Next Stop: The Red Planet?

Read these as well:-

Given the state of the country as at now, you can safely say that when we celebrate the year 2020, this country would not have achieved the status of a “developed country”. So Dr M’s Vision 2020 will remain a vision and will not become a reality, at least in 2020.

For one, religion had taken precedent in key areas of the country and have caused a mismatch of priorities. Instead of us busy with human resource development and preparing the country for a “developed” status, we are busy on which law to use and how holy or religious one must be. And I saw this in play when I went to a shopping complex one fine day and decided to drop by a bookstore as my son wanted to buy a science book. We walked around and realised that there was more books on religion than on science and mathematics. I was hardly surprised – there were more people at the religion book section than at the science & mathematics book section.

Vision 2020 is also doomed to be nothing but fancy slogan because we still place high importance on racial based policies (we still calling ourselves as Malay, Chinese, Indian, etc instead of Malaysian) and on cheap politics. But come year 2020, all is not all lost though. Year 2020 would mark the start of activities that would eventually place humans on the planet Mars by year 2026.

Imagine a human colony on another planet and we don’t have to look another 100 – 200 years for that. We will see that in the next 10 years and it is very exciting news indeed. The company that is taking the exploration one step ahead is Mars One – is a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands that has put forward plans to land the first humans on Mars and establish a permanent human colony there by 2027.


(It may not look much now but imagine a lot more people on the surface and with high end technology which allows them to come back to the Earth and back to Mars again? Image source: Mars One)

It may sound far fetching at first and Mars One have been on the receiving end of many as nothing but a scam. Some even question the USD6 billion budget of sending humans to Mars but remember India sent its spacecraft to Mars for mere USD73 million. But think of the feasibility. Think of the possibility.

Mars One lists out the mission feasibility of a human colony in Mars in the following manner:-

Permanent settlement

The Mars One crews consist of people that want to settle on Mars. Absence of a return mission reduces the mission infrastructure radically. No return vehicle, return propellant or the systems to produce the propellant locally are required. Permanent settlement also reduces the required technology development; vehicles that can take off from Mars and return to Earth are currently unavailable and untested. Since the vehicle returning to Earth and the accompanying systems are mission critical for a return mission, they will also require backups adding to the infrastructure that needs to be delivered to Mars. More importantly, to attain a somewhat acceptable risk level, the return mission would need to be tested in a complete unmanned return trip before the first crew even departs the Earth. Even after a full test of the return system is successfully performed, the risk for a crew that will ride the first return rocket would be very high: 126 rockets launched from Earth since 1990 failed to deliver their payloads in the correct orbit.

Permanent settlement also solved the challenge of the astronauts entering into Earth’s atmosphere after having spent about two years in reduced or zero gravity environments.

Use of In-Situ resources

Mars has resources that can be used for a sustainable settlement. Water is present in the soil and can be made available to the settlement for hygiene, drinking, and farming. It is also the source of oxygen generated through electrolysis. Nitrogen and Argon in the Martian atmosphere can be mined to be the inert part of the atmosphere inside the habitat. Martian soil will cover the outpost to block cosmic radiation. Carbon dioxide can be taken from the atmosphere if the plants take in more than the humans expel.
The systems to mine water from the soil and to mine Nitrogen, Argon, and Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have never been tested in space. Mars is however not space because there is gravity and a thin atmosphere. Additionally, the processes are all more than 100 years old. The water can be collected from the soil by breaking up the soil with a drill and harvesting the resulting debris. Argon and Nitrogen can be collected from the atmosphere by removing the Carbon dioxide through a phase change.

Solar panels

The Sun is a reliable, robust, and plentiful energy source. Using solar panels is the best choice for Mars One since it takes away the requirement to develop and launch a nuclear reactor, thereby saving time and money while avoiding the risks and concerns of the use of a nuclear power source.
Thin film solar (photovoltaic) panels will power the Mars One settlement. These are less efficient than those more commonly used in aerospace, but have the advantage of being extremely light, and are thus easily transportable. The first settlement will install approximately 3000 square meters of power generating surface area.

Existing technology

No new major developments or inventions are needed to make the mission plan a reality. Established suppliers can build each stage of Mars One mission plan. While most of the components required are not immediately available with the exact specifications, there is no need for radical modifications to the current component designs.

