Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New blog name

December 18, 2012

I was never completely happy with “Geodoctor”, but it reflected two big topics that were preoccupying me three years ago: health and geosciences. I believed that without some narrowing of the remit, I would find it impossible to sit down and write anything focused. Perhaps restricting the areas of interest would make the whole blogging endeavour seem more manageable, and bringing together two seemingly disparate subjects seemed like a good project.

I think it worked, to a point. I’ve kept it going intermittently and more or less on-topic, although stunning insights and big audiences have both been lacking. At least it’s allowed me to continue writing when other outlets have dried up. In blogging terms I’ve dipped my toes in the water, and even paddled a little in the shallow end.

But things have changed over the last three years. Health and geosciences remain important concerns— expect further posts on these topics, if only because one area remains central to my working life, and the other still figures as a major interest— but with a more accommodating title I should feel free to put fingers to keyboard on a broader range of topics. The new title gives me permission to wander around a little more, and I hope this will lead to more frequent posts. With only a very limited amount of writing time, I can’t afford to limit myself to particular subject areas.

Having said that, part of me hopes that some unifying thread will emerge over time. If it does, it wouldn’t surprise me if the human health/ geosciences intersection is part of it.

Let’s see how it goes.


The Exposome

July 29, 2012

A new-to-me concept: the equivalent of the genome, but for environmental exposures rather than genes. Not an easy idea, but interesting.

Issues/problems/initial thoughts:

  • The difference between internal/external exposures. Role of intermediaries (metabonomics, proteomics etc). Most definitions seem to focus on the ‘internal chemical environment’, presumably because more easily measured, compared to external exposures.
  • At the internal end, there’s the fuzzy boundary with genomics (epigenetics etc)
  • Unlike the genome, it is open-ended and effectively unbounded (if a chemical or other exposure exists, it could potentially be part of the human exposome).
  • It is dynamic, constantly changing over short and longer timescales, and differs widely between individuals and groups (but: possible to estimate ‘population exposomes’ for clearly defined population groups? Possible to envisage estimation of individual exposomes through measurement of biomarkers and detailed questionnaires of occupational, housing, social and lifestyle histories… so not very far from what researchers and doctors do already, but more systematic/all-encompassing rather than research topic, disease or complaint-specific)



Christopher Wild’s original paper:

Visualise with the graphic here (need more and better!):

CDC has good summary:

Science article (paywall):

NHS reforms II

February 11, 2012

About a year ago I tried to summarise my understanding of the then new-ish UK coalition government’s health plans— see here.

So with news that some of the government’s own cabinet ministers have serious reservations about these very same— their own— plans, maybe it’s a good time to revisit the topic.


The Rational Optimist: a review

July 14, 2011

Just finished this book by Matt Ridley. If nothing else, it is a thought-provoking work. Some of the thoughts it has provoked in this reader are summarised below— mostly in short note, off-the-top-of-my-head form.

2010 in review

January 8, 2011

[Automatic wordpress summary- lazy I know]

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 27 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 51 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 10mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was March 8th with 119 views. The most popular post that day was News/Death Ratios.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,, Google Reader, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for lusi mud volcano, geodoctor, sidoarjo mud flow, cholera cot, and mud max documentary.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


News/Death Ratios February 2010


The Lusi Mud Volcano January 2010


Meningitis in Africa February 2010


Resilience and Haiti January 2010



The public health implications of T Pyxidis January 2010




Feels right for the amount of posts and my general level of web activity (commenting on other blogs/linking back)…  ie not great, despite chirpy wordpress auto-guff above. Anticipating a busy first half to 2011, so won’t be able to invest much more time here, but I’m wondering if broadening the scope and/or tweaking the way I blog may make for a more satisfying/popular experience. Think I’ll fold my abortive Healthy Climate back into this blog for starters.]

Cryosat-2 and malaria

April 8, 2010

The European Space Agency ‘Cryosat-2’ ice observation satellite launched successfully today.

Its primary mission is to measure polar ice, but it also does water. Jonathan Amos describes an interesting sideline— in brief:

1. The satellite’s polar orbit takes in longitudinal slices of the rest of the planet, too— including some malarial areas (the article refers to Africa; though going by the ESA map it looks like the West Africa global malaria hotspot gets missed out).

2. When pointed at land, the reflectivity of Cryosat’s radar signal provides an estimate of the amount of water in the field of view.

3. Standing water = mosquito breeding grounds ≈ malaria (skimping over minor details such as locality, temperature, precipitation, vectorial capacity etc etc).

4. This will be a ‘proof of concept’ effort to see if, in principle, satellite remote sensing data can be used to help predict (and therefore manage) malaria outbreaks. The Sentinel-3 satellite, due for launch in 2013, will have a more suitable orbit for practical malaria mapping, assuming this research works out.

Earthquakes, blackouts, and Gini

March 18, 2010

Ramblings of a tired mind follow. Don’t expect much.

The cold curves of mortality

March 11, 2010

Though it’s still not exactly warm out there, in the UK we’ve at last come to the end of the coldest winter for 30-odd years. This was due to a more southerly-than-normal-for-the-time-of-year jet stream, as the somewhat controversial Paul Hudson explains here. He has an interesting if not entirely convincing (to this admitted non-meteorologist/climatologist) explanation which links the cold snap to the recent lack of sunspot activity. But that’s by-the-by.

The snow was photogenic and fun in the beginning, but persistent cold temperatures come with a price attached. This price is paid disproportionately within the population— and interestingly, disproportionately between populations, too.

The North Sea recession fleet

January 5, 2010

Container ships in the North Sea

Was lucky enough to be taken for a short flight out to the Suffolk coast on New Year’s day. Took this photo- apologies for the quality. The white blob top-left is a snow shower.

Anyway: it turns out the North Sea is full of out-of-work container ships. Manned by skeleton crews and sitting just outside of UK territorial waters, they are apparently causing consternation to the local authorities (environmental concerns regarding fuel transfer and the like).

News to me- and the most visible effect of the global recession I’ve yet come across.

Google says it’s happening elsewhere.