Jean Balchin

Jean Balchin is an English Literature Honours student at the University of Otago, Dunedin. When she's not busy painting, playing the piano or writing essays on Robert Burns, you can find her curled up with a recently published book on science. Alternatively, she'll be bugging her flatmates about their recent findings.

The Big Debate: Reasons for the legalisation of Euthanasia - Guest Work

Mar 09, 2018

In Tuesday’s post, we looked at the history of euthanasia legislation in New Zealand, and compared it with that of Canada and the Netherlands. Let us now examine the various reasons for the legalisation of euthanasia in New Zealand. (Before you ask, yes, we’ll be examining reasons against the legalisation of euthanasia, and issues with the End of Life Choices Bill in the next post on this topic). Self-determination Unless you’re of the Calvinist bent, self-determination and autonomy will matter a great deal to you. Given that we can (largely) determine the course of our lives by our own will and daily decisions, it follows that we have the right to live our lives and determine our own course. Surely, this same self-determining capacity applies to the right to determine how and when we die. This morning, you probably … Read More

Cool! Antarctic krill can turn microplastics into nanoplastics - News

Mar 09, 2018

A groundbreaking Griffith University study has found Antarctic krill which ingest microplastics are able to turn them into nanoplastics through digestion. What are Krill? Krill is a general term used to refer to around 85 species of free-swimming crustaceans called euphausiids, of which Antarctic krill is one species. Antarctic krill are one of the most abundant and successful animal species on Earth, and it has been estimated that the biomass of this species may be the largest of any multi-cellular animal species on the planet. As krill mature into adulthood, they aggregate into huge schools that can stretch for kilometres across. Many thousands of krill are wedged in beside each other in each cubic metre of water, which turns red or orange. Krill are very important to the ecology of the oceans, as they form the staple diet of many animals including … Read More

Brain imaging shows senior moments are selective - News

Mar 08, 2018

When I was a child, I vividly remember a very funny episode with my Grandpa. He couldn’t find his glasses – yet there they were, perched on the top of his head. I thought he was just playing along, but I gradually realised that he was being serious. It still makes me chuckle to this day, although memory loss isn’t really anything to smile at. Two different brains that are aligned to a common template space for comparison. The yellow in the anterolateral entorhinal cortex of the young brain indicates significant activity, something that is absent in the older brain. Zachariah Reagh “Senior moments”, or those little memory lapses that become more frequent with age, are rather annoying. As we get older, we might forget where we parked our car, or whether we turned the stove off or not. Read More

The Big Debate: Euthanasia & New Zealand - Guest Work

Mar 06, 2018

I shall not abandon old age, if old age preserves me intact as regards the better part of myself; but if old age begins to shatter my mind, and to pull its various faculties to pieces, if it leaves me, not life, but only the breath of life, I shall rush out of a house that is crumbling and tottering. I shall not avoid illness by seeking death, as long as the illness is curable and does not impede my soul. I shall not lay violent hands upon myself just because I am in pain; for death under such circumstances is defeat. But if I find out that the pain must always be endured, I shall depart, not because of the pain, but because it will be a hindrance to me as regards all my reasons for living. Read More

Opinion: Let’s celebrate the Humanities more - Guest Work

Mar 06, 2018

Recently, there has been a great deal of hullabaloo on my Facebook timeline as people squabble over whether so-called ”hard” subjects like calculus and physics are inherently better and more difficult than the alternative, ”soft” subjects like English, drama and photography. Filip Vachuda, Onehunga High School’s academic runner-up for 2017, began ”DuxGate” when he wrote he missed out on dux because the winner ”exempted herself from any math, science, or indeed, scholarship exams and extra subjects”. Given that I was awarded dux twice in high school, having studied the sciences, the arts and the so-called ”non-academic” subjects of painting and physical education, I believe I’m in a qualified position to comment on this issue. Filip wonders why his school didn’t consider his ”more demanding curriculum”, claiming that the ”classically academic” subjects he studied were more academically rigorous than printmaking, English … Read More