Every effort was made to design the mission with as little complexity as possible. The choice to send permanent settlers removes the need for a heavy lift launch vehicle, which does not currently exist. Permanent settlement makes the landing module small enough to land with current technology. A pressurized rover will not be sent to Mars until large enough rockets exists. No water recycling in the transit habitat will be present because the trip to Mars takes only 210 days. Instead, all required water is stored in tanks that also function as radiation shielding. Storage of waste that is not easily recycled is available in the settlement until more technology is available.


And just look at the number of people who shown interest in the Mars One project:-

Mars One applicants come from over 140 countries; the largest numbers are from the United States (24%), India (10%), China (6%), Brazil (5%), Great Britain (4%), Canada (4%), Russia (4%), Mexico (4%), Philippines (2%), Spain (2%), Colombia (2%), Argentina (2%), Australia (1%), France (1%), Turkey (1%), Chile (1%), Ukraine (1%), Peru (1%), Germany (1%), Italy (1%) and Poland (1%).


The first 3 nations are well known for their eagerness and competition in space exploration. Out of the three, US and India already have rovers and space crafts orbiting Mars. And I am pretty sure the Chinese will do so soon as well although these guys are busy exploring the moon (hmmm, they know something we don’t?). And Malaysia is involved in Mars One in 2 areas – our own Angkasawan, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor is an ambassador for Mars One and three brave explorers from Malaysia including a woman.

SPACE: India Mars mission

(It’s only cost USD70 million to launch a space craft to the Red Planet. Trim down the money spent on wars, religion conflict and corruption and you can send hundreds of the space craft to many part of the solar system. Image source:

Mars One is an one way trip as there is no way (presently) to bring the space explorer back. The environment is harsh and there is no guarantee, despite the mission feasibility, that the colony will succeed, especially when the next human civilization is million kilometers away (230,000,000 km to be exact) and in case of emergency, one cannot simply dial up 999 and ask for help. Rescue mission if it is to be done, will take months to prepare and execute and by then, any rescue mission would have been redundant.

Mars One itself can go bankrupt and may not be able to bring the next set of explorers to add to the colony. Anything can happen. After all, it took a lot of research, time, risk and money to send man to the moon, so what more another planet and that too for one way trip. But there are good reasons to make this trio to Mars, namely:-

To give our kids new Hope, careers and Dreams — beyond merely surviving in a world of growing terrorism, more “police state” responses, with increasing resource and energy scarcity ultimately leading to endless global wars

By finally opening up unlimited solar system resources — be it exotic fuels, new planetary minerals or endless solar energy – dramatically alter the “have not” competition between the First and Third Worlds here on Earth … the ultimate source of increasing global terrorism

By greatly accelerating these radical technologies — from “black” energy systems and propulsion to autonomous robotics, from desktop “super computers” to their ultra-broad band communications (essential to conducting “routine operations” on the Moon and Beyond) – dramatically accelerate overall national and global productivity, with startling increases in GNP and GWP

By federally subsidizing the creation of a whole new generation of consumer industries — through pioneering a literal “Second age of Space” — dramatically increase the historical “return on investment” from past NASA spending … from 23 to one to more than 100-to-one; thus, for every billion dollars invested in this New Space Program, over a hundred billion will return to the national and world economy

By finally providing accessible new sources of raw materials and energy “off planet,” processed in lunar and orbital industrial facilities, naturally reverse over a century of planetary degradation and pollution … including global warming

By accelerating fundamental solar system exploration with human beings, return equally fundamental, radical scientific information – ranging from comparative planetary data which will assist preservation of the Earth’s environment through new space installations, to answers to the origin of the human race itself


Yes, money and human resource is important but aren’t we been busy wasting them on wars, corruption and wastage as well. Save up on those and you will plenty for the science exploration, I am sure.

Many of us, including myself are from the generation that grew with science fiction movies like Star Wars and Star Trek. Still remember ” to boldly go where no man has gone before”? It is in our nature to explore and find new worlds and the more we explore, the more we will push the boundaries of technology, science and human endeavor. And there is the prospect of rich natural resources that could be mined for humans (there was even plan to start a mining colony in the moon).

For those reasons alone, Mars One mission should succeed.


