Sunday, 7 August 2016

Day 11: Lectures, Demonstrations & the LIYSF Olympics

Today held two lectures that I have been looking forward to since day one. First, a talk in the morning on the epidemic of congenital zika virus, and second, a lecture on boron hydrides in the evening. Sandwiched in between the two lectures was the LIYSF Olympics! Before the day of lectures and LIYSF Olympics began, a group of us representing Pakistan, Israel, Japan, Australia, and Canada took a walk to Hyde Park for some light stretches and yoga.  
As you can see, we picked a good morning to be outside in London! It was quiet, warm, and a convenient five minute walk away from our halls. 
After surveying potential spots, we settled on this patch of grass overlooking Kensington Palace and a small lake. We spent about thirty minutes here before heading back to the Imperial for a hearty breakfast.  
The morning yoga group! With me is Haad from Pakistan, Shu from Japan, Tess from Australia, Hadas from Israel, and Maryam from Pakistan. If any yoga fans are reading this, our morning yoga included some downward dog, sun salutations, and warrior poses! 
I was really happy to have done some light exercises in the morning, as much of the day was spent sitting in the lecture hall. Here is one of Professor Rodrigues' slides showing the spread of the Zika virus from November to February, and then from February to May. As you can see from the red dots, the Zika virus spread rapidly throughout eastern South America. When pregnant women are infected with the Zika virus, their babies are born with severe health problems, such as microcephaly, epilepsy, and hypertonia (an increase in muscle tension that makes normal stretching and movement difficult). This collection of symptoms is known as Congential Zika Syndrome.

Congenital Zika Syndrome is actually the first known congenital disease transmitted by a mosquito. When cases of microcephaly began popping up at a much more frequent rate in Brazil, doctors started looking at the mothers and asking themselves what they had in common. The common factor that helped solve this mystery was the fact that all mothers had a rash during pregnancy. You may be wondering what I was at this point in the lecture: Is there a vaccine for the Zika virus? Is there a successful treatment? According to Professor Rodrigues there are currently 34 candidates for the Zika virus in development. I really hope (and so does everyone, I'm sure) that the initial trials go well and a successful candidate is identified soon. As for a treatment, much is focused on prevention and vaccines really are of utmost importance right now.
Following Professor Rodrigues' talk was the LIYSF Olympics! Each hall had put a team together, with some participating directly in the games, and others cheering wildly from the sidelines. This was an absolute blast! There was an egg and spoon race, a timed plank competition, a wheelbarrow race, and a hilarious "pass the orange with your neck" game that had everyone roaring with laughter.  
Bin Tong from New Zealand, Alice from Sweden, Shu from Japan and I made for a very loud and exuberant portion of the cheer team for our hall (Beit hall)! We put our blue war stripes on and cheered until our voices were hoarse.

The second and final lecture and demonstration of the day was given by Dr. Michael Londesborough. Dr. Londesborough's talk centered on the science of boron hydrides (boranes). Boranes do not occur naturally, but were first made by chemist Alfred Stock in 1916, exactly one hundred years ago! Using purple and green lights, Dr. Londesborough demonstrated how borane chemistry can be used as material for a laser, which is, in fact, the world's very first inorganic laser!

Maryam from Pakistan and I walked back to Beit hall together, and stopped for a photo in front of Prince Albert's Hall. Nearly everyday there is a concert happening at the hall, and streams of people line up hours before the show. Today I saw buses of people arriving with band instruments.

Tomorrow I leave early in the morning for Hampton Court Palace! I'm most excited to see the intricate maze and summer gardens. I hope you are continuing to enjoy these daily snippets of LIYSF 2016. I'm really enjoying writing them each day. If you have any questions or comments along the way, make sure to leave one below and I would love to respond!
- Vivienne 

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