How does a Virus-Blocking Bacterium operate in Mosquitoes? - News

Mar 05, 2018

A recent study published in PLOS Pathogens has revealed more details of the mechanism by which the bacterium Wolbachia blocks viruses in mosquito cells. Professor Scott O’Neill, Director of the World Mosquito Program, led by Australia’s Monash University, and colleagues argue that the mechanism reduces viral replication inside cells and that rapid degradation of viral RNA is involved.  What is Wolbachia?  Wolbachia is a genus of gram-negative bacteria, a group of bacteria characterised by their cell envelopes, which are composed of a thin peptidoglycan cell ball squished between an inner cytoplasmic cell membrane and a bacterial outer membrane. If you’ve ever studied biology at undergrad, you may remember that gram-negative bacteria do not retain the crystal violet stain used in the gram-staining method of bacterial differentiation. Wolbachia infects arthropod species, and is one of the world’s most common parasitic microbes. It has been estimated that Wolbachia is possibly the most … Read More

Give it a minute or so before clamping the cord - News

Mar 01, 2018

Babies – both premature and full-term – who do not require respiratory support may benefit from leaving their umbilical cord unclamped for at least 60 seconds after birth, according to the authors of a Perspective published recently by the Medical Journal of Australia. Umbilical Cord In placental mammals, there exists an umbilical cord, which acts as a conduit between the developing embryo/fetus and the placenta. In humans, the umbilical cord normally contains two arteries and one vein, contained within a substance called Wharton’s jelly. The umbilical cord supplies the fetus with oxygenated, and nutrient-rich blood from the placenta, while also conveying de-oxygenated, nutrient depleted blood from the fetal heart, through the umbilical arteries, back to the placenta. Cord Clamping Much debate has occurred recently around the topic of umbilical cord clamping, after the publication of a … Read More

Opinion: Turn off the TV - Guest Work

Mar 01, 2018

When I was ten years old, a traveling brass band came to town. My primary school class trotted down to the town hall, and there we listened to a spectacular concert, our eyes wide and and our attention unwavering. Finally, the band readied themselves for the last song. “This is one you’ll all recognise,” said the conductor, “Put your hand up if you know where it’s from!” As the band began tooting away, everyone’s hands shot up into the air — except for mine. I had no earthly clue where this music was from. I had never heard it before. Turns out, it was the theme song from The Simpsons. But I had never seen an episode of The Simpsons in my life. You see, I grew up without a television. Being old-school Presbyterians, my … Read More

Opinion: A Case For Euthanasia - Guest Work

Feb 28, 2018

A recent Newshub Reid Research poll has revealed that the vast majority of New Zealanders support euthanasia. Written by Act New Zealand MP David Seymour, the End of Life Choices Bill has 71% of the country’s support, with 19.5% against it and 9.5% unsure.  Under said Bill, a person wishing to end their own life must meet all of the following criteria: be 18 or older, suffer from a terminal or grievous and irremediable illness, or be in an advanced state of irreversible decline, be in unbearable pain that can’t be helped by medication, and be of sound mind to give consent. If these criteria are met, the applicant must be assessed by two doctors. The church circles in which my family and I move around are, for the most part, vehemently opposed to legalising euthanasia. It was … Read More

Opinion: Non-verbal communication is important - Guest Work

Feb 27, 2018

On Friday, October 13, at about 11.30pm, a blood clot travelled up from my father’s heart to the left side of his brain. Here, it lodged itself in an artery, and promptly caused a stroke. I don’t know how Dad felt about this, or whether he knew what was happening, because he hasn’t been able to speak since then. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve heard my father’s voice, and the silence between us has made me realise how important language is. My father was a wordsmith, a scholar, a speaker. He strung his words together so they flew from his mouth with graceful ease, hammering home his point to anyone within a 20m vicinity. Now, his face crumples when he realises he can’t find the right word. I can see the frustration in his eyes as he wills … Read More