Neil Armstrong: 1930 – 2012

(The first man who will step on the moon -Neil Armstrong. Image source: The Hindu/NASA)

“This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”

Although he was not the first in space (that credit goes to a Russian, Yuri Gagarin who unfortunately died of a young age) and as the LM commander (and the pilot), he just happen to be the first to step out, we shall not forget the famed statement that Neil made after stepping on the Moon in July 1969 The moment was historic to all mankind who for ages have been fascinated by the Moon both spiritually and scientifically.

There is certain aura and mystery of the Moon – for one; it is not clear how the Moon was formed. The best theory is the giant impact hypothesis which states that the Moon was formed out of the debris left over from a collision between the Earth and a body the size of Mars, approximately 4.5 billion years ago. And without the Moon, the planet Earth would not have tidal motion which is generated by the gradient in intensity of the Moon’s gravitational pull from one side of the Earth to the other. And the Moon also stabilizes Earth’s wobble, which led to a more stable climate (otherwise we will have extreme weather every few months) and probably helped life evolve. So, was it by chance or by design we have a Moon for close companionship?

And whatever the reason, landing on it seemed to be dream that eluded us for many years until Apollo 11. Man’s exploration of the Moon ended with Apollo 17 in December 1972 and the planned exploration in recent times under the Constellation program have been cancelled in favour of a manned asteroid landing by 2025 and a manned Mars orbit by 2035. The Moon is moving away from Earth at the rate of 3.78cm per year but it will take billions of years before we can feel any drastic impact from this and who knows, perhaps by then we would have already landed humans on the planet Mars and travelled to other galaxies and managed to stabilize Moon’s shift from the planet Earth.

The possibilities are endless – all we need to do is to take that one giant leap.

Modern Day Slavery

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally – Abraham Lincoln

(When one talk about slaves, one would think of the era of Kunta Kinte but reality unfortunately is far from this. Image source:

If you ask me, it is rather shameful, considering we have passed the millennium and on (a rather rocky) path to be a developed country

In 2009, the US State Department published a report titled “Trafficking in Persons Report 2009” which stated this:-

Malaysia is a destination and, to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and for men, women, and children trafficked for the purpose of forced labor.

The Government of Malaysia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, despite some progress in enforcing the country’s new anti-trafficking law.

While the government took initial actions under the anti-trafficking law against sex trafficking, it has yet to fully address trafficking in persons issues, particularly labor trafficking in Malaysia.

The above report was published in June 2009 and those in power either dismissed it as “wild allegations”. Fast forward to end of 2010, you are still hearing news like this:-

A family of five, including three young children, was forced to work as bonded slaves for four years after the father failed to settle a loan taken from their employer in Bahau, Negri Sembilan, Tamil Nesan reported.

Their plight came to light only after the 31-year-old man and his family fled from the estate on Dec 19 with the help of a taxi driver and approached the Astivaram Foundation for help.

The foundation’s public complaints bureau chief, Sri Sanjivan, told a press conference on Sunday that the employer, a well-known businessman in Bahau, had kept the family under tight security and had forced the family to work in the plantations. The parents had to tap the rubber trees in the morning and work in the oil palm plantation later in the day.

“The children, aged four to 11, were not allowed to attend school and were forced to do household chores,” Sri Sanjivan said.

The family had originally taken a loan of RM5,000 from the businessman but since they could not pay back the loan, the family had to work without any wages for the past four years. Sri Sanjivan said the employer wants the family to pay him RM13,000 for their “release”.

He said two police reports have been made, one at Air Hitam and the other at Jempol, but claimed the police had refused to get involved.


Exploitation of the poor and the powerless comes in many forms – the harshest and extreme of human degradation would be in form of slavery.

Modern day slavery is nothing new and for those who been under the blanket on reality of things, it is indeed sounds troubling as this entry in the Wikipedia clearly illustrates:-

The number of slaves today remains as high as 12 million to 27 million (24 million in Asia alone), though this is probably the smallest proportion of the world’s population in history. Most are debt slaves, largely in South Asia, who are under debt bondage incurred by lenders, sometimes, even for generations.

Human trafficking is primarily for prostituting women and children into sex industries. It is the fastest growing criminal industry and is predicted to eventually outgrow drug trafficking.

