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Sant Jordi Desvalls, Spain

News Article | August 18, 2016
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

Research laboratories make use of some of the world’s most technologically advanced equipment, and can be amongst the most dynamic and exciting places to work. However, the complexity of research tools coupled with the frequent use of hazardous and infectious materials can make the lab a potentially dangerous place. It is critical therefore to ensure that laboratory personnel are aware of some of the most fundamental lab practices that often go unobserved every day not only for their own safety, but the safety of those working around them. For decades, biological safety cabinets (BSCs) have provided researchers with a means of safely interacting with contamination-sensitive samples, protecting both themselves from possible infection and the integrity of samples with which they work. While BSCs have within them a multitude of safety features, such as advanced HEPA-filtering of exhaust air leaving the cabinet, researches should observe basic practices in sterile technique to help guarantee personnel and sample safety. The user should wearing clean gloves and a solid front lab coat for experimentation.  All efforts should be made to minimize air curtain disruption while using a BSC. Rapid arm movement in and out of the cabinet will compromise the safety inside by disrupting the BSC’s fragile air barrier will allow for the movement of unfiltered air from the environment into the BSC and potentially onto any exposed samples. It is standard procedure to ensure all materials, equipment, and samples for the experiment are placed within the BSC before work has begun, to minimize this effect. In addition, all BSC surfaces should be treated with 70 percent ethanol before the experiment begins in order to clear surfaces of any material left from previous experiments. Likewise, all materials and equipment should be sprayed with 70 percent ethanol before entering the BSC. This helps ensure a sterile working environment within the BSC. Once these preparations have been made the user, having placed his/her arms inside the cabinet, should delay manipulation with BSC contents for at least one minute. This allows the BSC to “air-sweep” the hands and arms of possible contaminants, and allows for air turbulence to be reduced. These straightforward practices can help improve the accuracy of results - after all, the integrity of a laboratory’s samples can dictate the quality of its research. Similar to BSCs, CO incubators are ubiquitous in laboratories that routinely work with biological samples. Incubators are critical pieces of equipment that house samples sensitive to temperature, humidity, and CO levels, and it is therefore vital that values are fine-tuned while the incubator is in use. Personnel must do their part to help maintain sample integrity and should regularly inspect the incubator contents and monitor CO , temperature, or humidity levels. Personnel should be familiar with any alarm systems that are in place to notify of a critical change in any of these values.  All spills should be cleaned with 70 percent ethanol; however, wipe disinfection should be preferred to spraying directly into the incubator. Some disinfectants can emit strong fumes that can affect cell growth, so it is recommended that personnel are aware of which solutions to use on which equipment. In addition, incubators often use compressed CO cylinders to provide the CO necessary for their function. The main hazards can come from the heavy cylinders falling, which can cause injury. They often have fragile valves. Personnel should therefore ensure the cylinders are securely affixed to the wall with chains and straps to prevent falling. When it comes to other equipment, it is recommended that modern laboratories make the switch from glass to plastic where appropriate. Plastic is not only durable, lightweight, and cheap, but also safe, as dropped plastic bottles or vials do not shatter like glass. Comprehensive product ranges of plastic items such as beakers, cylinders, and bottles are available from companies such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, meaning laboratories can easily make the switch.  Exposed sharp edges from chipped beakers or tubes can be hazardous, and cracks from dropped items, or items worn down due to long-term use can be a danger, particularly as some laboratory personnel frequently handle potentially hazardous samples. New global harmonized chemical labeling systems (GHS) have also been put into effect to enable the protection of personnel using hazardous chemicals. This labeling system has been applied to primary chemical containers, meaning they display a more universal system of icons and cautions. It is recommended that laboratories opt to choose secondary containers that also adhere to this system so as to provide uniformity in information exchange in the laboratory, further improving safety. Laboratory personnel should therefore be sure they are using equipment such as FEP fluoropolymer wash bottles that are permanently etched with the GHS chemical safety information – ensuring they never lose their label. Personnel should ensure they have read and understand the GHS system to enable them to differentiate between chemicals of differing hazard levels. There are a number of straightforward practices that laboratory personnel should follow in order to help make their cutting-edge research safer to conduct. Careful considerations into the type of equipment for use in the laboratory as well as training and implementation of safe procedures and practices can together help laboratories achieve their safety goals.

