves in the U.S. Until they're in wide use here, it's up to manufacturers to give consumers the food labels they need--and it's up to consumers to read them.

Chart shows changes in "bad" cholesterol, compared with butter

Soybean oil -12%
Semiliquid margarine -11%
Soft margarine -9%
Shortening -7%
Stick margarine -5%


The more solid the butter substitutes, the more trans-fatty acids they contain--and the more they put the heart at risk Source: The New England Journal of Medicine

2)Nestel P. Cehun M. Pomeroy S. Abbey M. Weldon G.

Cholesterol-lowering effects of plant sterol esters and non-esterified stanols in margarine, butter and low-fat foods. [Clinical Trial. Journal Article. Randomized Controlled Trial. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't] European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 55(12):1084-90, 2001 Dec.

1. Plant sterol esters and non-esterified stanols, two-thirds of which were incorporated into low-fat foods, contributed effectively to LDL cholesterol lowering, extending the range of potential foods.

2. The LDL cholesterol-raising effect of butter fat could be countered by including sterol esters.
3. Plasma carotenoids and tocopherols were not reduced in this study.

Sponsorship: Meadow Lea Foods, Australia (the greatest confounder of the study, unfortunately)

3)Chisholm A. Mann J. Sutherland W. Duncan A. Skeaff M. Frampton C.

Effect on lipoprotein profile of replacing butter with margarine in a low fat diet: randomised crossover study with hypercholesterolaemic subjects.[erratum appears in BMJ 1996 May 11;312(7040):1203]. [Clinical Trial. Journal Article. Randomized Controlled Trial. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't] BMJ. 312(7036):931-4, 1996 Apr 13.

Objective: -To examine the effect on lipid and lipoprotein concentrations when butter or an unsaturated margarine is used for cooking or spreading in a reduced fat diet.

Design: -Randomised crossover study with two intervention periods of six weeks' duration separated by a five week washout.

Setting: -Community setting in New Zealand.

Subjects: -49 volunteers with polygenic hypercholesterolaemia and baseline total cholesterol concentration in the range 5.5-7.9 mmol/l.

Main outcome measures: -Concentrations of total and low density lipoprotein, Lp(a) lipoprotein, high density lipoprotein, apolipoprotein B 100, and apolipoprotein A I.

Results: -Concentrations of low density lipoprotein cholesterol and apolipoprotein B were about 10 percent lower with margarine than with butter. Lp(a) lipoprotein and high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations were similar with the two diets.

Conclusion: -Despite concerns about adverse effects on lipoproteins of trans fatty acids in margarines, the use of unsaturated margarine rather than butter by hypercholesterolaemic people is associated with a lipoprotein profile that would be expected to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Hmm..a bit outdated...but should be reliable ^^

My own conclusion: Don't worry too much...just continue enjoying margarine!

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