News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 23rd March 2014

Now new French satellite images may show debris of flight 370


New satellite images brought new hope Sunday that the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 would soon be solved, but the day’s search effort wrapped up with “no sightings of significance,” authorities said.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport said it received the images from French authorities “showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor.” The images are from the southern Indian Ocean, where the hunt continues for the plane, which vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard.

A Malaysian official involved in the search mission said the French data consisted of radar echoes captured Friday and converted into fuzzy images. One of the objects was estimated to be about 70 feet long and 40 feet wide.

But the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is leading the search effort, said eight aircraft and one ship on Sunday covered 23,000 square miles across two search areas without success.

  Two military planes from China have arrived in Perth, and they will join Australian, New Zealand and U.S. aircraft on Monday. Japanese planes are expected soon.

The news of the French images came a day after China released a satellite image captured Tuesday depicting an object about the size of the one in the French data, located about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite picked up an image of two objects a week ago.

The search areas Sunday were determined by drift modeling based on the Chinese satellite imagery, AMSA said.

On Saturday, an aircraft aiding in the hunt for the missing jet found some small objects in the search area, including a wooden pallet, the safety authority said.

Mike Barton, chief of AMSA’s rescue coordination center, told reporters in Canberra, Australia, that the wooden pallet was reportedly surrounded by what appeared to be strapping belts of different colors and lengths.

“We went to some of the expert airlines, and the use of wooden pallets is quite common in the industry,” Barton said. “They’re usually packed into another container, which is loaded in the belly of the aircraft. … It’s a possible lead, but we will need to be very certain that this is a pallet because pallets are used in the shipping industry as well.”

A New Zealand Orion P3 plane tried to find it but failed, Barton said. A merchant ship also was sent to try to identify the material.

It was not immediately known whether any pallets were used on Flight 370. AMSA spokesman Sam Cardwell said a cargo manifest has been requested.

Despite the frustrating lack of answers, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared positive.

“Obviously we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope — no more than hope, no more than hope — that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft,” Abbott told reporters in Papua New Guinea.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein put a message on his Twitter account Sunday asking people in churches around the country to offer a “prayer please” for the passengers and crew on Flight 370.

More than 300 Malaysian cycling enthusiasts rode their bikes to the Kuala Lumpur airport to remember the people on the jet. The cyclists decorated the bikes with small Malaysian flags and stickers that said “Pray for MH370.”

Sligo has the highest rate of people on Job-Bridge right now


0.35% of the population within the age limits for the scheme are currently taking part.

SLIGO now has the highest rate of people taking part in the controversial Job-Bridge internship scheme.

It has 144 people, or 0.35% of the population aged between 18 to 65, are currently taking part.

Dublin has the highest actual number of people taking part, with 2033 participants (0.24% of the population).

There are currently 6,586 jobseekers on Job-Bridge schemes across the country.

There has been a total of 26,650 placements since the scheme began in 2011 – enough for 0.91 per cent of the eligible population.

In response to a question put to the Minister for Social Protection by Fine Gael TD Heather Humphreys, the figures show the counties with the highest number of placements per head of population were:

•           Waterford – 1.24% /880 placements since 2011

•           Sligo – 1.22% /507 placements since 2011

•           Monaghan – 1.21% /453 placements since 2011

•           Westmeath – 1.16 % /627 placements since 2011

•           Limerick – 1.11% /1375 placements since 2011

•           Galway – 1.05% /1704 placements since 2011

•           Dublin – 1.05% /8973 since 2011

A jobseeker could have taken part in more than one placement.

“Independent research indicates that over 60 per cent of interns progress into paid employment within five months of completing their internship,” Minister Joan Burton said.

“These progression outcomes are exceptionally positive and compare very favourably with European averages in this area.”

Many rural counties have been adversely  badly affected by unemployment.

Figures from the CSO show that 124,219 people on the Live Register in Border, Midland, and Western region in February of this year, and 273,850 Southern and Eastern region.

Population figures are based the population of each county aged 18-65 from Census 2011.

Here’s how to sneeze properly


Achoo, Atissue! Sneezing creates particles of snot that can transfer infections.

What is the best way to sneeze?

It’s spring, that wonderful season of allergies.

And with allergies comes sneezing. In addition to allergies, sneezing can be caused by being too full, bright lights, and even orgasms. But as common as sneezing is – other animals sneeze too – scientists know little about the phenomenon.