News Article | November 25, 2015
Site: motherboard.vice.com

“I began going into space. There were stars, and they seemed to be in a cylinder shape. They were far apart, but looking from a distance from normal eyes it would look just like a picture of space but as I came closer I could see that sorta had a cylinder depth to it that I began to enter. As I entered I began to have insight. I realized that this was some sort of astral plane in space and a sort of 'Psychic network.'” - Erowid user iliketoplay Erowid is not a site that people often name-check as a bastion of internet culture, but it’s been around longer than Reddit, longer than MySpace, and longer than Wikipedia. In 1995, around about the time of Netscape’s IPO, one of the greatest single sources of online information about intoxicating substances was launched by a couple, who go by Fire and Earth Erowid. The site is still crafted in basic HTML, and seeks a task no greater than to be “an online library about psychoactive plants, chemicals, and related topics.” In doing so, it has become the hallowed halls of a unique virtual research institution—influential and mainstream enough to warrant a New Yorker profile—where the self-exploration and narrative-sharing that fuel the internet are freely applied to psychedelic experiences. The stories collected on Erowid can be intensely personal, informative, and detailed. Through twenty years of archiving these tales, the site has provided a respected pattern for sharing personal experiments with mind-altering chemicals and plants. These sorts of experiences and experiments are not compiled anywhere else in such encyclopedic detail. The same spirit of user-sharing and open access brought people to the BBS and to Usenet, and to the early web. The ethics of user participation, crowdsourcing, and editorial vetting help share useful drug information just as much, or more, than any other online content. Before you try a substance for the first time, experienced psychonauts advise, read about it on Erowid. “Erowid is the gold standard in psychedelic internet resources,” says Emily Dare, a long-time reader and self-described “drug geek.” “They focus on safety and education, where other sources I frequent are often a mix of contemporary legends, dodgy research chemical vendors, and more speculation than science.” There are many brand-new psychoactive molecules being synthesized every year, by research scientists and DIY chemists alike. These molecular analogs go by the catch-all category of “research chemicals.” These substances haven’t been around long enough to become illegal, nor earn any kind of street name, let alone have any authoritative studies on side effects and potentials for overdose. Those who seek to learn about psychedelics, in order to consume them or treat those who have consumed too much, have few definitive resources that encompasses the wide range of chemicals out there. Erowid wouldn’t pass peer-review standards for medical science journals—and perhaps not even the objectivity-standards of Wikipedia. But Erowid has always been about more information, not less. The site provides a wide variety of opinions and conclusions, reports, articles, and other sources. In the spirit of the internet, Erowid provides information freely with little caveat, and allows readers to decide for themselves. The cornerstones of the site is likely the Experience Vault, where users submit their own first-person narratives of experiences with particular substances. While the submitted texts are vetted (for grammar, legibility, and focus on the substance at hand), the text of the archived stories are allowed to stand largely as they are, for readers to interpret on their own. The information in a narrative experience is something between a product review, and watching the first penguin dive off the iceberg into sea lion-infested waters. Many of the chemicals listed on Erowid are very new to science and psychonauts alike, and as the site will often state: “not enough reliable human data has been recorded to say much with certainty.” And that, for some Erowid users, is a flashing neon advertisement to experiment, and to find the boundaries of the substance. Take, for example, “The Way it Looks When a Mind Comes Apart,” an entry from a user by the name of Doctor Scrambles MD. He mixed two different chemicals together: one called AMT, a long-lasting variety of a common class of psychedelic compounds called tryptamines, and “euphoriant” that has been illegal in the US since 2003, and 2CI-NBOMe, a very new research chemical, which according to Erowid, “has nearly no history of human use prior to 2010 when it first became available online,” and only just was made illegal on a temporary basis in 2013. There is only one other report on Erowid of combining these two substances. So, for the good of internet science, Doctor Scrambles gave it a try. The results were not good: “I was mentally lost and perpetually perplexed. It was carnivorous thinking, in the sense that it was all-consuming of every molecule of your being. I was practically paralyzed by the intense thought bombing: I couldn’t look up and there was no such thing as down. The vision to my left and right was warped by narrow tunnel vision and I had no idea where I was at that time, all I knew was that I didn’t want to go back. Fortunately it ended and I was returned to the panicky state of realization that if an EMT was evaluating me, they’d be very concerned. The unknown and inexplicable sensation of