Malaria vs lasers
Ten years into the new millennium shouldn’t we be closer to cracking the problem that is malaria? It is one of the world’s biggest killers but it is proving incredibly difficult to eradicate.
Looking at the problems with eradicating malaria seems like a perfect way of tapping into the tricky AF2 strand (understanding the applications and implications of science) of the APP guidelines when teaching about microbes and disease. (If you are not familiar with these, the APP guidelines are assessment criteria that many UK teachers use to assess their 11-14 year old students)
First of all lets tackle a level 6 statement: Describe how different decisions on the uses of scientific and technological developments may be made in different economic, social or cultural contexts.
The problems associated with tackling malaria have many roots in social and economical problems. It is the poorest countries in the world that are most affected by the disease and they have little money online pokies to spend on healthcare programmes and poor infrastructure which makes getting care to people difficult. Also, there is a difference in what governments, private companies and philanthropists put their research money into; which of these is most likely to spend money on malaria research and why?
Now for level 7: Explain how creative thinking in science and technology generates ideas for future research and development.
Maybe the real issue lies with how scientists are trying to tackle malaria. Maybe a bit of creativity when it comes to ideas will help…
The video below is Nathan Myhrvold’s talk about his company: Intellectual Venture’s latest invention – a laser to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Definitely creative and a bit wacky – this sounds like the latest plan from Dr Evil of Austin Powers fame. But could it be the answer to the problem that is malaria? Killing mosquitoes before they are able to pass on the parasite is an idea that has been used in the past with DDT and this certainly worked in eradicating the disease from some areas including the USA. Is this the 21st century version?
The presentation is very engaging, and would entertain a class of KS3 students. After watching, students can then write about the idea and how it would work in eradicating the disease. They could also look at potential issues in using the technology. Would people mind that there is a deadly laser pointing at them as they enter their local clinic? Would the cost of this new technology prove prohibitive? Do they think that this new technology is the answer that we have been looking for?