“A sneeze is designed to expel foreign particles and irritants from your airway, particularly your nasal cavity, and is a protective reflex,” Dr. Jonathan Moss of the Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat Associates told Business Insider.

With sneezing myths running rampant on the Internet, we decided to put the following questions to the experts.

Which Way’s the Exit?

If the sneeze is supposed to clean out our noses, should we let it out our mouths too? Sure, said Moss.

“The goal is to expel the irritant from the nasal cavity,” said Moss, so it’s important to sneeze at least partly out of your nose.

However, because the nasal cavity isn’t big enough alone to handle the release of such a large volume of air, some of the sneeze pretty much has to go out your mouth. “The caveat being that if someone tries to withhold a sneeze, this volume will be lessened and the mouth could remain closed,” Moss said.

Holding It In vs. Letting It Out

The most common mistake people make when sneezing is just that – trying to hold it in.

“Don’t!” said Moss. “The process of sneezing is a defensive reflex. The body has to expel foreign particles, such as dust or pollen, that enter our upper airway.”

Because a sneeze causes high pressures in your internal airways, holding it in can be harmful. But it causes problems only in rare situations. “These complications can include hearing loss, forcing air into the eye or brain, rupture or clotting of blood vessels, or breaking a rib,” Moss said.

And keeping your eyes open when you sneeze? It’s possible.

Once the “sneeze center of the brainstem” has been stimulated, it sends multiple muscle contraction signals to your body. One of them tells your eyes to close. “While it may not be impossible to keep from closing your eyes, it would take a conscious effort to keep them open,” Moss said.

The Best Sneeze Interceptor

All in all, a sneeze may be annoying, but it is good for you. “In our society, some may consider sneezing a faux pas, but what I typically tell my patients is to let it fly!”

 The only problem is that these sneezes can spread germs to others around you.

While a few media outlets have done home experiments putting sneeze barriers to the test, scientists have been busy in the lab trying to figure out the best way to sneeze in order to stop the germ flow.

“Ambient air currents may also move the sneezed airflow around more slowly later, thus transporting airborne viruses beyond the immediate vicinity of the sneezer,” Dr. Julian W. Tang of the Alberta Provincial Laboratory for Public Health told Business Insider.

He’s conducted experiments – seen in the GIFs below – to find out the proper way to catch your sneeze.

So now is it the open-hand catch?

From “Qualitative Real-Time Schlieren and Shadowgraph Imaging of Human Exhaled Airflows: An Aid to Aerosol Infection Control,” By Julian Tang, et al

Or the wait-was-that-a-cough open fist?

From “Qualitative Real-Time Schlieren and Shadowgraph Imaging of Human Exhaled Airflows: An Aid to Aerosol Infection Control,” By Julian Tang, et al

Or the quick-quick-grab-a-tissue?

The real WINNER: The tissue.

“Lots of tissues,” Tang said, and wash your hands after.

No matter the sneeze catcher, the amount of snot stopped has “a lot of it has to do with how fast you can cover your sneeze.”

The permeability of the barrier used to catch the sneeze is also important. “Lower-ply tissues [lower than four-ply] may not contain the force of the sneeze that may just blow through the tissue,” he said.

When using the hand or fist, it is important to note that any gaps between fingers will spread the sneeze.

Sneezing into your sleeve has variable effectiveness, depending on sleeve length and how fast you can cover up. And the sleeve now contains your germs, which can spread to other objects it comes into contact with.

So let it fly – into a tissue, please.

Robbie the Robot proves the perfect match for Joanne O’Riordan


He’s just 4ft 7in in height, bald, not much of a talker, and almost impossible to cuddle, but the new guy in Joanne O’Riordan’s life might just be the man of her dreams.

In fact, you could say Robbie was made for her. But then that’s exactly what Joanne, who was born without arms or legs, asked for when she addressed a UN conference two years ago and challenged engineers worldwide to build her a robot personal assistant.

The challenge was taken up by the School of Engineering at Trinity College, Dublin, which last year secured €50,000 from the UN agency, the International Telecommunications Union, (ITU) to work on a prototype.

Robbie, the result of months of round-the-clock work, made his first public appearance yesterday when the head of the ITU, Dr Hamadoun I Touré, popped by to see how he’s been getting along.

After a demonstration of his capabilities, Dr Touré declared he’d passed the UN inspection with flying colours. “ITU is very proud indeed to have been a part of this pioneering project,” he said.

Robbie just blinked and smiled, as his creators have designed him to do.