surging cardiovascular discomfort through my chest and left arm/leg and side of my neck was hugely disconcerting.” One can’t take Doctor Scrambles’ story as medical evidence, but it does provide a good warning for anyone who might be tempted to try a similar combination. Not all of the combinations are chosen for the purpose of open-minded experimentation. User Joe, in his story “3 Months of Active Psychosis Horror: An Experience with Modafinil (Provigil) & Bupropion (Wellbutrin)” details the bad interaction of two drugs that were prescribed for him by doctors. He writes, “within a week I had begun to see auras. I thought it was quite nice really, and interesting, and I began to have the archangels visiting me and I could tell them apart by the colour and energy I sensed in the room.” But things got very bad from there. He descended into paranoia and hallucination, with fears of being murdered at the hands of a demonic coven. Joe recounts how he ended up institutionalized, and diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy on account of the interaction between the drugs in his brain. Sometimes, the nature of the experiment is, as it so often can be with drugs, just simply too much. Drug combinations have long been a popular way of testing the limits. “Speedball” is common name for mixing cocaine and heroin, and “candyflipping” is combining MDMA and LSD. In some cases, the lesson is probably to not try to mix too many things at once, though there are plenty willing to test the limits. User TweakGeek describes combining a series of methamphetamine, marijuana, alcohol, MDMA, cocaine, GHS, propoxyphene, and diazepam over a period of 14 hours. In his soberly titled tale, “Excess is Not Always Best,” he notes “it took me about 3 days to come off of all of that shit, and it was NOT fun.” The cautionary tale value of Erowid is powerful. Erowid frequenter Dare says that “I recall trying to convince a friend that they did not want to experiment with Datura—which is often described as an "ordeal hallucinogen" [...] it was the wealth of terrible Datura experiences on Erowid that convinced them to pass it up.” Indeed, Datura, a flowering plant growing in many American gardens, has only a handful of experiences filed on Erowid under the categories of “Glowing” or “Mystical” experiences, while those filed under “Difficult Experiences,” and “Trainwrecks and Trip Disasters,” go on for pages. Report titles such as “A Tale of Nudity, Arrest, & Insanity…” and “Never Do It!!!” convey the nature of these experiences. But there are many good experiences with other drugs, from individuals who made better substance and dosage decisions. Experiences titled “Ego-Loss and Self-Realization,” “Sewn into the Fabric of the Universe,” and “If There is a God, He Loves Fractals,” sound like psychonaut footsteps one might be more excited about following. For much more common substances like MDMA or LSD, there are hundreds of written reports, allowing readers to benefit from this anecdotal information and learn about proper sourcing, purity testing, drug interaction warnings, and dosage recommendations. A user named iliketoplay details his experience drinking ayahuasca tea made of a combination of the bark of Mimosa Hostilis and Syrian Rue, entitled “Psychic Network, and Mental Noise.” He provides feedback on his use of a particular recipe to prepare the tea, which is now considered a standard preparation, from the many people who have reported using it successfully. User FreeFromBlue, in his experience entitled “What I’ve Been Looking For,” describes his experiment using a combination of small doses of the anti-depressant Selegeline with basic phenethylamine, a basic molecule related to other substances like MDMA, but naturally present in humans and without a psychedelic effect. As the title might tell, FreeFromBlue had great success not in getting high, but in treating his depression over a period of six months. He writes: “Overall, this combination has been a blessing in my life. I contribute this report in hope that it may help others.” “I like that Erowid doesn't glorify nor does it frighten,” another longtime reader, Rob Ray, says. "The posts there are not very performative. It's far more even-keeled than even something like Reddit, Yelp or Amazon product reviews... I have a place to go to learn more, weigh my cautions and enthusiasms, and ease into my decisions.” Both psychedelic and philosophical mind-expansion form a bedrock experience of human culture. The sorts of experiences that Erowid records go even further, representing the internet’s underlying relationship to these counter-cultural influences. Many people know that digital culture pioneers experimented with drugs--but the point is not so much the interest in intoxication, as it is the interest in sharing and compiling information about such a weird interest. The psychedelic underground has always had to rely largely on the sharing of self-discovered information. But rather than remaining in the margins of dog-eared, out-of-print books and overheard stories at parties, the virtual space of the internet has allowed Erowid to become a college, in the sense of the latin root of the word, collegium, ”a community, society, or guild.” And, as long as Fire and Earth Erowid are around to do the work of administering the website, it seems that the psychedelic research institution known as Erowid will be online as well. Lit Up is a series about heightening—and dulling—our sense of perception. Follow along here.