The act of forcing a whole family into slavery for four years for a pitiful sum of RM5,000 should be condemned. Holding the debt against the person who have take it is one thing but holding the man’s wife and children accountable and forcing to work from morning to evening without freedom and pay for such a long time is simply unspeakable evil, deserves the hard whack of the stick and need to be made sure that the same act of evil is not repeated ever in future.

In Malaysia, we have Anti Commercialisation of People’s Act 2007 provides jail sentence between 15 – 20 years to those who have been guilty but how many been caught and successfully prosecuted? We also have a Secretariat of Anti Commercialisation of People Council under the Home Ministry to coordinate the enforcement and cooperation between the various departments. We do have the means but have we covered all the bases?

Considering the long period of the family forced into bonded slavery, one need to wonder where else we have gone wrong.

1. The poverty bottom line – considering that a family had to come to a level where they had to borrow from others and unable to pay and end up as modern day slaves, the Government need to relook into the poverty line and the ever growing cost of living. Are we going to have a bigger pool of poor people who, just to keep their family alive, allow themselves to be easily exploited by those with the money and power, end up as the unrecognized slaves? This is why perhaps; there are still people, despite knowing the end outcome of not paying, turning to the “bloody sucking”, ruthless loan sharks for money. Read here, here and here for other incidents of slavery in Malaysia (it makes a better case to fight for than asking for separate Indian TV channel)

2. The law against slavery – we have rules for unlawful imprisonment and we even have a fully paid commission to investigate breaches of human rights but what about slavery itself? How effective the enforcement has been in weeding out those who have enslaved others? Understandably, it is not easy for the Government to identify a camouflaged, unspoken slavery in a modern setting – if there is no complaint or evidence, there is nothing much that the Government can do. In the above case, the family was nothing but lucky. They managed to get out from their imprisonment alive and with their family still intact and able to make their case on this matter. Others have not been so lucky – they may need to keep themselves quiet in fear of reprisal against them and their loved ones.

3. The existing living condition – in most cases of modern slavery, there has been a case made by those who had forced the poverty stricken family into bonded labor – that it is made in the family’s best interest – old debts been paid off, money is strictly controlled to avoid unnecessary vices, the family still get some money at end of the day and jobs is arranged to ensure stable income. So, they say whilst making sure these families are bonded to them for many more years. What caused the huge debt (small amount for us, exorbitant for others) in the first place? Why they allowed themselves to be exploited by those with money and power?

4. Use of children as bonded laborers – In the Tamil movie, Unnal Mudiyum Thambi, children from the village were prevented from going to school and forced to work in a match-box factory. The idea was to keep these children illiterate and poor so that they can be continued to be exploited even after they have become adults. In 1973, International Labour Organization adopted The Minimum Age Convention which requires ratifying states to pursue a national policy designed to ensure the effective abolition of child labor and to raise progressively the minimum age for admission to employment or work. Malaysia is one of the signatory to this Convention although it was only signed in 1997 (24 years later). Children in slavery in Malaysia have another problem – other than not having access to education – they don’t have the right documents that identify them as the citizen of this country. The vicious cycle continues.

One need to wonder where else, in this great country, there are still poor, helpless families locked away in bonded slavery working without pay or freedom, not able to foresee the end of the tunnel for them. Will we continue to sleep on this issue, thinking that it is not prevalent in this country and that only happens very rarely (and perhaps to foreigners only)? Will we give serious attention to the 2009 report that put us shamefully along with other modern slave nation and put forward more drastic measures to curtail human trafficking and slavery?

We need to do more – we will be moving into 2011 in just couple more days and we still have human slavery, forced labor and human trafficking right in our own backyard.

Read Also

Slavery in 21st Century

Take trafficking of refugees seriously

World Blood Donor Day

14th June 2010 is World Blood Donor Day.

From World Blood Donor Day Organisation:-

Millions of people owe their lives to people they will never meet – people who donate their blood freely and without any reward. However, the overwhelming majority of the world’s population do not have access to safe blood.

Over 80 million units of blood are donated every year, but only 38% are collected in developing countries where 82% of the global population live.

In addition, many countries remain dependent on donation by the families or friends of patients who require blood and, in some countries, blood donors still receive payment.

Yet evidence from around the world demonstrates that voluntary unpaid donors are the foundation of a safe blood supply because they are least likely to transmit potentially life-threatening infections, such as HIV and hepatitis viruses, to the recipients of their blood.