“We had to make sure that the design was friendly and aesthetically pleasing,” explained chief engineer on the project, PhD student, Conor McGinn.

“We designed it in such a way that it will engage positively with people.”

Most importantly, he has to engage with Joanne and the design team spent time with the Cork teenager, who turns 18 next month, to see what kind of environment Robbie will have to negotiate and what jobs he needs to do.

Already he can perform the basic task Joanne outlined — picking up the objects she drops when directed to do so by iPad or voice command.

But future versions of Robbie will be able to perform far more intricate manoeuvres, carry out a sequence of commands, and negotiate steps and other obstacles.

He’ll also be lighter, be quicker on his feet or rather wheels and have a much longer battery life as currently he needs a battery swap every 40 minutes.

Kevin Kelly, assistant professor of engineering, who heads up the project, said the possibilities for Robbie and for Joanne were endless.

“There are three stages to any new design. Make it work, make it better, and make it cheaper. We are at the ‘make it work’ stage but we also hope it shows a vision of how this type of design would be able to do all the types of things Joanne would like it to do.”

He won’t however, be made too human: “We actually made a latex ‘skin’ for him which could be zipped up around him but people didn’t like it. They like to see the mechanics.”

Funding the refinement of Robbie is the next big challenge and the team are on the lookout for financial backing so they can take their design to the next stage.

Conor said whoever provides the investment can be sure they’ll get more than their money’s worth from the 10-strong team of students and teachers who worked voluntarily into the small hours night after night to get their creation right.

“We’ll do it again too because this isn’t a chore to us. Some people get into engineering to make a difference, some people because they just want to make something nobody has made before. This ticks all the boxes and hopefully it will attract support from people who see engineering in different ways but ultimately are excited by what it can achieve.”

Dr Touré paid tribute to Joanne for inspiring the project, describing her courage and energy as “formidable“.

Busy Joanne couldn’t attend yesterday because unfortunately there’s one thing Robbie can’t do for her yet — study for her Leaving Certificate.

Citizen Science puts dots on Ireland’s wildlife map


The bank vole found in Kerry in 1964 and now it has reached Mayo.

Have all the house mice fled Connemara? Or the harbour seals Co Louth? The All-Ireland Mammal Atlas is charting nature’s progress

Have all the house mice fled from Connemara? Or the harbour seals from Co Louth? Are otters really so scarce in watery Roscommon, or sika deer in Co Cork? Have feral goats been vanishing from Fermanagh, along with hedgehogs from Derry and fallow deer from Antrim? Or are the citizens of Ireland not nearly so observant of furry (or prickly) wildlife as everyone had hoped?

In 2010 the environmental agencies and data-gathering centres north and south launched the All-Ireland Mammal Atlas project, the island’s biggest collaborative venture in “citizen science”. It invites sightings of wild animals from ordinary people, as well as the scarcer ecological professionals, to prepare maps for an atlas to be published in 2016.

As yet the project’s maps, produced at the National Biodiversity Data Centre, in Waterford, show distinctly uneven results. Brought on screen (at, one map for a species shows the records up to 2010 while another, beside it, shows the sightings recorded since. Comparing the two is to spot the kind of oddities I listed above.

Some of the “before 2010” maps have parts of the island densely covered in purple dots, but, in the new maps, these areas can be bleakly green and apparently empty of the species, which is clearly unlikely to be true.

The historical picture was built over time and from many data sources, some of them intensive modern surveys, like those for the Irish hare, squirrels, otters and badgers, or the popular “BioBlitz” annual species-spotting contests run by the centre. Casual sightings from people out watching birds or walking the dog can’t be expected to compete, but they do help to build the new picture of what is living where.

Although most of our mammals are in the countryside (foxes may now be an exception), farmers are not generally disposed to regard such “green” ventures with sympathetic effort and attention. Mammals large and small are generally just part of their experience, some to be shot, poisoned, run over or chased by dogs, but rarely, perhaps, to prompt time at the computer (though even helps with the grid reference).

Ireland’s wildlife, furred or feathered, is still mainly a hobby for townies. That may change, as a generation encouraged and enlightened by nature-friendly rural schoolteachers come to inherit the land. Their enthusiasm has already brushed off in school sightings offered to the atlas. Judging total effort, however, county by county, Dublin, Kilkenny and Kildare are way out in front, each offering about 500 sightings. In Leitrim, Monaghan and Tyrone it’s about a tenth of that.

The maps also reflect the extra effort focused by towns with universities, technical institutes or ultrakeen county-council heritage officers.


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