Take Five: Of face transplants and digitisation

The M&G’s Faranaaz Parker rounds up five odd things you may have missed this week.

UK’s first face and hand transplant
The Guardian reports that a United Kingdom (UK) surgeon is preparing to perform the country’s first full face transplant and a concurrent hand transplant. A number of patients have already been screened for the process and are awaiting a suitable donor. But the UK’s medical watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, has asked for more evidence on the risks and benefits of the procedure. Eleven face transplants and 60 hand transplants have been performed around the world but the outcome has not always been ideal. The world’s first recipient of a donor hand eventually had the limb amputated. He said he felt “mentally detached” from the limb.

Google’s epic digitisation plan stymied
A federal judge has struck down a $125-million settlement plan that Google had hashed out with authors and publishers to enable it to digitise every book ever published. According to the New York Times, the judge cited copyright and antitrust as the reasons for his decision and said it would have granted Google a monopoly as well as the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners. People who believe that all information should be free and accessible on the internet will be disappointed by the ruling; Amazon, Microsoft and certain branches of government, not so much.

Anonymous in South Africa
A group claiming to be the South African branch of Anonymous, the “hacktivist” group that took up the cause of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and brought down some of the world’s largest credit card companies, has posted a video to YouTube calling on South Africans to rise up and take back their country from corrupt leaders. As Memeburn points out, the message doesn’t bear much resemblance to other Anonymous campaigns and there’s no telling whether it’s authentic or just the work of local hacks. But it’s nice to think that there might be some hacktivists here on the southern tip of Africa.

How is Brachiosaurus like a vacuum?
Two UK scientists have come up with a viable theory for why some dinosaurs had such tremendously long necks, using what
Science calls “fancy mathematics and an analogy with vacuum cleaners”. The Brachiosaurus, for example, had a 9m-long neck. Some believe that this was used to browse for vegetation among trees, while others say the energy cost of pumping blood up to the raised neck would have been too high. The new theory suggests that, like the vacuum cleaners of the 50s, the long necks allowed dinosaurs like the Brachiosaurus to forage for food on the ground without having to move around too much. More modern dinosaurs on the other hand, were lighter and moved more easily—much like the vacuum cleaners of today, say the scientists.

Ozzies protest against carbon tax
The BBC reports that hundreds of people have taken part in rallies across Australia to protest against proposed carbon taxes. The Australian government says the country needs a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard hopes to implement these in 2012 and 2015 respectively. Carbon taxes and emissions trading are key elements in international negotiations around climate change but there is no firm agreement yet to implement them globally. Australia is one of the worst emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. A carbon tax could help curb pollution by disincentivising high energy use but protesters are complaining it will damage the economy and drive up the cost of living. Some feel the tax should only be introduced once a global agreement on the issue has been reached.

Faranaaz’s interests span science, technology and development. Read her weekly wrap every weekend on the M&G and follow her on Twitter here.

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker


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