It is to these unsung heroes that World Blood Donor Day is dedicated.

Throughout my life, I have donated about 14 times – 450 ml per donation, thus about 6 litres in total. Human being has an average 5 litres of blood in their body – so over the years, I have donated enough to cover the complete blood storage of one person.

But that is a lousy record if you ask me. For one, I start donating rather late in my life (I got really serious starting 2006). I should have started earlier but better something than nothing – least I started. There are friends and family members who still dread the very thought of having needles poked into their body and a small amount of blood taken. For these people – I have to say what Russell Peters have said in his comedy – “be a man!”

Another is the lousy frequency of blood donation – one is eligible for blood donation every 56 days (normally we round it to 3 months) but if you look at my blood donor’s book, there are frequency that extends 6 months. If I am on overseas projects, I can forget about blood donation and by the time I come back, it will be months before I go for blood donation. As I said, I have a lousy record when it comes to blood donation  but I trying to maintain a consistent one lately.

But whenever possible, I go for blood donation once the 3 months is up – the benefits are numerous (extracted from various sources in the net):-

  • In Malaysia, it allows for free medical and admission (to second or first class wards) in Government hospitals. The actual time frame of the free medical is usually stated at the back pages of the donor book.
  • Free Hepatitis B vaccine injection (if you do it in private clinics, it will cost you more than RM100)
  • Free breakfast and parking (just in case you are in the hospital for some other business and you want to get a free parking and meal)
  • Reduced risk of heart diseaseDr. Harvey Klein speculates that giving blood regularly reduces the amount of iron in the bloodstream. While iron is an important element and necessary for human life, too much iron may actually damage the heart and circulatory system. Dr. Klein and others believe that reducing blood iron through regular blood donation is a healthy way to potentially lower your risk of heart disease
  • Reduction of cholesterol in your blood (this is my own reasoning – if Dr. Klein talks about iron in the blood, the same can be said about cholesterol in the blood, right?). Another source states “donating blood in regular intervals helps in controlling the level of cholesterol by escalating the process of plasma creation within the body”
  • You burn 650 calories when donating 1 pint of blood – easy workout whilst lying down and watching the TV
  • It allows the body to replenish with new red blood cells – why work with old, aged cells when you can do better with new cells?

Of course, the biggest benefit is an opportunity to help someone in distress. Blood donated can be used for critical surgeries, emergencies cases and also for burn victims. It saves lives and it does not need us to spend a lot of money and in the same run, it is healthier for us. So, don’t have second thoughts on wanting to donate blood.

Read Also

Bloody Hell

Movie Review: District 9

I suppose to catch this movie on the first day of opening but it just happened that it started to rain and my trip to the cineplex was cancelled. I guess, I should have braced through the rain – this has to be one of the best alien movies in recent years.

(District 9 poster – the aliens looks very mean but in the movie, they were not – Image source: Wikipedia)

The Plot

Read the details of the plot here


(The aliens a.k.a the prawns – the hero of the aliens watching the humans killing his friend from hidden place)


It is another alien meets human being story but unlike the aliens in the movies – Independence Day or the War of the World, the aliens in District 9 are not so tough and less superior to humans. They have superior weapons but they can be easily killed by humans – there is no special shield protecting them. The aliens arrive as refugees and soon are placed in refugee camps which turn into the slum. The story starts when the main character in the movie, Wikus van der Merwe assigned to take charge and starts to issue eviction notices to the aliens and accidentally got sprayed with some alien fluid.

It is then turns out to be a race to save the aliens from the humans rather than humans from the aliens – don’t expect to see the usual grand speeches by the US President on how humans will overcome the alien invasion. It is simply greedy and corrupt humans making every effort to grab the alien technology to make more powerful weapons.

At end of the day, aliens are the victims and is being terrorised by the humans. We take pity on the aliens and Wikus van der Merwe who himself slowly turning into an alien. At the end of the movie, we are left with a question mark – did the aliens returned after 3 years and healed Wikus van der Merwe as promised?


(It is not CNN but the ‘breaking news’ looks real enough – by the way that is a real life South African’s Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) down there)


Neill Blomkamp is a South African born, Vancouver, BC-based director – so it was not a surprise to see the movie taking place in South Africa and in apartheid akin of environment where instead of the blacks vs the dominant whites, it is the aliens vs the dominant humans.