Sanchez-Vila X.,GHS | Fernandez-Garcia D.,GHS
Water Resources Research | Year: 2015

The analysis of breakthrough curves (BTCs) is of interest in hydrogeology as a way to parameterize and explain processes related to anomalous transport. Classical BTCs assume the presence of a single peak in the curve, where the location and size of the peak and the slope of the receding limb has been of particular interest. As more information is incorporated into BTCs (for example, with high-frequency data collection, supercomputing efforts), it is likely that classical definitions of BTC shapes will no longer be adequate descriptors for contaminant transport problems. We contend that individual BTCs may display multiple local peaks depending on the hydrogeologic conditions and the solute travel distance. In such cases, classical definitions should be reconsidered. In this work, the presence of local peaks in BTCs is quantified from high-resolution numerical simulations in synthetic fields with a particle tracking technique and a kernel density estimator to avoid either overly jagged or smoothed curves that could mask the results. Individual BTCs from three-dimensional heterogeneous hydraulic conductivity fields with varying combinations of statistical anisotropy, heterogeneity models, and local dispersivity are assessed as a function of travel distance. The number of local peaks, their corresponding slopes, and a transport connectivity index are shown to strongly depend on statistical anisotropy and travel distance. Results show that the choice of heterogeneity model also affects the frequency of local peaks, but the slope is less sensitive to model selection. We also discuss how solute shearing and rerouting can be determined from local peak quantification. © 2015. American Geophysical Union.

Jodar J.,GHS | Carrera J.,GHS | Cruz A.,GHS
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences | Year: 2010

Atmospheric circulation models predict an irrigation-rainfall feedback. However, actual field evidences for local evaporation recycling (moisture feedback) are weak. We present strong field evidence for an increase in rainfall at the mountains located downwind of irrigated zones. We chose two regions, located in semiarid southern Spain, where irrigation started at a well defined date, and we analyzed rainfall statistics before and after the beginning of irrigation. Analyzed statistics include the variation of (1) mean rainfall Δ PH2O, (2) ratio of monthly precipitation to annual precipitation Δ rH2O, and (3) number of months with noticeable rainfall episodes Δ PH2Omin after a shifting from unirrigated to irrigated conditions. All of them show statistically significant increases. Δ PH2O and Δ rH 2O show larger and more statistically significant variations in June and July than in August. They also tend to increase with the annual volume of water applied in the neighbouring upwind irrigation lands. Increases in Δ PH2Omin are statistically significant during the whole summer. That is, the number of noticeable rainfall events displays a relevant increase after irrigation. In fact, it is this number, rather than sporadic large rainfall episodes what makes the summers wetter. The increase in rainfall, while statistically significant, is distributed over a broad region, so that it is of little relevance from a water resources perspective, although it may enhance vegetation yield. © Author(s) 2010.

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