Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Space Medicine

Let's face it – at the moment we don't have many opportunities for professional astronomy in the Philippines. The truth is, our government simply does not have that much of a priority for the sciences. We've all heard about scientists moving to other countries for better opportunities, and inventors selling their patents abroad because no one is willing to support them. When I entered this field I have worked in the academe, educational service companies, and non-profit groups. I have also seen the kind of jobs my students have been able to find. Sadly, there are a lot of students with potential out there who had to extinguish the flames of their passion for more lucrative careers.

Among the students I've talked to, the field of medicine seems to be one of the most common choices. Not wanting to put their potential and passion for astronomy to waste I usually point out a direction that they can put into consideration – space medicine. Space medicine involves proactive and reactive care of humans to optimize their performance and well-being under the extreme environment of space.

In the environment of space the human body is subjected to various effects like bone and muscle loss, reduced cardiovascular function, radiation exposure, microgravity, and even effects on mental health. These factors can result to symptoms such as: loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, dehydration, skin inflammation, back pain, respiratory infection, eye irritation, UTI, abnormal heart beats, muscle strain, diarrhea, constipation, ear problems, and lung inflammation. These symptoms have to be diagnosed correctly for the effects and treatment may be different on the ground and in space.

Be it on the ground, or out in space, there are many ways in which space medicine is needed. Among the tasks involved are the production of documentation for medical requirements; medical selection and certification of astronauts; biomedical training on medical protocols; flight health evaluation and monitoring; provide preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic care; environmental health and monitoring; crew rehabilitation and fitness evaluation; and emergency medical services.

With humanity's plans to go to Mars in the relatively near future, there will eventually be a need for medical students entering space medicine to serve as future doctors in space crews. Who knows, maybe one of the students I've talked to will get to be one of them.

For those of you who wish to learn more about space medicine, here is a listing of some useful references:

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Philippine Astronomy Portal?

As astronomy in the Philippines is slowly gaining popularity, the bulk of activities still revolves around outreach and telescope viewing activities. I was in college when I first organized these kind of events, and I've been doing this ever since. From an organizers perspective, it isn't uncommon to hear questions like:

“I only knew about this now”
Ba't ngayon lang nagkaganito?
“Can I know when your next event is?”
Open po ba sa public?”

We've all had to deal with them one way or another and we can only do so much to market these events. Because of this some members of the astronomy community have tried to establish a single access portal to learn about these kind of activities.

Philippine astronomy was the first web portal of all astronomy related activities and events for the Philippines. It was maintained by Raymund Ang who was a member of the Astronomical League of the Philippines at that time. Unfortunately, Raymund didn't get much support for the project as not much content was shared from the community. He was also based in Bacolod so most content was gathered from social media.

Philippine Astronomy Directory was a single-page directory for links to various groups and institutions. There is not much information about this site and it hasn't been updated in years.

Philippine Astronomy Forum was originally a yahoo forum group that eventually turned into a Facebook group. It was initiated by James Kevin Ty of the Astronomical League of the Philippines. The forum talks about anything astronomy, and there are lots of content on astrophotography.

Dark Sky Network
Dark Sky Network was a Facebook group designed to share astronomy events to the community for collaborative participation. This was an open-access initiative by Anthony Urbano that allowed members who were available to take part in these setups. The group was eventually removed in Facebook years later when the objectives were not met and the content was filled with members' astro photos rather than events.

Many of us astro-bloggers promote events from different groups. On my part, my postings and listings of Philippine astronomy content was eventually shifted to a tab on this blog as a directory which I maintain to the best of my knowledge.

Filipino Astronomy Community is another Facebook group that discusses astronomy content from the Philippines. It was initiated by Jerome de Leon and contains more of an academic content, as well as opportunities here and abroad.

Astronomy PH is a quarterly e-zine that promotes science communication and collaboration between members of the local astronomy community. This is a project of the GAIA-Open Research and Collaborative Learning Experience. The content is crowd-sourced from the different groups, and news and announcement of past and future events can be found in the finder section. It's most recent initiative is it's twitteraccount where the community can tweet their news/events.

While some of these have been discontinued either due to lack of time or support from the community, content not matching objective, or the over-loading of astro-photos, they are worth mentioning to provide us with insight as to future efforts. Currently there is a discussion between different astronomy groups being initiated by Kashogi Astapan of creating a new web portal for Philippine Astronomy content. I have high hopes for this initiative and wish that past examples can guide this project into a truly collaborative direction where everyone can benefit.