There is a unique style that Blomkamp deploys for the movie – it starts with interviews and ends with interviews. This adds to realism of the movie and sets the expectation of the viewers at the very start. News commentary is added to explain things or raise doubts. The viewers have questions such as why the alien ship has to come to South Africa instead the usual New York or London or Washington. And these questions are also raised in the news commentaries which makes the viewers realise that the movie makers have asked the same questions when they made the movie.


(Wikus slowly turning into a prawn – a character well acted by Sharlto Copley from the start to the end)


No big names here and perhaps that is the strength of the movie – there is no high expectation from the viewers before the start of the movie.

Sharlto Copley simply shines as Wikus van der Merwe, a worker at the MNU Department for Relations with Extraterrestrial Civilizations. According to IMDB, Sharlto Copley had not acted before and had no intention of pursuing an acting career.


(Hey, it is not Washington – the aliens have arrived and became refugees – the mother ship remains hovering for the next 20 years)


Simply unbelievable – the art of CGI is better and better by minutes.

The aliens in District 9 were designed by Weta Workshop – Peter Jackson’s company that played a huge role in his Lord of Ring trilogy. They are known as ‘prawns” and in fact, they do look like prawns. The space ship looks so real and with news commentaries alike presentation, the realness gets one notch up


(Wikus now with infused alien DNA is being tested in the hidden MNU lab on the alien’s weaponry – Wikus is not happy about it)


There is plenty of violence indeed – it felt ‘ok’ to see the humans to shoot down defenceless aliens out of greed and for fun but when the same humans get to be blown to bits of pieces by aliens in the name of self defence, it looks too gory and violent. Perhaps we keep saying to ourselves that the aliens are nothing but CGI and humans are not but where do we draw the line? After all, don’t we go to the movies to get ourselves into an alternate reality?

Final say

The plus points: The plot, CGI and of course, Sharlto Copley

The negative points: Not for young children

(Click here for other movie reviews)

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Timeless Code of Conduct

Here’s something for the start of the week, something that everyone can embrace to (without the need to change religion)…

(Image source:

Lies within the Vedas are the common-sense code of conduct recorded in the Upanishads, the final section of the Vedas. The code of conduct dictates 10 restraints, namely:-

The first restraint, Noninjury (ahimsa) – not injuring or harming others by thought, word, or deed

The second restraint, Truthfulness (Satya) – refraining from lying and betraying promises

The third restraint, Nonstealing (asteya) – neither stealing nor coveting nor entering into debt

The fourth restraint, Sexual Purity (brahmacharya) – divine conduct, controlling lust by remaining celibate when single leading to faithfulness in marriage

The fifth restraint, Patience (kshama) – restraining intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances

The sixth restraint, Steadfastness (dhriti) – overcoming non-perseverance, fear, indecision, inconstancy and changeableness

The seventh restraint, Compassion (daya) – conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings

The eighth restraint, Honesty (arjava) – straightforwardness, renouncing deception and wrongdoing

The ninth restraint, Moderate Diet (mitahara) – neither eating too much nor consuming meat, fish, fowl or eggs.

The tenth restraint, Purity (saucha) – avoiding impurity in body, mind and speech

Read here for more explanation and details

Vedas are at least 4,000 years old and known to be one of the oldest sacred texts and despite the age, the code of conduct laid in the Vedas is pretty much still relevant for today.

I guess it is because at end of the day, we are only humans. Similar code of conduct is also found in other religions – it is just a matter whether we want to understand and embrace them.

White Skins

(In modern times, global cosmetics have taken over natural selection to give fairer skins. Image source:

For those with fairer skin, here’s a food for thought:-

The idea that early humans became fair-skinned as they migrated north out of Africa so they could make enough vitamin D to stay healthy has been questioned again, reopening a debate that many think is settled.

Juzeniene and her colleagues recently reviewed alternate hypotheses for why humans might have evolved lighter skin. One highly controversial idea involves sexual selection: once sensitive light skin was no longer hazardous, as in Africa, it was selected for sexual attractiveness.

The other idea is that dark skin was more prone to frostbite in higher latitudes, and hence would have come under negative selection pressure, a claim that comes from studies of soldiers during the Korean War, when black soldiers suffered far more frostbite than white soldiers

(Source: New Scientist)