April 2004 Archives
In Haiti, Voudon sorcerers mix up Zombie making powder that works largely because of two nerve poisons found in the puffer fish used in the recipie. Ciguatoxin, which blocks the calcium electrochemical channels in nerve cells, and tetradotoxin which blocks the sodium channels.
Ciguatoxin is a water and fat soluble protein that isn't restricted to puffer fish, its also made by dinoflagellate protozoa - micro-organisms that attach themselves to algae that grow on dead, damaged or dying pacfic coral reefs. Small fish eat the toxin-salted algae, and are eaten by larger and larger predator fish. The poison is concentrated in each step up the food chain. By the time you get to big fish like the skipjack tuna used in fish oil supplements, or barramundi, coral trout, sea perch, mullet, cod, red snapper, and mackeral, (to name a few) that you may choose for your dinner table; there's enough poison not to make you a zombie, but to make you suddenly and dramatically ill.
I should know, it happened to me just over a year ago.
I graduated from my Applied Physics degree with Computing Science sub-major, and applied for a job as a scientific programmer with the Ionospheric Prediction Service in Chatswood.
I knew about the 11 year sunspot cyle, so they hired me as a solar astronomer instead, as a replacement for the incumbent astronomer who was tired of the simple life in the outback. I gave up on my patent office job interview, and accepted the post. I had two weeks to move there from Sydney.They observe the sun from the Culgoora Observatory outside of Narrabri, and make predictions about what the sunspots will do, and how they will effect the ionosphere and its ability to reflect radio waves back to Earth, and hard radiation that will be experienced by satellites and astronauts during solar storms.
exile at the Culgoora Solar Observatory in driest Outback Australia|
during my short sojourn as an astronomer. Narrabri - you'll never leave
Narrabri is an interesting town to move to for a city boy. One main street, with seven pubs and two drive through bottle shops, and one RSL club. Two video hire libraries, no theatres or other eentertainment. No public transport, just a plane trip to Sydney or Tamworth. I couldn't afford a car.
I worked in Narrabri for nine months in 1992. I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) by Professor Denis Wakefield there, and then months later, my back was permanently injured while following instructions from the supervisor at the IPS Culgoora Solar Observatory. Heavy lifting isn't usually in the job description of an astronomer.